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History of Early American Landscape Design

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

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Elizabeth “Eliza” Lucas Pinckney (28 Dec. 1722 – 26 May 1793) was an educated and successful plantation manager. She was born in the West Indies, but her father relocated the family to South Carolina. At age sixteen, she began the task of overseeing their “Wappoo” plantation when her father had to return to his post in Antigua. Eliza experimented with West Indian crops, including commercial indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) used for blue dye, which proved a successful and profitable enterprise. Her letterbook, which is, according to the ANB, the most substantial body of writings by a mid-eighteenth-century American woman, reveals the management responsibilities women could assume, as well as the intellectual sophistication they brought to gardening. Her letters describing garden design provide rare documentation of the refined taste of the Carolina plantation. [1]


Crowfield, Wappo Plantation


Avenue, Basin, Bowling Green, Green, Grove, Lake/Pond, Mound/Mount, Nursery, Orchard, Plot/Plat, Prospect, Thicket, Walk


  • 1742, in a letter to Miss Bartlett, describing Wappoo Plantation, property of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Charleston, S.C. (1972: 35) [2]
"O! I had like to forget the last thing I have done a great while. I have planted a large figg orchard with design to dry and export them. I have reckoned my expence and the prophets to arise from these figgs, but was I to tell you how great an Estate I am to make this way, and how ’tis to be laid out you would think me far gone in romance."

  • 1742, describing Wappoo Plantation, property of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Charleston, S.C. (1972: 36) [2]
"You may wonder how I could in this gay season think of planting a Cedar grove, which rather reflects an Autumnal gloom and solemnity than the freshness and gayty of spring. But so it is. I have begun it last week and intend to make it an Emblem not of a lady, but of a compliment which your good Aunt was pleased to make to the person her partiality has made happy by giving her a place in her esteem and friendship. I intend then to connect in my grove the solemnity (not the solidity) of summer or autumn with the cheerfulness and pleasures of spring, for it shall be filled with all kind of flowers, as well wild as Garden flowers, with seats of Camomoil and here and there a fruit tree—oranges, nectrons, Plumbs, &c., &c."

  • c. May 1743, in a letter to Miss Bartlett, describing Crowfield, plantation of William Middleton, vicinity of Charleston, S.C. (1972: 61) [2]
"The house stands a mile from, but in sight of the road, and makes a very hansoume appearance; as you draw nearer new beauties discover themselves, first the fruitful Vine manteling up the wall loading with delicious Clusters; next a spacious bason in the midst of a large green presents itself as you enter the gate that leads to the house, which is neatly finished; the rooms well contrived and elegantly furnished. From the back door is a spacious walk a thousand foot long; each side of which nearest the house is a grass plat ennamiled in a Serpentine manner with flowers. Next to that on the right hand is what imediately struck my rural taste, a thicket of young tall live oaks where a variety of Airry Chorristers pour forth their melody; and my darling, the mocking bird, joyned in the artless Concert and inchanted me with his harmony. Opposite on the left hand is a large square boleing green sunk a little below the level of the rest of the garden with a walk quite round composed of a double row of fine large flowering Laurel and Catulpas which form both shade and beauty.
"My letter will be of an unreasonable length if I dont pass over the mounts, Wilderness, etc., and come to the bottom of this charming spott where is a large fish pond with a mount rising out of the middle—the top of which is level with the dwelling house and upon it is a roman temple. On each side of this are other large fish ponds properly disposed which form a fine prospect of water from the house."

  • c. May 1743, in a letter to Miss Bartlett, describing Charleston, S.C. (1972: 62) [2]
"I . . . cant say one word on the other seats I saw in this ramble, except the Count’s large double row of Oaks on each side the Avenue that leads to the house—which seemed designed by nature for pious meditation and friendly converse."

  • 1761, describing Wappoo Plantation, property of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Charleston, S.C. (1972: 162) [2]
"I will endeavor to make amends and not only send the Seeds but plant a nursery here to be sent you in plants at 2 years old."


American National Biography online: http://www.anb.org/articles/01/01-00737.html?a=1&n=pinckney&d=10&ss=4&q=6

The Library of Congress: http://lccn.loc.gov/mm%2082059840

South Carolina Historical Society Archives: http://www.southcarolinahistoricalsociety.org/

The Digital Edition of Eliza Lucas Pinckney & Harriott Pinckney Horry, 1739 – 1830: http://src6.cas.sc.edu/poelp/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Lucas


  1. O'Malley, Therese, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, and Anne Helmreich. Keywords in American Landscape Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010, p. 27 and Elise Pinckney. "Pinckney, Elizabeth Lucas"; http://www.anb.org/articles/01/01-00737.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Tue Jul 23 16:06:38 EDT 2013 Copyright ©2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Pinckney, Eliza Lucas. 1972. The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762. Edited by Elise Pinckney. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. view on Zotero

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Eliza_Lucas_Pinckney&oldid=4298"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Eliza Lucas Pinckney," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Eliza_Lucas_Pinckney&oldid=4298 (accessed October 2, 2023).

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