As early as 1787, Americans recognized the alcove as a distinct garden feature that could follow one of two types: an ornamental building in a garden or a recessed niche cut into live plant material. As a garden building, an alcove could be a freestanding or semidetached structure, typically possessing three sides and housing a [[seat]]. Alcoves provided shelter from the sun in summer but were particularly welcome in the northern winter, since they were often enclosed against the winds and open to the sun.
As sheltered sun-catchers, alcoves were logical appendages to [[bathhouse]]s as indicated in [[Samuel Vaughan|Samuel Vaughan’s]] 1787 plan of [[Berkeley Springs]], Virginia (later West Virginia) [Fig. 1]. Like other garden buildings, such as [[summerhouse]]s and [[pavilion]]s, alcoves provided shade and gave visual and physical structure to the garden by serving “as terminations to grand [[walk]]s,” as <span id="Clitherall_cite"></span>[[Eliza Caroline Burgwin Clitherall]] (active 1801) ([[#Clitherall|view text]]) and <span id="MMahon_cite"></span>[[Bernard M’Mahon]] (1806) ([[#MMahon|view text]]) both explained. Alcoves, situated at the end of long [[walk]]s or [[avenue]]s, created visual focal points and secluded destinations for people using the garden [Fig. 2].
When conceived as a recessed niche, an alcove was typically set into or cut out of densely planted vegetation, such as privet. <span id="Walsh_cite"></span>[[Alexander Walsh|Alexander Walsh’s]] 1841 account of diminutive alcoves exemplifies this second type ([[#Walsh|view text]]). In [[Walsh’s]] plan, the alcoves act as portals between the ornamental [[pleasure ground]] and compartments devoted to flowers and culinary vegetables [Fig. 3] (see also [[M’Mahon]] 1806). These portals were elevated, much like those described in the <span id="Horticultural_Register_cite"></span>''Horticultural Register'' of 1837, and thus provided both enclosure and privacy as well as a vantage point from which to view the landscape ([[#Horticultural_Register|view text]]).
===Usage===
[[File:0935.jpg|thumb|Fig. 3, [[Alexander Walsh]], “Plan of a Garden,” in ''New England Farmer'' 19, no. 39 (March 31, 1841): 308.]]
*Constantia [Murray, Judith Sargent], June 24, 1790, “Description of [[Gray's Garden|Gray’s Gardens]], Pennsylvania” (1790: 415)<ref name="Constantia_1790">Constantia, “Description of Gray’s Gardens, Pennsylvania,” ''Massachusetts Magazine'' 3 (June 1790): 413–17, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/IAJKF9C4/q/constantia view on Zotero.]</ref>
:“At every turn shaded [[seat]]s are artfully contrived, and the ground abounds with [[arbor|arbours]], '''alcoves''', and [[summerhouse|summer houses]], which are handsomely adorned with odoriferous flowers. Among these the little federal [[temple]] claims the principal regard. It is the very edifice, that upon the celebration of the ratification of the constitution, was carried in triumphant procession through the streets of this metropolis; and, upon a gentle acclivity, upon the summit of a green [[mound]] infixed, it hath now obtained a basis. It is a Rotunda, its cupola is supported by thirteen [[pillar]]s handsomely finished; their base, is to receive the cypher of the several states, which they represent, with a star upon every capital, and its top is crowned with the figure of Plenty grasping the cornucopia and other insignia. The ascent to this [[Temple]] is easy, and we gain it by the semicircular steps neatly turned, and the [[view]] therefrom is truly interesting.”
*<div id="Clitherall"></div>[[Eliza Caroline Burgwin Clitherall|Clitherall, Eliza Caroline Burgwin]], active 1801, describing the [[Hermitage]], seat of John Burgwin, Wilmington, NC (quoted in Flowers 1983: 126),<ref>John Flowers, “People and Plants: North Carolina’s Garden History Revisited,” ''Eighteenth-Century Life'' 8, no. 2 (January 1983): 117–29, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/FCVW8GHV view on Zotero.]</ref> [[#Clitherall_cite|back up to history]]
:“These [gardens] were extensive and beautifully laid out. There was '''alcoves''' and [[summerhouse|summer houses]] at the termination of each [[walk]], [[seat]]s under trees in the more shady recesses of the Big Garden, as it was called, in distinction from the [[flower garden]] in front of the house.”

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