August 25, 2019

Beate Jensen: Rooting for Retirement

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen ’99 has gardened in just about every climate. Born and raised in Norway, she married a Marine stationed in Scotland and scattered seeds far and wide as they moved from Hawaii to Spain and everywhere in between. But it wasn’t until she came to Fredericksburg in 1996 that she began planting roots.

“I went to the library one day and copied down addresses for every college in Virginia. I requested course catalogs and read each one with care,” Jensen said. “Mary Washington’s historic preservation program caught my eye, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Jensen’s commitment to research landed her the job of cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio (GMHS) at Belmont, a position she’s retiring from this month after 20 years. She’s done everything, from controlling pests in the garden to pestering contractors to follow her guidelines. She and her staff keep the Stafford County estate looking just as it did when American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers and wife Corinne lived there in the early 1900s – but for 21st-century visitors to enjoy.

Along the way, Jensen earned a master’s degree in library science, spurring her to record the building and landscape features into Belmont’s collections management system. Aided by the Garden Club of Virginia and other grants and gifts, her work to restore the Melchers’ home and grounds has earned accolades, including Stafford County Historical Commission’s annual Historic Preservation Award.

“Fulfilling Corinne Melchers’ wish for Belmont to serve as a memorial to her husband and a park for local residents has been a labor of love,” Jensen said. “And I cannot stress enough that this has been a team effort – my staff is the most dedicated group of professionals you can find.”

 

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Q: What’s your favorite GMHS project?
A: The conclusion of each garden restoration project, no matter how large or small, is always satisfying. But I’m particularly proud of saving the Fannie Roots House [a historic cottage that was home to the civil rights activist by the same name]. I was recognized by Stafford County in 2011 for this project, but I’ve always felt the award should have gone to David Ludeker, [Belmont building and grounds assistant], as his skills and hard work prevented this building from being torn down. It’s a treasure – an outstanding example of post-Civil War vernacular architecture that rarely survives today.

Q: Do you have any favorite plants that the Melchers also enjoyed?
A: It’s been fun researching and bringing back old root stock roses that they grew in their garden.

Q: What’s your advice for novice gardeners?
A: Don’t create too many flower beds. Keep things simple by planting a variety of evergreen and flowering shrubs. Use mulch and clean up the garden in the fall to save yourself time and energy in the spring.

Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: My husband, Ken, who I met here in Virginia, and I are moving to Vermont, near my daughter’s farm. We’ll be just a few minutes from the mountains where I’ll get to hike with my dogs and go fishing.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t doing it right.

Join Us to Celebrate Beate Jensen’s Retirement Aug. 7

Please join us as we celebrate the retirement of Beate Jensen, the cultural resources manager for Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont on August 7 from 5-7 p.m. She retires after 20 years with the University of Mary Washington.

Beate recently received the Annual Historic Preservation Award by the Stafford County Historical Commission for her exemplary efforts to restore, safeguard and interpret the grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna Catron, assistant director and curator of GMHS, read the following tribute to her colleague at an awards presentation before the Board of Supervisors:

If today the storied structures and grounds that comprise the 18th-century property known as Belmont are perceived as unusually authentic, well-maintained and a delight to the senses, it is due in large part to the expert care and dedication given to it for the last 20 years by Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the staff who serve under her direction. From the first, it has been Ms. Jensen’s ambition to provide a faithful representation of the 27-acre site coinciding with the period of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ residence there for the edification and enjoyment of visitors and future generations. Under her stewardship, and in partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia and other organizations, public and private, Beate has safeguarded the historic integrity of the property, developed and implemented a prioritized plan for practical and appropriate restoration where needed, and provided engaging educational and interpretive experiences. 

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate extensively researched the history of the property and its site design for restoration and improvements to the historic smokehouse, horse stable and cow barn; to gates, fences, stone walls, piers, stairs and walkways; to garden ornaments and other man-made features; and to historic planting beds, roses and trees. She also supervises a maintenance program of tree pruning, feeding and disease prevention, and created a wildlife habitat.  She oversaw design and installation of outdoor lighting, new roofs for dependencies and upgrades to lightning protection of buildings and historic trees.

With the assistance of student interns and university colleagues, Beate began a long-term effort to catalog and map all natural and man-made grounds collections at Belmont. She authored the first comprehensive history of the 1790 house and a guide to dinosaur prints on the property, and has been an advocate for African American history in Stafford County through preservation and interpretation of the Fannie Roots House.  She is a frequent speaker on historic gardens and preservation matters and regularly represents Gari Melchers Home and Studio at professional conferences.

 

Jensen Receives Historic Preservation Award

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager for Gari Melchers Home and Studio, received the Annual Historic Preservation Award by the Stafford County Historical Commission on May 21, 2019, for her exemplary efforts to restore, safeguard and interpret the grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna Catron, assistant director and curator of GMHS, read the following tribute to her colleague at an awards presentation before the Board of Supervisors:

If today the storied structures and grounds that comprise the 18th-century property known as Belmont are perceived as unusually authentic, well-maintained and a delight to the senses, it is due in large part to the expert care and dedication given to it for the last 20 years by Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the staff who serve under her direction. From the first, it has been Ms. Jensen’s ambition to provide a faithful representation of the 27-acre site coinciding with the period of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ residence there for the edification and enjoyment of visitors and future generations. Under her stewardship, and in partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia and other organizations, public and private, Beate has safeguarded the historic integrity of the property, developed and implemented a prioritized plan for practical and appropriate restoration where needed, and provided engaging educational and interpretive experiences. 

Beate extensively researched the history of the property and its site design for restoration and improvements to the historic smokehouse, horse stable and cow barn; to gates, fences, stone walls, piers, stairs and walkways; to garden ornaments and other man-made features; and to historic planting beds, roses and trees. She also supervises a maintenance program of tree pruning, feeding and disease prevention, and created a wildlife habitat.  She oversaw design and installation of outdoor lighting, new roofs for dependencies and upgrades to lightning protection of buildings and historic trees.

With the assistance of student interns and university colleagues, Beate began a long-term effort to catalog and map all natural and man-made grounds collections at Belmont. She authored the first comprehensive history of the 1790 house and a guide to dinosaur prints on the property, and has been an advocate for African American history in Stafford County through preservation and interpretation of the Fannie Roots House.  She is a frequent speaker on historic gardens and preservation matters and regularly represents Gari Melchers Home and Studio at professional conferences.

Ankjaer-Jensen Appointed to Board, Gives Talk

Beate Ankjaer-Jensen, Cultural Resource Manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio, was appointed to the board of directors of the Southern Garden History Society at their recent annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. The Southern Garden History Society is an active membership organization that raises awareness and promotes scholarship of historic gardens, cultural landscapes and horticultural history across the South. www.southerngardenhistory.org

Ankjaer-Jensen presented a talk, “Restoring the Artist’s Garden,” at the annual meeting of the Heritage Rose Foundation held in Fredericksburg May 19-21. The Heritage Rose Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1986, devoted to the preservation of old roses. www.heritagerosefoundation.org