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History of Early American Landscape Design

Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, NY)

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Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, N.Y.)

[Introductory sentence]

Overview

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Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, N.Y.):
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History

Fig. X, William Wade, Residence of "Late Dr. Hossack Now Mr. Langdon," engraving, 1847, detail from Panorama of the Hudson River from New York to Waterford (New York: J. Disturnell, 1847)













--Author

Texts

  • Anonymous, July 1829, "A letter from a Tourist to the Editor of the American Farmer" (The American Farmer: 1829: 153), [1]
"With a view to examine some of the farms and country seats upon the banks of the Hudson, I spent a day at Hyde Park, and was delighted, not only with the charms of nature, but also with the refinements of society, and the spirit of hospitality, prevailing among the inhabitants of this rich and beautiful region. The scenery will sustain a comparison with the finest specimens of English landscape. I passed a bright afternoon in rambling over the grounds, which belonged to the late Doctor Bard, and have recently been purchased by Dr Hosack of New York. They comprise a tract of 700 acres, bounded n the west by "The noble North," and extending back a mile or more into the fertile county of Dutchess. From the beautiful lawn in front of the mansion and the neighboring cottage, the view reaches on one hand to the blue summits of the Catskills, and on the other to the Highlands, in the vicinity of West Point. The Hudson, with its green and rural shores, is visible for the distance of twenty miles. An almost endless variety of venerable forest trees give shade and beauty to the landscape, through which hurries a copious stream, headlong and noisy as the Arno itself, filling the hanging gardens and groves on its borders with murmurs. On the sunny declivity, sloping to this rivulet, I saw ... carts of water-melons, some of them weighing forty pounds each. Fruits and flowers of all kinds are rich and abundant. The woods are vocal with the song of birds, and the squirrel frequently crossed my winding and tangled pathway. In many places, copious and pure fountains gush from the bank of the river, affording a plentiful supply of the best water. The present enterprising proprietor of this farm has but just commenced his system of improvements. With his wealth and taste, he will doubtless render it still more than it is now, a terrestrial paradise.

"Not far from the splendid grounds of Dr. Hosack, is the residence of Dr Allen, the celebrity of whose classical institution has spread throughout the country and attracted students from distant states. His stately mansion is situated in the midst of a lawn of eighty acres, intersected by avenues and winding walks bordered with ornamental trees. From the window of the library the eye ranges down the banks of the Hudson for a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles, and reposes upon the picturesque scenery on the opposite shore. Here are porches and halls of science, consecrated as the Paecile [river in Italy], and shades deep and classical as the groves of Academus, and waters brighter than Ilissus.... His hours of relaxation from study are frequently employed in walking through the fields with his pupils, conversing familiarly on what they have read, and at the same time enjoying the beauties of nature....

"The next morning we went to breakfast with one of the doctor's neighbors and friends, the wealthy proprietor of 300 acres, who contented with his success in trade, has had the wisdom to beat his anchors into plough shares, and to retire from the bustle of the city to a rural and romantic retreat at Hyde Park. He has embarked with enthusiasm in agricultural and horticultural pursuits, and his farm, his gardens, and his ornamental grounds are in excellent order, evincing skill and taste in his new profession. The whole atmosphere is charged with the fragrance of flowers, and the perfume of "new-mown hay." In rambling along winding pathways, by the side of gurgling brooks...I here forgot for a time the dejected spirit and morbid feelings of an invalid."


  • Hamilton, Thomas, 1833, describing a visit to Hyde Park in December 1830 (1833: 1: 73), [2]
"Though the drive from the landing-place led through a prettily variegated country, I was not much in the humour to admire scenery, and looked, I fear, with more indifference on the improvements past and projected, to which the Doctor directed my attention, than would have been consistent with politeness in a warmer and more comfortable auditor....

"The following morning... I was glad to accept the invitation of my worthy host, to examine his demesne, which was really very beautiful and extensive. Nothing could be finer than the situation of the house. It stands upon a lofty terrace overhanging the Hudson, whose noble stream lends richness and grandeur to the whole extent of the foreground of the landscape. Above, its waters are seen to approach from a country finely variegated, but unmarked by any peculiar boldness of feature. Below, it is lost among a range of rocky and wooded eminences of highly picturesque outline. In one direction alone, however, is the prospect very extensive; and in that, (the north-west) the Catskill Mountains, sending their blad and rugged summits far up into the sky, form a glorious framework for the picture.

"We drove through a finely undulating country, in which the glories of the ancient forest have been replaced by bare fields, intersected by hideous zigzag fences. God meant it to be beautiful when he gave such noble varieties of hill and plain, wood and water; but man seemed determined it should be otherwise. No beauty which the axe could remove was suffered to remain....

"Such changes are not optional, but imperative. The progress of population necessarily involves them, and they must be regarded only as the process by which the wilderness is brought to minister to the wants and enjoyments of civilized man.... It is only the state of transition which is unpleasant to behold; the particular stage of advancement in which the wild grandeur of nature has disappeared, and the charm of cultivation has not yet replaced it."


"Hyde Park, on the Hudson, the seat of the late Dr. Hosack, has been justly celebrated as one of the finest specimens of the modern style of Landscape Gardening in America. Nature has indeed, done much for this place, as the grounds are finely varied, beautifully watered by a lively stream, and the views from the neighbourhood of the house itself, including as they do the noble Hudson, and the superb wooded valley which stretches away until bounded at the horizon by the distant summits of the blue Cattskills, are unrivalled in picturesque beauty. But the efforts of art are not unworthy so rare a locality; and while the native woods, and beautifully undulating grounds are preserved in their original state, the pleasure-grounds, roads, walks, drives, and new plantations, have been laid out in so tasteful a manner as to heighten the charms of nature. Large and costly hot-houses were erected and elegant entrance lodges at two points on the estate, a fine bridge over the stream, and numerous pavilions and seats commanding extensive prospects; in short, nothing was spared to render this [seat]] one of the finest in America. The park, which at one time contained some fine deer, afforded a delightful drive within itself, as the whole estate numbered about seven hundred acres. The plans for laying out the grounds were furnished by Parmentier, and architects from New York were employed in designing and erecting the buildings. Since the death of Dr. Hosack, the place has lost something of the high keeping which it formerly evinced, but we still consider it one of the most instructive seats in this country.....

Fig. x, Anonymous, “A Circular Pavilion,” 1841, wood engraving, from A. J. Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1841), p. 385, fig. 57.
"Some noble specimens of the common Three-thorned Acacia, may be seen upon the lawnat Hyde Park, the fine seat of the late Dr. Hosack....

"There are two methods of grouping shrubs upon lawns which may separately be considered, in combination with "beautiful" and with picturesque scenery.

"In the first case, where the character of the scene, of the plantations of trees, etc., is that of polished beauty, the belts of shrubs may be arranged similar to herbaceous flowering plants, in arabesque beds, along the walks…. In this case, the shrubs alone, arranged with relation to their height, may occupy the beds, or if preferred, shrubs and flowers may be intermingled. Those who have seen the shrubbery at Hyde Park; the residence of the late Dr. Hosack, which borders the walk leading from the mansion, to the hot-houses, will be able to recall a fine example of this mode of mingling woody and herbacious plants. The belts or borders occupied by the shrubbery and flower-garden there, are perhaps from 25 to 35 feet in width, completely filled with a collection of shrubs and herbaceous plants; the smallest of the latter being quite near the walk; these succeeded by taller species receding from the front of the border, then follow shrubs of moderate size, advancing in height until the background of the whole is a rich mass of tall shrubs and trees of moderate size. The effect of this belt on so large a scale, in high keeping, is remarkably striking and elegant....

“The temple and the pavilion, are highly finished forms of covered seats, which are occasionally introduced in splendid places, where classic architecture prevails. There is a circular pavilion of this kind at the termination of one of the walks at Dr. Hosack’s residence, Hyde Park. Fig. 57.” [Fig. x]

Images

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References

Notes

  1. Anonymous, "A Letter from a Tourist to the Editor of the American Farmer," The American Farmer, 11 (1829), view on Zotero.
  2. Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and T. Cadell, 1833), view on Zotero.
  3. Downing, 1841,

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History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, NY)," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Hyde_Park_(on_the_Hudson_River,_NY)&oldid=13630 (accessed December 8, 2022).

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