Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) c 1767 by David Martin (1736-1798)
Monday, January 31, 2022
Ben Franklin (1706-1790) On Tofu & Soybeans in 1770
Sunday, January 30, 2022
Fences at Courtyards & Private Homes
The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade. The word yard appeared in the British American colonies in 1647, when a tenant agreed to "maintain the old dwelling house and quartering houses and Tobacco houses in repair, as well as the pales about the yard and gardens."
In Virginia in 1686, a visitor noted of Green Spring, the former home of Governor William Berkeley, that the orchard was "well fenced in with Locust fence, which is as durable as most brick walls, a Garden, a hundred feet square, well pailed in, a Yeard where in is most of the foresaid necessary houses, pallizado'd in with locust Punchens."
In 1687, hungry French visitor Durand of Dauphine in A Huguenot Exile in Virginia, wrote that "There are also many doves, turtle-doves, thrushes, partridges in such numbers that they come into the court-yards; they are smaller than those of Europe, but taste the same."
The 1746 South Carolina Gazette carried a notice about a missing horse, "SRTAY'D or stolen out of my Court -Yard formerly belonging to Mrs. Sarab Frott, a Roan Horse, with a black Bow Main, branded on the mounting shoulder B, shod his Fore Feet, and is brown by ten Name of Firefly."
Peter Kalm noticed on his travels throughout the colonies in 1748,"Mulberry trees are planted on some hillocks near the house, and sometime even in the court yards of the house."
In the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1753, a house-for-rent ad noted, "To be lett, A large commodious house, 4 rooms on a floor, 3 stories high, with neat court yard, garden and good orchard, conveniently situated on Germantown road, about a mile distant from Philadelphia. "Several months later, this description appeared, "a large commodious brick house, 40 feet square, 3 stories high, four rooms on a floor, a genteel court yard, neatly pailin, a brick wash house, necessary house, and pump in the yard, a good garden and orchard."
In an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1761 was a notice for a "A commodious Country Seat... a new Stone House three Stories high, being 41 Feet front, and 24 Feet deep, with Cellars under the whole; a Court Yardin the Front of the House, a Piazza joining the House, and a new Stone Kitchen, with a Pump before the Door."
Entrance to Court Yard at Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, as in most instances, the court yard was at the public entrance facade of the dwelling. The more private garden facade was usually on the opposite side of the house. Virginia visitor Mary Ambler in 1770, observed at Mount Clare in Baltimore, "There is a Handsome Court Yard on the other side of the House."
In 1777, in his Virginia letter book, George Braxton recorded, "I agreed with Alexander Oliver Gardener to make a Court yard before my Door according to Art."
Courtyard at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
Just outside of Philadelphia in 1785, a country seat went on the market. "An elegant seat for a Summer residence of a genteel family, situated on the main street in Germantown, just beyond the six mile stone. This healthful retreat consists of a spacious house, two stories high, with four rooms on a floor, a piazza in the rear, 36 feet in length and 12 feet wide; a court yard about 80 feet square, neatly gravelled, sodded and surrounded with trees."
In his diary for August 30, 1785, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington reported that the workers had" Finished gravelling the right hand Walk leading to the front gate from the Court Yard."
1791 Edward Savage. Mount Vernon from the Court Yard Carriage Entrance.
Elbridge Gerry, Jr. visited Mount Vernon, about 14 years after Washington's death noting that, "On one side is an elegant garden, which has a small white house for the gardener, and a row of brick buildings back of it. All these are enclosed by a wall in an oval form, and leaving a large area before the house for the yard."
When artist Robert Edge Pine died, in Philadelphia his property went for sale in 1789. including "an elegant new Brick House 42 feet front by 50 feet deep, completely finished, and well accommodated either for a large family or for a public house; a good pump in the yard; a neat garden in the rear of the house, and a court -yard in front."
The Plantation 1825 Virginia.
In 1753, the South Carolina Gazette reported a dwelling for sale in Prince William Parish which included"a garden at the south front, and yardlately paved in."In the South, especially at urban sites, the yard was often paved with brick, tile, or crushed shells.
18C Thomas Banister House with front yard.
The Moravians who settled in at Salem, North Carolina, wrote in 1772,"The family houses are to fence in their yards, in order better to keep the children at home and not let them run around the streets. Also, if the open building-sites could be fenced in, the cattle could be kept out of town."
Early Houses and Fenced Yards at Old Salem, North Carolina.
New England tutor Philip Fithian Vickers was working at Nomini Hall, Virginia in 1774. He reported, "From the front yard of the Great House."
1796 Ralph Earl. Detail Houses Fronting on New Milford Green with fenced yards.
Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary in 1796 of her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"Our Garden looks most beautiful, the Trees in full Bloom, the red, and white blossoms intermixt'd with the green leaves, which are just putting out flowers."
Fenced Utility Yard "Well Paled In" at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Jonathan Schoepf reported on the toilet facilities in 1783, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained."
Necessary House in Colonial Williamsburg.
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Young Ben Franklin (1706-1790) On Vegan Food & Moderation with Women & Wine in 1734
Friday, January 28, 2022
Walled & Fenced Yards
At private homes in rural settings, defined yards often were attached to service buildings used to house livestock or to store firewood or to outdoor kitchens.
Eventually the term yard evolved throughout the 18C into the description of a cultivated area enclosed or attached to a dwelling that might contain flowers, orchard or shade trees, or a lawn intended to be used as a pleasure ground and exercise area.
North Carolinian William Martin visiting Richmond, Virginia in 1813, wrote, "every private yard is decorated with the handsomest shade trees which our Country boasts."
Other yards on larger rural properties were meant for livestock such as cow yards, pig yards, barn yards, poultry yards, chicken yards, turkey yards, & goose yards. Domestic work yards, especially those used to house animals, were usually separated from kitchen & floral or pleasure gardens by fences or walls.
On smaller properties, homeowners often divided the land closer to the rear of the house into yards. These often included a woodyard or a stackyard for storing wood for heating.
Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards. Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court.
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Fences for Gardens, Yards, & Fields in Early America
Some of the earliest legislation in the colonies were directives for fencing in cultivated grounds & other spaces requiring protection from animal & human intruders. Land in early America was often refered to as "well-fenced," "under a good fence," & "within fence."
In 1623, the Virginia General Assembly declared "that every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden."
Jonathan Welch Edes (American artist, 1750-c 1793-1803) Overmantle Captain David Thacher’s home in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. Showing men drying cod on racks with the entire operation surrounded by fences.
An act of the Virginia General Assembly of 1705, intended to protect the gardens from stray pigs, horses & cattle, required the owners of every lot on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, to "inclose the said lots, or half acres, with a wall, pales, or post and rails, within six months after the building, which the law requires to be erected thereupon, shall be finished." The minimum height of the fence was set at 4 & one-half feet & but many were built higher.
1796 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1751-1801) Houses on New Milford Green, CT
In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, levelled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and levelled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."
By 1776, the wooden fences portions of the fences & walls around the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg needed attention. The Virginia Council Journal reported "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round Garden." The "General appoints 25 men to repair fences of park."
Also receiving attention were the wooden fences around the pasture near the Governor's Palace in 1777, "Repairing the pailing and railing Round the Pasture." In order to complete the fence repair the workmen needed "60 foot of plank, 250 nails."
1787-1791 Edward Savage (American artist, 1761-1817) Mount Vernon Detail A View from The Northeast
Many fences were built by slave & indentured servant laborers.
Gottlieb Mittelberger traveled to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1750, on a ship primarily filled with poorer immigrants who would become indentured servants upon arriving in Philadelphia.
1800 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) On the Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, where fences run down to the water & protect those on the pier from falling into it.
Mittelberger observed the working conditions for German immigrant, indentured servants in Pennsylvania & wrote of them upon his return to his homeland. He noted, "Work mostly consists in cutting wood, felling oak-trees, rooting out, or as they say there, clearing large tracts of forest. Such forests, being cleared, are then laid out for fields and meadows. From the best hewn wood, fences are made around the new fields; for there all meadows, orchards and fruit-fields, are surrounded and fenced in with planks made of thickly-split wood, laid one above the other, as in zigzag lines, and within such enclosures, horses, cattle, and sheep, are permitted to graze."
1803 Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Utility fence depicted in A Bason & Storehouse Belonging to the Santee Canal.
Most gardeners could not afford brick walls & chose traditional paling---a picket fence--to protect their kitchen gardens. Occasionally Virginians denoted property lines with rail fences constructed in a zig-zag form. One traveler wrote in 1777, “the New Englanders have a saying, when a man is in his liquor, he is making Virginia fences.”
1800 Felice Corne (1752–1845) Ezekiel Hersey Derby Farm near Salem, Massachusetts. Here is a combination of wooden fences & stone walls.
In Baltimore, Maryland in 1797, fenced gardens divided into quadrants but not terraced & with few other embellishments appeared at 13 Baltimore homes. At least one of these kitchen gardens had a stone wall surrounding its four beds.
1800 Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton From the South Garden Facade falling toward the harbor. This view of Bolton shows the rectangular fenced kitchen gardens at the bottom of the more formal green terraces.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Garden Facade of Mt Deposit. Baltimore Home of David Harris (1752-1809)
Few paintings of the garden facades of Baltimore's country homes exist, but thanks to some inventive furniture makers, several chairback paintings of a variety of entrance facade fences remain.
1800 Francis Guy (1760-1820). Imporved Entrance Facade of Bolton.
Most of Baltimore's country seats had fences defining the entrance & garden areas of the property. Fences close to the house were usually painted white.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Entrance Facade of Grace Hill Home of Hugh McCurdy from 1790-1805 in Baltimore.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. From the North Entrance Facade of Bolton, Home of George Grundy (1775-1825) Baltimore.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Rose Hill. Home of William Gibson (1735-1832) Baltimore Lanvale Street at Eutaw Place.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. St. Paul's Chairity School. Baltimore.
1805 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Woodville. Baltimore Home of Jeremiah Yellott .
Some of the homes dotting the hills above Baltimore's harbor did not have fences on the entrance facade of the home, exhibiting a more natural grounds approach toward their landscaping. Fenced kitchen gardens usually were tucked away at the rear of the house.
1805 Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton in Baltimore from the extended South Garden Facade. Here, the garden area at the bottom of the formal falling garden terraces had been fenced with a curved picket fencing.
French traveler Moreau St. Mery wrote of the country seats around New York City, when he was there in 1793. "I have spoken frequently of "pretty" country houses in this description; but when one hears this expression, he must not think that it has the same sense here as it has in Europe, particularly in France.
"In America, a very pretty country house corresponds only to a place moderately kept up on the outskirts of a large French city, and even then one will find in the former neither the good taste which embellishes the European house nor the comforts which make living in it a pleasure.
New Yorker John Nicholson suggested a few practical, utilitarian fence designs in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "Log-fences are often made on new-cleared lands...White-pine log-fences are very good, and will last 20 years without any essential repairing. Clear white-pine timber may, however, be split into rails, which are very durable. All kinds of wood will last much longer in rails, when the bark is peeled off.
"What are called worm-fences are made with most ease, but require more timber than some other kinds. If, therefore, timber be scarce, post-and-rail fences...ought to be prefered, where good durable posts can be had.
1796 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1751-1801) Ruggles Homestead
"If the posts are too small to have holes made through them, the rails may be flated at the ends and fastened to the posts with spikes.. or with wooden pins well secured.
1816. Charles Willson Peale. Belfield Farm in Pennsylvania.
Utility fences, when painted, were usually reddish in color. More formal fences were usually painted white.
1800 An Overmantle from the Gardiner Gilman House in Exeter, New Hampshire. This painting shows a combination of wooden fencing & stone walls.
"Post-and-rail fences...arc very good where the soil is dry, and the same may be observed of board fences; but, where the soil is wet, the posts will be thrown out by the frosts. In all cases, the posts ought to be set at least 2 feet in the ground.
Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Summer View of Brooklyn, NY. The most unusual thing about these utilitarian town fences is that the artist painted them in the summer & in the winter with and without folks working around them.
"Red-cedar is best for posts. Locust, chesnut, butternut, and black-walnut are also good. Good oak will also last pretty well. Burning the ends of the posts which go into the ground, so as to make them black, will make them last longer...
1817-20 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Winter Scene in Brooklyn, NY
"It is advisable to have a close high fence round your kitchen and fruit-gardens. This, in the first place, renders every thing within it secure from Pillagers; and also serves to keep out fowls. Another, benefit consists in keeping off the strong cold winds of the Spring, which are very injurious to the young plants, and also to the fruit, which is then about puting forth."
1817 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Winter Scene in Brooklyn, NY How the fence was used in the winter.
Monday, January 24, 2022
Wood Fences in 17C & 18C Virginia - The Brush Fence
The Brush Fence
The quickest and most economical fence to construct had as its components the by-products of land clearing. The fieldstone walls which characterized much of the New England landscape represent one fencing variety of the type. In other areas, including Virginia, stumps, brush, logs, deadwood, or combinations thereof were massed into tangled barriers. While the stone wall of New England remained a useful form for centuries. Its wooden equivalent, however, proved neither as durable nor effective and its use was most likely confined to the early stages of settlement or other temporary situations.
Saturday, January 22, 2022
Wood Fences in 17C & 18C Virginia - The Wattle Fence
Wattle Fence Landauer Twelve Brother's House manuscript 15C
What might be called a systematized brush fence, that is, the wattle fence, was known in medieval Europe. Wattle construction, also called hurdle-or wickerwork, was well established in 17C England as a method for infilling the walls of timber-framed buildings.
Wattle Fence From the Theatrum of Casanatense 14C Sage
Composed of thin, vertical staves about which were woven flexible withes, wattle was finished with mud, clay, & sometimes plaster in its architectural context. Without this earthen covering & with staves or stakes driven into the ground, the wattle fence provided an effective windbreak & more or less defied the invasion or escape of small animals. Availability of materials coupled with familiarity & simplicity of construction suggest the use of wattle-and-daub infill in 17C Virginia.
The wattle fence also seems to have made an early appearance. Archaeological investigation of Wolstenholmetown, one of the Martin's Hundred sites in James City County, revealed a curving line of small post holes defining what was probably a domestic yard protected by a wattle fence.
At the Clifts Plantation site in Westmoreland County, Virginia, wattle fences appear to have been constructed in conjunction with ditches about 1705. Archaeological findings suggest that such an arrangement enclosed the rectangular gardens, kitchen yard, & possible orchard adjacent to the main house. At the very end of the 18C, just such a combination fence was specified by George Washington in a letter to his farm manager: "When the Angle of Wood, adjoining the present Cornfield at Mansion house is cleared let all the Poles which are of a proper size for a wattled fence, either in whole, or by being split in two, be preserved; as my intention is, when I come home, to have a neat fence of that kind, on a ditch from the White gates along the road to the turn of it, as Allisons stakes will run to the present-fence."
In the same journal, it was noted that the use of banking, as well as ditching, was an important aspect of fencing in the "low lands" of Gloucester & neighboring counties & along the Rappahannock River. Washington's pole variety of wattle fence also endured into the 19C; the placement of its stakes was observed to be 8 to 10 feet apart. Praised for its durability, especially when constructed with stakes of the cedar or chestnut then abundant in Tidewater, the wattle fence was said to survive for about twenty years with relatively little maintenance.
That wattle fence construction required less labor than other types is suggested by the comments of Landon Carter of Richmond County: "I fancy I must put a Watle fence round my new corn fields for I see what with idleness & sickness I can't get rails ready nor all in place."
Philip Vickers Fithian viewed the wattle fence with greater equanimity & wrote an account of fence building at Nomini Hall, Westmoreland County, in 1774: "I walked to see the Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chestnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here …"
But, in New England & parts of the middle colonies, livestock was customarily fenced in. By no means restricted to agricultural use, fences also defined & protected all types of rural & urban spaces, such as churchyards, gardens, & work-yards, throughout the colonies.
These fences were common in the Chesapeake & in Tidewater Virginia. Fencing was sometimes achieved by the use of masonry walls, but native stone is a scarce resource in the Tidewater region, though brick was used to build some churchyard walls & to enclose certain buildings there. The majority of Virginia fences were constructed of wood. All fence types co-existed during the colonial period; the historical record offers no indication that one type completely supplanted another.
Text from: Partitioning the Landscape: The Fence in Eighteenth-Century Virginia by Vanessa E. Patrick. December 6, 1983. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 0134