Friday, May 8, 1992
By Charlotte Cagan
STOCKBRIDGE – In a variation of the concept that everything old will be new again, the Mission House, the oldest house in Stockbridge, is being given a gift of the newest technology, in the form of a sophisticated new underground water irrigation system.
Currently being installed by landscaper Tom Farley, of Land Design in Stockbridge, the sprinkler system is part of a long-awaited renovation of the Mission House grounds.
The project has been three years in the planning, and will take two more to execute, according to Steve McMahon, superintendent of the circa 1740′s historic house and museum, which is owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservations.
“The garden had reached a point where it needed more and more maintenance, but even worse, many of the plants were dying out,” said McMahon. In the course of doing research, it was discover that the original garden, installed in 1928, was designed by Fletcher Steele, the renowned landscaper who also designed the famous gardens at Naumkeag.
“We decided to restore the garden to Steele’s original plan,” said McMahon. “While some of the shrubbery here actually dates back to 1928, most of the plants are not the original ones. We will use all authentic varieties,” he continued. “We had to send to the Midwest for some old-variety roses,” he added. “The garden will be much more colorful in its restored form.”
McMahon said the Mission House raised money for the garden restoration from private donations, and then turned to Farley. “We realized we were laying out $6,000 for new plant materials and we couldn’t afford to have the new garden not tended properly.”
Partially as a community contribution and partially as a demonstration project for this new division of his landscaping business, Farley donated his services and his expertise to install a state-of-the-art irrigation system, complete with retractable sprinkler heads, five watering zones, and an electronic timer.
Farley and his crew began the installation last week, and expect to finish it by the end of this week.
“Ordinarily, the process only takes a day or two, but this is a unique situation because it’s an historic garden and because we are using donated labor from the Mission House,” Farley said.
“This is a great project,” said McMahon. “It will cut way back on the labor we would have to use to hand-water the grounds properly.”
The Mission House and its gardens, already a popular historic landmark on Main Street, will become even more picturesque as a result of the garden restoration. The Mission House, which offers guided house tours to the public, opens for the season on May 23.