|Name||Marjorie Randolph Van Wickle Lyon|
|Father||Augustus Stout Van Wickle|
|Mother||Bessie Pardee Van Wickle McKee|
Marjorie's parents, Bessie and Augustus S. Van Wickle purchased the Blithewold estate in 1894 as a 'Country Home', and moved to the estate with Marjorie in 1896. Marjorie spent many summers and holidays at Blithewold. When her mother died in 1936, Marjorie inherited Blithewold.
Marjorie Van Wickle was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1883, the first child of Bessie Pardee and Augustus Stout Van Wickle. Not much is known about Marjorie's early education, except that she was taught for some time by Estelle Clements, along with her Pardee cousins, at home in Hazleton, PA. In her teen-age years she attended Miss Vinton's School in Ridgefield, Connecticut, a small boarding school for young ladies. It was there that she met several young women who were to remain her closest friends for the rest of her life.
In 1898, Marjorie's father Augustus was killed in a skeet-shooting accident at the age of 42. His will revealed a generous bequest to Brown University, his alma mater. The funds were used to build a new administration building, and to purchase and install the gates named in his memory. Marjorie was Guest of Honor at the dedication of the new Van Wickle Gates.
When Marjorie was 19 years old she went on an 11-month tour of Europe and Egypt, accompanied by her cousin Dorothy Pardee, a friend, and a chaperone-guide. In the hundreds of letters home to her mother, Marjorie left a comprehensive account of her adventures, revealing the beginnings of a lifelong passion for travel, nature, music, and art. She returned to Europe many times, taking her last trip to France and Italy in 1974 at the age of 90.
On a beautiful summer's day in 1914, Marjorie married George Lyon in the enclosed garden at Blithewold, where photographs show glorious borders of shrubs and flowers. The ceremony was held in front of the Summerhouse, and a reception for 300 guests was held on the Great Lawn.
As WWI began, Marjorie started her work with the Red Cross, which became a big part of her life for the next 40 years, through two world wars and in peacetime. After the war, she worked in Boston as a Motor Corps Driver. On her retirement in 1957, it was estimated that she had driven some 150,000 miles for the Red Cross, picking up needy patients and driving them to the Boston Hospitals and clinics for outpatient treatment. She left extensive records of her work, along with essays and stories about her experiences.
Marjorie began painting in watercolor around 1900 when she was 16. In her later years, Marjorie developed her interest in painting and traveling. She traveled to Europe often, painting in Rome, Florence, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Taormina, Italy. Changing exhibits of her work are displayed at Blithewold, and hundreds more paintings are stored in the Archives. She wrote poetry and journals and detailed accounts of her experiences in foreign lands, and these, along with thousands of letters and photographs, are carefully preserved and catalogued. The stories they reveal are shared with visitors and members through exhibits, lectures, and newsletter articles. Besides her many visits to Europe, she traveled to Egypt, Panama, Alaska, and Hawaii. However, her heart was always close to home. In 1931 she wrote to her mother "Looking forward to the next weekend in Bristol, which, after all our wanderings, is still the very favorite spot for all of us."
Marjorie's greatest joy was the gardens and arboretum at Blithewold, and she loved to share her gardening skills and knowledge with friends and fellow gardeners. During her lifetime she welcomed tours of the grounds by garden clubs and horticultural societies. She spent the last few years of her life planning to hand over the estate, along with the house and its contents, to a Rhode Island trust. After a full and active life, Marjorie died at Blithewold in 1976 at the age of 93. The estate is now managed by "Blithewold, Inc", a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the property open to the public, in accordance with Marjorie's wishes. Its mission is to preserve New England's finest garden estate through excellence in horticulture and historic preservation, and by its example to teach and inspire others. -M. Whitehead, Blithewold Curator
|Spouse||George A. Lyon|