Fiske Kimball Temple

The centerpiece of the North Garden is the Fiske Kimball Temple. Fiske Kimball was engaged by the National Society in the early 1930s to be the architectural advisor to oversee the renovations of the house. At that time, he was the Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation’s restoration committee. Fiske Kimball referred to Dumbarton House as “one of the very finest and most beautiful houses in the United States.”

In the Temple’s two side niches, you will find cast lead statues of a little girl holding flowers symbolizing Spring and a boy with fruit symbolizing Fall. A dolphin and shell are in the center niche. The brick walls with the plaster panels on either side of the temple are a design taken from the Lord Fairfax House in Alexandria, which is no longer in existence. At one time, the beds on either side of the temple had espaliered apple and pear trees, which created a nice sculptural effect against the plaster walls. The current design, which was done by Rudy Favretti in 1998, includes trees and shrubs that are either native to the area or were brought to this country prior to the 1800s. They are deciduous and in the winter also provide a sculptural effect. During the growing season, there is an ongoing display of bloom and color.

 

Image: Our Fiske Kimball niche is a lovely place to sit out of the sun. Visit us anytime to hang out in the garden, free of charge! Stop in the Visitor Center to pick up an exterior guide brochure to learn more about the architecture of the house.

Spring and Fall

The cast lead figures in the niches of the Fiske Kimball temple depict the allegorical figures of Spring and Fall. The girl with flowers on the left is Spring and the boy holding fruit on the right is Fall. They were purchased in 1966 from the Erkins Studios in New York, but nothing is known about the artist or foundry responsible for their creation. Many of the lead statues imported by Erkins were from England. An appropriation by the NSCDA National Historical Activities Committee made it possible to purchase the statues, and they were added to the temple as part of the restoration of the garden to the Federal Period in honor of the Colonial Dames’ Diamond Jubilee. The restored garden was planned by Mr. Donald H. Parker, landscape architect of Colonial Williamsburg, and Mrs. Robert W. Wheat and her Garden Committee.

 

Dolphin and Shell

The lead dolphin and shell are mounted in the center niche of the Fiske Kimball temple. They were purchased in 1966 from the Home and Garden Shop on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. An appropriation from the NSCDA National Activities Committee made the purchase possible. They were added to the temple as part of the restoration of the gardens to the Federal Period in honor of the Colonial Dames’ Diamond Jubilee.

 

Putto with Dolphin

The bronze Putto (winged boy) with dolphin is a replica of the original sculpture done by Verrocchio around 1470. Verrocchio is the nickname used by the Italian painter, sculptor, and goldsmith Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Ciono (1435-1488). In Italian, it means “true eye,” which is a tribute to the Florentine artist. One of his pupils was Leonardo de Vinci. The original sculpture was intended for a mountain in the Medici villa of Careggi. In the mid-16th century, it was installed on top of a fountain in the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The original is on view at the National Art Gallery through Jan 12th, 2019. The Putto in the North Garden at Dumbarton House was a gift from Major General and Mrs. Thomas North and presented to the Colonial Dames for their headquarters in 1983. The basin for the fountain was given by the NSCDA Delaware Society in memory of Emita Ferriday Stockwell.

 

Coade Stone Urns

The two urns on either side of the temple [no longer] were purchased in 1966 and are stamped Blanchard Manufacturing, Blackfriars Road London, 1869. The mold used for the urns is believed to be by Coade of Lambeth. The factory that produced Coade Stone statues and decorative items was located in Lambeth, England, and owned by Eleanor Coade. She was an artist, a sculptress, and quite entrepreneurial for a woman at that time. She purchased the business in 1771 from David Pincot and perfected both the clay recipe and the firing process. Coade Stone is an artificial stone made from clay with some extra ingredients, such as flint, quartz, and glass. The mixture was pressed into molds and fired in a kiln. The result is decorative stoneware that is extremely durable and weather resistant. Eleanor called the material Lithodipyra, taken from ancient Greek to mean twice-fired stone. She provided decorative stoneware by appointment to George III and the Prince Regent and ran the business for over 50 years until her death in 1821, at the age of 88.

The centerpiece of the North Garden is the Fiske Kimball Temple. Fiske Kimball was engaged by the National Society in the early 1930s to be the architectural advisor to oversee the renovations of the house. At that time, he was the Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation’s restoration committee. Fiske Kimball referred to Dumbarton House as “one of the very finest and most beautiful houses in the United States.”

In the Temple’s two side niches, you will find cast lead statues of a little girl holding flowers symbolizing Spring and a boy with fruit symbolizing Fall. A dolphin and shell are in the center niche. The brick walls with the plaster panels on either side of the temple are a design taken from the Lord Fairfax House in Alexandria, which is no longer in existence. At one time, the beds on either side of the temple had espaliered apple and pear trees, which created a nice sculptural effect against the plaster walls. The current design, which was done by Rudy Favretti in 1998, includes trees and shrubs that are either native to the area or were brought to this country prior to the 1800s. They are deciduous and in the winter also provide a sculptural effect. During the growing season, there is an ongoing display of bloom and color.

 

By Kathy Clare, Garden Volunteer