Monday, October 1, 2012

Garden History - Location--Situation

Situation is the place, position, or location of a property, house, garden, or grounds in relation to its surroundings. In the 18th century a gentleman was admired for the situation of his house, as we learned in the earlier posting Location, Location, Location...

James Birket toured the British American colonies in 1750, and noted that Captain Godfrey Malbone's house in Newport, Rhode Island, ...stands upon a tolerable Advantageous Situation About a mile out of the Town And makes a good Appearance at a distance.

Malbone Estate, Newport, Rhode Island.

Malbone, a Gothic-style pink sandstone castle was originally built in 1741 (although the current house dates from 1848). The estate sits on 17 acres in Newport, Rhode Island, and originally served as the country seat of slave trader Colonel Godfrey Malbone (1695-1768) of Virginia & Connecticut. Colonel Malbone became one of the wealthiest men in Newport during the 1740s through privateering & the triangle trade.

Rum played a large part in the success of the triangle trade, at a time when the consumption of alcohol of all sorts was pervasive in the British American colonies. By 1761, Newport was home to 16 distilleries, according to the Reverend Ezra Stiles (1727–1795). In 1764, Malbone described triangular trade in a letter to his London creditors: “In Respect to the debt...we propose to discharge it, by Importation of Molasses into a Cargo of Rum, which we shall Send to the Coast of Guinea for the Purchase of slaves, which We shall order to the W. Indies, to be There Sold for Bills of Exchange and remitted to you.”

Colonel Malbone had an underground tunnel built down to the sea from his pink castle, so he could to receive contraband goods without paying customs duties on them. During his historic visit to Newport's Tuoro Synagogue in 1766, President George Washington dined at Malbone.

Grounds of the Malbone Estate, Newport, Rhode Island.
Later in 1766, during a dinner party, when the kitchen chimney caught fire, Colonel Malbone ordered dinner to be moved into an adjacent building, seeing no reason why the party should be interrupted. "If I have lost my house, that is no reason why we should lose our dinners." The a chimney fire reduced the house to a pile of sandstone rubble, but Malbone's extensive pleasure gardens & grounds remained untouched.

In the year that they married, 1759, British clergyman Andrew Burnaby wrote about George and Martha Washington's home Mount Vernon in Virginia, The house is most beautifully situated upon a very high hill on the banks of the Potomac.
The house was built in 1743 by Lawrence Washington, half-brother of George. Originally called Hunting Creek, the name was changed to Mount Vernon in honor of Admiral Vernon, under whom Lawrence had served against Spain. In 1747, George came to live with his brother at Mount Vernon. Two years after the death of Lawrence, in 1752, the title of the estate passed to George Washington.

Mount Vernon in 1792 by Edward Savage. Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
Scottish officer Lord Adam Gordon noted in 1765, that in Annapolis, Maryland, a house which was built for a Governor...but never ...finished ...the Situation of it most Elegant, standing on an agreeable rising ground, in a beautiful Lawn.
British secretary William Eddis wrote in a letter back to England, on October 1, 1769, about the Governor's House at Annapolis, Maryland, The garden is not extensive, but it is disposed to the utmost advantage; the center walk is terminated by a small green mount, close to which the Severn approaches...there are but few mansions in the most rich and cultivated parts of England which are adorned with such splendid and romanitc scenery...the situation is allowed to be equally healthy and pleasant with any on this side of the Atlantic.
In 1771, the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury mentioned the commercial public grounds at Vauxhall Gardens in New York City, The Commodious house and large gardens...known by the name of VAUXHALL; the situation extremely pleasant.
Jedidiah Morse wrote of Governor Livingston's house in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in his 1789 geography, Its fine situation--the elegance and convenience of the buildings --the arrangement and variety of forest trees--the gardens--the artificial fish-ponds &c. discover a refined and judicious taste. Ornament and utility are happily united. It is, indeed, a seat worthy of a Republican Patriot.
In 1788, British soldier Lt. John Eyns noted Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere at Baltimore, Maryland, the Seat of Colol. Howard which is situated...(with) a charming view of the Water fall at a Mill, a long Rapid below it, a full View of the town of Baltimore and the Point with the shipping in the harbour, the Bason and all the Small craft, with a very distant prospect down the river towards the Chesapeake Bay. The whole terminated by the surrounding Hills forms a fine Picture.
Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1858. Maryland Historical Society.

Englishman Thomas Twining noted in his journal in 1794, that Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, was Situated upon the verge of the descent upon which Baltimore stands, its grounds formed a beautiful slant toward the Chesapeake.
While George Washington was serving as President of the United States in 1791, William Loughton Smith visited Mount Vernon in Virginia, and wrote, The house at Mount Vernon is most magnificently situated.
Mount Vernon in 1800 by Francis Jukes. Painted after George Washington had died and Martha Washington was still living.
After both Geroge and Martha Washington had been dead over a decade, Elbridge Gerry Jr. wrote in his diary, as he visited Mount Vernon in Virginia, in 1813, Back of the mansion is a summer house...(with) an elegant view of the Potomac on which the house is situated.

Mount Vernon by Benjamin Latrobe in 1796. (I have this marked as Latrobe, but do not remember where the image originated. Sorry.) Latrobe wrote in his journal, The house becomes visible between two groves of trees at about a mile’s distance... Everything…is extremely good & neat, but by no means above what would be expected in a plain English country gentleman’s house.
George Washington would not have minded that visitors continued to come to see his house & gardens & grounds after his death. He wrote in a 1794 letter, I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon.