Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Gardens of "Kenarden Lodge"

Gardening at Bar Harbor has a character all its own.  The geographical situation is favorable for a long growing season for plants, yet the growing year as a whole is a short one at both ends. Consequently there is an active growth and overlapping of successions that produce a continuous cycle of bloom. Then the moisture from the mountain-locked bays gives an atmospherie condition that produce somewhat that of England. In consequence, flowers of spring and midsummer are overlapping and equally those of midsummer and erly fall. Sweet peas, roses, carnations, larkspur, poppies, pansies - everything we want mostin our gardens - will be found blooming simultaneously, or practically so, in Bar Harbor. 

Perennial phlox and larkspur are featured in this wall-enclosed garden. The later here attains a height of six feet, with solid masses of bloom.

Old mill wheels, piled to under-lap each other, form practical and artistic steps.

The sunken formal garden opens east on a view embracing distant mountains which are beautifully en-framed. The pergola, now draped in vines, helps the framing of the garden picture.

Showing the rich growth characteristic of Bar Harbor when slight protection from the driving winds is given. Nowhere  do the old-fashioned herbaceous plants attain better qualities. 

One of the side bays, with flowering vines trailing across the peristyle.

View from the pergola. The formal garden is sunken and enclosed by walls. The greensward is but slightly broken and pyramid bays are used effectively to give height in the interior.  

***Article first appeared in Country Life in America - 1915.  A correction was published in a subsequent issue taking Beatrix Jones off the design roster and giving full credit to Mrs. Kennedy and her staff - "we published some photographs of a garden at Bar Harbor which was called in error that of Mr. J. P. Kennedy. The garden, which is that of "Kenarden Lodge", belongs to Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy. Nor was it designed by Beatrix Jones, landscape architect, as published. The general scheme of the landscape work was founded upon Mrs. Kennedy's own ideas and executed by the superintendent, William T. Burton." Additional color plates and text from the Library of Congress***

At "Kenarden Lodge" the garden in the clear atmosphere of this northern climate is most beautiful in form and coloring, and its background of distant hills combines to intensify the charm of this famous place, which is in bloom all summer. 

The centre beds are filled with annuals in prevailing colors of pink, blue, and white, noticeably Snapdragon, Ageratum, Sweet Alyssum, pink Geranium, and Begonia. Planted in masses, these and other dependable annuals blossom as long as needed. The broad green sod paths act as a setting to the delicate hues covering the beds. The perennials are banked against the vine-covered walls.

The original gardens at "Kenarden Lodge" were designed by landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872-1959) early in the last century and have been restored and replanted by the current owners. 
Rose Garden

The gardens include a formal rose garden with boxwood edging that has a contemporary Lunaform urn at its center. 
Restored Sunken Garden -"Kenarden Lodge"

Restored Sunken Garden -"Kenarden Lodge"

Restored Sunken Garden -"Kenarden Lodge"

The fomal sunken Italianate garden’s balustrade and pergola were replicated by garden designer Dennis Bracale, and the flower beds were replanted. Urns created by Eric Ellis Soderholtz in the early 20th century are in situ in the Italianate garden as well as around the residence(encouraged by Beatrix Farrand, Soderholtz switched from photography to manufacturing garden urns and other ornaments, some of which remain at Kenarden). Large cutting and vegetable gardens were installed in the same location as the historic gardens, alongside greenhouses. Many of the original outhouses remain on the property as well as mature specimens including a Japanese umbrella pine, a very large hawthorn tree, a mature gingko, and very mature pieris, kalmia and rhododendron. An iron fence surrounding the property was added with new perimeter plantings. The drive from the main entrance cuts through native woods that are maintained as a decorative feature.
"Kenarden Lodge" - Bar Harbor, Maine

"Kenarden Lodge" was one of the original summer properties built at the end of the 19th century in Mount Desert, Maine. The turreted mansion with its own electrical plant designed by New York architects Rowe and Baker in 1892 was torn down in the 1960s and another house was built in its place circa 1970.

The first owner of the property was financier John Stewart Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy in his will left fifteen million to his wife, in addition to thirty million to charities.  Click HERE to read about Mrs. Kennedy's efforts in racial harmony and the Hampton School. The estate was sold in the 1930s to Ethel Mallinckrot Dorrance, widow of Dr. John Thompson Dorrance, a chemist at Campbell who invented condensed canned soups.

Click HERE to see the surviving gate and gatehouse at wikimapia. HERE for Google Street View of gate and gate house. HERE to see the restored gardens at Bing.


  1. Farrand lived just a few doors north of Kenarden, also on the shore path---and did work on the garden for the Dorrances after they purchased the estate

    1. DED - do you know anything about the correction that was published taking credit from Farrand? Or why the lodge itself was torn down? Thanks!

  2. The correction was to give proper credit---to Mrs. Kennedy and her gardener. I think, but should not be quoted unless I find the source, that Farrand, who did design the Edgar Scott gardens immediately next door to the south, had been consulted, but her designs discarded in favor of the one we see here.

    The main house was torn down for all the usual reasons that big houses were being torn down everywhere in the sixties. Out of style, high taxes, much too large, etc etc., and don't forget that also Bar Harbor was utterly out of fashion, and had become a cheap tourist destination, making these houses particularly undesirable there. The Dorrance's daughter, Mrs. Colket, already had a large house elsewhere in town, on a smaller shorefront lot. She kept the Kenarden estate outbuildings to service her own (greenhouses, garage, etc), which had no outbuildings (its outbuildings had been split off as a separate property, later owned by Mrs. Potter Palmer after teh Bar Harbor fire). Mrs. Colket's son in turn gave her elegant cottage to charity, and built the new house on the site of the old one at Kenarden.

  3. I'm doing research on John Stewart Kennedy who apparently was a great great uncle of mine. Interesting to see the images. Shame it's been torn down. Would've been good to visit.

    1. He was my wife's great-uncle. What information do you need?