After three years of toiling in the hot sun, volunteers have completed restoration of the garden at Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.
On Friday, August 6, workers finished re-tiling and leveling hundreds of the large, blue flagstones that comprise the walking paths. The restoration work began in 2008 as part of a workshop the museum offered for four days each year.
“It would be nicer if it were 70 degrees and breezy,” said Ellen Bruzelius, executive director of the mansion museum. “But it’s been a really unique opportunity for us to offer the volunteers, and we get a restoration out of it.”
The museum recently received a $3,000 matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Elizabeth and Robert Jeffe Preservation Fund for New York City to cover the material costs of the restoration and the workshop, which was led by professional mason Kevin Towle and a small crew.
National Trust northeast regional office director Wendy Nicholas said they awarded the grant in order to “lend our support to the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum’s project, which will advance preservation in one of America’s most historically, architecturally and culturally important sites.”
To restore the four quadrants of the garden and the connecting pathways, volunteers first needed to dig out the mortar that held the flagstones in place. The volunteers then inlaid small blue stones, which will hold the larger tiles in place. The technique is known as galletting.
“Before, you had this ugly mortar that was in between stone steps,” Bruzelius said. “Now it is so much more pleasing to the eye, and it improves safety. Over the last 100 years or so things have gotten uneven and it had become a tripping hazard.”
During the workshop volunteers—who were part of either the Colorado-based non-profit Adventures in Preservation or the Brooklyn-based Preservation Volunteers—learned about the historic-style of masonry work through resurfacing and leveling the stones.
The garden is a formal, walled and terraced garden that sits behind the mansion. It was designed by William Adams Delano and was installed around 1915, when the International Garden Club restored the nearly 200 year old mansion.
Today the gardens are used both to host events and for museum-goers to enjoy.
“It’s a beautiful place for walking,” Bruzelius said. “We also rent it for events and it will be used to hold some programs in there, but really it’s meant as a beautiful spot whether you just walk the grounds and contemplate, or hold an event.”
Friday’s session completed the three-year project and workshop, but Bruzelius said the museum is planning another restoration and workshop project for next summer.
“We are definitely looking to do more of this,” she said. “With a house this old, there’s always plenty to do.”