Welcome to the Garden District

The "Newest Old Neighborhood" at Chautauqua?

The derivation of this housing development's title is unclear.  It seems to be part of an overall marketing campaign to confer instant  prestige on a new subdivision that thus far has more asphalt than garden.  Lots remain to be sold as of this writing.  Time will tell if Chautauqua's swap of public space for private development of approximately eighteen homes will further the Institution's mission, or detract from it.
The only vestige of public space that invites the Chautauquan to veer away from his path of travel is the garden in place at the entrance to the subdivision.  There are rocks laid into the garden that contain inscripted quotes from Thoreau and Walden and others.  If the Chautauquan needs to be reminded, these inscriptions declare that new thinking and a mind open to fresh ideas are good.

The new "Garden" District: a sprawling housing subdivision designed to replace public tennis courts with private homes. Crammed with tightly packed houses and be-ribboned with asphalt access roads, the District is shielded on one side from the nearby highway by a faux brick wall and on another side from auto-gate traffic by an expanse of flowers, shrubberies and trees. The main garden in the "Garden" District combines existing and newly planted flora to create a buffer between the District's private building lots and the steady flow of traffic streaming in and out the Main Gate.

This double-barreled development began in 2003 with the demolition of the tennis courts and the sale of the site into private hands.  Vacation Properties, omnipresent in property brokerage and development on the Grounds, was a key player in this transaction.  The houses that have gone up in what is known as the Garden District have been controversial in their appearance, their mass, and their permanent closure of what had been open space that flowed from the Main Gate, through the Tennis Courts, and onto McKnight Hall and the practice cabins.

The questions about this manufactured subdivision are numerous:

1. Is it consistent with the "verdant grove" ideal to squeeze sub-divisions into precious open space? 

2. Did the Architectural Review Board sign off on this project with no misgivings? 

3. What thought was given to the replacement of the open vista north of the Main Gate with dense private (and with Office Depot Hall, public) development?

4. Are other open spaces on the Grounds fair game this kind of exploitation?

5. What precisely was Vacation Properties' role in the events that converted the old Tennis Courts and adjoining lawn into money?

6. Is Chautauqua better - or worse - off because of this conversion?

Westward views from the Garden District:

If you've already purchased a piece of the District, you've bought a modestly sized, premium priced chunk of real estate, slightly removed from Route 394, that snuggles up endearingly close to your future neighbors in the grand Chautauqua tradition. Chautauquans loved playing tennis there. We trust you'll love living there. Anyone who purchases one of the remaining unsold lots will experience not only the satisfaction of erecting a protective barrier between the earlier buyers' lots and the highway, but also the thrill of reviewing passing traffic while lounging in the climate controlled splendor of a Garden District home. Got a few hundred thousand dollars and a dream? Then why not buy yourself a quaint, Chautauqua-esque view of historic Route 394?


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