Friday, January 28, 2011

Garden History - Location--View

The view was the overall appearance of the landscape surrounding a house or a garden. It was one of the most important considerations when chosing a site for a dwelling in the 18th century, as we learned in the earlier posting Location, Location, Location...

We have seen in earlier postings that the words command and view were often used together, see Location--Commanding Views and Prospects. Here are a few more references to the term view as it visually connects the overall relationship between a dwelling or garden with the topography around it.

The Garden Facade of Mount Clare near Baltimore, Maryland. It faces downhill toward the Patapsco River which emptys into Baltimore Harbor.
Virginian Mary Ambler visited Mount Clare, the home of Charles Carroll and Margaret Tilghman Carroll in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1770, writing, The House where this Gentn & his Lady reside in the Sumer stands upon a very High Hill & has a fine view of Petapsico River You step out of the Door into the Bowlg Green from which the Garden Falls & when You stand on the Top of it there is such a Uniformity of Each side as the whole Plantn seems to be laid out like a Garden.
Margaret Tilghman Carroll at the Garden Facade of Mount Clare by Charles Willson Peale.

In 1771, the public commercial grounds called Vauxhall Gardens in New York City was mentioned in the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, The Commodious house and large gardens...known by the name of VAUXHALL...having a very extensive view both up and down the North River.
New York City's Vauxhall Gardens.
English officer Lt. John Enys visited Boston, Massachusettes, in 1787, noting that, After Dinner we took a walk on the Mall...From hence we went to Beacon Hill from whence we had a Charming View of the town and harbour...there are a number of houses situated on Beacon hill which stand high...That of Governor Hancock stands the most conspicuous just at the top of the common with a full view of the Mall before it besides its distant views of the harbour and adjacent country.

1768 Sidney L. Smith after Christian Remick A Prospective View of Part of the Commons 1902 after a drawing from 1768 Engraving Concord Museum MA

In 1787, a visitor to New Bern, North Carolina, reported that the Governor's "palace is situated with one front to the River Trent and near the Bank, and commands a pleasing view of the Water."

When he visited in January, 1788, Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere at Baltimore, Maryland, The Seat of Colol. Howard which ...has 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.

1796 George Beck Detail of The View of Baltimore from Governor John Eager Howard's Garden Park. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Englishman Thomas Twining visited Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1788, I walked this morning to breakfast with Colonel Howard at Belvidere... Situated upon the verge of the descent upon which Baltimore stands, its grounds formed a beautiful slant towards the Chesapeake...The spot, thus indebted to nature and judiciously embellished, was as enchanting with in its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground presented luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns: the distance, the line of the Patapsco and the country bordering on Chesapeak Bay. Both the perfections of the landscape, its near and distant scenery, were united in the view from the bow-window of the noble room in which breakfast was prepared, with the desire, I believe, of gratifying me with this exquisite prospect.

Six years later, visitors were still impressed with the view from Governor Howard's property in Baltimore, Maryland. Moreau de St. Mery wrote of Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in 1794, Its elevated situation; its grove of trees; the view from it, which brings back memories of European scenes; all these things together fill every true Frencman with pleasure and regret.
In 1789, Geographer Jedidiah Morse wrote of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey, The view from the college balcony is extensive and charming.

Detail of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey in 1764.

Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote in 1790, of Bush Hill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, A variety of fine fields of wheat and grass are in front of the house, and, on the right hand, a pretty view of the Schuylkill presents itself.

William Hamilton's Bush Hill in Philadelphia

Around 1734, the Penn family gave attorney Andrew Hamilton land in payment for legal services. In 1740, he built Bush Hill on the property. Vice President John Adams and his wife lived in the house in 1790 & 1791. During Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, a quarantine hospital was set up in the mansion.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. August K├Âllner, Bush Hill and Cholera Hospital.

When Moreau de St. Mery visited the New York in the 1790s, he wrote, In America almost everything is sacrificed to the outside view...The elevated situation of these country residences, in addition to being healthy, gives them the advantage of a charming view which includes New York and the nearby islands, principally Governor's Island, and is constantly enlivened by the passing of the boats which ply on both rivers.

In 1793, Rev. John Spooner described David Meade's Maycox in Prince George's County, Virginia, These grounds contain about twelve acres, laid out on the banks of the James river...which open as many pleasing views of the river. Rev. John Jones Spooner's papers are at the College of William & Mary Swem Library showing his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and his installation as minister to Martins Brandon Parish, Prince George County, Virginia.

David Meade's terraced gardens sat directly across the river from the terraced gardens of Westover, almost a mirror image of two landscapes divided by the river with its walled riverwalk. The houses were about a mile apart. The view from either house would have been beautiful.

Thomas Birch, Southeast View of “Sedgeley Park,” the Country Seat of James Cowles Fisher, Esq., about 1819.

Sedgley Park was built in 1799, near Philadelphia, by merchant William Cramond. It was one of the earliest Gothic influenced houses in America. A contemporary remarked "The natural advantages of Sedgley Park are not frequently equalled, even upon the banks of the Schuylkill. From the height upon which the mansion is erected it commands an interesting and extensive view. The scenery around is of unusual beauty, but its character is altogether peaceful and quiet."

In 1808, William Birch wrote of John Penn's Solitude in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The flower garden was distant from the house, reached by a circuitous path which took in as many as possible of the best points of view.

Solitude in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

Solitude was built as a quiet retreat on the west bank of the Schulykill River. The most English of the country seats built along the river, Solitude was built by John Penn, "the poet," a grandson of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Today it is in the center of the Philadelphia Zoo, where it serves as administrative headquarters.

William Birch, "Solitude in Pennsylvana. Belonging to Mr. Penn." 1809.

Elbridge Gerry described the White House in Washington D. C. in 1813, A door opens at each end, one into the hall, and opposite, one into the terrace from whence you have an elegant view of all the rivers.

1803 White House [View from Blodgett's Hotel to the White House.] by Nicholas King in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Garden History - Location--Command

The word command, as we saw in the posting Location, Location, Location, appeared very frequently in 18th century America describing the situation and prospect of a gentleman's house or property.

In the South Caroliana Gazette in 1734, an advertisement for property for sale in Charleston, South Carolina, emphasized both the garden and the view, To Be Let or Sold...on an island which commands an entire prospect of the Harbor...A delightful Wilderness with shady Walks and Arbours, cool in the hottest seasons. A piece of Garden-ground where all the best kinds of Fruits and Kitchen Greens are produced planted with Orange, Apple, Peach.

In 1759, traveler Andrew Burnaby noted of Mount Vernon in Virginia, The house is most beautifully situated upon a very high hill on the banks of the Potomac; and commands a noble prospect of water, of cliffs, of woods, and plantations.

Birdseye View of Mount Vernon in Virginia, high on a hill overlooking the. Potomac River.

As we noticed in the Location, Location, Location posting, the Governor's House in Annapolis, Maryland, garnered alot of attention. William Eddis also described the unfinished governor's house in 1769, 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: this elevation commands an extensive view of the bay and the adjacent country.

In 1764, Lord Adam Gordon described the still unfinished Maryland governor's house in Annapolis, "commanding the view of the Town, the River Severn, the Bay, and all the Creeks." Lord Adam Gordon (1726–1801) was a Scottish general. During 1764, he toured the West Indies, the American colonies, and Canada, looking to invest in land & recording his impressions. He returned to England in 1765.

A plantation in King and Queen County, Virginia was offered for sale in the 1770 Virginia Gazette, "The manor plantation is beautifully situated, commanding a fine view of the river and marshes for many miles... a large falling garden inclosed with a good brick wall." Vistors could stand in the garden and survey the surrounding countryside.

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...has a commanding prospect down the Schuylkill.

From Philadelphia a view of Lemon Hill, the house that replaced Robert Morris's house The Hills. by John Woodside in 1807. Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

In 1783, Thomas Lee Shippen described Westover on the James River in Virginia, noting that it had a ...commanding a view...about 300 by 100 yards in extent an extensive prospect of James River and of all the Country and some Gentlemen's seats on the other side.

Westover on the James River in Virginia.

British Lt. John Eyns wrote of Governor John Hancock's house in Boston, Massachusettes, in 1787, ...there are a number of houses situated on Beacon hill which stand high and command elegant prospects particularly at high water. That of Governor Hancock stands the most conspiculus just at the top of the common with a full view of the Mall before it besides its distant views of the harbour and adjacent country.

The Hancock House on Beacon Hill in Boston with its terraced entrance garden was built in 1737, close to the State Capitol building.

In 1788, Lt. Eyns described Mount Vernon, Virginia, in much the same manner, It had the Command of a View each way of some Miles up and down the River Potomack which is here about two miles broad On which during the Summer there are ships constantly moving.

Mount Vernon by Susan Whitcomb in 1842.

Thomas Anbury wrote of the Virginia house he was visiting early in 1789, The house that we reside in...a commanding a prospect of near thirty miles around it, and the face of the country appears an immense forest interspersed with various plantations.

Willliam Loughton Smith wrote in his journal on September 8, 1790, of General Schyler's house & grounds in Albany, New York, I took a walk to General Schyler's: his house...stands on a rising ground above the river and enjoys a commanding view.

And the following year, Smith described Colonel George Mason's Gunston Hall to the south of Alexandria, Virginia, The house is rather an ancient brick building, with a neat garden, at the end of which is a high natural terrace which commands the Potomac.

Garden Facade of Gunston Hall in Virginia walking up the hill from the Potomac River.

In 1793, Patrick Campbell wrote of Mr. McIntyre's house at Albany, New York, I went along with Mr. McIntyre from Albany to his house...we ascended a high hill, of a thin and stony soil, partly clear and inhabited, and which commands a fine prospect of the country all around.

Philadelphia The Woodlands, William Strickland after William Birch, ca. 1809.

Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Francois, visiting in 1795, described William Hamilton's Woodlands in Philadelphia, Woodlands...stands high...It commands an excellent prospect.

A View of the The Woodlands from the Rocks on the Schuylkill River.

In 1799, Isaac Weld passed through Washington, D. C. and noted of the White House, The house for the residence of the president stands north-west of the capitol, at the distance of about one mile and a half. It is situated on a rising ground not far from the Patowmac, and commands a most beautiful prospect of the river, and of the rich country beyond it.

The view of the Potomac from the porch at Mount Vernon.

After George Washington's death, visitors were still making pilgrimages to view his home Mount Vernon in Virginia. In 1813, Elbridge Gerry, Jr. wrote, Back of the mansion is a summer house, which commands an elegant view of the Potomac.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Garden History - Ornaments - Sundial


When I was a little girl traipsing through colonial revival & reconstructed 20th century colonial gardens along the Atlantic coast with my parents, I was completely captivated by the sundials measuring time by the shadow of the sun. Seems like every garden had one of those ancient mathematical contraptions.

In the Bible, the book of Isaiah mentioned, "Behold I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sundial of Ahaz."

Ancient Sundial.

Perhaps even Stonehenge was a sundial of sorts, but a tad larger and much more powerful than the sundials in the "colonial" gardens on this side of the Atlantic. Wildly intimidating experienced as a child and only a little less overwhelming viewed as an adult years later.

Once again at windy Stonehenge a few years ago.

Those I saw in the "colonial" gardens of my childhood were flat, geometric horizontal sundials, and the sun's shadow was cast by a style (a thin rod or a sharp, straight edge) onto a the flat, circular surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. As the sun moved across the sky, the shadow-edge aligned with different hour-lines on the plate.

Dad at a Virginia Sundial

They were mounted on wooden or stone bases, about 5-7 inches across, and just the right height for a curious little girl to look right down on them.

With Mother in a Garden

I was absolutely convinced that every colonial garden was supposed to have a sundial. It was required gear. But when I began researching 18th century gardens in the British American colonies, I just couldn't find many of them.

There is record of John Endecott ordering a sundial to be sent to Salem, Massachusettes from London in 1630, which William Bentley bought in 1810, donating it to the Peabody-Essex Institute in Salem.

Sundial at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Collection of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
I remember seeing one at Mount Vernon, greened brass & octagonal (similar to one George Washington ordered in 1785) supported on a wood pedestal, which I suppose has been replaced over & over. (I think the sundial at Mount Vernon was donated to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1938.) There is also a sundail on a stone pedestal at the home of George Washington's mother, reported to be original.

Mary Ball Washington (1709-1789)'s Sundial, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

And Thomas Jefferson wrote to Mr. Clay in 1811, that he was amusing himself with "an horizontal dial for the latitude of this place." There is an unusual sundial mounted at Monticello overlooking the terrace.

Sundial on Porch at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.

None of the other journals or letters that I poured over even mentioned them, and I only found one noted in an old Maryland deed.

Perhaps they were uncommon in 18th century America, because clocks were beginning to apprear with some frequency. Or perhaps many colonials carried portable, hand-held sundials with them, similar to the one Lafayette presented to George Washington. Or perhaps sundials became popular garden ornaments in America in the 19th century, which would explain their explosion in colonial revival gardens.

Or perhaps, truth be told, I missed them. I would be grateful to anyone who might point me to an 18th century American reference to a sundial.

In the meanwhile, in 1768 in Queen Anne's County Maryland, one deed did refer to: "one sun dial set on cedar post."


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nurseryman - Prosper Julius A Berckmans 1829-1910

Prosper Julius A.Berckmans–(1829-1910)–Augusta, Georgia–

Berckmans was born near Brussels, Belgium in 1829. He spent his boyhood on the estates of his father, Dr. Louis Berckmans, who was a noted horticulturist. He was educated in France and when he returned home to Belgium in 1847, he spent the next three years working on his father’s estates and studying botany at the Botanical Gardens of Brussels.

In 1850 Berckmans came to the United States, and in 1851, Prosper’s father, Dr. Berckmans, brought his family and a great collection of plants to a farm in Plainfield, New Jersey. Prosper moved south in 1857, to establish the Fruitland Nurseries, near Augusta, Georgia by purchasing a half interest in the nurseries of D. Redmond. The following year he bought the other half interest and became sole owner.

Berckmans imported seeds, cuttings, and plants. In the later years he grew many different kinds of camellias and plants suited to the Georgia climate. He became a life member of the American Pomological Society in 1860, and was elected president in 1887.

He founded the Georgia State Horticultural Society in 1876 and was its president until his death in 1910. In 1883-84 he went to Europe for the U. S. government to collect horticultural exhibits for the New Orleans Exposition of 1884-1885. He was the editor of Farmer and Gardener for several years. He retired in 1907.

Information from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries research.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Practical Structures - The Perfect Food for Your Doves with Just a Little Alcohol

Valuable Secrets Concerning Arts and Trades. Published by Will Hay, London. 1775

To preserve and multiply pigeons. In a large dovecote, prepare the following food, which will induce your pigeons to love their cote, and also to bring you a great many strangers when they go abroad. 

Take thirty pounds of millet, three of cumin, five of honey, half a pound of bishop's wort, otherwise coflus, two pounds of agnus cajlus's seed, which boil in river water to the total evaporation of the last. Then in its stead pour a gallon and a half, or two gallons of red Port, with about eight pounds of old mortar well pulverised, which set on the fire again for about half an hour to concoct.

Thus all those ingredients will harden and form a lump, which, if placed in the middle of the dovecote, will in a short time amply reward you for your expence.

Emile Munier (French Academic Painter, 1840-1895) Young Doves Coo 1891

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Primary Source - 1736 Gardens in Georgia

Frederica in Georgia the 12th of April, 1736.

THERE is a Town laid out here, and 37 Palmetto Houses built, in which all the People are sheltered till they can build better. The Town Lotts are already given out to each Family; those upon the Strand consist of 30 Feet in Front, and 60 Feet in Depth; those farther from the River are 60 Feet in Front; upon 90 Feet in Depth. The Garden Lotts of one Acre each which are within half a Mile of the Town, are already marked out, and Possession will be given to the People on Monday next; besides which the People in common plant Corn in an old Indian field of about 60 Acres. There is a Team of Horses and a Plough, with which there is some Ground turned up, and in it some Flax and Hemp seed sowed, as also half an Acre of Barley, which is come up very well, and some Lucern grass. We have a pretty deal of Potatoes in the Ground...

Pennsylvania Gazette
June 24, 1736.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Flower Still Lifes Instead of Real Flowers in the 17th-Century

Abraham de Lust (Flemish artist, active mid 17th century) Flower Still Life

Now an abundant everyday item, cut flowers were prized luxuries in 17th-century Europe, England, and her colonies. Only the most affluent could afford to have them in their homes and gardens. That is why early explorers of Atlantic America described the flowers growing wild in the new colonies so carefully. A general growing prosperity in Europe during the course of the 17th century, however, eventually caused flower gardens to become more popular. The garden was considered an extension of the home and vice versa, with garden bouquets often decorating the home.

Abraham Mignon (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1640-1679) Hanging Bouquet of Flowers

Introduced from Asia around 1600, the anemone, crocus, hyacinth and tulips were immensely popular in Europe. The Dutch trade in flower bulbs, tulips in particular, proved a highly lucrative business. In around 1630, at the height of ‘Tulip Mania,’ an exceptional tulip bulb could cost as much as an entire house on a Dutch canal.

Alexander Adriaenssen (Flemish Baroque Era painter, 1587-1661) Flowers in Glass Vase

The average citizen simply could not afford a bouquet for home. The first flower still lifes appeared in the Netherlands during the early 1600s, as a means of meeting the demand for flowers. A painting of a flower was much less expensive than an actual bouquet and lasted for generations instead of days. Many early flower still life painters were German, Dutch, and Flemish. Some trained there, then moved throughout Europe and sailed to England, as the popularity of the genre spread.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1573-1621) Glass with Four Tulips 1615

Flower still lifes were still in vogue during the 18th and 19th centuries, when the rise of large-scale commercial bulb-growing transformed the Netherlands into the flower nation that it remains to this day. Now bulbs are exported around the world.

Balthasar van der Ast (Dutch Baroque painter, 1593-94–1657) Still Life with Flowers 1632

Cornelis de Heem (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1631-1695) Still Life with Bird

Elias van den Broeck (Dutch Baroque painter, 1649–1708) Vase of Flowers

Jacob Marrel (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, ca.1613-1681) Flower Study

Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Dutch Baroque painter, 1606-1683-84) Still Life

Jan Philip van Thielen (Flemish Baroque painter, 1618–1667) Still Life of Flowers

Jan van Kessel (Antwerp, 1626-idem, 1679) Still Life

Maria van Oosterwyck (Oosterwijck) (Dutch Baroque painter, 1630-1693) Flower Still Life 1669

Peter Binoit (German artist, fl 1611-1620) Flowers in a Glass Beaker 1620

Roelandt Savery (Flemish Northern Renaissance painter, 1576-1639) Flowers in a Niche 1611

Simon Verelst (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, c 1644-1721) Flowers in a Vase 1669

Willem van Aelst (Dutch artist, 1627-1683) Flower Still Life 1656

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Primary Source - 1734 Gardener Dead

Philadelphia, July 11. The Weather has been so excessive hot for a Week past, that a great Number of People have fainted and fallen into Convulsions, and several have died...Tuesday one Jacob Lee, a Gardiner, being overcome with the Heat as he was at work clipping of a Hedge, fell down and expired soon after.

Pennsylvania Gazette
July 11, 1734.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Primary Source - Jefferson on Farming & Gardening

In 1781, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

"Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth."

Thomas Jefferson