THE MATHER PROPERTY AND GARDENS
The Mather Homestead property originally consisted of 100 acres, which is what it took for a family to sustain itself. The working farm included vegetables, flax and wheat and farm animals providing milk, eggs and meat.
By 1906, when Stephen Tyng Mather became the sole owner of the Homestead, the property consisted of 22 acres. Stephen, his wife Jane, and their baby daughter, Bertha, first occupied the house in the summer of 1907. In addition to making changes to the house, they added a sunken garden in 1909 which still exists today.
Walter Burleigh Griffin Garden
Stephen Mather hired Walter Burley Griffin, who was both an architect and a landscape architect, to design the sunken garden. As a member of "The Prairie School," he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright and oversaw the construction on many of Wright's houses. Wright met Stephen Mather when they were both members of the Prairie Club of Chicago which, among other things, sought to "raise public awareness of special areas and to create an interest in their conservation." In 1911, an international competition was held for the design of a capital for Australia. Walter and his partner and wife, Marion Mahoney Griffin, entered the competition and won. They emigrated to Australia in 1914 and did not return.MORE ON DONN's BLOG
Lillian Egleston Garden
Upon Stephen Mather's death in 1930, his daughter, Bertha, inherited the house. She changed the sunken garden to be a bit less formal in 1938. The plans were prepared by Lilian Egleston of Elizabeth, NJ, where Bertha's mother grew up.
Charles Middeleer Terrace
Bertha added the terrace around the well and additional plantings in 1962 with plans by Charles Middeleer. Bertha cared for the gardens until her death in 1993.
Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center Garden
In 2020, a new barn-like structure, the "Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center," was added to the property to provide a place for education. The Mather Homestead Foundation is grateful to the Garden Club of Darien, who generously contributed foundation plantings to the barn. The Garden Club of Darien selected plantings with considerations of sunlight, water, deer resistance, pollinator attraction, color, size and other growing conditions. Plants include Ilex, Viburnum, Spirea, and more. The Garden Club of Darien and Mather Homestead are grateful for the expertise of Ungemack-Mccool Landscape Associates, Inc. for their help with this project.
Mather Garden Today
Fast forward to today.
The Mather Homestead gardens were quite unkempt when the Mather Homestead Foundation took over the property in 2017. Thanks to the efforts of Mather Homestead volunteers, in particular Andy Huntington, the gardens have been restored and beautified. In addition to leading extensive clean up of the gardens, Andy has incorporated roses, peonies and other herbaceous perennials to give the garden more visual appeal throughout the spring and summer season. Thank you Andy and our other volunteers!
Cultural Landscape Report
In 2023, The Mather Homestead Foundation hired Heritage Landscapes to conduct a Cultural Landscape Report of the property. The report will provide a better understanding of the property, its history and usage, and inform a Master Plan for the future.