In 1922, Henry and Alice Ferguson purchased 330 acres on the eastern shore of the Potomac River ten miles south of Washington, D.C. The Fergusons developed the property – which encompassed rolling hills, fields, woods, streams, wetlands, and a dilapidated farmstead – as a working farm and weekend retreat. Alice, a painter trained at the Corcoran School of Art, designed the manor and its gardens, which she sited atop a hill affording expansive views of the surrounding countryside and the capital city.
Alice’s Country Place Era gardens exhibit both elements of Beaux-Arts neoclassicism and the romanticism of the Picturesque. An oval-shaped lawn is defined by boxwood and spirea hedging, with outer paths lined with perennials and shrubs shaded by magnolias and dogwoods. Enclosed with a balustrade which frames a view of Mount Vernon directly across the Potomac River, the garden also incorporates a water feature and sculpture, including works by Lenore Thomas Straus, a local Works Progress Administration artist. The house is draped with rose and grape arbors and wisteria vines, with a formalized entry lined with trimmed boxwoods.
The non-profit Alice Ferguson Foundation was formed in 1954, and continues to steward Hard Bargain Farm as a productive farm and environmental education center. In 1968, half of the property was given to the National Park Service to found Piscataway National Park, preserving the Mount Vernon viewshed.