Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Types of American Commercial Gardens - Traditional Gardens in the 2nd Half of the 18C


In the last half of the 18th century, most public pleasure gardens retained the earlier geometric beds & often added an enclosed shelter for patrons to escape the rain, broad central walkways for promenadeing, plus arbors or supper boxes reserved for dining & intimate moments. Commercial garden designers began to add natural elements, especially serpentine walkways, during the last two decades of the century.

Garden proprietors often chose sites for their view or proximity to some other attraction such as a theater or a large public grounds. Some owners added artistic ornamental arches, bowling greens, stages, pavilions, greenhouses, fountains, and monuments. The grounds usually contained a house for the proprietor and perhaps overnight guests plus a kitchen for preparing refeshements & meals for garden guests.

Samuel Francis, who offered regular entertainment at this garden in the 1760s, described his Vaux-Hall Pleasure Garden in a New York City newspaper. "The commodius house and large gardens...the situation extremely pleasant, having a very extensive view both up and down the North River; the House has 4 good rooms on a excellent cellar, a very good kitchen, and a large room 26 to 56 adjoining the house with an arched ceiling, a convenient musick gallery, two fire-places...a coach house, stables, and other out-houses...ground laid out to great advantage in a pleasure and kitchen garden well stocked with fruit and other trees, vegetables...and several summer houses."

Garden owners in the South had similar accomodations for their patrons. Bowling Green Garden   was described by contemporaries as a "beautiful and much frequented Tavern and public Garden. The house in good repair, a new Kitchen adjoining, with a good Cellar, and an excellent Well in a convenient part of the yard; with good stables, and all other necessary out houses...The garden is very extensive a high state of cultivation, with Summer Houses, and bowers for the accomodation of company...Shuffle Boards, Ten-Pin-Alleys, and a Ball Battery, for the...exercise of gentlemen...desirable...for a public house and pleasure garden, in which it is at present occuped with considerable profit."

The New York City pleasure garden named Ranelagh, after its London counterpart, operated almost continuously for 25 years. Contemporary maps show a house & outbuildings on a prominence surrounded by ornamental gardens laid out in geometric patterns separated by walks & hedges. In 1794, the owner offered for sale "The beautiful garden...called Ranelagh, in which are a great variety of the best fruit trees...apples, pears, peaches, plumbs, cherrys and mulberrys of almost every kind...Madeira nut trees...currants, raspberries, goosberries, and strawberries... flowering shrubs, lemon and orange trees...a good dwelling house, and a very elegant green house."

Owners of the Loyalist White Conduit House and Garden in New York City decided to sell in March of 1782, shortly after the war. They struggled to attract a buyer until the final for sale ad appeared in 1789. "That elegant Dwelling House, called White-conduit house, two stories and half high, having seven fire places...together with an agreeable pleasure garden, with beautiful arbours, and a stable and coach house."