Blithewold Estate

101 Ferry Road (Rt. 114), Bristol, RI 02809


Museum Website

Blithewold Estate sits on 33 acres on Bristol Harbor with views over Narragansett Bay. It includes a mansion, with a 10-acre Great Lawn and more than 300 species of woody plants in its arboretum and gardens, including an exceptional collection of rare and unusual plants, specimen trees, an accessible greenhouse, and whimsical stonework. 

The property features a 45-room mansion filled with family heirlooms. Blithewold is a historic house museum; everything displayed in the Mansion belonged to the Van Wickle family. The rooms are authentically furnished as they were when photographs were taken for Country Life Magazine in 1910, and the china and crystal collection is on permanent display in the Butler’s Pantry. 

A fusion of architecture, landscape architecture, horticulture, and decorative arts, Blithewold is among the few late 19th and early 20th century New England estates that retain their integrity and authenticity down to the details of plant materials and interior furnishings, family archives and artifacts.

The Mansion and its grounds were established in the 1890s by Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle as their summer retreat. Augustus Van Wickle was from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, with a fortune in the coal-mining business and a donor of the Van Wickle gates at Brown University. Today's grounds are primarily the design of John DeWolf, and date between 1896 and 1913. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Blithwold's grounds include species from North America, Europe, China and Japan. Specimen trees include magnolia, linden, Ginkgo, Black Tupelo, Dawn Redwood, Franklinia, Eastern Hemlock, various oaks and beeches, and a Bamboo Grove covers an area nearly the size of a tennis court. Other notable trees include a weeping Pagoda Tree, Hiba, Katsura, and Sugi. The grounds also include English Yews and Eastern Junipers, as well as what is claimed to be the largest Giant Sequoia on the East Coast, planted in 1911, and currently about 100 feet tall.