Recently, I got an exclusive tour of the Ships of The Sea Museum’s newest addition: the pristine and elegantly modern North Garden. For a quiet step out of Savannah’s busy Historic Landmark District or for brilliant event or concert, the North Garden has a truly unique atmosphere.
From the MLK, you can peek into the walled garden through an arch at the 100-foot long pergola that will eventually be covered in beautiful native vines, like honeysuckle and wisteria. And a 24-tree Trident maple grove is lined in a perfect square in the middle of the garden. It was modeled after similarly arranged city parks throughout Paris and will be up-lit and manicured so that those walking beneath the trees can stand upright and see anyone else who may also be standing beneath the trees.
You can peek into the existing garden through wide window cutouts that are remnants of an old auto shop — Kramer Auto — that stood on the plot since the early 20th century.
The centerpiece of the garden is enormous flower-filled urn that was part of the museum’s benefactor (Mills B. Lane IV) personal collection form his New York apartment. A long, rectangular reflecting pool surrounds the urn’s small brick island. And from the pavilion side of the North Garden, there is a cutout window framing this magnificent urn. This brick wall and walkway separates the pavilion from the orchard/pergola sides of the North Garden.
Mills B. Lane IV died in 2001, but let his Board of Directors know of his intentions for the North Garden and they have take painstaking measures to honor his vision. Lane is also known in Savannah for enlivening the Bull Street corridor with street signs and trashcans out of his own pocket. Lane’s intention was to gift the North Garden to the city.
The 1.25 acre garden is open to the public during the day for a serene lunch or walk, but will likely shine for events. Its pavilion, called the Assembly Room, has the capacity for approximately 600 people standing and 320 people with tables. Event Coordinator Michelle Riley suspects that this will be a great venue for live music, with big beautiful bathrooms, a dressing room and ticket booth area built into the design. The pavilion will also be open for press conferences, weddings or receptions. And you can see the Talmadge Bridge peeping in the garden from its north side.
The North Garden also features a short walkway 13 feet above the garden, called the Belvedere, overlooking both sides of the garden — a great feature for announcing newly wedded couples and photos!
Adjacent to the historic Scarborough House (which houses the museum’s treasures) on MLK and the museum’s existing garden, the North Garden brings in a very zen-like, rejuvenated feel to this attraction. To me, the modern design is refreshing. The North Garden celebrates current design, but not in a way that is overbearing or so out-of-the-box that it doesn’t blend in. A tip-of-the-hat to design firm Danial E. Snyder, Architect, P.C. on the North Garden, and to the Ships of the Sea gardener, John McEllen, who designed the garden layout of the North Garden and the museum’s existing garden.
The North Garden is expected to open to the public this month (June 2012) and is sure to become an asset to the community. It’s a sight you don’t want to miss now, and, once the plants mature, you will surely want to stop in on and marvel for years to come.