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History of Thuya Garden

A maze of striking color and floral brilliance lovingly stewarded by the Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds who call this garden home. 

Sitting prominently behind Thuya Lodge on a flat piece of land where a small orchard of 12 or so Wealthy apple trees and 3 or 4 cherry trees once stood, you will find Thuya Garden. An idea originally conceived in 1933 by Charles K. Savage (photo above), it was not until 1956 that Savage saw his vision come true. Built with plants obtained from Beatrix Farrand’s Reef Point Garden in Bar Harbor and with financial help from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Thuya Garden opened to the public in 1962. 

 

An original watercolor sketch by Savage shows his design was built along two axes which were bordered by flower beds. It is a semi-formal herbaceous garden in the style of English landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll. To this day, the garden adheres to Savage’s original layout although the plantings themselves have changed over the years. Today the garden is comprised of approximately 50% perennials and 50% annuals. One of the original apple trees which Joseph H. Curtis (photo on right) fondly called his “wise old apple tree” still watches vigilantly over the garden. 

Construction of Thuya Lodge took place between 1912 and 1916. The Lodge was actually the second home built by Curtis on Asticou Hill, the first being Random Ridge which is just down the hill from the current Lodge. He lived at Thuya Lodge until his death in 1928. After Curtis’s death, Charles Savage began expanding on the ­­­botanical library upstairs – now called the Herbals Room.  He envisioned it to be a place where people could come and study a variety of horticultural materials. The library still exists today and shares its space with changing educational exhibits.  Although most of the original furniture was given away after Curtis died, it has been replaced with period pieces similar to what we know was there in his time. Original to the Lodge are the John Rogers tall case clock, some of the china and the Boulle-style desk, which belonged to Curtis.  In 2016 we celebrated the Lodge’s 100th anniversary.

Asticou Terraces (#3 on map) was conceived by Curtis as a series of paths and shelters traversing the hillside from Peabody Drive up to Thuya Lodge.  Most of the work for this hillside park was completed while Curtis was alive and the land conveyed to the Trust between the years 1912 and 1922.  Lookouts were built along the way so visitors could stop and take in the beautiful scenery around them.  Curtis was very passionate about not infringing on nature and denied access to the property “of any motor or motors approaching from waters below, from the ground under foot, or from the sky overhead, in order that the surface of the ledges shall not be defaced, nor vegetation vexed and harassed by the petty inventions of man.”     

 

When Curtis died in 1928, his friend and Northeast Harbor resident, Charles K. Savage became trustee of the Asticou Terraces Trust which was established by Curtis in 1909 so that all the residents of Northeast Harbor could enjoy the land year round.

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