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“Rocklawn”- Bass Rocks, Gloucester, MA

Posted by juliegamblesmith_tcrz4w on February 10, 2017
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I love my job!  Every once in awhile, as Realtors, we have the opportunity to market a home with some fascinating history- I will be listing a home in the Bass Rocks area of Gloucester this spring with just that.  This beautiful home, known as Rocklawn because of the numerous rocks covering the lawn, had prize-winning gardens, stone walls and spiral staircase designed by Fletcher Steele, a famous landscape architect.

Mr. & Mrs. Harry Stoddard were the owners from 1936-1953 and they hired Fletcher Steele to transform their gardens.  There were so many rocks covering the lawn and more that needed to be blasted, that Mr. Steele used them to create a flower theater, at the front of the house, using existing rock ledges, and built long curving retaining walls and a spiral staircase with steps- designed to make one think of seashells. I’ve never seen such remarkable walls and spiral staircase made from stone.  These swirling terraces and ramps transformed the Stoddards’ lawn into a work of art.

Mr. Steel then added plants to repeat and elaborate the spiral form he began with the ledge. He added a yew hedge, which curled down the hill and into the lawn, decreasing in height along the way to form a spiral. The curl was stopped by a pyramidal arborvitae. Steel also echoed the spiral motif in a low curving wall tucked inside the larger hedge. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

The entire garden design, though a bit overgrown, can still be seen from the back terrace of the home.  Steele also moved and added stately, over-story trees to screen the neighboring houses and to frame the stunning ocean views. This truly is a one of a kind property- soon to be available in Gloucester.


Clearing the lawn & designing the curving retaining wall


The original garden design

  • Julie Gamble Smith

    723 Hale Street, Beverly Farms MA 01915


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