History of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden
The remarkable juxtaposition of a traditional English garden infused with Chinese, Japanese and Korean influence, statuary, and serenity.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden was created between 1926 and 1930 by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and noted garden designer Beatrix Farrand (photo above). Set within acres of moss-carpeted woods, the garden is designed to be at floral peak in August. Its unique atmosphere is derived from a combination of Eastern statuary with a border garden in which perennials build the foundation of the flower beds and annuals provide an explosion of color.
The “Spirit Path,” located on the west side of garden invites visitors to stroll past six pairs of Korean tomb figures. These pieces, along with other Asian sculptures from Japan, China, and Korea, are integral components of the garden. They are thoughtfully placed to engender a subdued and meditative environment.
In 1961 David Rockefeller, Sr.’s wife Peggy took on responsibility for each year’s design of the flower beds. After Peggy’s death in 1996 her daughter, Neva Goodwin, continued the tradition. With the 2017 bequest from Mr. Rockefeller the Land & Garden Preserve took ownership and responsibility for the garden.
"The history as well as the palpable ambience of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden create a sense of present, past and future flowing together. I have a memory of one late afternoon in September when I went for a last walk in the garden before the season’s end. The Seal Harbor fog was so thick that only the flowers nearest my feet glowed forth their colors; those a little way ahead were pale ghosts that just breathed into life as I came upon them. As I walked slowly along the paths I began to imagine other ghosts hidden by the fog – in particular two ladies in long skirts and large flowered hats, one with kid gloves up to her elbows. I could almost hear them talking about the garden together, planning, enjoying, remembering.
It was not new to me to feel in the garden the presence of these two remarkable women – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Beatrix Farrand – who had brought together so much beauty. This garden is a very living place, responding readily to new ideas, new people, new circumstances. Perhaps this is because it carries so securely the imprint of those who have loved it ever since it began."
- Neva Goodwin
John D., Jr. and Abby's former home, The Eyrie (photo to the right), was removed in 1963, yet the family chose to preserve the home’s terrace. Today the terrace provides a quiet walk for guests of the garden, and a view to the outer islands and the stretching Atlantic beyond them.