January 18, 2013

A Lecture About Skylands, my Historic Home in Maine

Patrick Chassé, is a landscape architect specializing in historic landscapes, reconstruction of natural plant communities, and design of new gardens from Mt. Desert Island, Maine to Istanbul.  I first met Patrick through Memrie Lewis and he is an excellent student of landscape design.  A Mt. Desert neighbor, Patrick and I became friends when I bought Skylands, my home in Seal Harbor, Maine.  Skylands, the estate, was developed for Edsel Ford, the son of Henry.  Duncan Candler, a busy society architect, was chosen to design the building.  The brilliant landscape architect, Jens Jensen, was commissioned to design the exterior.  Although known for his work in the Midwest, (he also designed the Ford’s Michigan estate) Jensen completed several projects in the east.  Jensen, who was highly interested in indigenous culture, used the mossy woods, ferns, evergreens, and maples to his advantage.  In 1970, the Ford estate sold the house to another family, who did not maintain it the way the Fords did.  I bought Skylands in 1997, and because of his historical perspective, I asked Patrick to help design the Jens Jensen installation of the council ring, which he did perfectly.  Last week, Patrick took part in the 24th Annual Symposium of the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, held at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.  His presentation highlighted Jensen’s design approach and the challenges and compromises of bringing the historic Skylands landscape back to its natural glory.