Breakers Landscape Restoration: $1 million phase one completed

via Preservation Society of Newport County

The Preservation Society of Newport County announced the completion of phase one of its multi-year, multi-million dollar rehabilitation of The Breakers landscape today.

“The revival of The Breakers gardens and grounds is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Preservation Society, and will take a number of years to complete,” said Preservation Society Board Chairman Monty Burnham. “This investment reflects the international significance of an iconic American landscape. The incredible generosity of the van Beuren Charitable Foundation has made initiating this transformation a realistic possibility.” 

The hurricane of 1938 decimated the landscape at The Breakers. It’s powerful winds felled hundreds of large trees on…

Posted by Preservation Society of Newport County on Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Breakers Master Plan encompasses the entire 13 acre site and is expected to take 4-5 years to execute. This is the first such landscape rehabilitation of its kind since The Breakers grounds were devastated in the 1938 hurricane. This extensively researched replanting brings back the imposing sightlines and vistas and original layered look and feel of the grounds as created to adorn the property in 1895. The only part of original serpentine path which connected The Breakers and two other properties now survives on The Breakers grounds. 

“Today we open the first part of the serpentine path and a thoroughly rebuilt Breakers exitway, said CEO Trudy Coxe.  “The goal for this phase was to improve visitors’ arrival and departure experience by taking them on a circuit through the landscape after exiting the building via the service drive.”  

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Without disturbing the historic fabric, using original specification materials, the service drive has been restored and an ADA compliant entrance/exit ramp has been created with a 21st century anti-icing system which provides a year round accessible pathway for all guests. The drive repaving took over 10,000 hand cut, macadam blocks and the anti-icing system required 12,000 feet of underground tubing to complete.  

The Breakers landscape was designed originally by Ernest Bowditch between 1875-1895, first for Pierre Lorillard and then for the Cornelius Vanderbilt III family. Although  Bowditch’s original plans are unavailable, an extensive Cultural Landscape Report done by Reed Hildebrand Landscape Architects and Robinson & Associates, sourced archival photos and plant lists which provided an accurate guide for re-envisioning the landscape.  This is not an historic recreation since many mature trees would have been lost. The renewed landscape responds to 21st century site conditions and maintenance parameters, but is close in character to the 1914 photographs of the serpentine path.

There is an extensive use of evergreen plant material, and an intentional interplay of foliage colors and textures, along with contrasts among natural plant shapes and most of all, the greatly improved sightlines intended to provide a true aesthetic experience.  The Master Plan has been designed by Reed Hildebrand Landscape Architects and installation of Phase I was executed by Marzilli Landscape Contractors.

Phase II, which will complete the serpentine path rehabilitation all the way to its end, at the southern corner of the estate at the cliffwalk, is scheduled for Spring, 2020.

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