Saturday, December 29, 2018

Decoum in American Public Gardens - Lust in the garden

Lovers often met at London public pleasure gardens, and the tradition carried into the British American colonies. Many commercial gardens attracted men & women eagerly looking for innocent flirtations as well as more worldly clandestine assignations. Some were openly commercial in nature. Prostitutes often strolled the garden paths, and garden owners sometimes overcharged patrons in return for anonymity.

The lure of sex was one colonial garden attraction that was not significantly diminished by the Stamp Act, the Revolution, or the ratification of the Constitution. In 1764, New Yorker Samuel Francis advertised that he had "completely fitted up his House and long Room at Spring Garden Vauxhall, for the entertainment of Ladies and Gentlemen on the most immediate Intimation, and with every Necessary to render it agreeable."

In 1768, Ranelagh Gardens in New York City advertised private rooms for "Ladies and Gentlemen who proposed to Sup at the Gardens." In Englishman Richard Brome's 1635 play The Sapragus Garden, the playwright describes a London garden in detail and refers to these private dining rooms as bedchambers used for temporary assignations, some romantic and others commercial.

Henry Kennedy bought Montagne's Garden in New York City in 1785. He boasted that the "romantic situation" of the gardens would "prove inviting to the Fair Sex." Kennedy guaranteed that "Select companies or parties, can always have an apartment to themselves, if required." Under Kennedy's management, the garden was called Two Friendly Brothers and sat just north of the city's prostitution district.

Some garden owners openly discouraged commercial liasons. Riffaud's Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia, placed a notice in the local newspaper welcoming the "Ladies and Gentlemen" of the town to visit the garden but announcing that "No...Women of the Town can be admitted."

French garden owner Joseph Corre seemed particularly sensitive to the possible amorous entanglements of his partrons. In order to ensure privacy at his garden in New York City, Joseph Corre announced in 1800, that he would post the prices as well as the "rules of conduct" at conspicuous points about the grounds "to prevent any imposition from the servants."

In New York City's first African American newspaper Nicholas Pierson informed "People of Colour, that his MEAD GARDEN...was opened...for the accommodation of genteel and respectable persons of colour," however, no "unprotected females" would be admitted.

The inhibitions of the Victorian era had not yet arrived, and love was celebrated in American commercial pleasure gardens, especially French gardens, in the late 18th century. In August of 1799, another French public pleasure garden owner, Joseph Delacroix, presented at his New York City garden a thematic fireworks display he called "The Temple of Love," devoted to the god Amor. During this firey spectacular Cupid, the Roman god of love, issued a fiery dart from a distance of 300 feet into the Temple of Love where it struck two "tranquil and crowned" hearts causing them both to burst into flame.