Living with Style, People, Places & Spaces, The Newport Diary

The Iconic Swiss Village

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It is so very exciting for me to pen, as the first blog of 2022, an event that served as a significant Christmas gift for Newport. The beloved and iconic Swiss Village Farm, a charming bit of old Europe that had, for years, belonged to one of the largest estates on our island, was donated as a 25-acre conservation easement to the Aquidneck Land Trust. Significantly, this means that this pastoral landscape cannot be developed; it will remain open space as it has been for 106 years.

This is a major gift to a highly regarded institution carrying out a time sensitive mission for saving farmland, watershed properties, wildlife habitat, and historic viewscapes, as well as open space on Aquidneck Island. Swiss Village’s rolling hills and ledge outcroppings, surrounded by stone walls, are handsome reminders of the natural beauty of this island.

Many of you will remember the whimsical Swiss Village chapter in my first book, Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden. In 1915 it was acquired by yachtsman and railroad baron Arthur Curtiss James to be added to his estate, one of the largest on Aquidneck Island.

Fast forward to 1999, when the bucolic landscape and fairytale-sized stone buildings were almost lost to developers but were rescued at the last moment by two of the island’s most ardent preservationists. One of them, Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, created the Swiss Village Foundation (it is she who also later restored the Blue Garden in the same neighborhood of the Village). For the past twenty years, the SVF has carried out its mission “to cryo-preserve the genetics of rare and endangered domestic livestock breeds.” Many of the interiors of these intriguing stone buildings were retrofitted to serve the needs of this undertaking.

And now, as of 2022, a third generation of owners, Ocean Hour Farm, will continue the stewardship of this beloved property that has been such a part of our island home.

Importantly, the new owners have a deep interest in ocean health and sustainability practices as well as regenerative agriculture. In taking this first step of conserving the land, they are supporting the fact that improving our ocean’s health starts on the land. This is an important point to a community that has such a high profile as an international sailing venue.

I’m so excited to share this news with all of you who follow Private Newport! May your New Year also be filled with exciting accomplishments, good health, and a positive spirit.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

9 thoughts on “The Iconic Swiss Village

  1. Oh this is wonderful I’m so happy. I’m tired of developers eating every beautiful space up I’m beyond ecstatic.

  2. It is hard to put into words what this means for Newport. Insuring that the heirloom livestock breeds remain with us is commendable but preserving the “open space”, the view corridors, the pastoral and farm-like quality of this parcel on arguably, one of the most beautiful segments of New England’s coast is truly commendable. Newport has the richest, layered, historic and extant architectural, urban, political and ideological legacy of almost any city in America. This is just another facet of its remarkable past.

    I loved Private Newport and I have an idea for your next book…. you must profile the women (both luminous and otherwise) , that made these Rhode Island institutions what they are. Antoinette Downing, Mrs. Warren, Doris Duke, Dodo Dorrance and a few of the countless others that you probably know, or know of, (both sung and unsung) that have single-handedly forced us to focus on the history, view-scapes, beauty and pastoral features and quality of that place and it’s physical characteristics. You would do an incredible job!!!

  3. I’ve been to Newport many times, and never heard or saw this incredible place. But thanks to to those who care they are preserved for the future on Humanity! Now it’s on my bucket list to see!

  4. This is great! I wished more developers understood the importance of land. I live in NC and everywhere is turning into subdivisions or shopping malls. I’ve said I don’t know how humans will survive because of no land. I’ve said I guess we will breath by some machine and eat out of containers of some sort.

  5. Thanks to your blogs on Christmas at Marble House and the Breakers, my daughter, some of her friends and my 7 year old granddaughter and I enjoyed a wonderful day touring the mansions the week after Christmas. It was nice to see multigenerational families of many nationalities taking advantage of Newport at Christmas.

  6. Hi Bettie, Happy New Year. This is Elana Donovan from the Decorative Arts Society in the other Newport Beach. You helped me on a trip to Nashville in 2019. It was a big success. Now I’m working on taking our board to Palm.Beach in April. We are staying at the Colony.I’m looking for a source to gain entree to a few private homes.what I’d really like is to find a tour guide of the homes a some famous architects. I have been unable to locate an architectural historian yet. You have been so generous in the past I hoped you might help us again. Elana — home hosting Omecron. Hope you are well.

  7. Oh my what bucolic scenery! So peaceful, gave me great joy and to know someone is
    going to take care of it even better. Thank you for sharing.
    I would like to thank you Bettie for your note on traditional homes and their decoration. I have been obsessing about should I go more modern as there are some beautiful photos and pieces of furniture. But truth is I love my traditional decorating especially with so many antiques I’ve collected and pieces from my family it brings me such happiness. So thank you for standing up for tradition.
    Best to you and yours, Phyllis

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