Flemish “park” on Bellevue

The photo above and those below focus mainly on the grounds of Bellevue House, in Newport.

The photo above and those below focus mainly on the grounds of Bellevue House, in Newport.

I was invited by Arthur Mark, chairman of the Bill Warner Bridge Coalition, to a “meeting” in Newport of the U.S. affiliate of the Royal Society of the Arts, an organization based in London. Arthur is a Fellow, and so was our host, Ronald Lee Fleming FRSA. We met at his house, known as Bellevue House, at 304 Bellevue Avenue, had lunch, listened to the new director of the Redwood Library, Benedict Leca, talk about the future of libraries, and then took a tour from our host of his grounds.

The house was designed by Ogden Codman Jr. and completed in 1910. It is not Marble House or The Breakers and, so far as I know, may not qualify as a “cottage,” a term of arch modesty favored by the wealthy families of the Gilded Age. It surely qualifies as a mansion by anyone’s reckoning. But while the mansion is impressive enough, what turned the head of your journalistic classicist – who visited Bellevue House a few years ago on a tour hosted by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art – was the grounds and their profusion of follies.

In architectural terms, a folly is a piece of garden architecture without any more utility than to set off the beauty of nature – already well tweaked by landscape architecture – with that of art. Britain’s greatest parks (private estates) have only one or two follies; here there are follies around every green corner – enough to create an elegant village, and each turned by Fleming to a use above and beyond its noble uselessness.

I took a few pictures of the house but mostly of its grounds, where I found here and there statues of monkeys, for which animal-lover Ron Fleming has considerable affection.

DSCN7563 - Version 2

DSCN7601

DSCN7565

DSCN7568

DSCN7583 copy

DSCN7664

DSCN7660

DSCN7587

DSCN7652

DSCN7657

DSCN7668

DSCN7607

DSCN7655

DSCN7595

DSCN7620

DSCN7629

DSCN7673 2

DSCN7617

DSCN7658

DSCN7647

DSCN7676

DSCN7585

The final image depicts the design, being carried out for Fleming by J.P. Couture, of a personal library to be placed on the grounds at the end of a canal and bridge called “The Year of Living Dangerously.” The only danger I perceive on these grounds is the danger of never being able to bring oneself to leave. It may be hoped that Ron Fleming’s sense of placemaking, about which he has written extensively, will indeed leave here, however, and be communicated through the Royal Society of the Arts and Newport’s Redwood Library to the four corners of the world.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Architecture Education, Architecture History, Art and design, Landscape Architecture, Rhode Island and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Flemish “park” on Bellevue

  1. Pingback: Library of place in Newport | Architecture Here and There

  2. Sarah Blank says:

    “The only danger I perceive on these grounds is the danger of never being able to bring oneself to leave.” I get that impression, especially with the photos you’ve included. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s