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History of Early American Landscape Design

Difference between revisions of "Park"

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The term park denotes both private and public expanses of ground. Eighteenth-century writers used park to refer exclusively to private grounds often enclosed by fences, walls, or ha-has; if devoted to keeping deer, it was sometimes called a deer park (see Deer park). Early nineteenth-century lexicographers continued to stress the definition of park as an expanse of private property, although Noah Webster in 1828 noted that parks also designated army encampments, perhaps anticipating the term’s increasing association with public grounds. Writers also focused upon the material advantages of parks, which included the production of timber in addition to grazing land. It is clear from treatises that parks also fulfilled aesthetic and symbolic functions.  
 
The term park denotes both private and public expanses of ground. Eighteenth-century writers used park to refer exclusively to private grounds often enclosed by fences, walls, or ha-has; if devoted to keeping deer, it was sometimes called a deer park (see Deer park). Early nineteenth-century lexicographers continued to stress the definition of park as an expanse of private property, although Noah Webster in 1828 noted that parks also designated army encampments, perhaps anticipating the term’s increasing association with public grounds. Writers also focused upon the material advantages of parks, which included the production of timber in addition to grazing land. It is clear from treatises that parks also fulfilled aesthetic and symbolic functions.  
  
J. C. Loudon, for example, stated in 1826 that a park added “grandeur and dignity to the mansion.” The notion of park as part of a large estate was closely connected to eighteenth-century British land practices, and, in particular, to the idea that land ownership provided both prestige and economic security.1 The concept translated to America despite differences in landholding practices and in the legal system. As landscape gardener A. J. Downing noted in 1851, Americans generally would have much smaller parks than their British counterparts because inheritable land and money typically were divided among descendants instead of passing only to the first son, as was the case in Great Britain.  
+
J. C. Loudon, for example, stated in 1826 that a park added “grandeur and dignity to the mansion.” The notion of park as part of a large estate was closely connected to eighteenth-century British land practices, and, in particular, to the idea that land ownership provided both prestige and economic security. <ref>Joseph S. Wood, ''The New England Village'' (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 65, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PNBEMHX6 view on Zotero].</ref> The concept translated to America despite differences in landholding practices and in the legal system. As landscape gardener A. J. Downing noted in 1851, Americans generally would have much smaller parks than their British counterparts because inheritable land and money typically were divided among descendants instead of passing only to the first son, as was the case in Great Britain.  
  
 
One of the earliest documented private parks in North America, dating from the period of British colonization, was the park that surrounded the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Va., begun in 1699 [Fig. 1]. Hugh Jones, when describing the grounds of the College of William and Mary (1722), distinguished between the gardens immediately surrounding the building and those located in the larger 150-acre park. Nineteenth-century treatise writers maintained this distinction between gardens that were situated near the house and parks that encompassed the outlying area.  
 
One of the earliest documented private parks in North America, dating from the period of British colonization, was the park that surrounded the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Va., begun in 1699 [Fig. 1]. Hugh Jones, when describing the grounds of the College of William and Mary (1722), distinguished between the gardens immediately surrounding the building and those located in the larger 150-acre park. Nineteenth-century treatise writers maintained this distinction between gardens that were situated near the house and parks that encompassed the outlying area.  
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Landowners, such as William Hamilton, took the existing topography of their estates and manipulated it to fit the prevailing aesthetic. Views of late eighteenth-century estates often featured smooth lawns punctuated with clumps of trees and woods [Fig. 2]. In country house portraits, trees were often important elements—framing the house or drawing the viewer’s attention to the background. This emphasis paralleled treatise writers’ concern with trees as key components in park designs [Fig. 3]. Downing argued that artfully sited large trees added nobility, dignity, and a sense of age to a park, and he believed that such trees allowed American landscapes to rival those of the English.  
 
Landowners, such as William Hamilton, took the existing topography of their estates and manipulated it to fit the prevailing aesthetic. Views of late eighteenth-century estates often featured smooth lawns punctuated with clumps of trees and woods [Fig. 2]. In country house portraits, trees were often important elements—framing the house or drawing the viewer’s attention to the background. This emphasis paralleled treatise writers’ concern with trees as key components in park designs [Fig. 3]. Downing argued that artfully sited large trees added nobility, dignity, and a sense of age to a park, and he believed that such trees allowed American landscapes to rival those of the English.  
  
Public parks, open landscaped spaces under government control, accommodated a wide variety of functions. Generally located in urban settings, many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century parks evolved from land originally set aside for commons, city squares, bowling greens, or other forms of pleasure grounds (see Common). Pierre-Charles L’Enfant described his plan for the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a “place of general resort.”2 With the growth of towns and cities in the first half of the nineteenth century and attendant fears of crowding and disease, civic improvement campaigners repeatedly expressed a desire to designate green spaces or parks that could act as “lungs” to bring in fresh air and mitigate toxic urban ills. Moreover, with the marked popularity of rural cemeteries in the 1840s, it became evident that urban populations were interested in open spaces. Public spaces were called parks early in America, but were also described as public grounds, public gardens, pleasure grounds, or pleasure gardens, to underscore either their accessibility to citizens or their leisure function (see Pleasure ground and Public garden).  
+
Public parks, open landscaped spaces under government control, accommodated a wide variety of functions. Generally located in urban settings, many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century parks evolved from land originally set aside for commons, city squares, bowling greens, or other forms of pleasure grounds (see Common). Pierre-Charles L’Enfant described his plan for the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a “place of general resort.” <ref>For a history of the development of American parks and civic ideology, see David Schuyler, ''The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America'' (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/CFGQ8QT3 view on Zotero]. Also see George F. Chadwick, ''The Park and the Town: Public Landscape in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries'' (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1966), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/RT78E8W5 view on Zotero], and Galen Cranz, ''The Politics of Park Design: A History of
 +
Urban Parks in Americ''a (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/AFIR853J view on Zotero].</ref> With the growth of towns and cities in the first half of the nineteenth century and attendant fears of crowding and disease, civic improvement campaigners repeatedly expressed a desire to designate green spaces or parks that could act as “lungs” to bring in fresh air and mitigate toxic urban ills. Moreover, with the marked popularity of rural cemeteries in the 1840s, it became evident that urban populations were interested in open spaces. Public spaces were called parks early in America, but were also described as public grounds, public gardens, pleasure grounds, or pleasure gardens, to underscore either their accessibility to citizens or their leisure function (see Pleasure ground and Public garden).  
  
A desire for sites of public commemoration also stimulated the development of public parks. The designation of the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a park was linked intimately with the mission of public education envisioned by its founders. For example, in 1851 Downing described the Mall as a “sylvan museum”—an institution that would shape public taste in landscaping and in the selection of trees and plants.3
+
A desire for sites of public commemoration also stimulated the development of public parks. The designation of the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a park was linked intimately with the mission of public education envisioned by its founders. For example, in 1851 Downing described the Mall as a “sylvan museum”—an institution that would shape public taste in landscaping and in the selection of trees and plants. <ref>For more about thehistory of the Mall, see Therese O’Malley, “Art and Science in American Landscape Architecture: The National Mall, Washington, D.C., 1791–1852” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1989), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/TQVME883 view on Zotero], and Richard Longstreth, ed., ''The Mall in Washington, 1791–1991'' (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1991), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/9ACAMFXP view on Zotero].</ref>
  
 
As was the case with many city parks, the land for present-day City Hall Park in New York originally was set aside as a common early in the city’s history. In 1803, when City Hall was erected on a site next to it, this land was designated as a park. Ornamented with gates, fountains, and plantings, it provided an elegant setting for the public building, according to the descriptions of William Dickinson Martin (1809) and John Lambert (1816), and a printed view of the park area (c. 1849) [Fig. 4]. Similarly, the oval Union Park in New York, often illustrated, had a large central fountain [Fig. 5]. Both parks featured broad walks and trees and shrubs. In these parks and others, significant goals of civic improvement—clean water, fresh air,  
 
As was the case with many city parks, the land for present-day City Hall Park in New York originally was set aside as a common early in the city’s history. In 1803, when City Hall was erected on a site next to it, this land was designated as a park. Ornamented with gates, fountains, and plantings, it provided an elegant setting for the public building, according to the descriptions of William Dickinson Martin (1809) and John Lambert (1816), and a printed view of the park area (c. 1849) [Fig. 4]. Similarly, the oval Union Park in New York, often illustrated, had a large central fountain [Fig. 5]. Both parks featured broad walks and trees and shrubs. In these parks and others, significant goals of civic improvement—clean water, fresh air,  
green spaces—were united.4 Bowling Green [Fig. 6] and Battery Park [Fig. 7] are two more New York public parks that date from the early eighteenth century.  
+
green spaces—were united. <ref>Likewise, in Philadelphia, the construction of the Fairmount Waterworks was accompanied by the construction of a
 +
designed landscape, which rarely was referred to as a park in this period. For a history of Fairmount Park, see Jane Mork Gibson, “The Fairmount Waterworks,” ''Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art'' 84 (summer 1988): 5–40, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/RZEZDDEN view on Zotero], and Theo B. White, ''Fairmount, Philadelphia’s Park'' (Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press, 1975), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/8U8AZ5RJ view on Zotero]. H. M. Pierce Gallagher, in his monograph of Robert Mills, noted that the architect never referred to the site as Fairmount Park, but rather as the Philadelphia Water Works. H. M. Pierce Gallagher, ''Robert Mills, Architect of the Washington Monument, 1781–1855'' (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935), 128, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/GC3NPRZJ view on Zotero]. Michael J. Lewis, “The First Design for Fairmount Park,” ''Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography'' 130, no. 3 (July 2006): 283–97, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/R3V3TEUA view on Zotero].</ref> Bowling Green [Fig. 6] and Battery Park [Fig. 7] are two more New York public parks that date from the early eighteenth century.  
  
Although New York City’s most important park, Central Park, was not designed until 1856, the idea for large-scale open space for the city dates much earlier. In 1811, the Streets Commission of New York produced a survey of the city, plotted by John Randel, Jr., to serve as a template for future development, and it put into place the grid that today still distinguishes the city. This grid also included open spaces, most significantly a “Grand Parade,” 240 acres bounded by Third and Seventh Avenues, and 23rd and 34th Streets, and this area was intended for military exercise, assembly, and, if necessary, “the force destined to defend the City.”5 The concept of open space in the city was taken up again in the late 1840s and early 1850s, perhaps most notably by Downing in the Horticulturist. Claiming that the city’s existing parks were inadequate for the task of providing “exercise and refreshment of her jaded citizens,” Downing pushed for the creation of a large park, more than five hundred acres, to be located between 39th Street and the Harlem River. He proposed that it contain, among other attractions, carriage rides, monumental sculpture, water works, and walks set within green fields. Although Downing did not live to see this vision realized, his proposal anticipated Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park, and more generally, the American park movement.6
+
Although New York City’s most important park, Central Park, was not designed until 1856, the idea for large-scale open space for the city dates much earlier. In 1811, the Streets Commission of New York produced a survey of the city, plotted by John Randel, Jr., to serve as a template for future development, and it put into place the grid that today still distinguishes the city. This grid also included open spaces, most significantly a “Grand Parade,” 240 acres bounded by Third and Seventh Avenues, and 23rd and 34th Streets, and this area was intended for military exercise, assembly, and, if necessary, “the force destined to defend the City.” <ref>Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, ''Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898'' (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 421, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/Z8Q56GGX view on Zotero].</ref> The concept of open space in the city was taken up again in the late 1840s and early 1850s, perhaps most notably by Downing in the Horticulturist. Claiming that the city’s existing parks were inadequate for the task of providing “exercise and refreshment of her jaded citizens,” Downing pushed for the creation of a large park, more than five hundred acres, to be located between 39th Street and the Harlem River. He proposed that it contain, among other attractions, carriage rides, monumental sculpture, water works, and walks set within green fields. Although Downing did not live to see this vision realized, his proposal anticipated Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park, and more generally, the American park movement. <ref>For an overview of the history of the park, see Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, ''The Park and the People: A History of Central Park'' (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/GFRVMGF9/ view on Zotero].</ref>
  
 
-- ''Anne L. Helmreich''
 
-- ''Anne L. Helmreich''

Revision as of 17:15, February 2, 2016

History

The term park denotes both private and public expanses of ground. Eighteenth-century writers used park to refer exclusively to private grounds often enclosed by fences, walls, or ha-has; if devoted to keeping deer, it was sometimes called a deer park (see Deer park). Early nineteenth-century lexicographers continued to stress the definition of park as an expanse of private property, although Noah Webster in 1828 noted that parks also designated army encampments, perhaps anticipating the term’s increasing association with public grounds. Writers also focused upon the material advantages of parks, which included the production of timber in addition to grazing land. It is clear from treatises that parks also fulfilled aesthetic and symbolic functions.

J. C. Loudon, for example, stated in 1826 that a park added “grandeur and dignity to the mansion.” The notion of park as part of a large estate was closely connected to eighteenth-century British land practices, and, in particular, to the idea that land ownership provided both prestige and economic security. [1] The concept translated to America despite differences in landholding practices and in the legal system. As landscape gardener A. J. Downing noted in 1851, Americans generally would have much smaller parks than their British counterparts because inheritable land and money typically were divided among descendants instead of passing only to the first son, as was the case in Great Britain.

One of the earliest documented private parks in North America, dating from the period of British colonization, was the park that surrounded the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Va., begun in 1699 [Fig. 1]. Hugh Jones, when describing the grounds of the College of William and Mary (1722), distinguished between the gardens immediately surrounding the building and those located in the larger 150-acre park. Nineteenth-century treatise writers maintained this distinction between gardens that were situated near the house and parks that encompassed the outlying area.

Writers of garden treatises, including Downing, specified how to arrange the key components of a park—grassy areas, woods, rolling hills, and water and how to establish desirable views. As styles in gardening changed, so did the arrangement of parks. Loudon in 1826 contrasted parks executed in the ancient (or geometric) style, which were “subdivided into fields . . . enclosed in walls or hedges,” with parks done in the modern (or natural) style “to resemble” the landscape of a “scattered forest.” One key aspect of parks executed in the latter style was the introduction of plantations or belts of trees to unify the landscape visually with patterns of lines of light and shadow formed by groupings of trees. Practitioners of the modern style, such as Downing, were concerned with creating discrete boundaries for parks: they often relied upon plantings either to define or to occlude views (see Ancient style and Modern style).

Landowners, such as William Hamilton, took the existing topography of their estates and manipulated it to fit the prevailing aesthetic. Views of late eighteenth-century estates often featured smooth lawns punctuated with clumps of trees and woods [Fig. 2]. In country house portraits, trees were often important elements—framing the house or drawing the viewer’s attention to the background. This emphasis paralleled treatise writers’ concern with trees as key components in park designs [Fig. 3]. Downing argued that artfully sited large trees added nobility, dignity, and a sense of age to a park, and he believed that such trees allowed American landscapes to rival those of the English.

Public parks, open landscaped spaces under government control, accommodated a wide variety of functions. Generally located in urban settings, many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century parks evolved from land originally set aside for commons, city squares, bowling greens, or other forms of pleasure grounds (see Common). Pierre-Charles L’Enfant described his plan for the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a “place of general resort.” [2] With the growth of towns and cities in the first half of the nineteenth century and attendant fears of crowding and disease, civic improvement campaigners repeatedly expressed a desire to designate green spaces or parks that could act as “lungs” to bring in fresh air and mitigate toxic urban ills. Moreover, with the marked popularity of rural cemeteries in the 1840s, it became evident that urban populations were interested in open spaces. Public spaces were called parks early in America, but were also described as public grounds, public gardens, pleasure grounds, or pleasure gardens, to underscore either their accessibility to citizens or their leisure function (see Pleasure ground and Public garden).

A desire for sites of public commemoration also stimulated the development of public parks. The designation of the national Mall in Washington, D.C., as a park was linked intimately with the mission of public education envisioned by its founders. For example, in 1851 Downing described the Mall as a “sylvan museum”—an institution that would shape public taste in landscaping and in the selection of trees and plants. [3]

As was the case with many city parks, the land for present-day City Hall Park in New York originally was set aside as a common early in the city’s history. In 1803, when City Hall was erected on a site next to it, this land was designated as a park. Ornamented with gates, fountains, and plantings, it provided an elegant setting for the public building, according to the descriptions of William Dickinson Martin (1809) and John Lambert (1816), and a printed view of the park area (c. 1849) [Fig. 4]. Similarly, the oval Union Park in New York, often illustrated, had a large central fountain [Fig. 5]. Both parks featured broad walks and trees and shrubs. In these parks and others, significant goals of civic improvement—clean water, fresh air, green spaces—were united. [4] Bowling Green [Fig. 6] and Battery Park [Fig. 7] are two more New York public parks that date from the early eighteenth century.

Although New York City’s most important park, Central Park, was not designed until 1856, the idea for large-scale open space for the city dates much earlier. In 1811, the Streets Commission of New York produced a survey of the city, plotted by John Randel, Jr., to serve as a template for future development, and it put into place the grid that today still distinguishes the city. This grid also included open spaces, most significantly a “Grand Parade,” 240 acres bounded by Third and Seventh Avenues, and 23rd and 34th Streets, and this area was intended for military exercise, assembly, and, if necessary, “the force destined to defend the City.” [5] The concept of open space in the city was taken up again in the late 1840s and early 1850s, perhaps most notably by Downing in the Horticulturist. Claiming that the city’s existing parks were inadequate for the task of providing “exercise and refreshment of her jaded citizens,” Downing pushed for the creation of a large park, more than five hundred acres, to be located between 39th Street and the Harlem River. He proposed that it contain, among other attractions, carriage rides, monumental sculpture, water works, and walks set within green fields. Although Downing did not live to see this vision realized, his proposal anticipated Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park, and more generally, the American park movement. [6]

-- Anne L. Helmreich

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Citations

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Notes

  1. Joseph S. Wood, The New England Village (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 65, view on Zotero.
  2. For a history of the development of American parks and civic ideology, see David Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), view on Zotero. Also see George F. Chadwick, The Park and the Town: Public Landscape in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1966), view on Zotero, and Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982), view on Zotero.
  3. For more about thehistory of the Mall, see Therese O’Malley, “Art and Science in American Landscape Architecture: The National Mall, Washington, D.C., 1791–1852” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1989), view on Zotero, and Richard Longstreth, ed., The Mall in Washington, 1791–1991 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1991), view on Zotero.
  4. Likewise, in Philadelphia, the construction of the Fairmount Waterworks was accompanied by the construction of a designed landscape, which rarely was referred to as a park in this period. For a history of Fairmount Park, see Jane Mork Gibson, “The Fairmount Waterworks,” Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art 84 (summer 1988): 5–40, view on Zotero, and Theo B. White, Fairmount, Philadelphia’s Park (Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press, 1975), view on Zotero. H. M. Pierce Gallagher, in his monograph of Robert Mills, noted that the architect never referred to the site as Fairmount Park, but rather as the Philadelphia Water Works. H. M. Pierce Gallagher, Robert Mills, Architect of the Washington Monument, 1781–1855 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935), 128, view on Zotero. Michael J. Lewis, “The First Design for Fairmount Park,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 130, no. 3 (July 2006): 283–97, view on Zotero.
  5. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 421, view on Zotero.
  6. For an overview of the history of the park, see Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992), view on Zotero.

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