Gardens and Landscape
Three acres of Stenton’s landscape are what remain of James Logan’s 511 acre plantation. The Mansion sits within the center of the landscape; a service wing, formerly the kitchen, green house and carriage house, is connected to the main house by an L-shaped piazza. Remaining outbuildings on site include a stone barn, icehouse, and privy, and a log-house for the caretaker was moved to the site in 1969.
In 1911, landscape architect John Caspar Wister drew an overall plan for the Stenton grounds. It included driveways and path-ways, a “colonial” garden composed of rectilinear beds, and an extensive border of trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the site. Stenton’s Colonial Revival Garden, designed to complement the existing colonial house and enhance the interpretation of a Colonial house garden, was installed in 1912; in 1913, the completed garden was the site of the founding of The Garden Club of America.
Rear view of the mansion, from the Colonial Revival Garden, 2016
Over the course of its life, the garden has evolved through various states of preservation and care. In more recent years, Stenton has developed a comprehensive long-term plan for the garden and landscape. In 2015, the garden underwent a significant rejuvenation project, which restored the original outer pathways, replaced edging, and installed electricity. Additionally, Stenton was the Garden Club of America’s 2015 Founders Fund Award winner, for the proposed Urban Meadow Project, creating a meadow at Stenton, which will frame a newly restored entry drive and represent the expansive agricultural fields that historically surrounded the house.
Stenton's Log Cabin dates to the late 18th century. It was moved to Stenton in 1969, from its original location at 16th and Race Streets in Philadelphia
The Colonial Revival Garden
Although its basic form has been preserved, Stenton’s Colonial Revival Garden has transformed over the course of its life. Its footprint was made smaller in the late 20th century, as an outer ring of parterres and paths that were part of the original garden were removed. These paths were restored in 2015 with the Stenton Rejuvenation Project, made possible by the generous support of the McLean Contributionship.
The history of the garden is now part of Stenton's story. In November 1900 Mary Chew proposed to “lay out the garden next year, as nearly as possible as it was originally.” By March, 1901, Mary proposed planting tress and honeysuckle in conjunction with Arbor Day held in April. These Arbor Day plantings proved popular during Stenton’s first years.
The Stenton archives contain many documents that give a good idea of what was planted in the garden, through plans, notes, inventories and receipt for plants purchased. Many of these documents were assembled by Letitia Wright in a scrapbook that chronicles the process of designing, installing and maintaining the garden and grounds. Letitia’s planting scheme has been altered and adjusted over the years as volunteers experimented with the success of her plantings. Today’s garden reaches its height during the spring, with roses, irises, narcissus and tulips, to name a few. The robust boxwood border planted with cuttings from Mount Vernon continues to thrive.
The Meadow Project
In 2015, Stenton was the recipient of the Garden Club of America Founders Fund Award for the proposed project, Perfectly Charming: History and Horticulture in an Urban Meadow. This multi-year project established a meadow at Stenton, framing a newly restored entry drive and representing the expansive agricultural fields that historically surrounded the house. The meadow will also create numerous environmental benefits, such as increased plant biodiversity and improved habitat for wildlife, and will attract those interested in garden and landscape history. This project was made possible by the support of the Wissahickon Garden Club, The Weeders Garden Club, and The Garden Club of America.