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

Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, NY)

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Located on the banks of the Hudson River seventy-five miles north of New York City, Hyde Park gained international renown in the early nineteenth century for the unsurpassed beauty of its gardens and scenic location. In addition to offering dramatic views of the Hudson Highlands and Catskill Mountains, the estate boasted grounds laid out with sophisticated knowledge of botany and landscape design. Over the course of two centuries, successive owners maintained and further developed the grounds of Hyde Park while remaining faithful to previous plantings and spatial arrangements, resulting in a landscape of remarkable historical continuity.


Alternate Names:
Currently known as Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site Site Dates: 1764-1935
Site Owner: Peter Fauconnier (1705-1746); Magdalene Fauconnier Valleau (1746-1764); Suzanne (Valleau) and John Bard (1764-1799); Samuel Bard (1799-1821); William Bard (1821-1828); David Hosack (1828-1835); Dorothea (Astor) and Walter S. Langdon (1840-1852); Walter Langdon, Jr. (1852-1895); Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt (1895-1938); 1940-present National Park Service
Site Designer(s): Samuel Bard; David Hosack; André Parmentier; Walter Langdon
Hyde Park (on the Hudson River, N.Y.):
View on Google maps


252pxNathaniel Currier, "Hyde Park. Hudson River," n.d. (ca. 1838-56), handcolored lithograph

In 1705 the Governor of New York, Sir Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury (1661-1723), granted the petition of four men requesting a grant of land along the Hudson River in Dutchess County. Among the four was Cornbury's secretary, the French Huguenot Peter (Pierre) Fauconnier (1659-1746), who received a 3,600-acre tract of valuable river-front property, which he named Hyde Park, most likely in honor of his patron.[1] The undeveloped property descended through Fauconnier's family until 1764 when it was inherited by his granddaughter, Suzanne Valleau (1720-1784), and her husband, the surgeon John Bard (1715-1799), himself the descendant of Huguenot immigrants. Dr. Bard initially contemplated developing Hyde Park as a country seat and settling there after retiring from his practice in New York City. A letter of April 1, 1764 from his son, Samuel Bard— a medical student in Edinburgh who was well versed in contemporary British landscape design— advised that nature should be his father's guide in "laying out your grounds" and "planning a pleasure ground."[2] For example, the selection and positioning of plants should be dictated by the natural conditions of terrain and atmosphere (the moisture or dryness of the soil, the fall of sun or shade, the exposure to wind) and, he added, ornamental landscape features should contrast with one another, and either be experienced unexpectedly while following serpentine walks ("so that by the surprise, the pleasure may be increased") or as focal points at the end of long vistas. When viewed from the house, these features should "appear as links of the same chain, contribut[ing] to the beauties of the whole."(view text)

Persistent financial difficulties prevented John Bard from pursuing the ambitious plans outlined by his son. Instead, he focused on the agricultural value of the property, establishing a farm and an orchard of 500 to 600 apple trees. In 1768 he attempted to sell Hyde Park, advertising it as a good source of timber, arable fields, and convenient water transport. Of three river landings, the best was "a large flat rock, which forms a natural wharf" capable of accommodating "the largest Albany sloop" (view text). Known as Bard Rock, it was located near the farm at the north end of the property. Although Bard ultimately decided against selling Hyde Park, over the next three decades financial necessity required piecemeal sales of nearly half of the original 3,600 acres. He built mills along the Crum Elbow Creek, and in 1772 erected a modest residence, the “Red House,” close to his farm complex.[3]

A few years before his death in 1799, John Bard transferred the Hyde Park property to his son, Samuel Bard, who settled there in the spring of 1798.[4] The younger Bard maintained the working farm developed by his father while also carrying out many of the ideas for an ornamental pleasure ground that he had described thirty years earlier. Taking full advantage of the property's dramatic topography, Bard erected a house to the south of his father's farm on a "natural terrace"— a flat escarpment at the summit of a steep, wooded slope that rose 200 feet above the river bank. Although the house itself was relatively modest, the view from its west front encompassed a stunning 180-degree panorama of the Catskill Mountains to the north and the Hudson Highlands to the south. "Anxious...to have the ground about his house in order," Bard turned his attention to the immediately surrounding landscape, requesting honeysuckle roots and the latest catalog from the Prince Nursery in Flushing in February 1799, presumably in connection with the garden he laid out adjacent to the house.[5] On the west front of the house overlooking the Hudson River, he created an extensive lawn that became one of Hyde Park's distinguishing features. Bard reportedly solicited the assistance of the Philadelphia agriculturist Richard Peters in procuring enough grass seed to sow two acres, so that he might “bring the ground round about his house into a greensward" (view text). Bard planted numerous trees, among them a Gingko that survived into the early twenty-first century as one of the oldest examples in North America. Like his father, he treated the high ridge adjacent to his house as a park, retaining many of the "venerable forest trees" and culling others to create scenic overlooks. Subsequent owners retained this setting. While staying at Hyde Park in 1832, the artist Thomas Kelah Wharton described the overall effect: "The front lawn occupies the whole level plateau on the top of the ridge, and splendid old trees are left standing at intervals with seats scattered here and there from which you can survey at leisure and in the shade, the exquisite beauty of the river scenery below." [Fig. 1] [6] A stream ran through the property and Bard seems to have created ornamental fish ponds, which he intended to stock them with carp and tench imported specially from England. He also erected a greenhouse, where he further developed his expertise in botany by experimenting with the cultivation of "beautiful and rare plants," many of them obtained through botanical exchange with correspondents in Europe.[7] According to his son-in-law, John McVickar, his conservatory was "the first, in that northern climate, which substituted, with success, the heat of fermentation for the more expensive and dangerous one of combustion" (view text). The dramatically situated house and row of trees appear clearly in a map of 1847 [fig. 2].

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)

Samuel Bard's son William gradually assumed responsibility for the day-to-day management of Hyde Park, which he inherited on his father's death in 1823. Five years later, the family sold the estate to Dr. Bard's professional partner and close friend David Hosack, who was intimately familiar with Hyde Park and immediately began to use his considerable fortune to carry out an ambitious plan for further development. Working with the architect ___, Hosack renovated and enlarged Bard's house to take greater advantage of its dramatic situation, adding side wings and piazzas to the north and south fronts. ___ also designed several outbuildings, including two entrance gates with lodges, described as _____. Like Samuel Bard before him, Hosack pursed his interest in botany at Hyde Park. He converted Bard's garden into a lawn, and e erected multiple greenhouses to accommodate the large collection of exotic plants that he transferred there from the Elgin Botanical Garden when it closed in __.

Hosack commissioned the Brooklyn nurseryman and landscape designer André Parmentier to devise a plan for reconfiguring the grounds at Hyde Park. Parmentier's design allowed Hosack to implement many of the picturesque ideals Samuel Bard had described seventy years earlier in his letter to his father. A series of compelling vistas were created through the strategic positioning of paths, bridges, and lawns. Sections of the estate were left in a wild state, while others were artfully culled or replanted. Visitors noted with approval the "almost endless variety of venerable forest trees" maintained on the property. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content. Hosack replaced the straight road that had led from the southern water landing to the house half a mile away, creating instead a meandering drive that followed the course of a natural stream, past an ornamental bridge over Crum Elbow Creek, and then made a sharp turn to the left, opening up a dramatic vista of the ___ and house. The natural water sources on the property gained additional interest through the artificial pooling of water and creation of cascades.

Dr. Hosack died suddenly of a stroke in 1835 and the collection was sold at auction. Later owners of the estate would move the gardens farther away from the mansion. Today, nothing remains of Dr. Hosack's garden. After Hosack's death, his heirs broke up the estate into smaller parcels. Succeeding owners of the estate also admired the landscaping and changed little of it over the years. Today, much of Parmentier's original design remains and continues to be admired for its grace and beauty. In 1840, John Jacob Astor purchased the main part (540 acres) for $42,000 and gave it to his daughter, Dorothea Langdon and her 5 children. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the original Bard mansion in 1845. They then hired architect Platt of New York City to design a new mansion, which was built on the site of the original building. After his father's death, Walter Langdon, Jr. became the sole owner of the estate and began the process of repurchasing the remaining parcels from Dr. Hosack's heirs. By 1872, the estate was almost entirely reunited. The Langdon's were not full-time residents of the Hyde Park estate. By this time, it was fashionable for the wealthy to spend different 'seasons' in New York City, Newport and Europe. Despite this, Langdon made numerous important changes to the estate, especially in the gardens.

First, he relocated the garden area farther away from the main house and constructed a red brick wall around the parameter. The garden was laid out on three levels, along a hillside overlooking the Crum Elbow Creek. Although the details and design of the garden have changed since then, the location and general layout of the garden remains the same. Langdon also hired architects, Sturgis and Brigham of Boston to construct a gardener's cottage and tool house. The buildings, as well as the garden walls still exist and are in use today. A large conservatory and greenhouses were also constructed. Later, they would be removed by the Vanderbilt's and replaced by more modern structures. Despite this, Walter Langdon, Jr. established the location and character of gardens, which survives.



  • Bard, Samuel, April 1, 1764, letter from Edinburgh to John Bard (McVickar 1822: 57-58)[8]back up to history

"I heartily wish I could be with you at laying out your grounds, as I imagine I could be of some assistance, although I may find it impossible to convey my notions upon that subject in writing. From what I have as yet seen, I find those the most beautiful where nature is suffered to be our guide. The principal things to be observed in planning a pleasure ground, seem to me, to be the situation of the ground, and the storms and winds the country is most liable to. By the first, I mean, to distribute my plants according to the soil they most delight in; to place such as flourish most in a warm exposure and dry soil, upon the sunny side of a hill; while such as delight in the shade and moist ground, should be placed in the vallies. By this single precaution, one of the greatest beauties of a garden is obtained, which consists in the health and vigour of the plants which compose it. By considering well the predominant winds and storms of the country, we are directed where to plant our large trees, so that they shall be at once an ornament, and afford a useful shelter to the smaller and more delicate plants. Next I think straight lines should be particularly avoided except where they serve to lead the eye to some distant and beautiful object—serpentine walks are much more agreeable. Another object deserving of attention seems to be, to place the most beautiful and striking objects, such as water, if possible, a handsome green-house, a grove of flowering shrubs, or a remarkably fine tree, in such situations, that from the house they may almost all be seen; but to a person walking, they should be artfully concealed until he suddenly, and unexpectedly, comes upon them; so that by the surprise, the pleasure may be increased: and if possible, I would contrive them so that they should contrast each other, which again greatly increases their beauty. The last thing I should mention, which, indeed, is not the least worthy of notice, is, to throw the flower garden, kitchen, and fruit garden, and if possible, the whole farm, into one, so that they may appear as links of the same chain, and may mutually contribute to the beauties of the whole. If you could send me an accurate plan of the situation of your ground, describing particularly the hollows, risings, and the opportunities you have of bringing water into it, the spot where you intend your house, and the situation of your orchard, I would consult some of my friends here about a proper plan, and I believe I know some who would assist us, and as I cannot obtain your gardener before November, if you sent the plan immediately, I shall be able to return it by him."

  • Bard, John, May 12, 1768, advertisement offering sale of Hyde Park (Langstaff 1942: 101)[9]back up to history
"Advertisement: —To be sold by the subscriber, living in New-York, either all together, or in distinct farms, a tract of land in the county of Dutchess, and province of New-York, called Hyde Park, or Paulin's Purchase... containing 3600 acres.

"The tract in general is filled with exceeding good timber...and abounds in rich swamps; great part of the upland exceeding good for grains or grass, and has on it some valuable improvements: ...A LARGE WELL IMPROVED FARM, with a good house, a large new barn, a young orchard of between 5 or 600 apple trees, mostly grafted fruit, and in bearing order; between 30 and 50 acres of rich meadow ground, fit for the scythe; and about 150 acres of upland cleared and in tilling order.

"There is belonging to the said tract, three good-landing-places (particularly one on the above farm) where the largest Albany sloop can lay close to a large flat rock, which forms a natural wharf."

  • Bard, J.[?], ca. February 25, 1799, letter from Hyde Park to William Bard (1778-1853) in Philadelphia (O'Donnell 1992: 207)[10]back up to history
"Your papa [Samuel Bard] begs you will inquire if any (spear?) grasses or blue grass seed, or the seed of any other grasses fit to bring the ground round about his house into a greensward is to be had in Philadelphia and if so to purchase for him as much as will sow two acres, and send it to me by the stage that I may receive it by the boats. Do my dear William be attentive to this, as you know how anxious Father is to have the ground about his house in order."

  • Bard, Samuel, February 27, 1799, letter from Hyde Park to Sally Bard in New York (Langstaff 1942: 200)[11]
"Today for the first time I walk as far as my barnyard—looked at my pigs, my cattle and my workmen & proposed to Caesar to begin our hot beds....

"I beg you or Dr. Hosack will write to Mr. Prince at Flushing for twelve good roots of the sweet scented monthly Honeysuckle to be sent immediately to you at Doctor Hosack's so that you may send them by the first boat of which you shall have notice hence. Your letter is to be sent to the house formerly Gains book store Hanover Square [New York] where get for me one of Princes last catalogues & send to me with the plants— by no means neglect this immediately, we do not know how soon the river will open."

"When you write to Mr. King [Rufus King (1755-1827), U.S. Minister to the Court of St. James]— tell him I take the liberty to hint to him that if when he returns [from England] he could contrive to bring with him some carp and tench to stock our fish ponds, I think he would do a very acceptable service to our Country.... It would be no difficult matter to accomplish by having some small fish of each kind inclosed in large glass baloons in the manner the Gold and Silver fish are brought from China."

  • Bard, Samuel, December 25, 1820, letter from Hyde Park to his son (McVickar, 1822: 236-37)
“I walk, ride, and amuse myself, out of doors with my green-house, and in doors, with my little transparent orrery; to which I am contemplating some additions and familiar illustrations.

“My green-house and flower-stands afford me considerable amusement. The plants flourish exceedingly: I spent two hours among them yesterday, and shall do so occasionally this winter…. Every plant, from the royal orange and myrtle to the humble crocus, in fragrance, grace, and beauty, perform their part to admiration: and although they excite no passion of fear or mirth, of love or alarm, yet they do better, — they calm all my passions, sooth disappointment, and even mitigate the feelings of sorrow.”

  • Bard, Samuel, n.d. [c. 1820], letter to an unknown correspondent (McVickar: 1822: 237)
“I…now begin to enjoy the spring by riding on horseback, and amusing myself in my garden; but I do both with caution. When it is fair over head, but damp under foot, I ride my poney into the garden to give directions, and to see my plants bursting in to life, in which I take great delight.

“I have several beautiful and rare plants coming forward; and I watch their progress with an interest which, by many people, would be thought trifling in a man of four score: but I appease my conscience by the innocency of the pursuit, and my inability for such as are more active.”

  • McVickar, John, 1822, describing Samuel Bard's gardening at Hyde Park (1822: 207-10)[8]
"Increasing years rendering the care of his large establishment too great a burthen, he transferred the management of it to his son... disburthening him of many cares, and leaving him free to his favourite employments in the green house and garden.

back up to history
"To the favourite occupations just mentioned Dr. Bard now devoted himself with an ardour which made them seem rather a change of labour, than a respite from it. In the flowers and fruits of the garden he became a learned and skilful horticulturist,— conversed, read, and wrote, upon the subject,— laid exactions on all his friends who could aid him in obtaining what was rare, beautiful, or excellent, in its kind, —drew from England its smaller fruits,— the larger ones from France, melons from Italy, and vines from Madeira,— managing them all with a varied yet experimental skill, which baffled the comprehension of minds of slower perception. These plans, though novel, were, in general, judicious; being the result of much reading, and long experience, and above all, of an imagination trained to what Bacon terms 'tentative experiments'.

"In the construction of a conservatory he displayed much of this talent, it being the first, in that northern climate, which substituted, with success, the heat of fermentation for the more expensive and dangerous one of combustion. In this, during the severity of the winter, he would often pass the greater part of the day, engaged in his usual occupations of reading and writing, or his favourite amusement of chess; and welcoming his friends who called upon him, to use his own sportive language, to the 'little tropical region of his own creation'."

  • Wilson, William, June 1829, description of Hyde Park (1829: 148-49)[12]
"In a late tour up the North River as far as Albany, I had the pleasure of spending one day, the 19th inst. in visiting several of the gardens in the vicinity of that city…. Their general appearance exhibits an interesting state of Horticultural improvement….

"At Hyde Park, a little more than half way between this city [New York] and Albany, I stopped to see the estate lately purchased there by Dr. Hosack. It contains six or seven hundred acres of ground, and extends on one side more than a mile in length, on the eastern shore of the North River. The natural scenery along the whole line, to the distance of about a quarter of a mile from the verge of the river, is highly picturesque; and in no direction can the eye be turned through this romantic situation, without the mind’s being impressed with the strongest emotions of reverence of the sublime power and wisdom of the great Creator. On the highest summit of the bank, terminating nearly a quarter of a mile from the water’s edge, to a height of several hundred feet above its level, is seen the celebrated belt of forest trees that extends along the whole line: between this belt and the river, the ground is broken with many knowls, open glades, and ravines, which are lined down to the water’s edge with trees. The more open compartments too, are enlivened by the interspersion of clumps and single trees.

"About half a mile above Hyde Park landing, (which is upon the southern extremity of the Dr’s. estate,) stands the Mansion House, not far from the brink of the descending grounds towards the river. In every direction to the east, north and south of the mansion, the ground spreads out in one wide open highly elevated and extensive plain, which at a considerable distance easterly from the house, gently descends to a gentle hollow, through which a fine mill stream, skirted with trees winds its way gradually around towards the south westerly points of the estate, where it empties into the North River near the landing. The Doctor intends making a carriage road from the landing in a direction nearly parallel with the course of the stream, to a distance of about a quarter of a mile, where it will turn to the left and pass in an inclined direction through part of the Park and lawn towards the mansion, affording in its course a view of the pleasure ground, green house and hot houses & c. which are to be located to the south of the dwelling. The stables, and the office houses & c. are all on the north of the mansion. The main approach is to be brought from the public road that passes a little to the east of the mill-stream...which in its passage over the stream, will afford a fine opportunity for having exhibited an interesting display of architectural beauty, of which the Doctor will no doubt avail himself, as well as of every other ornamental improvement, of which this most interesting place is so extremely susceptible."

  • Anonymous, July 31, 1829, "A letter from a Tourist to the Editor of the American Farmer" (The American Farmer: 1829: 153)[13]
"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 [Benjamin Allen (1772-1836)], 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."

  • Thacher, James, November 26, 1830, "An excursion on the Hudson. Letter I" (1830: 148-49)[14]
"Hyde Park, is on the east side, six miles above Poughkeepsie, and divides the distance pretty equally from New York to Albany. This pleasant village received its name from Dr John Bard’s country residence, now in the possession of Dr David Hosack, and this is the extent of my present excursion. Landing at the dock on the premises, we were met by the Doctor’s carriage and conveyed up a circuitous road about half a mile to the mansion. The approach is truly enchanting, the house a palace, the landscape a rural paradise, the respectable occupants distinguished for the kindest hospitality. Hyde Park estate was the country residence of Dr John Bard, and it was the scene of his latter days. After him his son Dr Samuel Bard erected a splendid house and made considerable improvements, while his son in law, Rev. Mr McNickler [sic], erected a beautiful dwelling in the finest style of an English cottage.

"From both these elegant seats the eye sweeps over the noble Hudson, which is nearly a mile in width, speckled at all times with the white spreading canvas, or the more formidable Fulton steamers. A richer prospect is not to be found, a more varied and fascinating view of picturesque scenery is scarcely to be imagined. The present proprietor, Dr. David Hosack, has since the year 1794, been distinguished for assiduity and devotion to the practical duties of his profession, and fulfilling the office of teacher in various branches of medical science in the city of New York.... Dr Hosack sustained the office of president of the New York Historical Society for several years, and in May, 1824, was elected president of the New York Horticultural Society. He was the founder and proprietor of the Elgin Botanic Garden in 1801, the first and best in the United States, which has been purchased by the Legislature of that State for the purpose of completing a system of medical instruction. Although this eminent physician and philosopher has exchanged his professional labors during the summer months for the delightful scenes of rural and pastoral life, yet he retains a high sense of the importance of medical science, and the public is still to be benefited by his literary labors. He is well qualified as a practical agriculturist and horticulturist, having devoted much attention to the nature of soils and the principles of vegetable life when lecturing on botany and georgics. From the spirit displayed during the short period of 18 months in his system of improvements, it may be predicted that as an agriculturist, he will become no less eminent than in medical erudition."

"The mansion house at Hyde Park is elevated about 200 feet above the surface of the river. With its two wings it presents a noble front of 136 feet, and is two stories above the basement. The centre or principal building, has a piazza on both fronts: the west front is open to the Hudson, and the east looks over a spacious, beautiful lawn towards the turnpike from New York to Albany.... The south wing contains a rich and well selected library, consisting of 4 or 5000 vols. Purchased at the expense of $20,000. Here is to be found a collection of works in every branch of literature. In no private library is there a more complete collection of European and American periodical Journals; scarcely a production of merit of this description, but may be found in this collection, and the number id constantly increasing. The Dr has also in his hall and gallery, a valuable collection of paintings, by the first artists both ancient and modern. At a proper distance north from the house, is situated the coach house and stable, built of stone in a chaste style of Grecian simplicity, and is 61 feet in front by 40 deep. At an equal distance south, is to be seen the green house and hot house, a spacious edifice constructed with great architectural taste and elegance, and well calculated for the preservation of the most tender exotics that require protection in our climate. It is composed of a centre and two wings, extending 110 feet in front and front 17 to 20 feet deep. One apartment is appropriated to a large collection of pines. Among the rich display of rare shrubs and plants, are the magnolia grandiflora, the spendid strelitzia, the fragrant farnesiana, and a beautiful tree of the Ficus elastica or Indian rubber, about 8 feet high, 5 years old. Contiguous to the green house is an extensive ornamental garden, in which is arranged in fine style, a beautiful variety of trees, shrubs and flowers; among which stands that glory of the forest, the magnolia glauca, bearing large white flowers, perfuming the atmosphere with a delightful fragerrance. The forest trees which surround the domicile are identically the natives which are found in our forest; some of the oaks are a century in age, and all are large and so grouped and intermingled over the lawn as to present at every step the most fantastic views that can attract the pencil of the artist. From the piazza, and from the bank on the west side of the house we have a charming view, extending to the opposite side of the river, of the blue summits of the Catskill mountains, and many gentlemen’s seats, and cultivated farms. Whether indeed we direct the eye across the river, or glance over its surface north or south, we have a variegated landscape embracing the borders of the noble Hudson, from 20 to 40 miles in extent... From the house, gravelled walks diverge and extend in opposite directions nearly half a mile, exhibiting a diversified scenery of hills and dales, now descending a sloping declivity on the verge of a precipice, again ascending to a commanding plain, opening a scene of unrivalled beauty. At the termination of these romantic walks fanciful pavilions are erected, where visitors may contemplate a captivating display of nature’s magnificence in these regions of wonder. From the turnpike road there are two gates of entrance into the premises, about half a mile from each other, and a porter’s lodge is connected with each gate. The north lodge is 19 by 31 feet, with a portico projecting over the north and south fronts, each supported by 4 Grecian Doric columns. Two wings project from the sides, which serve as lodging rooms. This little building has been much and deservedly admired for its architectural beauty. The entrance gate is finished in a very neat and imposing style of architecture. Mr Thompson of New York, is the skilful architect employed in the construction of these buildings. The south lodge, connected with a neat gateway, with the improvements of the surrounding grounds, present a very picturesque appearance. This is the most commanding point from which to view advantageously the mansion, green house, stable, and out houses, which appear at considerable distance from each other in the extensive lawn. This avenue to the mansion is over a stone bridge, crossing a rapid stream preciptated from the milldams above, and falls in a cascade below. The winding of the road, the varied surface of the ground, the bridge, and the falling of the water, continually vary the prospect and render it a never tiring scene.

Agriculture.— Hyde Park estate consists of a tract of about 800 acres of excellent land, bordering on the Hudson one mile and half, and extending one mile back from the river; the turnpike from New York to Albany passing through the premises. The farm comprises every variety of soil and aspect, and has not been exhausted by cultivation. It is well wooded and supplied with numerous unceasing springs of pure water. A creek also meanders through the farm, furnishing falls well calculated for manufactories and mill seats, and being dammed at proper places, forms excellent pickerel and trout ponds. The 500 acres under culture yield large crops of hay and grain, and the soil is adapted to the production of every article of luxury and convenience which man can desire. Dr Hosack commences his labors with characteristic ardor, and evinces a fine taste for agricultural pursuits. His improvements are not only in the buildings he has erected, and the establishments of the pleasure grounds, but in the more solid operations of the farm, as levelling hills and precipices, opening roads and avenues, erecting bridges and turning water courses. Many acres of rugged, hilly land hitherto deemed almost inaccessible to the plough or not worth the labor, have this season been subdued, the stones worked into wall and the soil sowed with rye.

Stock. — …In front of this house, on the lower bank of the river, he has a park stocked with deer....

Apiary.— During my visit at Hyde Park, by request of Dr H. I superintended the construction of an apiary upon my improved plan. The house is 30 feet long and two tiers in height and will contain nearly 40 hives, and this affords the greatest facility for taking the honey without destroying the bees. The close house secures the hives from the ravages of the Bee-moth and from the weather, and may be opened occasionally for ventilation…. Dr H. is now in possession of a family of bees without stings which were sent to Dr Mitchell from Mexico. He keeps them in his green house that they may enjoy an atmosphere similar in temperature to that in their native climate. There is on the stream belonging to Dr H. the workshop of Mr Hale, the ingenious inventor of the patent rotary pump…. Dr H. has two of them in operation, at his green house and bathing room.

"I met at Hyde Park, Mr. Bennet [William James Bennett ((1787−1844)], an English gentleman, and an eminent landscape painter, who has been for some time engaged in taking landscape views of some interesting objects. Had Basil Hall been so fortunate as to have visited Hyde Park, the grand display and the generous hospitality which he would have experienced, could not fail of reminding him of some of the noble seats in his own country, and of correcting his unjust prejudice against ours.

"I was rejoiced while at Hyde Park to have an interview with an old friend and associate in the revolutionary army, General M. L.[Morgan Lewis (1754-1844)] …. General L[ewis]. is one of the very few survivors of his military brethren, who possesses the means of sumptuous living and domestic enjoyments. His magnificent mansion is located on the banks of the Hudson, 4 miles above Hyde Park. The front towards the river is ornamented with a colonnade, a spacious and lofty piazza walled on three sides with Venetian blinds. From this there is a fine view of the Catskill mountains, in all their variety and magnificence, and an extensive landscape of variegated scenery peculiar to these regions. Here resides, during the summer months, the venerable patriarch…."

"About thirty miles further [from West Point] is Hyde Park, the magnificent seat of Dr. Hosack; here the misty summit of the distant Kaatskill begins to form the outline of the landscape; it is hardly possible to imagine any thing more beautiful than this place. We passed a day there with great enjoyment.

"July 9th, 1832. New York.... The Palisades and vast mountain masses beyond were involved in wreaths of vapour and the dripping moisture dimpled the still surface of the river. The curtain lifted as we passed thro’ the Highlands. The rain ceased and the clouds separated and became light and pearly. The woods and grassy slopes, green lawns and bright yellow wheat fields on either hand warmed into a richer glow with the freshening moisture of the morning….At half past one P.M. I went on shore at Hyde Park Landing, found a baggage waggon to take up my trunk and cloak to Dr. Hosack’s, and then followed on foot thro’ the Park gate close by the Landing. The Mansion itself was half a mile further on the brow of a bold eminence full 100 feet above the river. The ascent is gradual by broad winding walks, shaded by the richest foliage with gleams of the Hudson sparkling among the leaves— and beautiful lawns, with trees grouped in fine taste— a range of green houses and exquisite flower beds crown the ascent and sweep around a general clump of forest trees leading quite up to the house which presents a noble front to the Park [Fig. X]…. After examining the Picture Gallery and the noble library occupying a whole story in one of the wings of the building, the Doctor took me over the grounds and pointed out their chief beauties. No expense has been spared in embellishing this splendid domain, which contains 800 acres of richly diversified surface— every feature of which has been made to contribute to the ornamental effect of the whole and to heighten the magnificence of the River scenery which it commands. The two facades of the building, one fronting the river, the other towards the Park shew a fine spread of enriched Italian, flanked by large well proportioned wings. The whole designed and executed by Martin E. Thompson in his best manner— another very tasteful edifice stands at the north end of the grounds called the “cottage” with its own separate gardens and monumental improvements. The north and south Lodges form elegant entrances to the estate. Pavilions occupy prominent knolls. The lawns, parterres, walks, and broad winding carriage drives are all kept in the highest order, and nothing can exceed the beauty of the forest groups and clumps of ornamental trees and shrubs which are disposed with the utmost skill over the whole place…. The afternoon having turned out wet and unpleasant the rest of the day was spent in examining several valuable works &c. &c. my drawings, too, were brought out and handed round, and the Doctor said he wished me to make him several sketches to be engraved on stone to illustrate a Quarto which he is engaged upon descriptive of his place….

[July 10] "Heavy rains, with a pleasant interval at noon which I spent in rambling over the grounds. In the afternoon the sun broke thro’ suddenly and the clouds rolled away from the distant Catskills, revealing to me for the first time their grand, shadowy outlines. Thin silvery mists still crept around their base giving additional majesty to the peaks above— the whole forming a background to the glorious scene of the Hudson from the north boundary of the estate. After sunset the deep groves of oak and chesnut between the front lawn and the river sparkled with fire flies innumerable. These woods extend from the bottom of the ridge to the water's edge. The intervening slope is abrupt but well grassed over and is used as an enclosure for deer. The front lawn occupies the whole level plateau on the top of the ridge, and splendid old trees are left standing at intervals with seats scattered here and there from which you can survey at leisure and in the shade, the exquisite beauty of the river scenery below. A little further on a handsome Grecian Pavilion, roofed with a dome, occupies a raised spot near the main walk, and just in advance of the ridge a grassy knoll covered with tall poplars offers a pretty contrast to the heavier foliage— it is ornamented with a bust on a suitable pedestal, and is called, (in imitation of Rousseau) L'Isle des Peupliers…. [Fig. X]

[July 11] "Spent the day chiefly amongst the Doctor’s books—it is a large and valuable collection….

[July 12] "The thick vapours have fled—a fine breeze cools the air—distant showers and great tracts of sunshine give the spectre forms of the Catskills a grand and diversified effect. In the morning I made a sketch of the Pavilion on a mass of rock which projects into the river at the far north end of the estate, and of the pretty ornamental bridge over Crumelbow Creek. [Fig. X] This stream skirts the eastern portion of the park and is made to heighten its beauty—in one place its clear waters are gathered into a natural basin and spanned by the bridge in question forming with the mossy bank, and patches of grey rock a very sweet composition. In the afternoon commenced a large view of the scene looking up the Hudson….

[July 14] "The Doctor drove with me over the whole estate, and showed me his farming operations which he is conducting in one part of it. Rest of the day drawing….

[July 15] "The Episcopal church is small but pretty— it stands at a short distance from the north Lodge, and the church yard is embowered with the foliage of tall locusts— it presented a lovely scene this morning from the large number of handsome, stylish carriages, mixed up with the usual vehicles of a rural neighbourhood…. The gardener furnished dessert today with fine Citron melons, fully ripe, and the Doctor’s Pinery gives proof of the superior flavour of the Pine apple when taken ripe from the plant. The flower beds around the conservatories are perfectly splendid. There are some things I never saw before— the Mexican Tiger flower (Tigridia tygridifolia) and a fine specimen of the Indian rubber tree. Amongst the larger shrubbery the “Fringe Tree” is singularly luxuriant and monumental.

[July 16] "Very pleasant morning but raining in the afternoon. Finished tinting a drawing of the “greenhouses” and commenced one of the East Front of the House. [Fig. X]

[July 17] "After breakfast I crossed the Hudson at the horse boat Ferry, and made a sketch of the river Front and grounds from the high bank opposite. I then rambled far away off into the country, and climbed some rough, woody precipices which gave me fine views over Dutchess County. I noticed among the shady walks today that beautiful little bird the Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus or Ampelis garrulus Linne) a well drawn figure of it is given in Charles Lucien Bonaparte’s elegant work on those specimens of American Ornithology not given by Wilson— both works are in the Library….

[July 19] "A little before sunset, as Emily Hosack and another lady & myself were standing on the walk overlooking the deer park, and admiring a pair of spotted fawns which the Doctor has lately received from Long Island, a sudden and heavy rain gathered among the mountains, and came rolling towards us so swiftly as to cut off our retreat to the house, so we took shelter in the Pavilion close by, but we were not detained there long, the sun broke out again in 20 minutes and painted upon the black, turbed vapors the most perfect and brilliant rainbow I ever beheld.

[July 20] "Sitting with the Doctor on the Piazza after twilight I had a long conversation with him on my prospects in New York in which he kindly interests himself, and suggests plans for my advantage.

[July 21] "Early in the morning these beautiful grounds seemed flushed with new charms as the mist rolled away from the Catskills and the sun lighted them with clear a[e]rial tints, like mother of pearl. The trees, lawns, and parterres borrowed additional brilliancy from the fresh dew, and the new mown grass smelt sweet and spicy in the still morning air. I have today completed the last of five Quarto sized drawings for the Doctor with which he is highly pleased— they are the best I can do and tinted with great care ….

[July 22] "The air is wonderfully pure, and the mountain peaks unusually clear and beautiful. The mountain house and its piazza is perfectly distinct thro’ an excellent telescope that stands in the Hall— it is 30 miles off and to the naked eye appears like a white spot near the summit of the most easterly mountain. Dr. Hosack will not allow a gun to be fired in or near his pleasure grounds and it is surprising what multitudes of beautiful birds, squirrels and other graceful little creatures glance about among the walks and trees— and so fearless, too, as if conscious of protection….

[July 24] "As I am spending the time until breakfast in the Library I will try to give a little idea of it. It occupies one story of the South wing— is 38 by 23 feet and lighted by 5 handsome windows. There are two elegant black veined marble mantles with grates for anthracite coal, and the carpet, rugs, sofa, chairs & c. are in accordance with the sumptuous style of the rest of the house. Four stands contain large Portfolios of Engravings, maps &c. and in the centre is a large mahogany reading Table, with 18 capacious drawers, and covered with useful articles for study & bronze ink stands & candlesticks of elegant patterns, large atlasses, and in the centre a convex Lens 7 ½ inches in diamter, on a neat mahogany stand, to aid in reading the finer types….. The Books are arranged in large Mahogany cases along the walls, handsomely bound, and consist of from 4 to 5000 volumes purchased at a cost of Twenty Thousand dollars. They have been collected with great car so that they comprise some of the most valuable works in every department of literature and science….. The collection of European and American “periodical literature” is, I am told, more complete than in any other private library in the country….

[July 25] "After a thunderstorm the morning became very fine and it occurred to me that I might not have a better opportunity to visit the residence of a gentleman with whom I became acquainted a few evenings ago— which is prettily situated near the river about a mile south of the village….As Mr Allen was from home I merely stayed to make a rapid sketch of the Hudson looking South from the grounds— the Highlands in the distance and the buildings of Poughkeepsie peeping over the foliage in the middle of the view…. After they were gone I commenced another drawing for the Doctor on the completion of which I propose taking leave of my kind and friendly entertainers at Hyde Park.

[July 26] "Today we have a sky without a cloud. I have now finished seven drawings for the Doctor and have just washed in the first tints of a large picture…. I may remark that the work in which he [David Hosack] is now engaged will be illustrated by the drawings I have made him, while the originals, he tells me, will be enclosed in a Portfolio and placed in the drawing room Centre Table for the frequent inspection of his family and guests.

[July 28] "[Dr. Hosack] commenced an examination of the picture, with which he and his brother (who just then stepped in) were delighted, and suggested that it would make a valuable addition to the “gallery” and that it would prove very attractive if engraved. It is 23 ½ inches x 16 in and embraces all that splendid range of scenery northward from this Estate to the Catskills. They think I Have been particularly successful with the sky which is nearly finished and is by far the boldest effort I have yet attempted…. I observe in the library several books of travels presented to the Doctor by Sir Joseph Banks, and many others by their respective authors, including names of great celebrity in England, among the rest “Roscoe” of Liverpool, whose “Discourses” are in the collection presented by himself….

[July 30] "I have been busy all day with my picture, partly in the open air with the actual scene before me, and partly in my large, well lighted apartment. It is now nearly finished, and I think looks very well. I intend to present it to the Doctor as I have at length made up my mind to leave in the “Champlain” tomorrow if the weather prove favorable.

[July 31] "The bright sun soon purged away the mists from the Catskills and while the grass was still wet I took a farewell stroll among the splendid embellishments of the gardens. Lemon Trees, loaded with fine fruit, the tall India Rubber, the althea frutex covered with flowers, and the glossy Magnolia exhaling the sweetest perfume. A thousand other beauties, too, belonging more strictly to this latitude. I sat down in a Pavilion and having Witherspoon in my hand, as I may not ever meet with the work again I extracted the following brief view of regeneration….The gig drove up to the door, my baggage was brought down. The parting moment came, and very soon the delightful scenes of Hyde Park lay behind me.”

  • Hamilton, Thomas, 1833, describing a visit to Hyde Park in December 1830 (1833: 1: 73, 79-82)[18]
"I determined to give variety to the tisue of my life by accepting the very kind and pressing invitation of Dr Hosack, to visit him at his country-seat on the banks of the Hudson….

"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 bald 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."

  • Hamilton, Thomas, 1833, recalling a visit to Hyde Park in June 1831 (1833; 2: 289-90)[19]
"Having passed a pleasant day at West Point, I proceeded to Dr. Hosack's, about thirty miles distant. I had before visited Hyde Park in the depth of winter, I now beheld its fine scenery adorned by the richest luxuriance of verdure. Poet or painter could desire nothing more beautiful. There are several villas in the neighbourhood tenanted by very agreeable families, and had it been necessary to eat lotus in the United States, I should certainly have selected Hyde Park as the scene of my repast. But I had determined on returning to England in the course of the summer, and was therefore anxious to proceed on my journey. On the third day, I bade farewell to my kind friends— for so I trust they will permit me to call them— and again embarked on the Hudson."

  • Stuart, James, 1833, recalling a his travels through New York (1833: 1: 470) [20]
"I had been some time engaged in conversation with Dr Hosack, to whom my only introduction was in the steam-boat by Dr. Mitchell of New York, the well-known translator of Cuvier, to whom I had been presented five minutes previously….

"The drive from Poughkeepsie to Hyde Park and to Rhinebeck passes through a rich undulating country, the ground on the banks of the river commanding as pleasing views as can be imagined. There is a greater number of country seats than I have seen anywhere away from the great towns upon this line of country….

Dr. Hosack’s terrace is the finest that I have seen on the river, and possesses views, ending with the Catskill mountains in the distance, that can hardly be surpassed. A great number of workmen are at present employed by him in extensive improvements upon the grounds, and the enlargement of his mansion-house."

"SUBJECT 1. Gardening in North America, as an Art of Design and Taste.

"1474. Hyde Park, on the Hudson, according to a recent writer in the Gardener’s Magazine, Mr. Gordon, is the first in point of landscape-gardening in America. Its proprietor, Dr. David Hosack, is a botanist, and a man of taste. The natural capacity of this seat for improvement has been taken advantage of in a very judicious manner; and every circumstance has been laid hold of, and acted upon, which could tend to beautify or adorn it. The mansion is splendid and convenient. The park extensive, the rides numerous and the variety of delightful distant views embrace every king of scenery. The pleasure-grounds are laid out on just principles, and in a most judicious manner; and there is an excellent range of hot-houses, with a collection of rare plants, remarkable for their variety, cleanliness, and handsome growth. (Gard. Mag., vol. viii. p. 282) Mrs. Trollope, speaking of this villa, says “Hyde Park is the magnificent seat of Dr. Hosack: here the misty summit of the distant Kaatskill begins to form the outline of the landscape; and it is hardly possible to imagine a more beautiful place." (Domestic Manners of the Americans, vol. ii, p. 206) Mr. Stuart speaks in raptures of “the view over the most beautiful of all beautiful rivers, from the magnificent terrace in the front of Dr. Hosack’s house, situated in the most enviable of the desirable situations on the river." Hyde Park, he says, "is quite a show place, in the English sense of the word."(Three Years, &c., vol. ii. P. 549.)

  • Shirreff, Patrick, 1835, description of a visit to Hyde Park (1835: 29-31) [22]
"Hyde Park, the seat of Doctor Hosack, is the most celebrated In America, and which Mr Stuart describes as being “embellished as a fine residence and fine grounds in England.” The house is situated some hundreds of feet above the level of, and at a considerable distance from the Hudson, the intervening grounds being finely undulating. In front of the house there is a road, leading from the landing-place on the river, along a small stream, over which there is an elegant wooden bridge, and several artificial cascades have been formed in its channel. The house is composed of wood, as well as the offices and lodges, painted white, and are very neat of their kind. The conservatory had been dismantled a few days before our arrival, by placing the plants in the open air; the collection seemed extensive and well kept. The flower garden is small, the walks limited, and both destitute of beauty. I am aware that most of the evergreens which impart loveliness to the residences in Britain cannot withstand the rigours of an American winter, but this circumstance is no excuse for the nakedness of Hyde Parkwalks, the aid of many native plants having been disregarded. The matchless beauties of the situation have not only been frequently neglected; but destroyed by stiff, formal, naked walks, and the erection of temples resembling meat-safes, without a climbing plant, which the country produces in endless variety, to hide their deformity, and harmonize them with the surrounding scene. In short, while I greatly admired the situation of Hyde Park, I do not recollect having seen a celebrated place where nature had done so much, and man so little, to render beautiful. The embellishments at Hyde Park, contrasted with those met with every day in Britain, place American landscape-gardening immeasurably behind, if it can be said to exist.

“The progress of a people in refinement and taste, manifested in a combination of nature and art, is commonly the work of time, and the decoration of grounds an unproductive investment of capital. Thus the residences of England having descended for ages in the same line, without the power of possessors changing their destination, may be said to represent the accumulated savings, labours, and tastes of many generations. In America the country has not been long possessed by the present owners, and property does not necessarily descend in the same line; and if to these causes be added the high price of labour, and the scarcity of capital, the state of the residences will be sufficiently accounted for. Dr Hosack has great merit in what he has accomplished, but it is mockery to compare his grounds, in point of embellishments, with the fine places in Britain, which have originated from circumstances which America is not likely soon to experience….

"Hyde park is also celebrated for its agriculture, which I found under the charge of a gentleman from Fifeshire, Scotland…. The farm offices, which are extensive, would be considered good in most situations, and were the best I saw in America. There was a young hawthorn hedge, well kept, and in a thriving state…."

  • Hunt, Freeman, 1836, Letters About the Hudson River (1836: 159-61) [23]
"The ride to Hyde Park, about six miles north of Poughkeepsie, is very pleasant. The elegant mansions, the extended plains, and the highly cultivated grounds you pass, render the route really delightful. The village or town of Hyde Park,derived its name from the place owned by the late Dr. Hosack. Dr. Bard, the original proprietor, gave it that name; and when the town of Clinton was divided into three separate villages, this town assumed the name of Hyde Park. The mansion and grounds of the late Dr. Hosack, occupy a space of about seven hundred acres. It is a princely place, extending a mile from the village north, and about the same distance from the river east. The mansion is built on an extensive plain, and surrounded by trees and shrubbery of every variety. The grounds along the Albany river road, on either side, are shaded with large locust trees. A retired spot of the grounds of this great estate is occupied with a neat little Episcopal chapel, and the mansion of the rector. This was given to the society by Dr. Bard. Its location is quite rural.... Judge Pendleton, Hamilton Wilkes, Thos. Williams, and E. Holbrook, Esqrs;, have all beautiful mansions, and highly cultivated grounds. Dr. Hosack's place is to be sold, and will probably be divided into lots, and furnish ample space for a dozen mansions as summer residences for our New York city gentry. The New York and Albany boats land at Hyde Park, about half a mile from the village..... In 1830, Dr. Hosack concluded to retire from practice, and with that view purchased the elegant estate of his patron, Dr. Bard, at Hyde Park, on the banks of the Hudson, where he resided from May to November, engaged in cultivating his farm, and improving and beautifying his pleasure grounds, and extensive botanical garden. His extensive and practical knowledge as a florist, connected with wealth and a refined taste, has rendered his garden second to none in the union."

  • Murray, Charles Augustus, 1836, describing his travels through New York (1830: 2: 346-47)[24]
"I soon came to the lodge of a country-seat, which has been celebrated by almost every British traveller in America, Hyde Park, the residence of the late venerable and hospitable Dr. Hosack. I had never found an opportunity of delivering my letters of introduction to him during my former stay in New York…. Of course his widow received no company, so I resolved to ride through the grounds and see the prospect from them, merely leaving my card, accompanied by an apology for the liberty I had taken.

"The ground between the road and the house is very bold and undulating, and affords the means of making a pretty small lake, round which the approach winds its course. The house is spacious and comfortable without any pretensions to architectural beauty…. She [the daughter-in-law- of Dr. Hosack] invited me into the house and very kindly offered to show me the "lions:" among the principal of which, indoors, was the library, a most comfortable apartment, containing some tolerable pictures of the Italian and Flemish schools. I soon followed my fair conductress to the other side of the house, where might be seen a picture more glorious than ever mortal pencil designed. Below us flowed the Hudson, studded with white-sailed sloops as far as the eye could reach…; the opposite bank, which slopes gently from the river, is variegated with farms, villages, and woods, appearing as though they had been grouped by the hand of taste rather than that of industry; while on the north-west side the prospect is bounded by the dark and lofty outline of the Catskill range."

"The most distinguished amateur and patron of gardening, in every sense of the word, in this state [New York], was the late Dr. Hosack. Hyde Park, on the Hudson, the seat of this gentleman, has been probably the best specimen of highly improved residence in the United States. Situated on the margin of the river, with one of the noblest of prospects, smooth gravelled drives and walks leading to every desirable point of sight, over an estate of eight hundred acres— the park large, well wooded, and instersected by a fine stream— a handsome and well filled range of hothouses, extensive shrubberies, and a separate and very complete kitchen garden, the whole in the highest order— all rendered it a first-rate residence. Dr. Hosack’s acquaintance abroad enabled him to introduce many new fruits and plants, and some of our most celebrated native fruits were placed in the hands of horticulturists in Europe through his means….

"The finest single example of landscape gardening, in the modern style, is at Dr. Hosack’s seat, Hyde Park, and the best specimens of the ancient or geometric style may probably be met with in the neighborhood of Philadelphia."

  • Downing, Andrew Jackson, March 1837, "Notes on Some of the Nurseries and Private Gardens in the Neighborhood of New York and Philadelphia" (June 1837: 211)[26]
“It is with deep regret that we learn that one of the principal rail roads in the State of Pennsylvania, now constructing, will run to the city directly through the nursery of Col. Carr, and will cut up the grounds in such a manner as to entirely destroy their beauty; but what is a source of yet deeper regret, is the destruction which it will cause of some of the old and still beautiful specimens of trees which ornament the place; several of these, which have long served as a memento of the zealous labors of the elder Bartram and his sons, will fall by the woodman’s axe. It is a melancholy scene to the American horticulturist to see the few beautiful private residences and nurseries of which our country can boast, one by one, purchased by individuals or companies, to be cut up into building lots, or otherwise destroyed, by rail roads running directly through them. Dr. Hosack’s, at Hyde Park, N.Y., the best specimens of gardening in this country, was the first; Mr. Pratt’s, Laurel [Lemon Hill]], but little inferior in its style, next; and now one of the oldest nurseries, bounded by one of the best naturalists this country ever produced, is to follow, though not the same, a similar fate.”

"The prettiest amateur farm I saw was that of the late Dr. Hosack, at Hyde Park, on the Hudson. Dr. Hosack had spared no pains to improve his stock, and his methods of farming, as well as the beauty of his pleasure-grounds.... As for his [[pleasure ground|pleasure-grounds], little was left for the hand of art to do. The natural terrace above the river, green, sweeping, and undulating, is surpassingly beautiful. Dr. Hosack's good taste led him to leave it alone, and to spend his pains on the gardens and conservatory behind. Of all the beautiful country-seats on the Hudson, none can, I think, equal Hyde Park; though many bear a more imposing appearance from the river."

"The aspect of Hyde Park from the river had disappointed me, after all I had heard of it. It looks little more than a white house upon a ridge. I was therefore doubly delighted when I found what this ridge really was. It is a natural terrace, over-hanging one of the sweetest reaches of the river; and, though broad and straight at the top, not square and formal, like and artificial embankment, but undulating, sloping, and sweeping, between the ridge and the river, and dropped with trees; the whole carpeted with turf, tempting grown people, who happen to have the spirits of children, to run up and down the slopes, and play hide-and-seek in the hollows. Whatever we might be talking of as we paced the terrace, I felt a perpetual inclination to start off for play. Yet, when the ladies and our selves actually did something like it, threading the little thickets, and rounding every promontory, even to the farthest, (which they call Cape Horn) I felt that the possession of such a place ought to make a man devout, if any of the gifts of Providence can do so. To hold in one's hand that which melts all strangers' hearts is to be a steward in a very serious sense of the term. Most liberally did Dr. Hosack dispense the means of enjoyment he possessed. Hospitality is inseparably connected with his name in the minds of all who ever heard it: and it was hospitality of the heartiest and most gladsome kind.

"Dr. Hosack had a good library,— I believe, one of the best private libraries in the country; some good pictures, and botanical and mineralogical cabinets of value. Among the ornaments of his house, I observed some biscuits and vases once belonging to Louis XVI., purchased by Dr. Hosack from a gentleman who had them committed to his keeping during the troubles of the first French Revolution.

"In the afternoon, Dr. Hosack drove me in his gig round his estate, which lies on both sides of the high road; the farm on one side, and the pleasure grounds on the other. The conservatory is remarkable for America; and the flower-garden all that it can be made under present circumstances, but the neighbouring country people have no idea of a gentleman's pleasure in his garden, and of respecting it. On occasions of wedding and other festivities, the villagers come up into the Hyde Park grounds to enjoy themselves; and persons, who would not dream of any other mode of theft, pull up rare plants, as they would wild flowers in the woods, and carry them away Dr. Hosack would frequently see some flower that he had brought with much pains from Europe flourishing in some garden of the village below. As soon as he explained the nature of the case, the plant would be restored with all zeal and care: but the lessons were so frequent and provoking as greatly to moderate his horticultural enthusiasm. We passed through the poultry-yard, where the congregation of fowls exceeded in number and bustle any that I had ever seen. We drove round his kitchen-garden too, where he had taken pains to grow every kind of vegetable which will flourish in that climate. Then crossing the road, after paying our respects to his dairy of fine cows, we drove through the orchard, and round Cape Horn, and refreshed ourselves with the sweet river views on our way home. There we sat in the pavilion, and he told me much of De Witt Clinton, and showed me his own life of Clinton, a copy of which he said should await me on me return to New York. When that time came, he was no more; but his promise was kindly borne in mind by his lady, from whose hands I received the valued legacy."

  • Anonymous, 1839, description of Hyde Park from the ferry (The North American Tourist 1839: 28-29)[29]
"There are several neat, tidy-looking villas or country seats adorning the river’s bank in the vicinity of the landing, and at intervals along for several miles, as we approach or recede from the landing; ….

"We are not passing the rough castellated front of Hyde Park.... The avenue leading past this strikingly beautiful series of farms, and the residences of the affluent and tasteful owners, is not in sight of the steamboat passengers only in part; but a more superb line of road, for the same distances, does not exist in this State, considering the auxiliaries that come into view before the travelers; the fine avenue and its ornamental forest trees of the maple, locust, & c. and the unrivalled back ground of the landscape, the elevated and cultivated and woody slopes of the west borders of the Hudson, that from their proximity and the easy angle of inclination, have a most graceful appearance in contrast with the more distant towering back ground of the blue range of the Catskills, in the north-west.

"Eighty miles from New York, at the mouth of Crum Elbow Creek, on the east shore, is the landing-place of Hyde Park, and a few rods north, we see the splendidly-arranged house and grounds of the late David Hosack, of New York, and purchased by him of Wm. Bard, Esq. the son of the late Dr. Samuel Bard, one of the founders of New-York Hospital— the extent of the land purchased by Dr. H. amounted in all to about eight hundred acres, and the original cost to him, including his subsequent improvements, was $100,000. He had the grounds laid out in the most tasteful, attractive style, with gravel walks following the windings and undulations along the verge of the natural terrace, overlooking the Hudson river directly beneath, and the deep, abrupt, grassy and wooded lawn for a mile or two, and ending in a small circular temple on the rocky margin of the Hudson. The waters of the Crum Elbow Creek run through the grounds, and are so disposed as to add to the beauty and value of the property. Since the death of the late proprietor Dr. H. the very extensive collection of hot-house plants has been disposed of at auction."

"The Hudson at Hyde Park is a broad, tranquil, and noble river, of about the same character as the Bosphorus above Roumeli-bissar, or the Dardanelles at Abydos. The shores are cultivated to the water’s edge and lean up in graceful rather than bold elevations; the eminences around are crested with the villas of the wealthy inhabitants of the metropolis at the river’s mouth; summer-houses, belvideres, and water-steps, give an air of enjoyment and refreshment to the banks, and, without any thing like the degree of the picturesque which makes the river so remarkable thirty or forty miels below, it is, perhaps a more tempting character of scenery to build and live among." [Fig. X]

"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 lawn at 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]







  1. Abraham Ernest Helffenstein, Pierre Fauconnier and His Descendants: With Some Account of the Allied Valleaux (Philadelphia: Press of S. H. Burbank & Company, 1911), 17, view on Zotero.
  2. John McVickar, A Domestic Narrative of the Life of Samuel Bard, M. D., LL. D. (New York: A. Paul, 1822), view on Zotero
  3. Patricia M. O’Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum, and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Cultural Landscape Report for Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Volume I: Site History, Existing Conditions, and Analysis (Boston: U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service, 1992), 6, view on Zotero; Toole, 5-6.
  4. Helffenstein, 89
  5. The quotation is from J.[?] Bard to William Bard, n.d. (ca. February 25, 1799) in Patricia M. O’Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum, and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Cultural Landscape Report for Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, vol. I: Site History, Existing Conditions, and Analysis (Boston: U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service, 1992), view on Zotero.
  6. Entry for July 10, 1832, Thomas Kelah Wharton, MS. Diary, 1830–1834, The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, view on Zotero.
  7. McVickar, 1822: 207-10, 236-37),
  8. 8.0 8.1 John McVickar, A Domestic Narrative of the Life of Samuel Bard, M. D., LL. D. (New York: A. Paul, 1822), view on Zotero
  9. 9.0 9.1 Langstaff, 1942, view on Zotero.
  10. Patricia M. O’Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum, and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Cultural Landscape Report for Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, vol. I: Site History, Existing Conditions, and Analysis (Boston: U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service, 1992), view on Zotero.
  11. Langstaff, 1942, view on Zotero.
  12. William Wilson, "Notice of the Gardens of Albany, and of Dr. Hosack’s Estate, Hyde Park," New-York Farmer and Horticultural Repository, 2 (1829), view on Zotero
  13. Anonymous, "A Letter from a Tourist to the Editor of the American Farmer," The American Farmer, 11 (July 31, 1829), view on Zotero.
  14. James Thacher, "An Excursion on the Hudson. Letter I," New England Farmer, 9 (November 26, 1830view on Zotero.
  15. James Thacher, "An Excursion on the Hudson. Letter II," New England Farmer, 9 (December 3, 1830), view on Zotero.
  16. Frances Milton TrollopeDomestic Manners of the Americans, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: Wittaker, Treacher & Co., 1932), view on Zotero.
  17. Thomas Kelah Wharton, MS. Diary, 1830–1834, The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, view on Zotero.
  18. Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and T. Cadell, 1833), view on Zotero.
  19. Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and T. Cadell, 1833), view on Zotero.
  20. Stuart, James, Three Years in North America, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1833), view on Zotero.
  21. An Encyclopædia of Gardening: Comprising the Theory and Practice of Horticulture, Floriculture, Arboriculture, and Landscape Gardening; Including All the Latest Improvements; a General History of Gardening in All Countries; and a Statistical View of Its Present State; with Suggestions for Its Future Progress in the British Isles, new ed. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1835), view on Zotero
  22. Patrick Shirreff, A Tour through North America; Together with a Comprehensive View of the Canadas and United States (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1835), view on Zotero
  23. Freeman Hunt,Letters About the Hudson River: And Its Vicinity. Written In 1835 & 1836. By a Citizen of New York (New York: F. Hunt & Co., 1836), view on Zotero.
  24. Charles Augustus Murray, Travels in North America during the Years 1834, 1835, & 1836, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley, 1839), view on Zotero
  25. Andrew Jackson Downing, “Notices on the State and Progress of Horticulture in the United States,” Magazine of Horticulture 3, no. 1 (January 1837), view on Zotero.
  26. Andrew Jackson Downing, "Notes on Some of the Nurseries and Private Gardens in the Neighborhood of New York and Philadelphia, Visited in the Early Part of the Month of March, 1837," The Magazine of Horticulture, 3 (June 1837), view on Zotero.
  27. Harriet Martineau, Society in America, 2 vols. (London: Saunders and Otley, 1837), view on Zotero.
  28. Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel, 2 vols. (London: Saunders and Otley), view on Zotero.
  29. Anonymous, The North American Tourist (New York: A. T. Goodrich, 1839), view on Zotero
  30. Nathaniel Parker William, American Scenery; Or, Land, Lake, and River: Illustrations of Transatlantic Nature, 2 vols. (London: George Vertue, 1840), view on Zotero.
  31. Andrew Jackson Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America; with a View to the Improvement of Country Residences... with Remarks on Rural Architecture (New York and London: Wiley & Putnam, 1841), view on Zoero.

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