211 Main Street
Wethersfield, CT 06109 | 860.529.0612
Open May-October: daily except Tuesday, 10 am – 4 pm; Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.
April & November: weekends only, Saturday 10 am – 4 pm; Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.
January – March: by appointment only
The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum’s three 18th-century houses — the 1752 Joseph Webb House, the 1769 Silas Deane House (both National Historic Landmarks) and the 1789 Isaac Stevens House — sit on their original sites in the center of Wethersfield’s Historic District.
Soon after the Connecticut Society of Colonial Dames acquired the Webb House in 1919, they began planning improvements. One of their first major undertakings was to install an “old fashioned” garden behind the house. In 1921, landscape architect Amy Cogswell was hired to be in charge of the project. In the early 20th century, professionally-designed gardens were uncommon, and female landscape architects even more so in a field that had traditionally been dominated by men. Ms. Cogswell graduated from the first American institution for women studying this field, Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, Gardening & Horticulture for Women in Groton, MA, in 1916, and served as headmistress from 1916–1923. Little else is known about her.
In contrast to true colonial-era gardens, Colonial Revival gardens dating from the 1920s were intended to be purely decorative. The Webb House garden was a prototypical example of the genre, containing classical elements, quaint arbors, and a wide assortment of “old fashioned” flowers. Ms. Cogswell specified mainly hardy perennials, such as roses, with a few brightly-colored annuals to bring the garden to life throughout the summer and fall months. Her plan called for 99 different plants, including hollyhocks, larkspur, pinks, foxglove, peonies, and phlox. Some of these plants actually date to the colonial period, while others simply seem old fashioned.
Over the decades, renovations and additions to the facilities resulted in major alterations to the garden. By the 1970s, little remained of Amy Cogswell’s original design. In 1996, her original design was rediscovered in the archives, and in 1999, the Colonial Dames began restoring the garden based on the plans.
While not an exact replica, the restored garden displays many of the same flowers that were originally selected by the landscape architect and enjoyed by visitors in the 1920s. In cases where the antique variety of a plant is no longer available, contemporary examples with equivalent color and bloom time have been substituted.
For hours, admission information and directions, visit www.webb-deane-stevens.org.