Watertown's Lost Garden

"Watertown's Lost Garden" was a unique, 117 acre 19th-century garden that no longer exists.

John Perkins Cushing’s 19th-century lost garden, located in what is now a lost section of Watertown, was in Alan Emmet’s words “among the most splendid in all New England.”  To build a rural retreat in 1834, Cushing purchased 117 acres of farmland in Watertown. He designed his own gardens and landscape, providing a view of Fresh Pond, a deer park, a three-acre walled garden and 14 greenhouses. In the first year his gardeners were kept busy planting 600 ornamental and 100 fruit trees.

Cushing’s design ideas were influenced by the work of landscape designers Humphry Repton (designer of the Lyman Estate in Waltham) and John Claudius Loudon. The mid-nineteenth century was a period of active horticultural experimentation in Boston. Cushing purchased seeds and trees from around the world including China, England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan and Réunion. On his estate named Bellmont, Cushing built a 60-foot conservatory to show his camellias, gardenias, passion flowers and a unique pitcher plant (Nepenthes distillataria.)

In 1859 Mr. Cushing promoted the secession of a new town from Watertown. The new town was named Belmont after his estate. Now all that remains of his 117-acre estate are a few old trees that can be seen amongst the many small quarter acre Belmont house plots.

This column was inspired by Alan Emmet’s superb book, SO FINE A PROSPECT: Historic New England Gardens.


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History Devotee November 22, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Thanks for this insight. I only think of Cushing as one who wanted his estate separate from the farming community of Watertown, the father of a famous daughter and a guy who was too rich but now I can appreciate his love of natural beauty.
Joseph Flack Weiler November 22, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Thank you for your comment! Andrew Jackson Downing's admiration for Cushing's gardens made them nationally known. The gardens were open to the public once a week. It would be fun to time travel back and visit! Joseph


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