This post is the next in our series, Hidden Gems, where we visit places hidden in plain view, in and around Dallas, that we have explored this summer and in the past. You can access that series of posts here.
Chandor Gardens, named for its original owners, Douglas and Ina Chandor, is located in Weatherford, TX. A ninety-minute drive from our home in North Texas. The gardens are open over the weekends, from 9 am to 3 pm on Saturday and noon to 4 pm on Sundays. Last weekend, Mr. JJ offered to drive me to (re)visit these lovely gardens. Our first trip here was several years ago, while the children were still young. It was early spring, and after a visit to Chandor, we stopped along the roadside meadows to take photos in a sea of bluebonnets. I wrote a snippet about it here.
Last weekend, it was just the two of us. We left around noon, packing a small lunch to eat in the parking lot. A variety of flowering plants, a nice bench, decorative statuary, and shade extend to the parking lot, making it an excellent place to enjoy a picnic on a nice day. While the house and gardens occupy a 3.5-acre lot, the house occupies about 5600 square feet. The gardens occupy so much of the area that the house feels like a natural extension of it. The mansion was home to Douglas and Ina Chandor. Born in England, Douglas was a painter who moved to the US in 1926 and became famous for his portraiture work. He has created nearly 200 paintings in his lifetime. He counted among his subjects royalty, politicians as well as other famous people of his time. Ina was a Weatherford native. The Chandors spent half the year in New York and the rest of their time in their Weatherford home, named White Shadows. Originally built as a studio for Douglas in 1936, additions were made to it over the years. Douglas took a barren landscape around the home and created the beautiful gardens, one plant and tree, at a time. He combined eastern elements such as a Chinese junk ship, sculptures, a Buddha statue, and bamboo gardens with the western concepts of a formal English garden.
Douglas died suddenly in 1953. As a tribute to her husband, Ina changed the name to Chandor Gardens and kept them open to the public until she died in 1978. For the next decade and a half, the gardens fell to slow deterioration and decay. In 1994, the property was obtained by the Bradfords, who painstakingly restored the gardens to their former glory. The City of Weatherford acquired the property from them in 2002. The gardens remain under city jurisdiction and open to the public since then.
At the time of our visit, the main office was open but was not staffed. After waiting for a while, we decided to finish the visit and stop by the office later to pay our admission fees. We spent over an hour admiring the various features of the garden. Restrooms are located on property and were clean. On our way out, we stopped by the office again. Only one person, wearing a mask, could enter the small office at a time. Mr. JJ went in and paid the fees. There were maybe about 15 to 20 other families at the time of our visit. But the area is so vast that there was no fear of crowding.
The trees Douglas planted have become massive and offer a continuous element of shade and dappled sunlight as we walked through the gardens. There are several hundreds of smaller plants and flowering bushes bordering walk paths and flourishing in the gardens. I particularly liked their vibrancy, as the colors stood out. There ae water features scattered throughout the gardens adding a soothing sound and a whimsical touch. The pixie pond was my favorite. Douglas also had a 30-foot mountainside created for a waterfall feature, but he died suddenly, before completing the waterfall. The Bradfords later added the waterfall in the 1990s. The boxwood gardens, the bowling green, the pixie pond bring to life the English garden features. The Chinese bridge, the Stone of the Immortals, the Chi-Ling fountain, the Buddha Niche, and the Moon Gate add a strong Chinese flavor. You might have seen the Moon Gate in social media photos.
I love these gardens hat are the product of one person’s imagination, passion, and hard work. Douglas Chandor took the time, made an effort, and was willing to invest financially in this project. The Bradford family, rescued the gardens, by dint of their will and determination. Today the gardens are a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I liked the many strategically placed seating areas: hedges enclosing a table and chairs, a bench below an arbor, and under the shade of a tree. The whole area is a treat to the senses. The soothing colors of the garden, swirling leaves falling from the canopy above, sounds of flowing water, the touch of a soft petal, the warmth of the dappled sunlight on the skin, crunch of gravel underneath, soft whisper of the breeze: a symphony that stirs the spirit and soothes the soul. Douglas Chandor would be thrilled with what his gardens have become today; a lush green oasis!
Chandor Gardens are located at 711 West Lee Avenue, Weatherford, TX 76086. Hours of operation: Mon to Fri: 9 am to 5 pm, Sat: 9 am to 3 pm and Sun: 12 noon to 4 pm. Certified service animals only are permitted. Active sports are not allowed. While weddings are no longer allowed, guests can rent the gardens, the mansion, or both for retreats, private parties of up to 200 people, and meeting space. Professional photography (prom, senior photos, graduation, baby photos) is allowed but involves a fee. The home and garden are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guided tours are available for groups of ten or more but have to be arranged ahead of time.