Mansion (?) Mayhem #2: Green Animals

I’m back to visiting the Newport Mansions, or the Newport Preservation Society locations, I should say. The other day, my mom and I were looking for something to do but didn’t feel like driving all the way to Newport (spoken like someone from Little Rhody). We’d just become members of the Newport Preservation Society, which I definitely recommend if you plan on going to a lot of houses, and we noticed that Green Animals Topiary Garden is located just off of 114 in Portsmouth so it would be a speedy drive.

photo-39Admission to the museum includes the house, garden, and grounds. The Brayton family home definitely has a more country and relaxed feel than the ostentatious Newport Mansions: the rooms aren’t overpowering with grand slabs of marble, chandeliers, and the like. Although this Civil War era house is definitely upscale, it’s not as intimidating as a Newport Mansion can be: its rooms are a lot homier with lower ceilings and furniture that looks like it’s been used. Upstairs there’s an antique toy collection with some huge dollhouses and really interesting looking books.

While the house has a great view of the water and its lawn spans a good distance, the topiary gardens are what give this house its name. The gardens were designed by Joseph Carreiro and feature a wide selection of animals like elephants, lions, giraffes, and bears, as well as some impressive spirals, boats, and trophies. Brayton’s oldest daughter Alice, who inherited the estate from her father, named the house Green Animals after its gardens. Brayton  bequeathed the house to the Newport Preservation Society, and the staff here now cares for the gardens of this seasonally opened house.

photo-38The gardens are pretty cool. It’s not too often that you get to see a topiary garden, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been to one before, so it’s definitely something different to do on Aquidneck Island. When you visit, the docents give you a map which explains different spots around the gardens, including a dog cemetery where Alice buried her beloved show dogs. There was also a bamboo “maze:” yes, bamboo is cool, but this was more of a labyrinth (the kind for meditation) than a maze.

It was a little bit too hot when we went, so we zipped through, but going on a cooler day would  make it even more enjoyable. Overall, it’s a cool property to visit, and definitely something different (I know I said this about Doris Duke’s house as well, but the gardens are a whole different animal, no pun intended).

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