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When real estate magnate Joseph P.
Day (1874 – 1944) commissioned his Short Hills, New Jersey, neighbor,
William Whetten Renwick (1864–1933), to design a garden estate in
1912 on the property that would become Greenwood Gardens, he was
enlisting the creative vision of a multi-talented architect, painter,
sculptor, and landscape designer. In addition to being a member of
the American Institute of Architects, Renwick was a longtime member
of the Architectural League of New York and exhibited his sculptural
decorations in the League’s annual exhibitions. He was also a member
of the National Sculpture Society, and the Salmagundi Club, one of
the country’s oldest arts organizations.
Greenwood’s founder, Peter P. Blanchard III, writes in his book, Greenwood:
A Garden Path to Nature and the Past, “Day and William
Renwick proved to be an innovative and synergistic pair. [The
project] provided ample opportunity for Renwick to display his
talents in architectural design and decoration,” including, landscape historian Judith B. Tankard suggests, the
designs for the brightly colored Rookwood ceramics he used to
decorate the historic buildings and garden walls. One of Greenwood
Gardens’ most striking and unique features, the brightly colored Arts
and Crafts era ceramics were created by artisans at the Rookwood
Pottery Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Given Renwick’s love of painting
and sculpture, it is easy to imagine how he would enjoy collaborating
with the most highly esteemed art ceramics establishment of the time.
Founded in 1880 by pioneering artist Maria Longworth-Nichols, the
Rookwood Pottery Co. was the first female-owned manufacturing company
in the country and launched the art pottery movement in America.
Employing the talents of renowned artists, Rookwood soon garnered
international acclaim for its beautifully glazed vases, bowls, and
plaques, rivaling centuries old European and Asian ceramic arts
companies. In 1893, Rookwood won the grand prize in ceramics at the
Chicago World's Fair and seven years later received the Grand Prix
for ceramics at the 1900 Paris Expo, establishing it as the finest
art pottery studio in the world. Two years later, the company
introduced a line of architectural ceramics for custom installations
in grand homes, hotels, and train stations, and orders poured in.
Architects worked with Rookwood artists to create entire rooms such
as the historic Rathskeller Room in Louisville, Kentucky’s Seelbach
Hotel, the vaulted ceiling of the Della Robbia Room and Bar in New
York's Vanderbilt Hotel, and several of New York City’s subway
After suffering a reversal of fortunes due to the stock market crash
of 1929, Joseph P. Day was forced to sell his estate and it slowly
fell into decline. As a result, many Rookwood ornaments were removed,
with some saved by Day family members or sold. Even so, with over 750
individual pieces, Greenwood Gardens is home to one of the largest
outdoor collections of Rookwood ceramics, most of which are on public
view. These colorful, individual works of art featuring fantasy
figures, faces, shells and animals continue to radiate a playful
charm nearly a century later. From time to time, we issue challenges
to visitors to locate a particular piece on the property and win a
Click on any photo to view it
A plaque featuring a 1920s
roadster on the Carriage Garage wall.
Bacchus, the Roman god of
agriculture and wine.
Arts & Crafts era designers
and artists embraced nature's exquisite elements in their work.
A beautifully serene face, ivy
leaves and seashell decorate the wall above the Cottage Garage
Hours & Admission
Greenwood Gardens is open to the
public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 7, 2021
between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Entry is by vehicle and advance
timed ticket registration only. Tours are self-guided. Visit greenwoodgardens.org for COVID
guidelines and to purchase tickets.
Members and children under 3: free
Adults (13 to 64): $15
Seniors (65+) and students with ID: $10
Children (3 to 12): $5