Welcome to the Tyler Formal Gardens
Tyler Formal Gardens were constructed in the early 1930s by Charles Willing of Willing, Sims and Talbutt to provide a formal landscape setting for the Tylers' magnificent home and to accommodate the large social gatherings that the couple enjoyed hosting.
Tyler Formal Gardens functioned as the "outdoor parlor" of George F. and Stella Elkins Tyler, original owners of the former baronial estate that comprised nearly 2,000 acres of prime Bucks County real estate in Newtown, Pa. Perched on a hilltop overlooking Neshaminy Creek, the mansion and gardens still afford a view that
". . . is one never to be forgotten,"
as opined many years ago by Charles Willing of Willing, Sims & Talbutt—the prestigious Philadelphia architectural firm contracted to construct the Tylers' mansion, service cottages, support buildings, and four-tier Italianate garden.
The four-tier gardens, positioned on an acre of land, were greatly influenced by French and Italian gardens and demonstrated characteristics that were common in formal gardens in the Philadelphia area at that time. Architectural plans and photos from the 1930s show four terraces that included gravel walks, fountains, sculptures, staircases, parterres, planting spaces, swimming pool, and tennis courts.
An avid gardener, Stella Tyler introduced countless varieties of flora to her personal horticultural laboratory. And as an accomplished artist, she frequently exhibited examples of her sculptures throughout the gardens, several of which continue to be displayed. In addition to stunning bronze statuary, Tyler Formal Gardens offers dramatic stone walls and staircases that serve as the "bones" of the gardens.
Indian Council Rock, which was the property's original name derived from a time when early Native American tribes counseled on an adjacent cliff, had all the trademarks of a typical country estate during the early to mid-1900s: an impressive mansion, an outstanding collection of art and antiques, a thriving agricultural and dairy operation on extensive land holdings, and a formal terraced garden—complete with customary features of early twentieth-century horticulture.
The Tyler mansion is arguably the grandest home ever built in Bucks County and believed to be the last of the great estates ever constructed in the United States. In 1987, Tyler Hall (as the mansion is now known) and Tyler Formal Gardens were placed on the National Register of Historical Places. By many measures, Tyler Hall and Tyler Formal Gardens are true gems of Bucks County, and their restoration and maintenance are important to the college as well as the community. Visiting this historic site is a step back in time to an era of elegance that included the Golden Age of American Gardens.
Read About the Tyler Estate
Restoration and Preservation
The Tyler Formal Gardens mission is to ensure ongoing restoration and preservation and to provide recreational, educational, and environmental opportunities for the community college, Bucks County residents, and the general public. Formal restoration of the gardens began in 1999, headed by Bucks County Community College’s Historic Preservation Program and supported by the college and its Foundation. The continued restoration and preservation of this historic site is greatly dependent on the dedication and generosity of both volunteers and donors who value the gardens’ illustrious history. Restoration and preservation efforts reflect the necessary balance between historical accuracy and practical public use/safety issues as well as between financial/human resources and repair imperatives/restoration enhancements.
Since 1999, numerous repairs and restoration projects have been completed, including installing formal hedging and planting beds, upgrading fountain plumbing, refurbishing and installing Stella Tyler’s statues, renewing gravel pathways, installing sodded lawns, installing replica doorway gates and marble bench, adding large concrete urns, repairing flagstone terraces and fountain patios as well as stone stairways and retaining walls. A pictorial history of Tyler Formal Gardens, Tyler Elegance: A Garden Odyssey, was published in 2011. Copies of the book are available at the Bucks County Community College Bookstore and the Foundation & Alumni Relations office as well as at various local bookstores. All proceeds from sales of the book benefit the Stella Elkins Tyler Gardens Endowment.
Click here to read the latest issue of GEMS: the Tyler Formal Gardens Newsletter. For information about private garden tours or volunteer opportunities, contact the BCCC Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding the restoration of the Tyler Formal Gardens depends on the generosity of many. A heartfelt thank you to the numerous individuals, organizations, and businesses for their support of the gardens. A very special thank you also goes to the small group of volunteers who help maintain and enhance the gardens. To contribute to this labor of love, contact the BCCC Foundation at email@example.com.