The Stotesbury Art Collection

Garden Fountains and Sculpture at Whitemarsh Hall
by
Jules-Édouard Visseaux, Frank Lynn Jenkins, Henri-Léon Gréber, and others

While the Stotesburys relied on Sir Joseph Duveen to make recommendations for the art and furnishings for the interior of Whitemarsh Hall, they also worked closely with him on the placement and selection of sculpture for the gardens. Duveen introduced the work of two contemporary sculptors into the garden while the landscaping was being finished according to the master plan by the French landscape architect Jacques Gréber. One of the sculptors was a French artist named Jules-Édouard Visseaux (1854 - 1934), and the other was an English sculptor named Frank Lynn Jenkins (1870 - 1927).

Visseaux and his artisans operated out of a studio in the Saint-Ouen district on the northern outskirts of Paris, producing urns, statues and fountains of terra cotta, stone and lead. He often produced works depicting putti, the Greco-Roman child-like companions of Cupid. Visseaux worked with various European architects, including René Sergent, for whom he produced the facade pieces for the Errázuriz Palace (now the National Museum of Decorative Arts) in Buenos Aires, Argentina (apparently, neither Sergent nor Visseaux went to Argentina for this 1911 project). He traveled to the United States in May of 1922 and may have come to Whitemarsh Hall at that time to confer with Jacques Gréber on his projects for the Stotesburys. His major contributions were the Grotto Fountain at the north end of the Main Garden and the Large Fountain at the south end of the Main Garden; his studio also provided a number of other sculpture pieces there.

Frank Lynn Jenkins was a founding member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors who moved to New York City in 1916. His contributions in 1922 - 1923 were five lead fountain groups depicting cherubs, and also two large limestone statues on pedestals on the Upper Terrace.

In about 1923, the Stotesburys engaged Henri-Léon Gréber (1855 - 1942), Jacques Gréber's father, to produce some large stone statues for the Plaza area located on the axis between the main entrance and the main garden of Whitemarsh Hall. Gréber studied under Frémiet and Mercié, and in 1900 he won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle. In 1910 Gréber made a large bronze equestrian fountain for Harbor Hill, the Charles Mackay estate in Roslyn, New York (these fountain pieces are now part of the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in Kansas City, Missouri). In 1914 Gréber received a commission from Peter A.B. Widener to produce several garden sculptures as well as a large bronze fountain for his estate Lynnewood Hall nearby in Elkins Park, PA. Most of Gréber's work was done in Europe; therefore, any of his pieces that remain in the United States are rare.

 

Topographic Map of Whitemarsh Hall Circa 1921

A topographic map of the Whitemarsh Hall property

 

1942 Aerial Photo of Whitemarsh Hall

Aerial view of the house taken in 1942

Photo Source: Pennsylvania State Archives

The Front Entrance

Upon entering the main gates to Whitemarsh Hall from Willow Grove Avenue, a visitor would be able to see the grand mansion far off on the northern horizon. After a short distance the driveway would end at a circle, and the road would continue toward the right. The house eventually would disappear from sight, hidden by trees and elevation in the terrain.

 

The entrance gates to Whitemarsh Hall from Willow Grove Avenue

The entrance gates at Willow Grove Avenue

Photo Source: Private Collection

View north from inside the entrance gates

A view of the house in 1920 from inside the entrance gates

Photo Source: Springfield Township Historical Society

The Gatehouse today

The front entrance and gatehouse today

Photo Source: Private Collection

The Plaza

After a turn to the left and upon passing through a grove of trees, the visitor would emerge into the Plaza circle. Once again the mansion would be visible in the distance. In order to continue, the visitor would have to make a nearly complete circle around the Plaza, all the time admiring Henri-Léon Gréber's large sculpture groups there.

The Maple Allée

The road would then turn toward the east, and the mansion would disappear from view once more. As the route doubled back and continued through another grove of trees, the mansion remained out of view, hidden by two long rows of Norwegian maple trees leading to a single statue in the Maple Allée on the left.

The Forecourt

Finally, the visitor would proceed around the northeast side of the mansion, following the curve with Whitemarsh Hall looming on the left, until the visitor was facing the magnificent facade and entrance portico. The house was situated at the head of a garden Forecourt, with two statues flanking either side of the portico near where each wing of the house jutted out to mark the outer edge of the Forecourt.

The Shady Garden

To the west of the main entrance to the house and leading out from the Tea Room was the Shady Garden, offering a French boulingrin lawn that led to a small fountain by Frank Lynn Jenkins that was flanked by two urns on pedestals, and just beyond that a statue overlooking a small valley to the west.

The Upper Terrace

Following around the west side of the house toward the Belvedere, the visitor would enter the parterre gardens on the Upper Terrace, which was next to the Ballroom (the Grand Salon) on the north and the Arcade Loggia on the east. The Upper Terrace had two fountains in large pools and two statues by Frank Lynn Jenkins flanking either side of a balustrade that offered a splendid view of the Main Garden below, the Plaza beyond that, and finally the Main Entrance gates far in the distance.

The Main Garden

The double stairs leading down from the Upper Terrace to the Main Garden flanked a large stone grotto fountain by Jules-Edouard Visseaux that signalled the beginning of the long lawn, or "tapis vert." On either side of the tapis vert, the visitor could walk along an outer promenade highlighted by three statues, until reaching a small fountain. These two small fountains by Frank Lynn Jenkins were located on either side of the magnificent large fountain by Visseaux that provided ample enjoyment for the visitor who wished to appreciate the beautiful gardens and sculpture at Whitemarsh Hall.

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