By Margaret Berger
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” --Cicero
If this proverb is true, than Chauncey Stillman was a happy man. In his lifetime Mr. Stillman built what most of us can only dream of having: a country estate, complete with gardens, private library, and interesting friends. Mr. Stillman worked closely with his architects and artists to create an environment of peace and tranquility, a perfect atmosphere for deep conversation or thoughtful solitude.
Mr. Stillman was a friend and patron to artists and intellectuals, such as painter Pietro Annigoni and historian Christopher Dawson, who frequently stayed at Wethersfield. There they shared ideas while surrounded by the tranquil beauty of the estate. Whenever Mr. Stillman had guests (which was often), he would spend time beforehand reading up on their interests, so as to be able to engage them in conversation. An avid book lover, he had a staircase installed in the library that led directly to the master bedroom.
Mr. Stillman’s favorite room was the library, where he spent many a happy hour.
But really, there is no better place to ruminate over a good book than a garden. All book-lovers are acquainted with the inner turmoil a gripping novel provokes, and a garden is the perfect place to wander around and sort out muddled thoughts. A well-designed garden harbors a meditative atmosphere. The gardens of Wethersfield are classical Italian formal gardens, a style designed to order the mind and soothe the soul.
By the end of his life Mr. Stillman’s private library contained over 2,000 books, and the gardens—to which he had dedicated over 25 years of work in shaping—covered 10 acres. Mr. Stillman left his estate in the hands of his own private foundation so that the public might enjoy what he had spent a lifetime creating. The gardens are open for visitors from 12:00-5:00pm on [Thursdays], Fridays, and Saturdays, and the house and carriage collection may be seen at these times by appointment.