"The Chimney's" Collection

1903 - 1985

the Chimneys Water Garden

"The Chimneys," refers to the estate of Katharine Lane Weems in Manchester, Massachusetts. It includes landscape and architectural plans, photographs, 35mm slides, glass slides, journals, and books dating from 1903 to 1985.

Historical Note

The property on which this estate in Manchester, Massachusetts sits was originally owned by the father of Richard Henry Dana, Jr., the author of Two Years Before the Mast. The estate was subdivided after the elder Dana's death in 1879. Gardiner Martin Lane purchased the land and had his brother-in-law, Raleigh Gildersleeve, design a large Georgian Colonial Revival summer house for him known as "The Chimneys." The Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm was hired in 1902 to help with the overall siting of the house and to plan a number of garden areas. During the next ten years, the Olmsted firm designed a number of areas including an approach road, formal terraced gardens, a water garden, and a variety of outdoor structures such as an arbor, tea house, and greenhouse.

Biographical Note

Katharine Lane WeemsKatharine Lane Weems (1899-1989), the daughter of Emma and Gardiner M. Lane, spent her childhood summers at "The Chimneys." She later attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and went on to specialize in sculpting animals. "The Chimneys" served as her principal studio after the stable was remodeled in 1930; later it became her primary residence. She married F. Carrington Weems in 1947 and published an autobiography, Odds Were Against Me, in 1985. She died at her family estate in 1989.

Photo: Katharine Lane Weems in a garden at "The Chimneys." c. 1920s-1930s. Photographer unknown.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of a variety of documents dated 1903-1981 that relate to the design, construction, and maintenance of the gardens, estate, and outbuildings of "The Chimneys" in Manchester, Massachusetts. The records, which span over eight decades, provide insight into the creation and evolution of the grounds of a private estate where the owners were very much involved in the planning process.

Included in the collection are photographs, photographic negatives, plans and drawings, plant lists, correspondence, garden journals, invoices, nursery and seed catalogs, index files of plant materials, copies of garden-related library cards, estimates, autochromes, diascopes, and presentation medals. A finding aid is available upon request.

Bibliography

  • Historic Inventory Report, "The Chimneys." The Estate of Katharine Lane Weems, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Prepared for Ropes and Gray by Lauren G. Meier, ASLA, July 5, 1989. Revised August 5, 1989.
  • American Country Homes and Gardens, November, 1907.

Garden Highlights

Trellis

Trellis

The trellis structure was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in 1906 and sited so that it could look out upon both the water garden and the ocean. Barrels of evergreen shrubs trimmed in topiary fashion created a formal setting for the water garden and flower beds.

The flower beds later featured plants that required lower maintenance than those in the past. The garden is surrounded by a high ornamental fence that punctuates a garden border filled with perennials and shrubs.

Water Garden

Water Garden

The formal water garden, one of the most prominent features of "The Chimneys," was designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm. Construction began in the spring of 1906. The garden has a central fountain and four separate pools referred to as water beds. Each pool is surrounded by a marble ledge and separated by grass walkways that help create the effect of a formal parterre. Containers with plants throughout the garden provide height, texture, and variety.

The water beds hold different kinds of water lilies and also provide a home for goldfish. Tunnels beneath the walkways allow the fish to swim freely between the pools. The garden also features architectural details including an overlook house, arbor, and ornamental fence enclosures. Photo: Water Garden. c. 1910s. Photographer unknown.

The Tea House

The Tea House

The Tea House was designed in 1912 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. of the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. The front entrance and walkway include a sweeping lawn bordered by perennials and shrubs. Large ornamental jars were placed amongst the garden beds for decoration. Photo: Tea House. c. 1910s. Photographer unknown.