A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
History of Early American Landscape Design

Bethesda Orphan House

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[Introductory sentence]

Overview

Site Dates:
Site Owner:
Site Designer(s):
Location:
[Google maps]

History

Recruited by John Wesley, the charismatic young preacher George Whitefield ( ) journeyed from England to the American colony of Georgia in 1738 with the expectation of advancing the evangelical movement in the New World — in part, through the creation of an orphanage. Renowned for the vast enthusiastic crowds that flocked to his sermons in England, Whitefield also attracted overflow audiences during his brief stay in Savannah. (45-50, 56) “The seed of the glorious gospel has taken root in the American ground,” he wrote to a friend in November 1738, “and, I hope, will grow up into a great tree.” [1] On his return to England, Whitefield used his increasingly popular his itinerant preaching as a vehicle for drumming up philanthropic support for the orphanage he envisioned in Savannah. [2] By the time Whitefield returned to America in 1739. Enormous crowds turned out to hear the English evangelical preacher George Whitefield ( ) during his tour of America in 1739. From Boston to Savannah, Whitefield delivered empassioned sermons that spawned thousands of converts. Benjamin Franklin was so impressed that he offered to print Whitefield’s journals and sermons, publishing a total of forty-three books and pamphlets related to the preacher and his movement between 1740 and 1742. [3]

In addition to erecting a new brick “great house” — with "a piazza of ten feet wide...all around it, which will be wonderfully convenient in the heat of summer" — Whitefield was in the process of clearing and planting twenty acres of land.[4] Following a visit to the orphanage in 1743, the English writer Edward Kimber (1719-1769) asserted, "The Garden, which is a very extensive one, and well kept up, is one of the best I ever saw in America, and you may discover in it Plants and Fruits of almost every Clime and Kind." Maintenance of the garden fell to the girls, whose "vacant Hours were employ'd in Garden and Plantation-Work."[5]

Five years later another English visitor described "a beautiful Garden and a fine Orchard containing allmost all Sorts of fruits, Trees, and Herbs which the country will afford," as well as "Yards about 120 feet long, planted with orange Trees."[6]


--Robyn Asleson

Texts

  • Kimber, Edward, April 1744, describing Savannah and the Bethesda Orphan House (1998: 34) [7]

“We could not help observing, as we passed, several very pretty Plantations. ‘’Wormsloe’’is one of the most agreeable Spots I ever saw…. From this House there is a Vista of near three Miles, cut thro’ the Woods to Mr. ‘’Whitefield’s’’ Orphan House, which has a very fine Effect on the Sight.

”The Route from ‘’Wormsloe’’ to Mr. ‘’Whitefield’s Orphan-House’’ is extremely agreeable, mostly thro’ Pine Groves, where we saw the recent Appearances of a Storm of Thunder and Lightning, that happened the Day before….

”It gave me much Satisfaction to have an Opportunity to see this ‘’Orphan-House’’, as the Design had made such a Noise in ‘’Europe’’, and the very Being of such a Place was so much doubted every where, that even no farther from it than ‘’New England’’, Affadvits were made to the contrary. It is a square Building, of very large Dimensions, the Foundation of which is of Brick, with Chimneys of the same, the rest of the Superstructure of Wood; the Whole laid out in a neat and elegant Manner. A Kind of Piazza-Work surrounds it, which is a very pleasing Retreat in the Summer. The Hall, and all the Apartments are commodious, and prettily furnished. The Garden, which is a very extensive one, and well kept up, is one of the best I ever saw in ‘’America’’, and you may discover in it Plants and Fruits of almost every Clime and Kind. The Outhouses are convenient, and the Plantation will soon surpass almost any Thing in the Country. The Front is situated towards Mr. ‘’Jones’s’’ Island…to whose Plantation the foremention’d Vista is clear’d, which affords to both Settlements a good Airing and Prospect.

"The Garden, which is a very extensive one, and well kept up, is one of the best I ever saw in America, and you may discover in it Plants and Fruits of almost every Clime and Kind." Maintenance of the garden fell to the girls, whose "vacant Hours were employ'd in Garden and Plantation-Work."[8]


Images

References

Notes

  1. George Whitefield to Mr. ---, November 16, 1738, quoted in Kidd, 2014, 57,
  2. Kidd, 2014, 66, 81,
  3. Kidd, 2014, 84-85,
  4. Whitefield (1740) in North, 1914, 158, view on Zotero. See also Whitefield, 1771, 3: 465-67, view on Zotero.
  5. The "Plantation-Work evidently included picking cotton. See Edward Kimber, Itinerant Observations in America, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998), 34, view on Zotero.
  6. Samuel Fayrweather to Thomas Prince, May 25, 1748, quoted in Hawes, December 1961, 364, view on Zotero.
  7. Edward Kimber, Itinerant Observations in America, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998), 34, view on Zotero.
  8. The "Plantation-Work evidently included picking cotton. See Edward Kimber, Itinerant Observations in America, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998), 34, view on Zotero.

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Bethesda_Orphan_House&oldid=10575"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Bethesda Orphan House," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Bethesda_Orphan_House&oldid=10575 (accessed December 1, 2021).

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