ISSUE 34  |  Chasing Fireflies

Landscape Architect Visit: A Historic Farm on Rhode Island, Ocean Views Included

August 25, 2014 1:30 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

Seventy-acre Goosewing Farm, in Little Compton, is bounded by three bodies of water: Quicksand Pond, Tunipus Pond, and the Atlantic Ocean. For Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, the challenge was to preserve habitats for endangered shorebirds, marsh plants, and wildlife.

The landscape plan, which received an Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2011, integrates the farm buildings with a windswept landscape of meadow and beachfront, while creating sanctuaries for both freshwater and oceanfront flora and fauna.

Photographs via Michael Vergason Landscape Architects except where noted.

Above: “Farmer stack” dry-laid stone walls combine with hedgerows to mark off sloping fields. The land here has been farmed for 200 years. A house, stone barn, and silo sit on a knoll 50 feet above sea level, the farm’s highest elevation. 

At the edge of the property, Quicksand Pond is one of Rhode Island’s most important naturally flowing salt pond ecosystems. The brackish water is a habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and worms.

Above: Image via ASLA. Goosewing Farm’s buildings include a caretaker’s house, a barn, a guest house, and a main house. 

Above: Photograph via Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

Native plants–including ferns, blueberries, and cutleaf sumac–were chosen for their hardiness. Woody plants near the buildings provide protection from wind. Lawn was limited to small areas around the buildings.

Above: Large swaths of grasses cover much of the property.

Above: Photograph via Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

When the 18th-century Sisson Cottage was renovated, French doors replaced windows in the living room. A new deck the overlooks the ocean. Throughout the property, historic walls were preserved, as were an old stone well and cistern.

Above: Rain chains convey water to beds of ferns along the house’s foundation.

Working with architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the landscape architects created window views of hay fields, stone walls, a lichen-covered silo, and the ocean.

Above: The open space between the Head House and the barn creates a comfortable outdoor room.

Updated from a post originally published December 16, 2013.

For more modern interpretations of the classic American farm vernacular, see An Ode to Landscape Architect Dan Kiley and Stone Edge Farm: A Peaceful Retreat in Northern California.