Appropriately named, Wildacre occupies only a little more than a narrow acre of granite outcroppings at the head of Price’s Neck Cove, which offers shelter from the open Atlantic Ocean just off the tip of Newport.
The shingled and Japanese-gabled house, designed in 1901 by California architect Irving Gill, is the only Newport example of the California bungalow tradition. More significantly, the Wildacre grounds were commissioned by the home’s owner, Albert Olmsted, stepbrother of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., whose firm landscaped the seaside property.
This is truly a magical garden and space, which nestles so handsomely into the rocky terrain . One of the centerpieces of my first book, Private Newport, at Home and in the Garden, it well deserves to be included in this Inspired Garden Design series as it is an original example of the Olmsted landscape plan executed on this Newport property at the turn of the twentieth century.
While research by the former owner could only determine that the garden was to have a Japanese influence, many of the original plan’s elements still existed when she acquired Wildacre…the thatched-roof summer house, Japanese stone garden elements, wisteria-clad teahouse, and stream and pond. A bocci court was added along the seawall, whose sand can be raked to emulate the designs created by Japanese monks in their gardens.
In closing, I quote the former owner who had been coming to Newport every year of her life, and whose musings capture what so many of us love about our town. When I asked what Newport meant to her, she said, misting her new moss garden, “Continuity, I can go away and come back and not much has changed, nor has the physical look of this magical place. The rocks are still the rocks; the water is still the water. You look at other parts of the country and they’ve changed tremendously, but not Newport.”
All images photographed by Mick Hales.