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.