Thursday, October 11, 2012


American gentry often were said to have sited their houses on an eminence, a lofty or elevated position on which a dwelling or garden was placed in the 18th century.

In 1733, Willliam Byrd wrote in Virginia, Towards the woods there is a gentle ascent, till your sight is intercepted by an eminence, that overlooks the whole landscape.

The Rev. Mannasseh Cutler viewed, Robert Morris' The Hills near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1780s, giving this report, ...the gardens and walks are extensive, and the villa, situated on an eminence.

From Philadelphia a View of Lemon Hill (the house built on the site of Robert Morris's The Hills) by William Groombridge (1748-1811).

In his 1788 description of the area around Mount Vernon, Virginia, Enys noted, The Hills around it are covered with plantations some of which have Elegant houses standing on them all of which being situated on Eminences form very beautiful Objects for each Other.

View across the Potomac River from the porch at Mount Vernon.

Thomas Anbury wrote of the Virginia house he was visiting early in 1789, The house that we reside in is situated upon an eminence.

William Loughton Smith wrote in his journal on April 21, 1791, of Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, The main street is a mile in length...and ascends gradually to a fine plain above the Town, which was intended for the seat of Congress had Baltimore been chosen. This land belongs to Colonel, now Governor Howard...From the brow of the eminence... is a grand prospect back of the city
Cartographer Charles Varle & Engraver Francis Shallus, Warner and Hann's "Plan of the City and Environs of Baltimore, Respectfully didecated to the Mayor, City Council & Citizens thereof by the Proprietors," 2nd edition (Baltimore, 1801; 1st 1799, drawn in 1797).

A few years earlier, in January, 1788, Lt. John Enys reported on Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere at Baltimore, Maryland, are some very Charming propects from some of the Hills, among the best from the Seat of Colol. Howard which is situated on an eminence but is well covered by trees from all the cold winds, has a charming view.

Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Francois, visiting in 1795, described William Hamilton's Woodlands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Woodlands...stands high, and is seen upon an eminence.

Isaac L. Williams. The Woodlands in 1880. Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Bernard M'Mahon wrote in The American Gardener's Calendar in 1806, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ...regular terraces either on natural eminences of forced ground were often introduced... for the sake of prospect.. being ranged single, others double, treble, or several, one above another, on the side of some considerable rising ground in theatrical arrangement. ...walls or other fences may not obstruct any desirable prospect either of the pleasure fields or the adjacent country.