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The Fountain Terrace

Beatrix Farrand’s first inclination with Terrace D was toward an English Arts and Crafts Garden. After Farrand designed the room in 1925, Mildred Bliss’s tastes began to shift in response to her affection for Edith Wharton’s reflecting pool outside of Paris. Farrand therefore redesigned Terrace D into a French-inspired fountain terrace with two symmetrical, elliptical pools in 1927. These pools, originally unadorned, were embellished by identical putti fountains purchased from a French dealer in 1931.

The center of Fountain Terrace lies slightly farther west than that of the Rose Garden, which was designed before Farrand laid out the other terraces on the approximately 40-foot slope down from the Orangery to Lovers’ Lane Pool. Bounded by the two fountains, this center is covered in a tapestry of green grass on which the shadows of the surrounding plantings dance. Palms in the northwest corner of the terrace create a shady spot throughout the day. Looking past the palms to the south gate, the eye is drawn down a path to the Terrior Column in the ivy bower, creating a detailed terminus for this view from Fountain Terrace. The plantings in the beds on the periphery of the room work in conjunction with the shadows to create a rich palette of colors, shaded or lit by the surrounding trees, in turn breathing life into the otherwise plain lawn of well-manicured grass.

As with many of Farrand’s garden rooms, the choreography of a visitor’s movement in Fountain Terrace is extremely important. While the room is flat and soft underfoot, making for pleasant walking, Farrand also placed a bench under a canopy, or baldachino, suspended from the retaining wall below the Rose Garden. The bench is a perfect place to stop and rest after descending through the Rose Garden from the Orangery. This seat, which affords the visitor an elevated and shaded view of the Fountain Terrace, is where Dumbarton Oaks placed a commemorative plaque to Matthew Kearney, superintendent of grounds and gardens (1949–1973) and one of the Blisses’ garden confidants.

 

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