The Garden Restoration at 148-160 Spring Street Newport Rhode Island

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The property behind our home was overgrown with old rotten Maple trees. A sloping dirt garden was held back by a chain link fence separating our neighbors yards. We decided to start with a clean palate and cut down all the trees. At the back left of the image you see a low building, this was a concrete block coal shed built about 80 years ago {original size was 34' x 7'}. We demolished most of it and turn the far right side of it into a copper roofed garden building {current size 7' x 14'}.

This image shows trees which have been just cut down. At the back of the the photo you can see the line where the chain link fence was located. The upright tree trunk in the center is just over our neighbors property line. The linked image shows the addition of an 6' brick wall used to separate our garden from our neighbors, a 20' x 5" long Koi pool and the addition of brick terraces and planting areas with steps created leading to a lower bricked area which is level with the ground floor of the building. Both images are taken from the third floor of our home. The garden size is app. 37' deep and 63' long and the shape is that of a parallelogram.

An old wooden fence on the back right of this photo {the fence line is where the steel posts are standing}was removed and replaced with a new White Cedar fence which has aged to a silver color. Our garden project took 6 months to complete with a stone mason, electrician, carpenter and monument mover all working in unison as each section of the project was accomplished. This project began in March of 1999. Tree trunks were with dug out of ground down about 18" under the surface of the ground. We used no written plans to complete this project. We simply told each craftsman what and where we wanted various walls, walkways and paths, etc. We started with the brick wall at the back of the property, constructed a lower retaining wall which is about 7' from the main building, leveled the property, reconstructed the garden building, built the Koi pool, bricked the various terraces and it was done.

This view shows the size of the trees that had grown up over this property over the last 45 years. The previous owner had used the yard for storage of scrap metal and wood. We decided that this garden would have large brick 'room' areas for outdoor dining and a pool with fountains to add sound to the environment. The beds are used for herbs, tomatoes, Spring bulbs and seasonal annuals and other plantings.

Our Building was built between 1858 and 1865. There were four commercial units downstairs and four residential apartments upstairs. That is the reason there was a storage and coal shed in the garden with eight doors. The drop off between our property and our neighbors property is about three feet. The new brick wall we had constructed is double faced and sits on a 24" concrete footing. We used the last 14' of the coal shed to form the walls of our garden building.

The back of the coal shed is on our property line and we did not remove the back wall of that building and used it as an already existing wall to separate us from an abutting neighbor. We applied concrete stucco to the concrete block surface of the 'wall' and the entire exterior surface of the newly reconstructed garden building. The old coal shed has a dirt floor which we paved with brick. The interior of the new garden building has a poured concrete floor. The garden building houses the electrical systems for the garden lights and the Koi pool plus has plenty of storage for garden use.

Most of the images below have no roll over image programs.

We salvaged bricks from another section of the property and stock piled them to be used in the creation of the garden. As you can see the coal shed went almost to the edge of the house.

Most of the roof of the coal shed had fallen in with insect and water damage, removing the rest did not take long. At the lower left section of the photo you can see that we have already dug a trench to prepare the concrete footing for the lower retaining brick wall. Mike and Jason were the guys who removed most of our trees and removed the rest of the roof from the shed and hauled everything away.

The back wall to the shed became a stucco clad garden wall separating our garden from our side neighbords garden.

The shed roof was replaced with a very peaked copper roof. The roof of the main house is Mansard in style (Second Empire) however the garden building, we felt, was too small to support that style of roof. Our carpenter {Frosty} built the roof to our specifications and Newport Roofing clad the roof with copper. It took about a month for the workman to make and fit the copper panels.

As you can see the concrete walls of the garden building {formerly the coal shed} have been clad with concrete stucco. Our stone mason {Jamie DeFreitas} accomplished this with a trowl. Because the roof was metal, we had our electrician {Ray from Jestings} install lightning rods with thick copper lined attached to copper poles driven into the ground on opposite sides of the building.

So now we have a upper wall and a lower wall built. With that done, we now can level the earth inbetween. Originally the land sloped from a high point at the back of the garden to the back of our home. In the center of this image, you see the plywood forms used to create the concrete Koi pool. Materials used in the garden were brick and slate and concrete.

The area to the left of the photo has yet to be paved with bricks. I never really counted how many bricks were used in this project, but they were in the 10's of thousands!

The Koi pool is five feet wide, twenty feet long and is about twenty inches deep. It will not freeze solid in the winter: moving water keeps the system from totally freezing. Koi {we have 13} winter over in the pool.

The Koi pool has been pored. Each electrical connection had to have its own separate line running from the power center in the garden building. All this had to be laid underground before fill and brick paving began.

The outline of brick in this photo will become paved with brick to be used as a dining area. There are underground electrical connections supplying power for garden lights and electrical outlets. The hole next to the Koi pool will hold the filteration systems for the pool.

We used local workman for this project. Jamie finished the top of the back brick wall. The new White Cedar fence is being installed at this point. Walls make good neighbors!

The walls are finished and the land is level and the pool is poured! The summer of 1999 was one of the driest and hottest on record for Newport. It was our summer from Hell !

After images of today

Lots of paved brick areas for walking and sitting. Freestanding poured concrete pedestals are used for garden art.

The massive carved sandstone fencing came from one of the Bellevue Avenue Estates.

The Gothic fence section {from Savannah} adds design interest in this area and also provides an object for climbing vines.

Oblisks and a Roman figure add to the formality of the design.

You can see which side of the garden is partially shaded. About half of the garden does have good strong light. Appropriate plants in various areas of the garden compliment color and contrast in blooms and foliage.

Coastal New England climate {Newport is situated on an Island} encourages moss growth in Summer.

Our garden furniture is either wood or iron. The colors we choose for our home are shown here: pale olive and court house red.

We planted over 100 boxwood used to edge the garden beds. These grow very slowly and will eventually form a low hedge.

This overview of the garden shows the various beds each separated with slate walks to provide access for maintainance. The red square to the right of the Koi pool is the lid that houses the pool filteration system. The pool is installed with inwall under water lights. All the garden lights have separate switches which can be activated from various places in our home. This garden was laid out in such as way that when it rains, all the water is pitched to the long slate steps, flows down them onto the lower brick paved walkway and then the water flows toward the brick paved alley to the street.

The Oblisk in the center of the Koi pool was moved from our previous home garden. It weighs about 2300 lbs. When we had the pool poured, an intergral footing of concrete that is 48" deep was poured to support the weight of the Oblisk. The Oblisk is made of Fall River Granite. Rex Mounment moved it from our last home to this site. It had to be hand transported onto the property through a side path. All the materials used in this garden had to be transported by hand! We had only a three foot wide 'alley' in which to bring in the materials.

A view from the roof, looking through a newly installed Victorian Cresting.

The garden building .

This shows the side walkway used to transport all the materials {including the Oblisk} used in the garden restoration. Old brick were used to pave this area and there is a sway to the center to allow for water drainage from the garden.

So . . . who uses the garden more than anyone else? Kitty, of course. The completely walled garden keeps her in and others out. It is her world and she loves it!


Federico Santi and John Gacher live at 148-160 Spring Street, Newport, Rhode Island 02840.We operate The Drawing Room of Newport Antiques and are open daily from 11 am to 5 pm and by appointment. If you need to contact us please call us at 1-401-841-5060. The Partnership of Gacher and Santi has been in business for over 30 years. We have been located in Newport for over 16 years. Our email address is

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