The Jay Estate, boyhood home of US Founding Father John Jay, is a 23-acre estate located in Rye, New York. Currently operated by the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), it is a National Historic Landmark owned by New York State Parks and Westchester County Parks.
NBW was tasked with the restoration of a 3-acre garden, as part of the estate’s greater evolution from farmstead to country estate to public park. The design of the garden will serve to activate new programs and experiences at the JHC and facilitate its growth as a vibrant educational campus, and host to innovative programs in American history, social justice, architecture, environmental stewardship and landscape conservation. The gardens will not be restored to the reflect one particular era but will instead reveal the influence of a series of landscape ideas and uses from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
The separate garden rooms will act as a conduit for the many historic and cultural stories emerging from this important place. Each of the rooms is framed by dry-laid stone walls, the earliest of which was built in the late 18th century by the Jay Family. These walls were essentially intact in their original form and required rebuilding by stone artisans only in areas where natural forces – like trees – damaged them.
Room One is inspired by the agrarian and the Picturesque, represented by traditional parterre gardens of low evergreen hedges and vegetable rows within the parterre frames. The reflecting pool in Room Two marks the footprint of the swimming pool installed by Zilph Palmer Devereux in the last century. One of the only historic plantings that remain on-site is here, a large Japanese maple, which represents the Van Norden’s (early 20th century owners of the property) interest in Japanese and Chinese culture. Room Three is defined by a 100 foot long Rose Arbor, a reproduction of the historic arbor built in the late 19th century. Native meadow species are planted on either side of the arbor in rows, spatially reflective of landscape’s long agrarian use, and serving the didactic purpose of revealing the synergy of pollinator species and companion plants to visitors. Intensity of management decreases from Room One to Three, allowing for a gradual transition to the woodlands south of the gardens.