Originally designed by Farrand as a sunny herb garden with shady seats beneath the wisteria-covered arbor, the Arbor Terrace is now paved with Crab Orchard stone, and is decorated by potted plants, which are changed seasonally. On its northern and eastern sides, double rows of Kieffer pear trees enclose the terrace. Seen from the gardens below, the trees screen the retaining wall and hide the steep slopes.
On the western side of the terrace, the cedar arbor minimizes the height of the retaining wall that is also the northeast corner of the Rose Garden. The arbor’s design is based on a sixteenth-century arbor design by French architect Jacques Androuet du Cerceau. Under the shade of the wisteria roof, water pours from the mouth of a lead river god into a pool decorated with lead cattails. On the wall to the south is an inscription from Dante.
This plaque in the Wisteria Arbor commemorates the Blisses’ friendship with Gelasio B. A. Caetani, the Italian ambassador to the United States from 1922 to 1925. The Caetani family owned the Codex Caetani, a manuscript of Dante's Purgatorio. The lettering of the inscription is in the same style as the manuscript.
The inscription is from Canto XXVIII of the Purgatorio:
Quelli chanticamente poetaro / leta dell oro & suo stato felice / forse in parnaso esto loco sognaro. Charles Eliot Norton translates it as
Those who in old time sang of the Golden Age, and of its happy state, perchance, upon Parnassus, dreamed of this place.
Mouse over the image to see the transformation of the Arbor Terrace.
More Exhibit Items
The brick and limestone ribbon walks simulate the quality of flowing cloth.
This small greenhouse is one of the oldest structures still standing on the grounds of Dumbarton Oaks.
The wide, shady branches of an enormous beech tree stretch over this quiet enclosed space.
This grassy terrace, shaded by a tall oak tree, provides panoramic view of the entire estate.
This small room features custom stonework, wrought-iron furniture, and a fountain ornamented with various constellations.
The swimming pool and beautifully decorated loggia attest to Dumbarton Oaks’ history as a private residence.
Blooming forsythia turns this corner of the gardens bright yellow at the beginning of spring.
When the trees blossom in springtime, this hillside becomes one of the gardens’ most magical spaces.
Hidden near the edge of the gardens, Lilac Circle offers a secluded spot for rest and contemplation.
Elaborate stonework and low flowerbeds play off trellises of wisteria in this stately courtyard.
The Urn Terrace serves as an ivied transition between the Beech Terrace, Box Walk, and Rose Garden.
A riotous variety of roses fills this sunny space between the Urn and Fountain Terraces.
A traditional flower garden in a blend of English Cottage and Arts and Crafts style.
This narrow brick walk wends through a dreamlike woodland spotted with daffodils and hyacinths.
A shallow pool sits at the bottom of a small brick amphitheater, bordered by a stand of bamboo.
The story of a terrier given to a Neapolitan girl by a French admiral inspired this column.