Wider Outlook: A New Name and New Access for President's House Garden

An architect's drawing displays features of the newly renamed Happy Chace '28 Garden adjacent to the President's House.

Each year, hundreds of graduating Smithies file down a path past the garden adjacent to the President’s House on their way to Commencement ceremonies in the Quad.

But until now, views of the historic walled garden—located below a steep slope overlooking Paradise Pond—have remained mostly hidden.

That will change this fall, thanks to a renovation that will open views of the garden more broadly to the community. The revamped garden will feature a number of improvements, including an accessible path, stone retaining walls on three sides, and a low ornamental railing in place of the tall fence along the upper walkway.

The garden will also feature a wonderful new name: The Happy Chace ’28 Garden—or, more colloquially, the “Happy” Garden—honors the late Beatrice “Happy” Oenslager Chace ’28, whose daughter and son-in-law, Eliot Chace Nolen ’54 and Roly Nolen, have provided financial support for the project.

The new garden—which is being designed by Brown, Richardson & Rowe landscape architects—should be finished early in the fall semester, but will be at peak bloom in May. New flowers and herbs will be planted in the coming months to ensure that the garden is at its finest for spring’s Commencement ceremonies.

President Kathleen McCartney said she is thrilled by the plan. “When I learned that the fence around the garden was in need of repair, I suggested we take it down so that this wonderful space could be more fully enjoyed by everyone,” she said. McCartney noted that many members of the college community, as well as Northampton residents, enjoy sitting on the hill by the garden to enjoy the view of Paradise Pond. “Now we will be able to sit and enjoy a spectacular garden that overlooks Paradise Pond,” she said. “I predict students will enjoy studying there.

“My hope is that the garden will be, in the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘the still point of the turning world,’”McCartney said.

In addition to being a beautiful contemplative space, the new “Happy” Garden, like all named gardens on campus, is designed to be a teaching space. Smith’s chief gardener, Nathan Saxe, noted that the garden will incorporate an herb garden of traditional design—divided into quadrants with herbs grouped according to traditional or practical uses. These quadrants include culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, tea herbs and herbs of the ancients.

Originally designed in 1920 by Boston architect John W. Ames for then incoming Smith President William Allan Neilson, the President’s House and adjacent garden were featured in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine the following year.

Updates on garden renovations are available online.