Lakewood showplace will go ‘on tour’ 

THORNEWOOD: Estate gardens among 5 picked for Smithsonian national exhibition

Serena Markstrom; The News Tribune

Garden lovers across the nation will have the chance to explore the transformation of a Lakewood property as one of five American gardens the Smithsonian Institution has chosen to showcase in a traveling exhibit.

The closest the exhibit, "Exploring Garden Transformations, 1900-2000," will get to the Puget Sound area is Oregon City, Ore. But the Thornewood Castle property, its history and its recently revived gardens will be part of the exhibit, now previewing at the Smithsonian's Art and Industries Building in Washington, D.C. Other featured gardens are Beacon Hill in Newport, R.I.; The Moorings in Grosse Pointe, Mich.; Shirley Plantation on the James River near Richmond, Va.; and Weld in Brookline, Mass.

The Smithsonian has recreated the history of each of the five featured gardens using period photographs and newspaper and magazine articles. The portable exhibit will also include reproduced design plans and correspondence between gardeners and landowners.

Chester Thorne, a Tacoma banker, built Thornewood Castle from 1908 through 1911. Then the estate spread across 100 acres, including 35 acres of flower gardens, forest and parklands. In 1930, perhaps its floral height, the gardens won the American Garden Association's international prize.

Gardens at many grand estates began to decline during and after the Depression, when extravagant gardening became an unnecessary expense.

In 1995 Richard and Debbie Mirau purchased the castle, but by then there were only about 4.5 acres of the original garden splendor to work with. They restored what they could of the original gardens. The main garden is a half-acre English perennial garden.

Deanna and Wayne Robinson purchased the property in May and plan to expand on restoration efforts after Stephen King finishes filming his miniseries "Rose Red" there.

After its preview in Washington, D.C. (through Nov. 17), the Smithsonian exhibit will be shown at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., from Jan. 13 through March 11; in Akron, Ohio, from March 31 to May 27; and in Oregon City from June 16 to Aug. 12.

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* Reach staff writer Serena Markstrom at 253-274-7389

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