Saturday, November 24, 2012
A Tropical Churchyard
BETHESDA BY THE SEA
If England had a tropical village, in the deep South of the land, say, and if there were a church in such a place, and if it were a 20th century building created out of the requisite respect for its cultural origins, then it might well be this very church, in Palm Beach, the church of Bethesda by the Sea.
And as all English churchyards are in effect gardens then this one, that might have existed in subtropical England, would surely have had a garden as well. But what kind of a garden would it have been?
Would it have been the right choice, or completely wrong, to have planted, if you could, a Canary Island palm tree in the center of its courtyard?
And could Bougainvillea, fuschia colored ones in fact, have climbed the hallowed outer walls of the cloister, as if it were in Guatemala, say, and not at all in southern England, albeit subtropical southern England.
But this is a masterful garden in any event. Built in the Gothic Revival style in 1927, this graceful structure of cast stone was designed by Hiss and Weeks of New York. It features a prominent bell tower and notable ornamentations, including sculptures of the four Evangelists standing in niches in the main entrance archway. A cloister to the left of the entrance leads to a courtyard and then to the Cluett Memorial Gardens, a small formal garden with fountains, a gazebo and cruciform parterres.
Every stroke, every consideration, in its conception, was studied.
Wandering through, I asked myself, But we're so far from the mother culture here...
And yet they pulled it off.
The vision that saw this project through was simply inspired.
The pepper pot houses...
The basins, the rills...
The result is a little gem.