Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A VISIT TO CHANDOR GARDENS, WEATHERFORD TX


Weatherford TX Courthouse

Weatherford is a city in Parker County, Texas, United States,a western suburb of Fort Worth, and part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Nicknames are Cutting Horse Capital of the World and Peach Capital of Texas. I confess I do not know if these nicknames were bestowed by the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce, or because of the town's reputation.

When I first moved to the western edge of the Metroplex my mom's friends from Lubbock kept asking her if I’d toured Chandor Gardens in Weatherford yet. Until they did, I'd never heard of Chandor Gardens. And there's a reason. For many years the gardens were closed and in a state of disrepair. One courageous and preservation-minded couple, Charles and Melody Bradford, stepped in and restored the grounds, then sold the property to the City of Weatherford. This spring, I learned that the gardens were having a special discounted-price open house, and Darling Daughter 2 and I attended. We're both fans of discounts, gardens, tours, and goofing off in general. A first trip to Chandor Gardens for each of us, we were pleased to tour this beautiful property.

But that’s the shortened version. Here’s a more complete story.

Douglas Chandor painting
Douglas Granvil Chandor was born 20 August 1897 to Lucy May (Newton) and John Arthur Chandor in Surrey, England. World War I began a few months after he completed his education at Radley, and at seventeen he joined the Life Guards, First Regiment of Household Cavalry. Later, he served as a member of the celebrated Scottish Lovat Scouts.

In 1918 Chandor was discharged from the Scouts after contracting typhoid and severely damaging his knee. He recuperated in Surrey, then pursued his childhood interest of art. In 1919, he received his first major commission, to paint Sir Edward Marshall-Hall, K.C. When it was displayed at the British Royal Academy Exhibition, the portrait attracted further offers for the young artist, including a commission to paint the Prince of Wales, a work he completed in 1921. The painting drew "half of London" to the Grieves Gallery. Two years later Chandor accepted an invitation to portray the prime ministers of the British empire at work during the Imperial Conference held in London at 10 Downing Street.

View of Japanese bridge

Included among the invitations was a request to paint President Herbert Hoover, Vice President Charles Curtis, and the entire cabinet. Chandor's painting of Hoover, combined with his earlier portraits of British aristocrats, established his reputation as a painter of the world's political leaders. During his career he painted about 300 portraits. Significant subjects included President Gerardo Machado y Morales of Cuba, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn, and President Franklin Roosevelt. His portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt is believed to be the only one for which she formally posed; he also painted Sara Delano Roosevelt and the wives of James and Elliott Roosevelt.

Spirea (bridal wreath) and arbor


Chandor was divorced from Pamela (Trelawny) in 1932 and married Ina Kuteman Hill of Weatherford, Texas, in 1934. He returned with his wife to her native city where they lived in the family mansion. I love living in Texas, so please don't misunderstand me, but I've been to England. Talk about culture shock for Douglas Chandor. After the green of his native country, his first glimpse of Northwest Central Texas must have been a killer, but perhaps having "a family mansion" helped soften the blow, no disrespect intended. For the rest of his career Chandor spent half of each year in New York and the remaining time in Weatherford. He developed the grounds of his estate into a showplace that the Chandors named White Shadows Gardens. 

Tiered fountain

The house, which sat on a hill overlooking the city, was surrounded by an elaborate network of walls that enclosed an array of plants and trees, Chinese pagodas, a Japanese water garden, and a miniature replica of Mount Fujiyama. To most, this chalky hill in North Central Texas would seem an unlikely place for a garden of such imagination and splendor. Although his claim to fame was his talent as an artist, Douglas found his real passion as a gardener. He once told Ina that his talent for painting was merely a means that enabled him to fulfill his dreams of building a "living artwork". Douglas Chandor's destiny would be to turn these dreams into a reality.

I was pleased the Koi show up in my photo.


The gardens were carved from 4 acres of rock-hard terrain that was once a cow pasture. The project began in 1936 with the aid of picks, shovels, dynamite and mule-drawn plows. Truckloads of topsoil and tons of boulders were brought in to transform the barren cactus-dotted property into a peaceful haven enclosed by hedges and walls. Chandor devised a series of garden rooms, each with individual character and stunning views, all connected by meandering walkways. His creation combines the styles and ambiance of Chinese and English gardens with such delights as fountains, grottos, and even a mountain waterfall.

Mount Cox waterfall

Another view of Mount Cox that shows
cave-like grotto behind waterfall
(sorry about too much sun)


The Chandors worked tirelessly together in the gardens until Douglas' death from a cerebral hemhorrage after returning from a trip in 1953. Ina renamed them Chandor Gardens as a tribute to her husband. The gardens remained open to the public until shortly before her death in the late 1970s. Because there were no direct heirs, the property remained unattended, overgrown and deteriorating for 20 years.

Half of Dragon fountain

Charles and Melody Bradford purchased the estate in 1994 and took on the enormous task of restoring the gardens and home. In what could only be described as a true labor of love, they painstakingly spent years clearing and cleaning away the debris of decades of neglect. Many large old trees, Douglas' original wisteria and boxwood plantings, and his magical hardscapes remained. Everything else was replanted by the Bradfords, and thanks to their efforts Chandor Gardens was once again transformed into a lush tranquil delight.

Stone of the Immortals,
sculpted by  Douglas Chandor. This
was my least favorite feature.


In time, the Bradford's had completely restored the property and decided to sell and offered the gardens to the City of Weatherford. They must have given the City a really good deal, because Weatherford  purchased Chandor Gardens in May 2002. After minor renovations necessary for compliance with the American Disabilities Act and City building codes, Chandor was re-opened to the public in the fall of 2002.

I know they're everywhere, but purple
iris were my mom's favorite flower


The gardens are available for public and private tours. The gardens along with the Chandor mansion are available for rental, and are popular venues for wedding ceremonies and receptions, photography, meetings, and special events...and for just strolling through for photos and relaxation..A walk in a garden is always time well spent!


Thanks to Wikipedia, http://www.ci.weatherford.tx.us/index.aspx?NID=457
and http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fch17

Thanks for stopping by!

2 comments:

Shirley Wells said...

Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Purple iris were my mom's favourite too. They're lovely.

Tui Snider (@mentalmosaic) said...

Hi there! I came across your lovely post while researching my post on Chandor Gardens.

Gorgeous photo essay.

Plus, I admire that you write historical fiction. Your books are on my must-read list now. Hmmm.... which one first?

Nice to meet you!
Tui

p.s. Here's a link to my Chandor Garden post in case you would like to check it out: http://bit.ly/NtVnpO