French drawing room at Hillwood


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America's Eden: Newport Landscapes through the Ages with John Tschirch

This is the first program in the Great Homes and Gardens lecture series.

Cover of the book America's EdenNewport, Rhode Island has been often referred to as "The Eden of America." This richly illustrated lecture will explore landscape design, literature, and art that have been created in this verdant place. With garden shovel and spade, pen, brush, paint, and camera, generations of gardeners, nursery owners, writers, and artists have literally and figuratively shaped the land. Among them were renowned figures such as landscape architect Frederick law Olmsted and his sons, writers Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry James, the painter Childe Hassam, and pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. The result of their work is an extraordinary heritage, a vision of human-made Eden through the ages.


This lecture will be presented in the theater in the Ellen MacNeille Charles Visitor Center and will be livestreamed via Zoom. Visitors can submit questions for the speaker from any location.

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5:30-6:30 p.m. | Explore Hillwood
•    Enjoy Hillwood’s mansion, gardens, and greenhouse
•    Find the perfect memento from your visit at the museum shop
•    Receive a 10% discount in the museum store on regularly priced merchandise when you attend the lecture in-person! This offer extends only to those individuals attending in person on the day of the event and does not include online or telephone purchases.
•    Members will also receive an extra 10% off regularly priced merchandise when they attend in person on the day of the event. This offer does not extend to online or telephone purchases.
6-6:30 p.m. | Members-only wine and cheese reception. Join today!
6:30-7:30 p.m. | Lecture
7:30 p.m. | Book signing. America’s Eden is available in the museum shop.


John TschirchJohn Tschirch is an architectural historian, writer, and teacher. His latest books include America’s Eden: Newport Landscapes through the Ages (2022) and Newport: The Artful City (2020), which received the Victorian Society of America Book Award in 2021. John received his M.A. (1986) in Architectural History and Historic Preservation from the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. His thirty-year career in the preservation and study of historic landmarks and landscapes across the globe has led him on treks to French chateaux, English castles, Italian villas, Austrian palaces, Croatian fortresses, Argentinian mansions and the Gilded Age houses of America. Currently, he teaches the theory and history of design at Rhode Island School of Design, advises on historic preservation projects, and has entered the world of historical fiction writing, inspired by his travels, with the publication of Gods and Girls: Tales of Art, Seduction and Obsession (2019).

He is an Honorary Member of the Newport Garden Club and was inducted as an Honorary Member of the Garden Club of America in 2012 for his contributions to the research and restoration of historic landscapes. In recognition of his service to historic preservation, he received the 2013 Frederick C. Williamson Professional Leadership Award from the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission.

John has lectured widely in the U.S. and abroad on architecture, landscapes, and historic cities, including Yale University’s Mellon Center in London Seminar on 18th Century French Design and the UNESCO sponsored conference on Architecture and Culture in Buenos Aires. His work in preserving and interpreting historic places has been featured in Yale University’s Encyclopedia of New England Culture, The Massachusetts Council on the Arts magazine The Public Humanist, The Magazine Antiques, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler and he has appeared on the A&E documentary series, America’s Castles.


Escape February’s dreariness and immerse yourself in the stories of extraordinary homes, lush gardens, and the people who brought them to life in this four-part lecture series.

Visitors can attend and ask questions whether they choose to come in person or join the livestream from the comfort of home; questions will be taken from all locations.

Thursday, February 9: America’s Eden: Newport Landscapes through the Ages with John Tschirch
Wednesday, February 15: Black Flora: Profiles of Inspiring Black Flower Farmers + Florists with Teri Speight
Tuesday, February 21: More is More is More: Today’s Maximalist Interiors with Carl Dellatore
Thursday, March 2: The Elegant Life: Rooms That Welcome and Inspire with Alex Papachristidis

Photo credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston. Hammersmith Farm, Newport, RI. Photo, ca. 1917. Library of Congress.

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Thu, Feb 9 - Thu, Mar 2 2023, All day

Escape February's dreariness and immerse yourself in the stories of extraordinary homes, lush gardens, and the people who brought them to life, in this four-part lecture series.