Nestled in the bucolic village of Farmington, Connecticut, at the summit of 152 hilltop acres, sits what many architectural historians consider to be the finest Colonial Revival house in the United States. The 33,000-square-foot Hill-Stead was built for Alfred Pope, a wealthy Cleveland industrialist looking for an East Coast country estate to house his world-class collection of French impressionist art. The house was designed by his daughter, Theodate, a self-trained architect of considerable talent and ambition at a time when women of her class were expected to focus on family and social status. In the spring of 1901, Alfred and Ada Pope moved into their "great new house on a hilltop," as American novelist and occasional houseguest Henry James would later describe it. Just as impressive are Hill-Stead's grounds, designed in consultation with landscape architect Warren H. Manningfeaturing miles of dry-laid stone walls, lawns, meadows, and woodlandsthe crowning jewel of which is the sunken garden designed for Theodate by her friend Beatrix Farrand. When Theodate died in 1946, her will stipulated that the contents of the house never be moved, lent, or sold. Today, it is maintained along with the grounds as a not-for-profitmuseum.
Hill-Stead is the first comprehensive monograph on this classic American home. Editor James F. O'Gorman combines gorgeous color photographs of the house's architecture, art, and furnishings with the latest historical scholarship. The nineteen period rooms presented in situ include paintings by Cassatt, Degas, Manet, Monet, and Whistler; Japanese woodblock prints; and works on paper by Whistler, Piranesi, Dürer, and Millet. Furnishings, including original Chippendale, Sheraton, and Empire-period antiques are all thereright down toTheodate's parrot, stuffed but still charming in his pagoda cage in her morning room. The family silver and china can be viewed in the kitchen, and monogrammed bath towels still hang over the huge porcelain tubs. Hill-Stead includes a long-overdue reappraisal of the design contributions of Theodate Pope Riddle. The design of Hill-Stead, long considered to be largely the work of the firm McKim Mead and White, is revealed to be the work of one of this country's earliest important women architects. Hill-Stead features a preface by architect Robert A. M. Stern.