Heritage Flume

Award Of Excellence

General Design

Sandwich, MA, USA
Client: Heritage Museums and Gardens

"Inspired by the historic gristmills of New England, the Heritage Flume fountain is perfectly attuned to its wooded site on the grounds of a Cape Cod museum and gardens—an impeccably crafted gem of simplicity and beauty. Traversing 208 feet through a forest dell, and ending in a dramatic 26-foot-high waterfall into a daylily garden, the design celebrates the melding of built forms, cultural history, and nature. It is at once sculptural and fully at home in its setting, and provides visitors with a delightful sensory experience."

- 2019 Awards Jury

Project Credits

  • Lead Designers
    • Stephen Stimson
    • Joe Wahler
  • Consultants
    • Dan Euser, Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, Inc.
  • Steel Fabrication
    • Cape Cod Fabrications
  • Landscape Contractor
    • Francisco Tavares
  • Fountain Contractors
    • New England Aquatics

Project Statement

The Heritage Flume was sensitively constructed through a marginal forested dell and a little-used lawn, transforming these areas into an iconic element for Heritage Museums and Gardens. The design explores the intersection of American landscape history and contemporary design through the reinterpretation of the region's historic gristmill water flumes. The Heritage Flume enriches the multi-sensory experience of visitors, the garden's collections, and the museum's mission of sharing American history with future generations.

Project Narrative

Site History

Heritage Museums and Gardens is located in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Cape Cod's oldest town. The 100-acre site was first settled in 1677 by the Wing Family and served as a farm for generations until it was purchased in 1922 by Charles Dexter, a plant breeder specializing in rhododendron hybrids. The Lily Family purchased the land from Dexter in 1943 to develop a museum displaying the family's collection of Americana, including folk art, books, and automobiles. New gardens were created to showcase the significant collections of Dexter's rhododendrons.

Design Challenge

Heritage Museums and Gardens engaged the landscape architect to design a water fountain, an element that would welcome visitors while being consistent with their mission of celebrating the history of America and American culture. The Heritage Museums and Gardens has a nationally significant collection of rhododendrons which the client wanted to preserve and showcase. The location of the existing visitor's center, with an adjacent terrace overlooking the expansive steep forested dell, presented a unique opportunity to create a feature that could be experienced from both the upper and lower areas of the site.


The water feature was conceived as an abstracted reference to the historic wooden water flumes used as power sources for early grist mills on Cape Cod during colonial times. From the entry terrace, the water feature appears as an infinite mirror floating from the arrival terrace, out into the mature canopy of the dell. The landscape architect mapped the existing trees and deliberately inserted the structure as a straight, level line through the established landscape, contrasting the woodlands with a clear human intervention.

As visitors travel the promenade down to the Daylily Garden, the steel supports of the structure become revealed within the landscape. The angled supports, carefully placed among the existing trees and understory, were designed to evoke the structure of surrounding branches. A weathering steel finish was chosen to compliment the natural woodland tones.

From the Daylily Garden, the water feature cantilevers from its last angled support over the water garden. The waterfall cascades into a constructed pond that was designed for a new aquatic plant collection, a valued addition to the institution's horticultural canon.

Process & Sustainability

The selected site for the fountain was an unmanaged Oak Pine forest dell between the elevated entry and the lower Daylily collection garden. The dell forest consists of a mature stand of white and black oak, hemlock, pitch pine, beech, rhododendron understory, and fern ground-plane that was beautifully wild. A highly technical telescopic installation method was established by the landscape architect in order to keep heavy machinery off the site, and to carefully preserve the surrounding canopy, understory, and ground-plane layers throughout the in-situ construction process.

A third of the Daylily Garden was replaced with a contemplative water garden. Waterlilies were selected to protect the ecology of the pond while providing aesthetic interest to visitors. The surrounding emergence planting palette consist of native plants to improve the quality of the woodland edge. All new plants were sourced from nearby nurseries. The 26-foot cascade of water not only provides an aesthetically pleasing element, but also aerates the pond.

Construction & Materials

The water feature's 208-foot long channel is constructed as a two-part system: an inner two-inch deep stainless steel pan that overflows into an outer weathering steel channel. The inner channel remains level and full, as water is diffused along its length by small source emitters, creating a two-foot wide mirror of water. Weathered and stainless steel were chosen for their high strength, low maintenance, cost effectiveness, and ease of fabrication.

The calm water surface reflects the canopy and sky above, and provides a valuable source of water for birds and other wildlife. The outer channel collects the overflow of the inner channel, which is then directed to the east end of the structure and over a weir, descending as a twenty-six-foot-high waterfall into the Daylily Garden below. The channel construction is simple, easily replicable, and provides minimal impact to the existing site conditions.

Iconic Placemaking

Together the water collection garden and cascade provide a dramatic centerpiece for the Daylily Garden's central lawn, which has become a prominent event space for small performances, weddings, and other seasonal events. By closely collaborating with the museum, contractor, and steel fabricator, the landscape architect was able to make a bold, but sensitive insertion into the existing landscape that connects visitors to natural areas of the property and expanded collection gardens. The flume was carefully crafted and implemented through a thoughtful design and construction process that intertwines built form, cultural history, and nature as one. The Heritage Flume represents the local history, ecology, and horticulture, and has become iconic to Heritage Museum and Gardens and Cape Cod.


Product Sources: HARDSCAPE

  • Fransisco Tavares

Product Sources: FENCE/GATES

  • Fransisco Tavares

Product Sources: STRUCTURES

  • Cape Cod Fabrications


  • New England Aquatics

Plant List:

  • Cephalanthus occidentalis Buttonbush
  • Clethra alnifolia Sweet Pepperbush
  • Dennestaedtia punctilobla Hay Scented Fern
  • Hemerocallis spp. Daylily
  • Ilex opaca American Holly
  • Iris versicolor Blue Flag Iris
  • Iris spp. Iris
  • Nymphaea odorata White Water Lily
  • Nuphar variegate Bullhead Lily
  • Osmunda regalis Royal Fern
  • Peltandra virginica Arrow Arum
  • Rhododendron viscosum Swamp Azalea
  • Rhododendron maximum Maxi Rhododendron
  • Rhododendron Dexter Dexter Cultivar Rhododendron
  • Rosa palustris Swamp Rose
  • Sagittaria latifolia Arrow Head
  • Viburnum dentatum Arrowwood Viburnum