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History of Early American Landscape Design

Difference between revisions of "Seat"

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Revision as of 18:48, March 20, 2015


In the discourse of landscape design, seat possessed two distinct yet equally prevalent meanings, as indicated by Thomas Sheridan’s 1789 dictionary entry. One sense referred to seat as a large estate, usually marked by a country house or mansion, for example, William Hamilton’s Woodlands, near Philadelphia; or Gen. Charles Ridgely’s Hampton, in Baltimore County, Md. A seat was also a garden structure for sitting.

The meaning of seat as estate was exemplified in colonial America by William Byrd II’s Westover, on the James River, Va., and Henry Pratt’s Lemon Hill in Philadelphia [Fig. 1]. Such country houses were often featured in portraits that flattered the owner and signaled to the public that the colonies and new republic were home to a cultured elite rivaling that of Great Britain. These images typically located the house at the center of the property, with the landscape and various outbuildings extending beyond it. This placement, which communicated the importance of the house as the base of operations for the landowner, was a visual shorthand for the landowner’s affluence and power. Observers such as William Hugh Grove (1732) and Thomas Gwatkin (1770) often likened seats to small villages. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, the community-like aspects of seats were downplayed in favor of their rural associations, which contrasted sharply with the increasingly crowded conditions of America’s cities. English emigré William Russell Birch, in his series The Country Seats of the United States of America (1808), depicted the homes of the mid- Atlantic elite situated in naturalistic landscapes in emulation of British tableaux [Fig. 2].[1]

As a category of garden furniture, seat could refer to either the object upon which one sat [Fig. 3] or the structure housing such objects [Fig. 4]. Accounts found in foreign treatises available in America (such as those by A.-J. Dézallier D’Argenville, Isaac Ware, William Marshall, Humphry Repton, and John Abercrombie) focused on seats as places of rest, terminations to walks, or vantage points from which to contemplate views. Like other garden structures, such as pavilions or summerhouses, seats influenced the viewer’s experience of the garden by providing points of rest that framed vistas in the garden and views beyond. The use of seats to direct one’s route through a garden was demonstrated by A. J. Downing in his 1847 description of Montgomery Place, Dutchess County, N.Y. Downing noted the placement of various seats and related views that he encountered on the course of his walk through the grounds. Many other garden observers, including Henry Wansey (1794), John Cosens Ogden (1800), and Eliza Caroline Burgwin Clitherall (active 1801), also commented upon the interrelationships between seats, walks, and views. Popular gardening journals likewise recommended placing seats along walks. For example, in 1841 Alexander Walsh proposed a number of seats in a garden design published in The New England Farmer. Two seats were situated at cross-walks and another two were ensconced in an arched arbor, placed alongside the main axial walk.

Garden seats took on a variety of forms. In the eighteenth century, European and British pattern books and design manuals such as James Gibbs’s A Book of Architecture (1728) were an important source for American seat designs [Fig. 5]. Drawings by Thomas Jefferson and by his granddaughter, Cornelia Jefferson Randolph [Fig. 6], demonstrate the influence of William Kent’s designs on garden furniture, which appeared in William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surrey (1763), a volume that Jefferson owned.[2]

Seat designs could be differentiated by national and historical styles, as well as by placement and function. Batty and Thomas Langley, for instance, proposed a seat in keeping with the Gothic style in their 1747 text about Gothic architecture [Fig. 7]. J. C. Loudon, in An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1826), distinguished among seats found inside garden buildings, roofed seats that could be either fixed or portable, and those lacking any sort of roof. Loudon explained that in form, seats could be simple (like the trunk of a tree) or more complex (such as a cast-iron couch with decorative treatment). These distinctions were echoed by Jane Loudon in Gardening for Ladies (1845), a book that was co-edited by Downing in America.

In A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1849), Downing himself provided an extensive illustrated typology of seat styles, emphasizing the propriety of certain styles for different landscapes. For example, he believed that Grecian or Gothic seats were appropriate for elegant grounds, whereas rustic seats were more suited to the irregular aesthetic of the landscape garden. Such rustic seats were quite popular in the nineteenth century, as suggested by the discussion of them in horticultural journals, such as the Horticultural Register, and in descriptions by both treatise writers and observers of the American landscape. See, for example, Thomas Bridgeman (1832), Edward Sayers (1838), Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt Ritchie (1839), C. M. Hovey (1840), and Georges Jaques (1852).

--- Anne L. Helmreich



  • Anonymous, n.d., advertising design and construction services for parks and gardens (quoted in Chase 1973: 37–39): [3]
“Designs all sorts of Buildings, well suited to both town and country, Pavilions, Summer-Rooms, Seats for Gardens . . . also Water-houses for Parks . . . Eye Traps to represent a Building terminating a walk, or to hide some disagreeable Object, Rotundas, Colonades, Arcades, Studies in Parks or Gardens, Green Houses for the Preservation of Herbs.”

  • Strachey, William, 1612, describing the seats of Powhatan in Virginia (quoted in Wright and Freund 1967: 57) [4]
“He hath divers seates or howses, his Chief when we came into the Country was upon seat Pamunky-River, on the North side which we call Pembrook-side, called Werowocomaco, which by interpretacion signifyes Kings-howse.”

  • Byrd, William, II, c. 25 June 1729, describing Westover, seat of William Byrd II, on the James River, Va. (quoted in Tinling 1977: 1:410) [5]
“My habitation has the na[me of] the prettyest seat in this country.”

  • Grove, William Hugh, 1732, describing Williamsburg, Va. (quoted in Stiverson and Butler 1977: 26) [6]
“I went by ship up the [York] river, which has pleasant Seats on the Bank which Shew Like little villages, for having Kitchins, Dayry houses, Barns, Stables, Store houses, and some of them 2 or 3 Negro Quarters all Seperate from Each other but near the mansion houses make a shew to the river of 7 or 8 distinct Tenements, tho all belong to one family.”

  • Anonymous, 17 August 1747, describing property for sale in Somerset County, N.J. (New York Gazette)
“TO BE SOLD, A pleasant Country Seat, fitting for a Gentleman or Store-keeper . . . a good Orchard, containing about 200 Apple Trees, and may be extended at Pleasure.”

  • Gwatkin, Prof. Thomas, 1770, describing the appearance of seats in Williamsburg, Va. (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; hereafter CWF)
“And the huts of the Negroes which are situated round about give the seat of a substantial planter something of the Air of a small village.”

  • Rush, Dr. Benjamin, 15 July 1782, describing the country seat of John Dickinsen, near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Caemmerer 1950: 87) [7]
“The ground contiguous to this shed was cut into beautiful walks and divided with cedar and pine branches into artificial groves. The whole, both the buildings and walks, were accommodated with seats.”

  • Shippen, Thomas Lee, 31 December 1783, describing Westover, seat of William Byrd III, on the James River, Va. (1952: n.p.) [8]
“I have markd some little crooked ugly figures for Gentlemen’s seats, which tho’ they do not beautify indeed the picture, add much to the prospect, about as many Seats are to be seen on the other side.” [Fig. 8]

  • Cutler, Rev. Manasseh, 13 July 1787, describing The Hills (later Lemon Hill), estate of Robert Morris, Philadelphia, Pa. (1987: 1:256–57) [9]
“We continued our route, in view of the Schuylkill, and up the river several miles, and took a view of a number of Country-seats, one belonging to Mr. R. Morris, the American financier, and who is said to be possessed of the greatest fortune in America. His country-seat is not yet completed, but it will be superb. It is planned on a large scale, the gardens and walks are extensive, and the villa, situated on an eminence, has a commanding prospect down the Schuylkill to the Delaware.”

  • G., L., 15 June [1788?], describing the Woodlands, seat of William Hamilton near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Madsen 1989: 19) [10]
“[The walks were] planted on each side with the most beautiful & curious flowers & shrubs. They are in some parts enclosed with the Lombardy poplar except here & there openings are left to give you a view of some fine trees or beautiful prospect beyond, & in others, shaded by arbours of the wild grape, or clumps of large trees under which are placed seats where you may rest yourself & enjoy the cool air.”

  • Constantia [pseud.], 24 June 1790, “Description of Gray’s Gardens, Pennsylvania” (Massachusetts Magazine 3: 415)
“At every turn shaded seats are artfully contrived, and the ground abounds with arbours, alcoves, and summer houses, which are handsomely adorned with odoriferous flowers.”

  • L’Enfant, Pierre-Charles, 1791, describing Washington, D.C. (quoted in Caemmerer 1950: 136, 151) [7]
“[11 March, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson] . . . The remainder part of that ground towards Georgetown is more broken. It may afford pleasant seats, but, although the bank of the river between the two creeks can command as grand a prospect as any of the other spots, it seems to be less commendable for the establishment of a city, not only because the level surface it presents is but small, but because the hights from beyond Georgetown absolutely command the whole. . . .
“[22 June, in a report to George Washington] . . . I next made the distribution regular with streets at right angle north-south and east west but afterwards I opened others on various directions as avenues to and from every principal places, wishing by this not merely to contrast with the general regularity nor to afford a greater variety of pleasant seats and prospect as will be obtained from the advantageous ground over the which the avenues are mostly directed but principally to connect each part of the city with more efficacy.”

  • Wansey, Henry, 1794, describing Worcester, Mass. ([1794] 1970: 64) [11]
“Most of the houses have a large court before them, full of lilacs and other shrubs, with a seat under them, and a paved walk up the middle.”

  • Blandulus [pseud.], November 1794, describing Pleasant Hill, seat of Joseph Barrell, Charlestown, Mass. (quoted in Hammond 1982: 95) [12]
“Whereonce the breastwork mark’d the scenes of
While Freedom’s sons inclosed the haughty foe,
Rearing its head majestic from afar
The venerable seat of Barrell stands
Like some strong English Castle.”

  • Dwight, Timothy, 1796, describing mill seats in Massachusetts (1821: 2:352)[13]
“Immediately below the bridge [over Miller’s River] is a fall, furnishing excellent mill-seats, which are occupied by several mills. These are uniformly supplied with an abundance of water, and wear the aspect of great activity, and business, particularly in the sawing of timber.”

  • Dwight, Timothy, 1799, describing New York, N.Y. (1822: 3:481–82) [13]
“the heights, and many of the lower grounds, contain a rich display of gentlemen’s country seats, connected with a great variety of handsome appendages.”

  • La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, François-Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de, 1799, describing a house in Charleston, S.C. (1800: 2:437–38) [14]
“Half a mile from Batavia . . . stands Middletonhouse, the property of Mrs. MIDDLETON, mother-in-law to young Mr. Isard, which is esteemed the most beautiful house in this part of the country. The out-buildings, such as kitchen, wash-house, and offices, are very capacious. The ensemble of these buildings calls to recollection the ancient English country-seats.”

  • La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, François-Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de, 1799, describing the Woodlands, seat of William Hamilton, near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Madsen 1988: B3) [15]
“You pass the Schuylkill at Gray’s-Ferry, the road to which runs below Woodlands, the seat of Mr. William Hamilton: it stands high, and is seen upon an eminence from the opposite side of the river.”

  • Ogden, John Cosens, 1800, describing Bethlehem, Pa. (pp. 18, 27) [16]
“Seats are placed for rest, and to enable the visitors to view the river at leisure. . . .
“The island is not large, but affords fine walks and an area for exercise, as well as seats and shelters for visitors.”

  • Clitherall, Eliza Caroline Burgwin (Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin), active 1801, describing the Hermitage, seat of John Burgwin, Wilmington, N.C. (quoted in Flowers 1983: 126) [17]
“These [gardens] were extensive and beautifully laid out. There was [sic] alcoves and summer houses at the termination of each walk, seats under trees in the more shady recesses of the Big Garden, as it was called, in distinction from the flower garden in front of the house.”

  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1804, describing Monticello, plantation of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va. (Massachusetts Historical Society, Jefferson Papers)
“Temples or seats at those spots on the walks most interesting either for prospect or the immediate scenery.”

  • Scott, Joseph, 1806, describing the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania (p. 53) [18]
“The banks of the river are, in many places, adorned with beautiful country seats, belonging to the wealthy citizens of Philadelphia. To these their families usually retire, in the summer months, from the bustle, and noise of the city, and to enjoy the salubrity of the country air.”

  • Martin, William Dickinson, 1809, describing the pleasure grounds at Salem Academy, Salem, N.C. (quoted in Bynum 1979: 29) [19]
“Next, I visited a flower garden belonging to the female department. . . . But it is situated on a hill, the East end of which is high & abrupt; some distance down this, they had dug down right in the earth, & drawing the dirt forward threw it on rock, etc., thereby forming a horizontal plane of about thirty feet in circumference; & on the back, rose a perpendicular terrace of some height, which was entirely covered over with a grass peculiar to that vicinage. At the bottom of this terrace were arranged circular seats, which, from the height of the hill in the rear were protected from the sun in an early hour in the afternoon.”

  • Martin, William Dickinson, 20 May 1809, describing the Woodlands, seat of William Hamilton, near Philadelphia, Pa. (CWF)
“Altho’ much has been done to beautify this delightful seat, much still remains to be done, for the perfecting it in all the capabilities which nature in her boundless profusion has bestowed.”

  • Smith, Margaret Bayard, 1 August 1809, describing Monticello, plantation of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va. (1906: 73) [20]
“Mr. J. explained to me all his plans for improvement, where the roads, the walks, the seats, the little temples were to be placed.”

  • Foster, Sir Augustus John, 1812, describing Monticello, plantation of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va. (1954: 143) [21]
“It is a very delightful ride of twenty-eight miles from Montpellier to the late President Mr. Jefferson’s seat at Monticello.”

  • Lambert, John, 1816, describing Boston, Mass. (2:328) [22]
“From an elevated part of the town the spectator enjoys a succession of the most beautiful views that imagination can conceive. Around him, as far as the eye can reach, are to be seen towns, villages, country seats, rich farms, and pleasure-grounds, seated upon the summits of small hills, hanging on the brows of gentle slopes, or reclining in the laps of spacious valleys, whose shores are watered by a beautiful river, across which are thrown several bridges and causeways.”

  • Randolph, John, 1820s, describing an estate in Roanoke, Va. (quoted in Martin 1991: 223n. 46) [23]
“From my earliest childhood I have delighted in the groves and solitudes of poor old Matoax. I now recall several of my favorite seats where I used to ruminate, ‘chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancies,’ all bitter now.”

  • Peale, Charles Willson, c. 1825, describing Belfield, estate of Charles Willson Peale, Germantown, Pa. (Miller, Hart, and Ward, eds., 2000: 381) [24]
“He wanted a place to keep the garden seeds & Tools, and in a part of the Garden where a seat in the shade was often wanted, he built a shed or small room, and to hide that Salt-like-box, and to try his art of Painting, he made the front like [a] Gate Way with a step to form a seat, and above, steps painted as representing a passage through an Arch beyond which was represented a western sky, and to ornament the upper part over the arch, he painted several figures on boards cut to the outlines of said figures as representing statues in sculpture.”

  • Sheldon, John P., 10 December 1825, describing Fairmount Waterworks, Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Gibson 1988: 5) [25]
“Delightful seats, surrounded by various kinds of trees and shrubbery, with gardens containing summer houses, vistas, embowered walks, &c meet your view in almost every direction, woods sloping gently to the river’s edge, by the side of smooth lawns, add to the pleasing variety of the scene; and the Schuylkill, with its noble dam and bridges serves as a most beautiful finish to the foreground.”

  • Connor, Juliana Margaret, 1827, describing the garden at the pottery (Lot 48) on Main Street, Salem, N.C. (quoted in Bynum 1979: 28) [19]
“Afterwards walked into the garden belonging to the establishment where we saw what I conceived to be a curiosity and in itself extremely beautiful. It was a large summer house formed of eight cedar trees planted in a circle, the tops whilst young were chained together in the center forming a cone. The immense branches were all cut, so that there was not a leaf, the outside is beautifully trimmed perfectly even and very thick within, were seats placed around and doors or openings were cut, through the branches, it had been planted 40 years.”

  • Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, 1828, describing the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane, New York, N.Y. (quoted in Little 1972: 64) [26]
“The Lunatic Asylum is five miles from the city [New York] on a hill, in a very healthy situation, the road leads between country seats and handsome gardens and is one of the most pleasant I have seen in America.”

  • Wailes, Benjamin L. C., 29 December 1829, describing Lemon Hill, estate of Henry Pratt, Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Moore 1954: 359) [27]
“But the most enchanting prospect is towards the grand pleasure grove & green house of a Mr. Prat[t], a gentleman of fortune, and to this we next proceeded by a circutous [sic] rout, passing in view of the fish ponds, bowers, rustic retreats, summer houses, fountains, grotto, &c., &c. The grotto is dug in a bank [and] is of a circular form, the side built up of rock and arched over head, and a number of Shells [?]. A dog of natural size carved out of marble sits just within the entrance, the guardian of the place. A narrow aperture lined with a hedge of arbor vitae leads to it. Next is a round fish pond with a small fountain playing in the pond. An Oval & several oblong fish ponds of larger size follow, & between the two last is an artificial cascade. Several summer houses in rustic style are made by nailing bark on the outside & thaching the roof. There is also a rustic seat built in the branches of a tree, & to which a flight of steps ascend. In one of the summer houses is a Spring with seats arrond it. The houses are all embelished [sic] with marble busts of Venus, Appollo, Diana and a Bacanti. One sits on an Island on the fish pond. All the ponds filled with handsome coloured fish.” [See Fig. 1]

  • Trollope, Frances Milton, 1830, describing Philadelphia, Pa. (1832: 2:48–49; 152) [28]
“Near this enclosure [at the State House] is another of much the same description, called Washington Square. Here there was an excellent crop of clover; but as the trees are numerous, and highly beautiful, and several commodious seats are placed beneath their shade, it is, spite of the long grass, a very agreeable retreat from heat and dust. It was rarely, however, that I saw any of these seats occupied; the Americans have either no leisure, or no inclination for those moments of delassement that all other people, I believe, indulge in. . . . it is nevertheless the nearest approach to a London square that is to be found in Philadelphia. . . . “The Delaware river, above Philadelphia, still flows through a landscape too level for beauty, but it is rendered interesting by a succession of gentlemen’s seats, which, if less elaborately finished in architecture, and garden grounds, than the lovely villas on the Thames, are still beautiful objects to gaze upon as you float rapidly past on the broad silvery stream that washes their lawns.”

  • Downing, A. J., January 1837, “Notices on the State and Progress of Horticulture in the United States,” describing Hyde Park, seat of Dr. David Hosack, on the Hudson, N.Y. (Magazine of Horticulture 3: 5)
“The most distinguished amateur and patron of gardening, in every sense of the word, in this state, was the late Dr. Hosack. Hyde Park, on the Hudson, the seat of this gentleman, has been probably the best specimen of a highly improved residence in the United States.”

  • Ritchie, Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt, 1839, describing Bonaparte’s Park at estate of Joseph Bonaparte (Count de Survilliers), Bordentown, N.J. (quoted in Weber 1854: 186) [29]
“Equally rustic seats are scattered beneath the shade of the tall trees on its banks, and upon its clear surface a flock of snow-white swans were floating about.”

  • Hovey, C. M., September 1840, “Notes on Gardens and Gardening, in New Bedford, Mass,” describing the estate of James Arnold, New Bedford, Mass. (Magazine of Horticulture 6: 364)
“Continuing through the winding walks, shady bowers, and umbrageous retreats, through which rustic seats were placed, we arrived at the shell grotto.”

  • Adams, Rev. Nehemiah, 1842, describing Boston Common, Boston, Mass. ([Adams] 1842: 54) [30]
“One of the next improvements in the Common we suspect will be a suitable supply of proper seats in the mall. As a defence against our American propensity to whittle, the city government caused some of the wooden seats to be sheathed with sheet iron. Vain defence against the knife of an American whittler! . . . The city government thought that they would ‘try what virtue there is in stones.’ Blocks of granite have been deposited there for seats. . . . The stone seats are smooth only on the upper side, and their rough look is not strictly in Boston taste, though it is excusable, considering the penitentiary object which led to their substitution for wooden seats. . . . The idea of sitting on a natural, rough rock, to enjoy the beauties of nature, is poetical and in good keeping, but we have tried in vain to make those stone seats on the mall seem poetical.”

  • Buckingham, James Silk, 1842, describing Red Sulphur Springs, Va. (CWF)
“In the centre of the valley, is a triangular plot of grass, which has been enclosed with wellfinished rails, painted white, and laid out in walks like a lawn, having also several large and fine trees, under which seats are placed for enjoying the shade.”

  • Anonymous, 6 December 1842, “Letter from Ministry at New Lebanon to Ministry at Graveland” (Western Reserve Historical Society Library, Shaker Manuscript Collection)
“And it is my will that your seats be prepared after the following order. Ye may take boards of sufficient width & thickness to form a seat. These may be planed. Place these upon square blocks of sufficient bigness to elevate the seat of a suitable height; and these are sufficient for seats, upon my holy ground. And if ye desire to build a shed, near by the meeting ground under which you can place these seats, at such parts of the year as they are not wanted, ye may freely do it; but if my feast ground is located near your dwellings, you had better carry them there to place under shelter.”

  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, c. 1845, describing the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, Cambridge, Mass. (quoted in Evans 1993: 41) [31]
“Made the flower garden; laying it out in the form of a Lyre. Built also the rustic seat in the Old Apple tree. Set out the roses under the Library windows.”

  • Downing, A. J., 26 July 1847, describing Montgomery Place, country home of Mrs. Edward (Louise) Livingston, Dutchess County, N.Y. (quoted in Haley 1988: 20, 47, 50) [32]
“I forgot to beg you before you leave Montgomery Place to sketch the view from the bold rustic seat with rustic balustrade in front* on the high west river walk. It seems to me one of the very finest things I have seen anywhere.
* that seat about half way between the steps & the south terminus. . . .
“A path on the left of the broad lawn leads one to the fanciful rustic-gabled seat, among a growth of locusts at the bottom of the slope. . . Half-way along this morning ramble, a rustic seat, placed on a bold little plateau, at the base of a large tree, eighty feet above the water, and fenced about with a rustic barrier, invites you to linger and gaze at the fascinating river landscape here presented. . . .
“A little farther on, we reach a flight of rocky steps, leading up to the border of the lawn. At the top of these is a rustic seat with a thatched canopy, curiously built round the trunk of an aged pine. . . .
“This part of the grounds [the lake] is seen to the most advantage, either toward evening, or in moonlight. Then the effect of contrast in light and shadow is most striking, and the seclusion and beauty of the spot are more fully enjoyable than at any hour. Then you will most certainly be tempted to leave the curious rustic seat, with its roof wrapped round with a rude entablature like Pluto’s crown.”

  • Kirkbride, Thomas S., April 1848, describing the pleasure grounds and farm of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, Philadelphia, Pa. (American Journal of Insanity 4: 349)
“The summer-houses, rustic-seats, exercisingswings &c., in this division are all in particularly pleasant positions. The cottage fronts the woods, and in every part this portion of the grounds is completely protected from intrusion and observation.”

  • Loudon, J. C., 1850, describing the public gardens in Philadelphia, Pa. (pp. 332–33)
“856. Public Gardens. . . .
“Promenade at Philadelphia. There is a very pretty enclosure before the walnut tree entrance to the state-house, with good well-kept gravel walks, and many beautiful flowering trees. It is laid down in grass, not in turf; which, indeed, Mrs. Trollope observes, ‘is a luxury she never saw in America. Near this enclosure is another of a similar description, called Washington Square, which has numerous trees, with commodious seats placed beneath their shade.’ (Ibid. [D. M. &c.] vol. ii. p. 48.) . . .
“Waterworks at Fair Mount, near Philadelphia. ‘. . . On the farther side of the river is a gentleman’s seat, the beautiful lawn of which slopes down to the water’s edge; and groups of weeping willows and other trees throw their shadows on the stream.’ (Domestic Manners of the Americans, vol. ii. p. 44.)”


  • [Dézallier d’Argenville, A.-J.], 1712, The Theory and Practice of Gardening ([1712] 1969: 78) [33]
“SEATS, or Benches, besides the Conveniency they constantly afford in great Gardens, where you can scarce ever have too many, there is such need of them in walking, look very well also in a Garden, when set in certain Places they are destin’d to, as in the Niches or Sinkings that face principal Walks and Vistas, and in the Halls and Galleries of Groves.”

  • Ware, Isaac, 1756, A Complete Body of Architecture (pp. 636, 641) [34]
“The first principle is here that there be space to walk, and seats to rest. These must be proportioned also to one another: it would be absurd to terminate a vast walk with a plain bench; nor less ridiculous to erect a pompous temple where there was not the extent of a hundred yards from the building. . . .
“He who would know where to place his pavilion, seat, or temple, in a garden, must first understand what the purpose of it is, and what the true beauty and excellence of the garden itself.”

  • Sheridan, Thomas, 1789, A Complete Dictionary of the English Language (n.p.) [35]
“SEAT, se’t. s. A chair, bench, or any thing on which one may sit; chair of state; tribunal; mansion, abode; situation, site.”

  • Anonymous, 1798, Encyclopaedia (7:561)
“‘V. SEATS have a two-fold use; they are useful as places of rest and conversation, and as guides to the points of view in which the beauties of the surrounding scene are disclosed. Every point of view should be marked with a seat; and speaking generally, no seat ought to appear but in some favourable point of view. This rule may not be invariable, but it ought seldom to be deviated from.
“In the ruder scenes of neglected nature, the simple trunk, rough from the woodman’s hands, and the butts or stools of rooted trees, without any other marks of tools upon them than those of the saw which severed them from their stems, are seats in character; and in romantic or recluse situations, the cave or the grotto are admissible. But wherever human design has been executed upon the natural objects of the place, the seat and every other artificial accompaniment ought to be in unison; and whether the bench or the alcove be chosen, it ought to be formed and finished in such a manner as to unite with the wood, the lawn, and the walk, which lie around it.
“The colour of seats should likewise be suited to situations: where uncultivated nature prevails, the natural brown of the wood itself ought not to be altered; but where the rural art presides, white or stone colour has a much better effect.’ Practical Treatise on Planting and Gardening p. 593 &c.”

  • Repton, Humphry, 1803, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (pp. 69, 153) [36]
“This would be a proper place for a covered seat, with a shed behind it for horses or open carriages; but it should be set so far back as to command the view under the branches of trees, which are very happily situated for the purpose. . .
“Yet the summit of a naked brow, commanding views in every direction, may require a covered seat or pavilion; for such a situation, where an architectural building is proper, a circular temple with a dome, such as the temple of the Sybils, or that of Tivoli, is best calculated.”

  • Abercrombie, John, with James Mean, 1817, Abercrombie’s Practical Gardener (p. 465) [37]
“Fine points of view claim, in the first place, to be distinguished by seats. Seats merely serving as places of rest might announce an intrinsic object by some difference in their construction; and if there be no distant prospect to engage attention, greater elegance in the accompaniments may create a pleasant resting-place. As to the manner of finishing a seat; where the house is in sight, a correct taste will expect the bench or alcove to correspond with the style of the house, so far at least as to be avowedly artificial, neat in the workmanship, and painted. In neglected or wild scenes, withdrawn from the polished lawn, pleasing illusions may be induced by a rough block of timber, the arms of a fantastic root, or forest fagots romantically interwoven, offering a seat under the canopy of a tree, or within a cave or grotto. This is admissible on principle, in proportion as every thing surrounding is in character. Not that it can be denied, that whimsical seats at variance with the situation sometimes afford a degree of amusement, and may do no harm in little gardens, or in a scene too tame to be spoiled: but the effect terminates with the oddity; a place destitute of character can excite no romantic interest.”

  • Loudon, J. C., 1826, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (pp. 355, 357, 809)
“1805. Of convenient decorations the variety is almost endless, from the prospect-tower to the rustic seat; besides aquatic decorations, agreeable to the eye and convenient for the purposes of recreations or culture. Their emplacement, as in the former section, belongs to gardening, and their construction to architecture and engineering. . . .
“1816. Roofed seats, boat-houses, moss houses, flint houses, bark huts, and similar constructions, are different modes of forming resting-places containing seats, and sometimes other furniture or conveniences in or near them. . . .
“1817. Roofed seats of a more polished description are boarded structures generally semi-octagonal, and placed so as to be open to the south. Sometimes they are portable, moving on wheels, so as to be placed in different positions, according to the hour of the day, or season of the year, which, in confined spots, is a desirable circumstance. Sometimes they turn on rollers, or on a central pivot, for the same object, and this is very common in what are called barrel-seats. In general they are opaque, but occasionally their sides are glazed, to admit the sun to the interior in winter.
“1818. Folding chairs. A sort of medium seat, between the roofed and the exposed, is formed by constructing the backs of chairs, benches, or sofas with hinges, so as they may fold down over the seat, and so protect it from rain. . . .
“1819. Elegant structures of the seat kind for summer use, may be constructed of iron rods and wires, and painted canvas; the iron forming the supporting skeleton, and the canvass the protecting tegument. . . .
“1820. Exposed seats include a great variety, rising in gradation from the turf bank to the carved couch. Intermediate forms are stone benches, root stools, sections of trunks of trees, wooden, stone, or cast-iron mushrooms painted or covered with moss, or mat, or heath; the Chinese barrel-seat, the rustic stool, chair, tripod, sofa, the cast-iron couch or sofa, the wheeling-chair, and many subvarieties. . . .
“6157. . . Light bowers formed of lattice-work, and covered with climbers, are in general most suitable to parterres; plain covered seats suit the general walks of the shrubbery.”






  1. Emily Tyson Cooperman, “William Russell Birch (1755–1834) and the Beginnings of the American Picturesque” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1999). See also Emily T. Cooperman, introduction to The Country Seats of the United States of North America, by William Russell Birch (1808; reprint, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2009).
  2. William Bainter O’Neal, Jefferson’s Fine Arts Library: His Selections for the University of Virginia Together with His Own Architectural Books (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 57.
  3. David B. Chase, ‘The Beginnings of the Landscape Tradition in America’, Historic Preservation, 25 (1973), 34–41 view on Zotero
  4. Louis B. Wright and Virginia Freund, eds., The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania (1612) (Nendeln and Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967) view on Zotero
  5. Marion Tinling, ed., The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, Virginia, 1684-1776, 2 vols. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1977)view on Zotero
  6. Gregory A. Stiverson and Patrick H. Butler III, eds., ‘Virginia in 1732: The Travel Journal of William Hugh Grove’, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 85 (1977), 18–44view on Zotero
  7. 7.0 7.1 H. Paul Caemmerer, The Life of Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, Planner of the City Beautiful, The City of Washington (Washington, D.C.: National Republic Publishing Company, 1950). view on Zotero
  8. Thomas Lee Shippen, Westover Described in 1783: A Letter and Drawing Sent by Thomas Lee Shippen, Student of Law in Williamsburg, to His Parents in Philadelphia (Richmond, Va.: William Byrd Press, 1952). view on Zotero
  9. William Parker Cutler, Life, Journals, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL. D (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1987). view on Zotero
  10. Karen Madsen, ‘To Make His Country Smile: William Hamilton’s Woodlands’, Arnoldia, 49 (1989), 14–23 view on Zotero
  11. Henry Wansey, Henry Wansey and His American Journal, ed. by David John Jeremy (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1970)view on Zotero
  12. Charles Arthur Hammond, ‘“Where the Arts and the Virtues Unite”: Country Life Near Boston, 1637-1864’ (unpublished Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1982). view on Zotero
  13. 13.0 13.1 Timothy Dwight, Travels; in New-England and New-York, 4 vols. (New Haven: The Author, 1821-22). view on Zotero
  14. François-Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, Travels through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper Canada, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797, ed. by Brisson Dupont and Charles Ponges, trans. by H. Newman, 2nd edn, 4 vols. (London: R. Philips, 1800). view on Zotero
  15. Karen Madsen, ‘William Hamilton’s Woodlands’, 1988. view on Zotero
  16. John C. Ogden, An Excursion into Bethlehem & Nazareth, in Pennsylvania, in the Year 1799(Philadelphia: Charles Cist, 1800). view on Zotero
  17. John Flowers, ‘People and Plants: North Carolina’s Garden History Revisited’, Eighteenth Century Life, 8 (1983), 117–29. view on Zotero
  18. Scott, Joseph, A Geographical Description of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Printed by R. Cochran, 1806). [1]
  19. 19.0 19.1 Flora Ann L. Bynum, Old Salem Garden Guide (Winston-Salem, N.C.: Old Salem, 1979). view on Zotero
  20. Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society, ed. by Gaillard Hunt (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1906). view on Zotero
  21. Sir Augustus John Foster, Jeffersonian America: Notes on the United States of America Collected in the Years 1805-1806-1807 and 1811-1812, ed. by Richard Beale Davis (San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1954). view on Zotero
  22. John Lambert, Travels through Canada, and the United States of North America in the Years 1806, 1807, and 1808, 2 vols. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1816). view on Zotero
  23. Peter Martin, The Pleasure Gardens of Virginia: From Jamestown to Jefferson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991). [2]
  24. Lillian B. Miller and et al, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family: The Autobiography of Charles Willson Peale. Vol. 5. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983–2000). view on Zotero
  25. Jane Mork Gibson, ‘The Fairmount Waterworks’, Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 84 (1988), 5–40. view on Zotero
  26. Nina Fletcher Little, Early Years of the McLean Hospital, Recorded in the Journal of George William Folsom, Apothecary at the Asylum in Charlestown (Boston: Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 1972). view on Zotero
  27. John Hebron Moore, ‘A View of Philadelphia in 1829: Selections from the Journal of B.L.C. Wailes of Natchez’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 78 (July) (1954), 353–60. view on Zotero
  28. Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans, 3rd edn, 2 vols. (London: Wittaker, Treacher, 1832). view on Zotero
  29. Constance Weber, ‘A Sketch of Joseph Bonaparte’, in Godey’s Lady's Book (Philadelphia: L. A. Godey, 1854). view on Zotero
  30. Nehemiah Adams, Boston Common (Boston: William D. Ticknor and H. B. Williams, 1842). view on Zotero
  31. Catherine Evans, Cultural Landscape Report for Longfellow National Historic Site, History and Existing Conditions (Boston: National Park Service, North Atlantic Region, 1993), view on Zotero
  32. Jacquetta M. Haley, ed., Pleasure Grounds: Andrew Jackson Downing and Montgomery Place (Tarrytown, N.Y.: Sleepy Hollow Press, 1988). view on Zotero
  33. A.-J. (Antoine Joseph) Dézallier d’Argenville, The Theory and Practice of Gardening; Wherein Is Fully Handled All That Relates to Fine Gardens, ... Containing Divers Plans, and General Dispositions of Gardens; ..., trans. by John James (London: Geo. James, 1712). view on Zotero
  34. Isaac Ware, A Complete Body of Architecture (London: T. Osborne and J. Shipton, 1756). view on Zotero
  35. Thomas A. Sheridan, A Complete Dictionary of the English Language, Carefully Revised and Corrected by John Andrews...., 5th edn (Philadelphia: William Young, 1789). view on Zotero
  36. Humphry Repton, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (London: Printed by T. Bensley for J. Taylor, 1803). view on Zotero
  37. John Abercrombie, Abercrombie’s Practical Gardener Or, Improved System of Modern Horticulture (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1817). view on Zotero

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