Formal Gardens Restoration Project

  • The multi-phase, Formal Gardens Restoration Project was launched in 2006.
  • The complex Formal Gardens at the Inn include walls, stairs, pools, fountains, and colorful perennial beds reminiscent of English cottage gardens (photo c.1917).
  • The Gardens also include a balustrade overlooking the lake, which was once lined with bay trees (photo c.1920).
  • Despite restoration work in the 1980s, core structural features have deteriorated over the years, and sections of the balustrade lost to shoreline erosion (see top left of photo).
  • Phase 1 of the restoration, completed in 2007, stabilized the shoreline with a retaining wall, so that the balustrade could be rebuilt.
  • Phase 2, completed in 2012, repaired walls, stairs, and landings of the lower garden, as well as the lily pool and overlook balustrade.
  • With your support, Phase 3 is restoring the core structural features of the upper gardens, including walls, stairs, and landings.
  • Phase 4 will restore the pergola to the north end of the garden (photo, circa 1917).

Perched above Lake Champlain with expansive views of the Adirondacks, the gardens at Shelburne House are among the most stunning in the world. The tranquil space reflects the vision of its founder, Lila Webb, with contemporary inspiration from the Farm’s volunteer garden steward Birgit Deeds.

Once threatened to be forever lost to the decay of time, Lila’s beloved gardens — stairs, pools, garden walls and colorful perennial beds reminiscent of English cottage gardens — are being lovingly restored with the aid of Lila’s gardening library, letters, and archival photographs.

The Need

Shelburne Farms is working to raise $3.35 million dollars to restore and start an endowment for the Formal Gardens.  This restoration project reflects our commitment to care for the historic and cultural resources under our stewardship as a National Historic Landmark.  

The Approach

Inspired by an anonymous donor, Shelburne Farms began restoring the formal gardens in 2006.  Generous supporters and talented craftspeople are bringing the garden back to its glory, under the guidance of architectural conservator Douglas Porter.

PHASE I. Shoreline Stabilization, completed in 2007.  After years of erosion, several pieces of the balustrade had fallen into the lake, other parts were cracked and crumbling. Stabilizing the shoreline was the first step to support and protect future work. Equipment operators drove out onto the frozen lake in the winter/spring of 2007 to construct a new retaining wall, which was backfilled with tons of stone to provide substantial fortification between the lake and the garden.

PHASE II. Lakeside Terrace & Lily Pool, completed 2012. The balustrade, constructed in 1914 by the Art Stone Company of Miller Falls, Massachusetts, and lily pool (ca. 1918) replaced Lila’s original parterre design on the lowest level of the garden. These elements have been meticulously restored and reconstructed by a historic preservation team from the University of Vermont. 

PHASE III. Upper Garden Walls & Stairs, to be completed 2015. The grand allee (ca. 1913) is a focal point of the formal garden today, planted in an adapted Gertrude Jekyll color scheme.  Plant materials were carefully removed to allow workers to repair and reconstruct the built elements, stairways and statuary. This included improving the drainage of perimeter walls to assure their long-term stability.

PHASE IV. Pergola, in progress. The pergola and reflecting pool, where family members and guests occasionally enjoyed a dip, were built in 1912.  A hurricane destroyed parts of the pergola in 1953 and shortly thereafter the neglected pool was filled in and covered.  Remaining pergola pieces were dismantled in the early 1970s.  In phase four, the pergola will be reconstructed.

The Result

The Formal Gardens at Shelburne Farms are a unique, nationally significant cultural resource. Once restored, these beautiful gardens will be enjoyed by visitors from near and far, as a place of peaceful reflection and as an exquisite setting for programs and celebrations. 

Contact: Alec Webb, President  |  [email protected]  |  (802) 985-0316
or Sue Dixon, Special Gifts Coordinator  |  [email protected]  |  (802) 985-0322
Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, VT 05482