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


[http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/casva/research-projects.html A Project of the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts ]


As an integral element of circulation routes through the designed landscape, walk is one of the most common terms in American garden descriptions. Walks were highly varied in their composition, arrangement, and plantings. While widths varied, a narrow walk limited to foot traffic was often called a path, while a broad, straight walk lined with trees was often called an avenue (see Avenue). Walks were configured in numerous ways and composed of different materials such as brick, shell, gravel, packed dirt, tan (or tan bark), and turf. From most images of walks it is difficult to discern their composition, but contrary to brick paving, which was popular only in colonial revival gardens, textual references appear to indicate that gravel was a surface commonly used. William Forsyth in his 1802 treatise recommended sand or sea-coal ashes on a foundation of brick rubble or gravel for building a walk in a kitchen garden. He noted the ease of maintenance of such surfaces, which were weeded simply by raking. It is interesting to note that despite changing trends in garden styles, treatises remained remarkably consistent in their advice and instruction. Entire passages were frequently borrowed or adapted from earlier publications.

Walks were planted in a variety of ways. They could have borders of low shrubbery or plants, as in a painting by Charles Fraser [Fig. 1], or be lined with pots or statues, as at Vauxhall Garden in New York in 1816. Lombardy poplars and other tall, straight trees accentuated the linearity of axial walks and the formality of urban avenues, including Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. [Fig. 2]. Such spreading shade trees as elm, myrtle, and live oak formed arching canopies over walks, an effect that John James in his 1712 translation of A.-J. Dézallier d’Argenville called “Close” walks. Although this term does not appear to be used in America, the technique, which framed views and invited cooling strolls, was described at sites such as Boston Common.

While their form varied widely, walks served essentially the same functions: to provide passage and to direct movement through the garden; to focus a viewer’s gaze toward an object, building, or prospect; and to structure and divide the garden. In colonial gardens, the walk was often the principal structuring element of the space, dividing a small garden adjacent to a structure into regular geometric shapes, such as the walks depicted in an unidentified late eighteenth-century garden [Fig. 3]. In more naturalistic and picturesque designs that became popular in the nineteenth century, walks created routes by which visitors were led to carefully sited garden structures or to crafted vistas, as described in Thomas Jefferson’s c. 1804 plan for his mountaintop landscape [Fig. 4] or A. J. Downing’s 1849 plan for a country seat. In addition, walks offered a means to organize the visual logic of a site by directing a visitor’s gaze to distant views or focal points within the garden, such as obelisks, pavilions, gates, or seats. Walks could also create the illusion of distance if their designers manipulated their dimensions and layout. This resulted in an impression of greater depth, a particularly useful effect in smaller urban lots. The dimensions of walks were determined by the scale of their settings and their use. Forsyth (1802), for instance, recommended that walks be wide enough to admit a cart in kitchen gardens, and Joseph Breck (1851)cautioned designers to leave enough room for persons to “walk comfortably in a social manner.”

In pictorial representations, walks served many of these same functions. In a perspective view of a building’s front façade, the viewer is often encouraged to focus upon the main entrance located at the terminus of a central walk or avenue [Fig. 5]. In the backgrounds of portraits, particularly those from the second half of the eighteenth century, artists often depicted glimpses through a window of their sitters’ gardens, in which walks were presented in perspective with converging sides to suggest the illusion of depth [Fig. 6]. In aerial views, walks were often the principle means of indicating the location and existence of a garden, since plants, changing topography, and surface treatments were less easily rendered in plan. In other images, the walk invites the viewer to dwell upon a destination, such as a garden seat or viewing point, or to venture further into the unseen garden, as in John Trumbull’s 1792 plan for Yale College. In all of these types of images, tracing the line of the walk conveys a sense of movement through the landscape, much as a visitor might have experienced surprising “discoveries” of views.

In addition to being a common feature in early American gardens, walks were also the setting for much recorded activity. William Byrd II in his diary (1732) frequently mentioned his own perambulations in the garden, either alone or with gentlemen guests after he had entertained them with a meal. Charles Willson Peale described strolling through the gardens of Annapolis, Md., in language that echoes published accounts of British and European tours. [1] Walks were social venues in public landscape designs such as Boston Common, the State House Yard in Philadelphia, a levee in New Orleans, the Battery Park in New York, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia [Fig. 7], and the avenues of Washington, D.C. They were places to see and be seen, and images of them in the second quarter of the nineteenth century portray their rising popularity as promenades for the general populace. Numerous descriptions and treatises of this period also praised the health-giving properties of these walks and the virtues of fresh air and exercise, particularly for the infirm, mentally ill, and urban poor.

-- Elizabeth Kryder-Reid



  • Smith, John, 1629, describing the Charles River in Massachusetts (quoted in Miller and Johnson 1963: 2:399)
“in the maine you may shape your Orchards, Vineyards, Pastures, Gardens, Walkes, Parkes, and Corne fields out of the whole peece as you please into such plots, one adjoyning to another, leaving every of them invironed with two, three, foure, or six, or so many rowes of well growne trees as you will, ready growne to your hands, to defend them from ill weather.”

  • Penn, William, 19 March 1685, in a letter to James Harrison, regarding Pennsbury Manor, country estate of William Penn, near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Thomforde 1986: 59)
“If Ralph this fall, could gett twenty yound populars, about 18 inch round beheaded, to twenty foot, to plant in a walk below ye Steps to ye water It were not emiss. perhaps to 15 foot long for a Round head, may do as well, plant ym in ye 8 mo. [October] is well.”

  • Penn, William, 15 October 1685, describing Pennsbury Manor, country estate of William Penn, near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Thomforde 1986: 54)
“I desire a . . . handsome walk to ye house of Gravel, or paved wth pitt stones—smooth stones.”

  • Jones, Hugh, 1724, describing the Governor’s Palace, Williamsburg, Va. (quoted in Lockwood 1934: 2:48)
“stands the Palace or Governor’s House, a magnificent structure built at the publick Expense, finished and beautified with Gates, fine Gardens, Offices, Walks, a fine Canal, Orchards, and with a great number of the best arms nicely posited by the ingenious Contrivance of the accomplished Colonel Spotswood.”

  • Byrd, William, II, 28 September 1732, describing the estate of Gov. Alexander Spotswood, near Ger-manna, Va. (1970: 357–58, 360)
“After Breakfast the Colo. and I left the Ladys to their Domestick Affairs, and took a turn in the Garden, which has nothing beautiful but 3 Terrace Walks that fall in Slopes one below another. . . .

“The afternoon was devoted to the ladys, who shew’d me one of their most beautiful Walks. They conducted me thro’ a Shady Lane to the Landing, and by the way made me drink some very fine Water that issued from a Marble Fountain, and ran incessantly.”

  • Anonymous, 2 February 1734, describing property for sale in Charleston, S.C. (South Carolina Gazette)
“To Be Let or Sold. . . . On the island is a New Dwelling House &c. built on a high Bluff, which commands an entire prospect of the Harbour, from the Barr to the Town. A delightful Wilderness with shady Walks and Arbours, cool in the hottest Seasons. A piece of Garden-ground, where all the best kinds of Fruits and Kitchen Greens are produced, and planted with Orange-, Apple-, Peach-, Nectarine-, and Plumb-trees, capable of being made a very good Vineyard.”

  • Pinckney, Eliza Lucas, c. May 1743, describing Crowfield, plantation of William Middleton, vicinity of Charleston, S.C. (1972: 61).
“From the back door is a spacious walk a thousand foot long; each side of which nearest the house is a grass plat ennamiled in a Serpenting manner with flowers.”

  • Moore, Francis, 1744, describing the Trustees’ Garden, Savannah, Ga. (quoted in Marye and Marye 1933: 15)
“The Garden is laid out with Cross-walks planted with Orange-trees, but the last Winter a good deal of Snow having fallen, had killed those upon the Top of the Hill down to their Roots, but they being cut down, sprouted again, as I saw when I returned to Savannah.”

  • Stiles, Ezra, 30 September 1754, describing Springettsbury, near Philadelphia, Pa. (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16: 375)
“passing a a long spacious walk, set on each side with trees, on the summit of a gradual ascent, we saw the proprietor’s house, & walkt in the gardens, where besides the beautiful walk, ornamented with evergreens, we saw fruit trees . . . [with] oranges, limes, lemons, citrons. . . . Spruce hedges cut into beautiful figures, &c., all forming the most agreeable variety, & even regular confusion & disorder.”

  • Callender, Hannah, 1762, describing Belmont Mansion, estate of Judge William Peters, near Philadelphia, Pa. (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 12: 455)
“A broad walk of English Cherry trees leads down to the river. The doors of the house opening opposite admit a prospect of the length of the garden over a broad gravel walk to a large handsome summer house on a green.”

  • Grant, Anne, 1769, describing Oswego, N.Y. (1809: 236)
“A summer house in a tree, a fish-pond, and a gravel-walk, were finished before the end of May.”

  • Eddis, William, 1 October 1769, describing the Governor’s House, Annapolis, Md. (1792: 117)
“The garden is not extensive, but it is disposed to the utmost advantage; the centre walk is terminated by a small green mount, close to which the Severn approaches; this elevation commands an extensive view of the bay, and the adjacent country.”

  • Fithian, Philip Vickers, 18 March 1774, describing Nomini Hall, Westmoreland County, Va. (1943: 109)
“The Area of the Triangle made by the Wash-House, Stable, & School-House is perfectly levil, & designed for a bowling-Green, laid out in rectangular Walks which are paved with Brick, & covered over with burnt Oyster-Shells.”

  • Adams, John, 23 February 1777, describing Mount Clare, plantation of Charles and Margaret Tilghman Carroll, Baltimore, Md. (quoted in Sarudy 1989: 139)
“There is a most beautiful walk from the house down to the water; there is a descent not far from the house; you have a fine garden then you descend a few steps and have another fine garden; you go down a few more and have another.”

  • Hazard, Ebenezer, 31 May 1777, describing the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va. (quoted in Shelley 1954: 405)
“At this Front of the College is a large Court Yard, ornamented with Gravel Walks, Trees cut into different Forms, & Grass.”

  • Rush, Dr. Benjamin, 15 July 1782, describing the country seat of John Dickinsen, near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Caemmerer 1950: 87)
“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.”

  • Washington, George, 28 February 1785, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County, Va. (quoted in Johnson 1953: 99–100)
“My Gardens have gravel walks (as you possibly may recollect) in the usual Style, but if a better composition has been discovered for these, I should gladly adopt it. the matter however which I wish principally to be informed in, is, whether your walks are designed for Carriages, and if so, how they are prepared, to resist the impression of the Wheels. I am making a serpentine road to my door, and have doubts . . . whether any thing short of solid pavement will answer.”

  • Washington, George, 1785, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County, Va. (Jackson and Twohig, eds., 1978: 4:96, 97)
“[28 February] Planted all the Mulberry trees, Maple trees, & Black gums in my Serpentine walks and the Poplars on the right walk—the Sap of which and the Mulberry appeared to be moving. Also planted 4 trees from H. Hole the name unknown but of a brittle wood which has the smell of Mulberry. . . .

“[2 March] . . . Planted the remainder of the Ash Trees—in the Serpentine walks—the remainder of the fringe trees in the Shrubberies—all the black haws—all the large berried thorns with a small berried one in the middle of each clump—6 small berried thorns with a large one in the middle of each clump—all the swamp red berry bushes & one clump of locust trees.”

  • Cutler, Rev. Manasseh, 2 July 1787, describing Middletown, Conn. (1987: 215–16)
“At the northern end of the city is a walk of two rows of buttonwood trees, from the front gate of a gentleman’s house down to a summer-house on the bank of the river, by far the most beautiful I ever saw. He permits the people of the city to improve it as a mall.”

  • Cutler, Rev. Manasseh, 13 July 1787, describing the State House Yard, Philadelphia, Pa. (1987: 1:263).
“The numerous walks are well graveled and rolled hard; they are all in a serpentine direction, which heightens the beauty, and affords constant variety. That painful sameness, commonly to be met with in garden-alleys, and others works of this kind, is happily avoided here, for there are no two parts of the Mall that are alike. Hogarth’s ‘Line of Beauty’ is here completely verified. The public are indebted to the fertile fancy and taste of Mr. Sam’l Vaughan, Esq., for the elegance of this plan. It was laid out and executed under his direction about three years ago.”

  • Enys, Lt. John, 2 December 1787, describing the mall in Boston, Mass. (Cometti, ed., 1976: 202).
“After Dinner we took a walk on the Mall as it is called which is a very excellent: Gravel walk about half a Mile in Lenth with Trees on each side which is kept in very good order and is by far the best thing of the kind I have yet seen in america.”

  • Morse, Jedidiah, 1789, describing the State House Yard, Philadelphia, Pa. (p. 331)
“The state house yard, is a neat, elegant and spacious public walk, ornamented with rows of trees; but a high brick wall, which encloses it, limits the prospect.”

  • Constantia [pseud.], 24 June 1790, describing Gray’s Garden, Philadelphia, Pa. (Massachusetts Magazine 3: 414)
“The serpentine gravel walks, which are irregularly regular, seem to point different ways; they however terminate in one object.”

  • L’Enfant, Pierre-Charles, 22 June 1791, describing Washington, D.C. (quoted in Reps 1967: 17)
“I placed the three grand Departments of State contigous to the principle Palace and on the way leading to the Congressional House the gardens of the one together with the park and other improvement on the dependency are connected with the publique walk and avenue to the Congress house in a manner as most [must] form a whole as grand as it will be agreeable and convenient to the whole city which form [from] The distribution of the local [locale] will have an early access to this place of general resort and all along side of which may be placed play houses, room of assembly, accademies and all such sort of places as may be attractive to the learned and afford diversion to the idle.”

  • Trumbull, John, 1792, describing Yale College, New Haven, Conn. (Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale Picture Collection, 48A-46, box 1, folder 2)
“The Temples of Cloacina (which it is too much the custom of New England to place conspicuously,) I would wish to have concealed as much as possible, by planting a variety of Shrubs, such as Laburnums, Lilacs, Roses, Snowballs, Laurels. &c, &c—a gravel walk should lead thro [sic] the Shrubbery to those buildings. . . .

“The yellow is intended to express the gravel walks—& the green the grass and planting. . . .

“The Eating Hall should likewise be hidden as much as the space will admit with similar shrubs. ...

“The ground in front of the Buildings to be divided by two broad walks leading up to the Chapel and Lecture Rooms, and the sides of the walks to be planted with Elms or other Forest Trees. . . .

“Behind the buildings, the walks may be irregular and winding, beginning behind the two Chapels, and corresponding to the two broad ones in their front.” [Fig. 8]

  • Drayton, John, 1793, describing the Battery Park, New York, N.Y. (quoted in Deák 1988: 1:130)
“After passing these islands [Governor’s, etc.], we came opposite the battery; which is at the extreme point of the town. . . . It has no merlons, or embrasuers; but the guns . . . are placed upon carriages on a stone platform en barbette, some few feet above the level of the water. Between the guns, and the water is a public walk; made by a gentle decline from the platform: and going round the ground upon which the battery is placed. Some little distance behind the guns, two rows of elm trees are planted; which in a short time will afford an agreeable shade.”

  • Latrobe, Benjamin Henry, 19 July 1796, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County, Va. (1977: 165)
“The ground on the West front is laid out in a level lawn bounded on each side with a wide but extremely formal serpentine walk, shaded by weeping Willows.” [Fig. 9]

  • Brooks, Joshua, 1799, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County, Va. (quoted in Riley 1989: 18)
“At the back of the house is a covered staircase to the kitchen or cellar. Here many male and female negroes were at work digging and carrying away the ground to make a level grass plot with a gravel walk around it, at one end of which is an ice house.”

  • Ogden, John Cosens, 1800, describing Bethlehem, Pa. (pp. 14, 18)
“In the rear of this [girl’s school], is another small enclosure, which forms a broad grass walk and is skirted on each side by beds devoted to flowers, which the girls cultivate, as their own. . . .

“Among the varied enjoyments of this settlement [Bethlehem], is a pleasant walk on the banks of the river Lehigh. Nature has furnished a shade, by means of the trees, which grow near the margin. But, this is improved by a row of locust trees between them and the road or walk.”

  • Clitherall, Eliza Caroline Burgwin (Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin), active 1801, describing the Hermitage, seat of John Burgwin, Wilmington, N.C. (quoted in Flowers 1983: 126)
“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.”

  • Pintard, John, 1801, describing New Orleans, La. (Sterling, ed., 1951: 231)
“The only public walk is the leveé, which is externally thronged with all sorts & conditions of people. It is far from an eligible promenade for the ladies—who are obliged to frequent it for exercise—It is about 8 feet wide, the slope towards the river presents all the shipping of the harbour with their usual concomitants of noisey [sic] drunken labourers & sailors.”

  • Anonymous, 1801, describing in the Supplement to the Warner & Hanna Directory Chatsworth’s Gardens, Baltimore, Md. (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
“CHATSWORTH’S GARDENS, Situated in a westerly direction, about half a mile from town, at the intersection of Green and Saratoga streets. The present proprietor, Mr. Mang, has been but a short time there—the arrangement of these Gardens are said to be extremely neat, such as forming pleasant summer house, serpentine walks, shady groves, and every other rural appearance, which may give a pleasing relaxation to the leisure hours of the industrious citizen.”

  • Jefferson, Thomas, July 1806, describing Monticello, plantation of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va. (1944: 323)
“The hill is generally too steep for direct ascent, but we make level walks successively along it’s side, which in it’s upper part encircle the hill & intersect these again by others of easy ascent in various parts.”

  • Drayton, Charles, 2 November 1806, describing the Woodlands, seat of William Hamilton, near Philadelphia, Pa. (Drayton Hall, Charles Drayton Diaries, 1784–1820, typescript)
“The Garden consists of a large verdant lawn surrounded by a belt or walk, & shrubbery for some distance. the outer side of the walk is adorned here & there, by scattered forest trees, thick & thin. It is bounded, partly as is described—partly by the Schylkill [sic] & a creek exhibiting a Mill & where it is scarcely noticed, by a common post and rail. The walk is said to be a mile long—perhaps it is something less. one is led in to the garden from the portico, to the east and left hand. or from the park, by a small gate contiguous to the house. traversing this walk, one sees many beauties of landscape.”

  • Anonymous, 2 January 1808, describing in the Washington Expositor the national Mall, Washington, D.C. (quoted in O’Malley 1989: 99–100)
“At present these large appropriations afford an increase to the pasturage of the city, more beneficial to the poor citizens, than their culture in the ordinary courses. . . . by laying off those in their occupancy so as to afford ample walks open at seasonable hours and under proper regulations to the public, it will give to the city, much earlier than there is otherwise reasonable cause to hope for, agreeable promenades, as conducive to the health of the inhabitants, as to the beauty of the places.”

  • Graydon, Alexander, 1811, describing the garden of Israel Pemberton, Philadelphia, Pa. (pp. 34–35)
“laid out in the old fashioned style of uniformity, with walks and allies nodding to their brothers, and decorated with a number of evergreens, carefully clipped into pyramidal and conical forms.”

  • Gerry, Elbridge, Jr., July 1813, describing the White House, Washington, D.C. (1927: 180)
“Lengthways of the house, and thro’ the hall, is a walk, which extends on a terrace at each end for some way.”

  • Ripley, Samuel, 1815, describing Gore Place, summer home of Christopher and Rebecca Gore, Waltham, Mass. (pp. 272–73)
“The house is a spacious and noble building. . . . It is situated in the centre of pleasant grounds, tastefully laid out, surrounded by a walk of a mile in circuit, intersected by several other walks, on all of which are growing trees and shrubbery of various kinds.”

  • Lambert, John, 1816, describing Vauxhall Garden, New York, N.Y. (2:61)
“The Vauxhall garden is situated in the Bowery Road about two miles from the City Hall. It is a neat plantation, with gravel walks adorned with shrubs, trees, busts, and statues.”

  • Lambert, John, 1816, describing Savannah, Ga. (2:265–66)
“This range of buildings extends nearly three quarters of a mile along the town; and opposite to it is a beautiful walk or mall, planted with a double row of trees, the same as those at Charleston— (Melia Azedarach, or Pride of India). . . .

“About the centre of the walk, and just on the verge of the cliff, stands the Exchange, a large brick building, which contains some public offices; and an assembly-room, where a concert and ball are held once a fortnight during the winter.”

  • Peale, Charles Willson, 14 August 1816, in a letter to his son, Rembrandt Peale, describing his painting of Belfield, estate of Charles Willson Peale, Germantown, Pa. (Miller, Hart, and Ward, eds., 1991: 3:435)
“I have been so long neglecting the view I am about in the Garden that the Tree’s & Shrubery have grown so high that I cannot represent them truely without almost hiding the walks, therefore I shall prefer leaving out many of them—and also make others smaller.”

  • Latrobe, Benjamin Henry, 20 February 1819, describing the Montgomery House, New Orleans, La. (1951: 43–45)
“Close to the river, & separated only by the levee & road, is the old fashioned, but otherwise handsome, garden & house of Mr. Montgomery. The garden, which I think covers not less than 4 acres, is laid out in square walks & flower beds in the old French style. It is entirely enclosed by a thick hedge of orange trees, which have been suffered to run up to 15 or 16 feet high on the flanks & rear, but which are shorn down to the highth [sic] of 4 or 5 feet along the road. The Walks are bordered by very large myrtles cut into the shape of large hay cocks, about 8 feet high & as much in diameter. There are so many of them, and they are so exactly equal in size & form that the effect is curious if not elegant.”

  • Forman, Martha Ogle, 13 June 1820, describing Rose Hill, home of Martha Ogle Forman, Baltimore County, Md. (1976: 104)
“My husband had secretly, cut a long and beautiful shady walk, by our spring along the margin of Forman’s Creek to the Irishmen’s dam. It was a most agreeable surprise and highly pleased all our company. The Ivy was in bloom on each side, the walk, which with the Hemlock Spruce gave it a very pretty effect.”

  • Bryant, William Cullen, 25 August 1821, describing the Vale, estate of Theodore Lyman, Waltham, Ma. (1975: 108–9)
“He took me to the seat of Mr. Lyman. . . . It is a perfect paradise. . . . A hard rolled walk, by the side of a brick wall . . . led us to a grove of young forest trees on the top of [an] eminence.”

  • Columbian Institute, 1823, describing the Columbian Institute, Washington, D.C. (quoted in O’Malley 1989: 127)
“Four walks have been laid out, one on Pennsylvania Avenue, one on Maryland Avenue, one opposite the circular road around the west side of the Capitol, and one in the center of the ground leading to the pond. The three walks on the sides of the garden are 20 feet wide, with borders of 26 feet, in which to plant trees and shrubs; the center walk or road is 15 feet wide; the whole is well graveled.”

  • Kremer, Eliza Vierling, 1824–29, describing the pleasure grounds at Salem Academy, Salem, N.C. (quoted in Bynum 1979: 29)
“A large garden, some little distance from the Academy, was during the Summer Season, a place for recreation after school hours. . . .

“The hill-side was laid off in terraces and winding walks.”

  • Bacon, Edmund, c. 1825, describing Monticello, plantation of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va. (quoted in Adams 1976: 329)
“The grounds, around the house were most beautifully ornamented with flowers and shrubbery. There were walks, and borders, and flowers, that I have never seen or heard of anywhere else. Some of them were in bloom from early in the spring until late in the winter. A good many of them were foreign. Back of the house was a beautiful lawn of two or three acres, where his grandchildren used to play a great deal.”

  • Hunt, Henry, William Elliot, and William Thornton, 1826, describing a proposed memorial in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Congress, 19th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, doc. 123, book 138)
“Cool and shady walks will be formed in the neighborhood of the Capitol; the science of Botany encouraged; and a delightful scene from the Capitol created to please the eye of the stranger and citizen.”

  • Committee of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1830, describing a country residence near Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in Boyd 1929: 439)
“The refreshing shade of the numerous walks, all swept as clean as a parlour floor, add to the charms of this place. Many of these walks are tastefully ornamented with Orange, Lemon, Shad-dock, Neriums, and other exotics; among which we observed a Myrtle 10 years old, and raised from seed.”

  • Trollope, Frances Milton, 1830, describing Hudson Square, New York, N.Y. (1832: 2:160)
“it will give some idea of the care bestowed on its decoration, to know that the gravel for the walks was conveyed by barges from Boston, not as ballast, but as freight.”

  • Trollope, Frances Milton, 1830, describing Hoboken, N.J. (1832: 2:167)
“A gentleman who possessed a handsome mansion and grounds there, also possessed the right of ferry, and to render this productive, he has restricted his pleasure grounds to a few beautiful acres, laying out the remainder simply and tastefully as a public walk. It is hardly possible to imagine one of greater attraction; a broad belt of light underwood and flowering shrubs, studded at intervals with lofty forest trees, runs for two miles along a cliff which overhangs the matchless Hudson.”

  • Thacher, James, 3 December 1830, describing Hyde Park, seat of Dr. David Hosack, on the Hudson River, N.Y. (New England Farmer 9: 156)
“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.”

  • Ingraham, Joseph Holt, 1835, describing New Orleans, La. (1:88)
“On a firm, smooth, gravelled walk elevated about four feet, by a gradual ascent from the street—one side open to the river, and the other lined with the ‘Pride of China,’ or India tree, we pursued our way to Chartres-street, the ‘Broadway’ of New-Orleans.”

  • Anonymous, 6 December 1835, “Leaves from My Note Book” (Horticultural Register 2: 32–33)
“There is one thing about the improvements in New York I very much like, and which, as you are a man of influence, I hope you will endeavor to impress on the Bostonians;—the disposition to ornament the streets with rows of trees, thus giving to them an air of freshness and beauty very much wanting in our large cities and in country towns, for nothing adds more to beauty than rows of trees along the public walks, which may be placed there for a trifling expense.

“The Battery, St. John’s Park, Washington Square, and many other public walks exhibit the taste of the New Yorkers in this respect, and their practice of making every open and beautiful piece of ground an object of ornament to the city, and a pleasant resort for the inhabitants, is worthy of observation.”

  • Alcott, William A., 1838, “Embellishment and Improvement of Towns and Villages” (American Annals of Education 8: 337–38)
“Of our larger cities, even Philadelphia and Boston, we do not hesitate to say that almost every thing, in their structure and condition, is at war with the highest physical and moral well being of their inhabitants. We do not indeed forget their beautiful commons and squares and public walks; but it is impossible for us to believe that a few of these will ever atone for that neglect whose effects stare us in the face, not merely in passing through dirty and filthy avenues, but in traversing almost every street, and in turning almost every corner. A single common, beautiful though it may be, as any spot on the earth’s surface, and refreshed though it were by the balmy breezes which ‘blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;’ or a few public squares, remembrances though they be of him whose praises will never cease to be celebrated while the ‘city of brotherly love’ shall remain, will yet never purify the crowded, unventilated cellars and shops—and dwellings, too—of a hundred or a thousand thickly congregated streets. . . .”

  • Adams, Rev. Nehemiah, 1838, describing Portland, Maine ([Adams] 1838: 31)
“An equally striking indication of the spirit of improvement peculiar to these times is the public walk recently laid out in Portland. This walk, consisting of a carriage and foot way, shaded with trees, is nearly two miles in length, extending in an oval form around a hill, on which is the telegraph observatory, and commanding a view of the adjacent scenery, which may be classed among the best in the country.”

  • Hovey, C. M., November 1839, “Notices of Gardens and Horticulture, in Salem, Mass,” describing Elfin Glen, residence of P. Dodge, Salem, Mass. (Magazine of Horticulture 5: 404)
“The cottage stands near the road, and is entered from the west front; on the south end is a piazza; the drawing-room opens into this, and thence into the garden to an open space, answering somewhat the purpose of a terrace, neatly gravelled; a walk from thence conducts directly, in a straight line, nearly to the edge of the river, where it terminates in a rustic arch and vase on the lawn; on each side of the walk there is turf, with circles of flowers at the distance of ten or twelve feet; these are each backed by a line of buckthorn hedges, with a view to screen both the fruit garden on the east, and the vegetable garden on the west, from sight.”

  • Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 1840, describing Saratoga, N.Y. (quoted in Deák 1988: 1:424)
“When the gentleman has swallowed his muriate and four carbonates in proper quantity, a smooth serpentine walk leads to the summit of a prettily wooded hill, where he may either grind himself round a circular rail-road in a self-moving chair, or ramble off to the shade, for a little meditation.”

  • Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 1840, describing the Fairmount Waterworks, Philadelphia, Pa. ([1840] 1971: 313)
“Steps and terraces conduct to the reservoirs, and thence the view over the ornamented grounds of the country seats opposite, and of a very picturesque and uneven country beyond, is exceedingly attractive. Below, the court of the principal building is laid out with gravel walks, and ornamented with fountains and flowering trees; and within the edifice there is a public drawing-room, of neat design and furniture; while in another wing are elegant refreshment-rooms—and, in short, all the appliances and means of a place of public amusement.”

  • Buckingham, James Silk, 1841, describing New York, N.Y. (1:38–39)
“Of the public places for air and exercise with which the Continental cities of Europe are so abundantly and agreeably furnished, and which London, Bath, and some other of the larger cities of England contain, there is a marked deficiency in New-York. Except the Battery, which is agreeable only in summer—the Bowling Green is a confined space of 200 feet long by 150 broad; the Park, which is a comparatively small spot of land (about ten acres only) in the heart of the city, and quite a public thoroughfare; Hudson Square, the prettiest of the whole, but small, being only about four acres; and the open space within Washington Square, about nine acres, which is not yet furnished with gravel-walks or shady trees—there is no large place in the nature of a park, or public garden, or public walk, where persons of all classes may take air and exercise. This is a defect which, it is hoped, will ere long be remedied, as there is no country, perhaps, in which it would be more advantageous to the health and pleasure of the community than this to encourage, by every possible means, the use of air and exercise to a much greater extent than either is at present enjoyed.”

  • Buckingham, J. S., 1841, describing Rochester, N.Y. (2:215)
“A large piece of ground immediately overlooking the principal Falls of the Genesee, and called the Falls Promenade, is about to be laid out as a public walk and garden, and will be a fine ornament to the town.”

  • Hovey, C. M., September 1841, describing the residence of R. F. Carman, Fort Washington, N.Y. (Magazine of Horticulture 7: 326)
“The flower garden is laid out in angular shaped beds of small size, occupying a square of about one hundred feet, with the walks edged with box. The only fault we have to find with the plan is the narrowness of the walks, not being above two feet wide, and, consequently, not allowing two to walk abreast. The same error we saw committed at other places. It should be laid down as a rule, never to make the walks less than three feet wide, and if three and a half, it will be better.”

  • Dickens, Charles, 1842, describing the White House, Washington, D.C. (pp. 153–54)
“The President’s mansion is more like an English club-house, both within and without, than any other kind of establishment with which I can compare it. The ornamental ground about it has been laid out in garden walks; they are pretty, and agreeable to the eye; though they have that uncomfortable air of having been made yesterday, which is far from favourable to the display of such beauties.”

  • Kirkbride, Thomas S., 1844, describing the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, Philadelphia, Pa. (1851: 24)
“the brick walks, for use when the ground is soft or covered with snow, have been extended; other walks have been laid out through the different groves, and covered with tan, and their extension, now in progress, will give us more than a mile in the men’s division, and nearly as much in that appropriated to the females. These walks have been so located as to embrace our finest and most diversified views, to wind through the woods and clumps of trees which are scattered through the enclosure; and among them, it is hoped, will soon be seen summer-houses, rustic seats, and other objects of interest, to tempt the patients voluntarily to prolong their walks, and to spend a greater portion of their time out of the wards, and engaged in some agreeable occupation.”

  • Downing, A. J., May 1847, describing Wodenethe, residence of Henry Winthrop Sargent, Dutchess County, N.Y. (Horticulturist 1: 504)
“Our FRONTISPIECE gives a glimpse of this Vinery, at the termination of the main walk of the fruit-garden. This walk is 428 feet long, and is bordered with an espalier rail, upon which many of the choicest peaches, grapes, plums, etc., are trained—not from necessity or for greater protection, as in gardens farther north, for all those fruits ripen perfectly on common standards here, but to give an illustration of this more perfect kind of culture, and to obtain fruit of a larger size and higher color than standards usually produce.” [Fig. 10]

  • Lyell, Sir Charles, 1849, describing Natchez, Miss. (2:153)
“Many of the country-houses in the neighborhood are elegant, and some of the gardens belonging to them laid out in the English, others in the French style. In the latter are seen terraces, with statues and cut evergreens, straight walks with borders of flowers, terminated by views into the wild forest, the charms of both being heightened by contrast. Some of the hedges are made of that beautiful North American plant, the Gardenia, miscalled in England the Cape jessamine, others of the Cherokee rose, with its bright and shining leaves.”

  • Londoniensis [pseud.], October 1850, “Notes and Recollections of a Visit to the Nurseries of Messrs. Hovey & Co., Cambridge” (Magazine of Horticulture 16: 445)
“In the first place, the nursery is laid out in angular divisions, diverging from a common centre. These divisions are separated from each other by wide walks and avenues, on each side of which is a border some eight or nine feet wide. These borders are planted with specimen trees, inside of which are the quarters for the nursery stock.”

  • Dufield, Elizabeth Lewis, 14 May 1851, describing Hermitage, estate of Andrew Jackson, Nashville, Tenn. (Ladies Hermitage Association Research #977)
“The house is situated some distance back from the road, as you approach in front, you pass through a fine iron gateway and walk strait until about halfway to the house. The walk then branches off and forms a circular in front of the residence. There are also small circulars on each side. All of these are laid out in flower and cedars and the balance of the yard in front is filed up with cedars and forest trees.”

  • Committee on the Capitol Square, Richmond City Council, 24 July 1851, describing John Notman’s plans for the Capitol Square, Richmond, Va. (quoted in Greiff 1979: 162)
“walks will be made in every direction and as some compensation for filling up the beautiful vale south of the Monument a capacious fountain will be placed in the centre of the walk leading into Bank street, from which fountain a jet d’eau will rise, fully thirty feet in height.”


  • Parkinson, John, 1629, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris ([1629] 1975: 5, 537)
“To forme it [the garden] therfore with walks, crosse the middle both waies, and round about it also with hedges, with squares, knots and trayles, or any other worke within the foure square parts, is according as every mans conceit alloweth of it, and they will be at the charge: For there may be therein walkes eyther open or close, eyther pub-like or private. . . . for the fairer and larger your allies and walkes be, the more grace your Garden shall have, the lesse harme the herbes and flowers shall receive, by passing by them that grow next unto the allies sides, and the better shall your Weeders cleanse both the beds and the allies. . . .

“Having an Orchard containing one acre of ground, two, three, or more, or lesse, walled about, you may so order it, by leaving a broad and large walke betweene the wall and it . . . and by compassing your Orchard on the inside with a hedge (wherein may bee planted all sorts of low shrubs or bushes).”

  • [Dézallier d’Argenville, A.-J.], 1712, The Theory and Practice of Gardening ([1712] 1969: 40–41)
“WALKS in Gardens, like Streets in a Town, serve to communicate between Place and Place, and are as so many Guidances and Means to conduct us throughout a Garden. . . .

“Among the several Sorts of Walks, I shall take Notice of the Close and the Open, the Single and the Double.

“The Close are those formed by Trees or Palisades, which joining together at Top, shut out even the Sight of the Sky, and by their Obscurity give a Coolness not penetrable by the greatest Heat of the Sun.

“These Walks are very delightful in hot Weather, when you may walk under the Shade of them in the very middle of the Day. . . .

“’Tis a general Rule to keep open the principal Walks, such as those that face a Building, Pavilion, Cascade, or the like; and these likewise should be kept wider than the others, that from the End of the Walk you may see Part of the Front of a House, or some other handsome Object. . . .

“SINGLE Walks are those that consist but of two Rows of Trees or Palisades, to distinguish them from double Walks that have four, which form three Alleys close together, a large one in the Middle, and two on the Sides that accompany it, and are called Counter-walks....

“As to the Names and different Figures of Walks, they may all be included in these that follow: The Parallel-walk, the Strait-walk, the Crosswalk, the Winding or Circular-walk, the Walk returned square, and the Diagonal or Thwart-walk, in respect of that at Right Angles.”

  • Switzer, Stephen, 1718, Ichnographia Rustica ([1718] 1982: 3:46)
“And why, is not a level easy Walk of Gravel or Sand shaded over with Trees, and running thro’ a Corn Field or Pasture Ground, as pleasing as the largest Walk in the most magnificent Garden one can think of?”

  • Gibbs, James, 1728, A Book of Architecture (p. xviii)
“The Plan, Upright and Section of a Building of the Dorick Order in form of a Temple, made for a Person of Quality, and propos’d to have been placed in the Center of four Walks; so that a Portico might front each Walk. Here is a large Octagonal Room of 22 feet and 26 feet high, adorn’d with Niches and crown’d with a Cupola. All the Ornaments of the Inside are to be of Plaister; and the Outside of Stone.”

  • Langley, Batty, 1728, New Principles of Gardening ([1728] 1982: 195–201)
“General DIRECTIONS, &c....

“VIII. That shady Walks be planted from the End-Views of a House, and terminate in those open Groves that enclose the Sides of the plain Parterre, that thereby you may enter into immediate Shade, as soon as out of the House, without being heated by the Scorching Rays of the Sun. . ..

“IX. That all the Trees of your shady Walks and Groves be planted with Sweet-Brier, White Jessemine, and Honey-Suckles, environ’d at Bottom with a small Circle of Dwarf-Stock, Candy-Turf, and Pinks. ...

“XIV. That the Walks leading up the Slope of a Mount, have their Breadth contracted at the Top, full on half Part; and if that contracted Part be enclosed on the Sides with a Hedge whose Leaves are of a light Green, ’twill seemingly add a great Addition to the Length of the Walk, when view’d from the other End.

“XV. That all Walks whose Lengths are short, and lead away from any Point of View, be made narrower at their further Ends than at the hither Part; for by Inclination of their Sides, they appear to be of a much greater Length than they really are; and the further End of every long Walk, Avenue, &c. appears to be much narrower than that End where you stand.

“And the Reason is, that notwithstanding the Sides of such Walks are parallel to each other, yet as the Breadth of the further End is seen under a lesser Angle, than the Breadth of that Part where you stand, it will therefore appear as if contracted, altho’ the Sides are actually parallel; for equal Objects always appear under equal Angles, Q. E. D.

“XVI. That the Walks of a Wilderness be never narrower than ten Feet, or wider than twenty five Feet.

“XVII. That the Walks of a Wilderness be so plac’d, as to respect the best Views of the Country.

“XVIII. That the Intersections of Walks be adorn’d with Statues, large open Plains, Groves, Cones of Fruit, of Ever-Greens, of Flowering Shrubs, of Forest Trees, Basons, Fountains, Sun-Dials, and Obelisks. . . .

L“XXI. Such Walks as must terminate within the Garden, are best finish’d with Mounts, Aviaries, Grotto’s, Cascades, Rocks, Ruins, Niches, or Amphitheatres of Ever-Greens, variously mix’d, with circular Hedges ascending behind one another, which renders a very graceful Appearance. . . .

“XXIV. Canals, Fish-Ponds, &c. are most beautiful when environ’d with a Walk of stately Pines, and terminate at each End with a fine Grove of Forest-Trees, or Ever-Greens. . ..

“XXVI. All Grass-Walks should be laid with the same Curvature as Gravel-Walks, and particularly in wet and cold Lands; for, by their being made flat or level from Side to Side, they soon settle into Holes in the Middle, by often walking on, and therein retain Wet, &c. which a circular surfaced Walk resists. The Proportion for the Heights of the Crown, or middle Part of any Grass or Gravel-Walk, is as five is to one, that is, if the Walk be five Foot in Breadth, the Height of the Middle, above the Level of the Sides, must be one Inch; if ten Foot, two Inches; fifteen Foot, three Inches, &c....

“XXIX. Little Walks by purling Streams in Meadows, and through Corn-fields, Thickets, &c. are delightful Entertainments.

“XXX. Open Lawns should be always in Proportion to the Grandeur of the Building; and the Breadth of Avenues to the Fronts of Edifices, and their own Length also.

“The entire Breadth of every Avenue should be divided into five equal Parts: Of which, the Middle, or grand Walk, must be three Fifths; and the Side, or Counter-Walks on each Side one Fifth each. But let the Length of Avenues fall as it will, you must always observe, that the grand Walk be never narrower than the Front of the Building.”

  • Chambers, Ephraim, 1741–43, Cyclopaedia (1:n.p.)
“AVENUE. . . .

All avenues, Mortimer says, should lead to the front of an house, garden-gate, highway-gate, or wood, and terminate in a prospect.—In an avenue to an house, whatever the length of the walk is, it ought to be as wide as the whole breadth of the front; and if wider, better. . . .

“AVENUE, in gardening, is a walk, planted on each side with trees, and leading to some place. See GROVE, GLADE. . . .

“GRASS plots, and walks, make a considerable article in gardening, &c. See WALK, &c.

“Grass, or green-plots are had either by sowing of hayseed, or laying of turf: for the first, which is the cheapest way, the seed of the finest upland pastures is to be chose, well sifted and cleansed.

“For the second, the turf should be cut on a down, or green, or common, or sheep-walk, where the grass is short and fine; if there be any knobs, or roughnesses, the place must be cleansed and rolled after a shower, before it be cut up. The turf is cut in squares, marked out with lines, raised with a knife, and rolled up; about three inches thick. The quarters, or verges are to be prepared with a fine coat of poor earth to lay the turf on; and after laying, the turf must be well watered, rolled, &c....

“GRAVEL walk, in gardening.—To lay, or form a walk with gravel, all the good soil is to be pared away, below the roots of any grass, or weeds; then the place to be filled two or three inches with coarse gravel unsearsed, laying it highest in the middle; then rolling it. ...

“Note, the sides next the beds should be laid a foot and an half, or two foot with turf, from whence the heat of the sun cannot be reflected as from gravel, to the prejudice of the neighbouring flowers.”

  • Miller, Philip, 1754, The Gardeners Dictionary ([1754] 1969: 1503–4)
“Gravel-walks are very necessary near the House; because, being soon dry after Rain, they are proper for walking on, in all Seasons. But then these should be but few, and those ought to be large and magnificient, proportionable to the Grandeur of the House and Garden. The principal of these Walks should be elevated parallel with the House, so as to form a Terrace: this should extend itself each way, in proportion to the Width of the Garden; so that from this there may be a Communication with the Sand-walks, without going on the Grass; or there should be Side-Walks of Gravel to lead to them, that there may be a dry Walk continued quite through the Gardens. But there is not a more ridiculous Sight, than that of a straight Gravel-walk, leading to the Front of the House, intersecting the Grass, so as to make it appear like the stiff formal Grass plots frequently made in little Court-yards by Persons of low Taste.

“Grass-walks in a Garden are both ornamental and delightful in Summer-time and dry Weather.”

  • Miller, Philip, 1759, The Gardeners Dictionary (1759: n.p.)
“The next thing to be observed is to continue a dry walk, which should lead quite round the whole garden, for as Gardens are designed to promote the exercise of walking, the greater the extent of this dry walk, the better it will answer the Intent . . . and such walks, if laid either with Gravel or Sand, may lead through different Plantations, gently winding about in an easy natural way, which will be more agreeable than those long strait walks, which are too frequently seen in gardens.”

  • Mawe, Thomas, and John Abercrombie, 1778, The Universal Gardener and Botanist (n.p.)
“Sometimes grass-walks are used, but these are rather improper for general use in Kitchen-gardens, especially in such parts of the garden where wheel-barrows are obliged to come often, which would cut and greatly deface them; besides, they are apt to be wet and disagreeable in all wet weather, and in winter; ...

“But when necessary to have the whole space of the Kitchen-garden employed for real use . . . and have a walk round the garden, not more than a yard wide; allowing the same width for the middle-walks, or so as to admit of wheel-barrows passing to bring in the manure, &c. and may either have a four feet wide border all round each quarter, next the walks, or not, as you shall think proper; laying the walks neatly with any gravelly materials, or with coal-ashes, so as to have dry walking, and wheeling with a barrow in all weathers.”

  • Sheridan, Thomas, 1789, A Complete Dictionary of the English Language (n.p.)
“WALK, wa’k. s. . . . a length of space, or circuit through which one walks; an avenue set with trees; way, road, range, place of wandering.”

  • Marshall, Charles, 1799, An Introduction to the Knowledge and Practice of Gardening (1:33, 55, 124–26)
“The walks come next under construction [i.e. after walls], and they are to be begun from the best wall; the border of which being regularly levelled and settled, the walk is to be governed by it. . . .

“The number and breadth of the walks must in a measure be determined by the quantity of allotted ground. . . . But better be few and wide, than many and contracted. If the garden is small, one good walk all round is sufficient; and if long and narrow, the cross walks should not be many: six, or eight feet, is not too wide in a moderate sized garden. . . .

“Grass plats and walks should be mowed, as often as there is the least hold for the scythe, for they lose much of their beauty, when the grass gets any thing long; leaves should not be suffered to remain on them as it stains the grass. . . .

“About the house some shady walks ought always to be provided, by thick planting, if not of trees, yet of flowering shrubs, and evergreens, of

which the laurel will be found most useful. . . .

“The walks should always be wide, some (in general) serpentine, and contrived as much as possible upon a level, as walking up and down hills can hardly be called pleasure. That they may be extensive, they should skirt the grounds and seldom go across them. In small pleasure grounds the edges of the walks should be regularly planted with flowers, and long ones occasionally so, or with the most dwarf shrubs; and neat sheltered compartments of flowers, (every now and then to be met with) have a pretty effect. If the walks are extended to distant plantations of forest trees, every opportunity should be taken, to introduce something of the herbaceous flowery kind, which will prove the more pleasing, as found in unexpected situations: The outer walk of pleasure grounds and plantations, should every now and then break into open views of the country, and to parts of the internal space, made pleasing, if not striking, by some ornaments of art and nature.”

  • Forsyth, William, 1802, A Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees (p. 148)
“In laying out the quarters, you must be guided in a great measure by the form and size of the garden; but do not lay them out too small, as in that case a great part of the ground will be taken up with walks....

“The middle walks should be about seven feet, which is wide enough to admit a cart; and the others about three or four feet broad; with a border on each side, five or six feet wide, at least, between the walk and the fruit-trees. Walks in kitchen gardens are generally gravelled, and but seldom laid with turf, as the frequent wheeling and treading soon destroys the grass and renders them very unsightly: But a binding sand makes good walks and they are easily kept; for when moss or weeds begin to grow, they may be cleaned with a horse-hoe . . . by which they will be made always to look neat and clean. I, however, give the preference to sea-coal ashes, which in my opinion make the best walks for a kitchen garden, and they are easier kept than any other, being firm and dry, and cleaner to walk on than sand, especially after frost.

“The bottoms of the walks should be filled up with brick rubbish, chippings of stones, or gravel and stones; those raked off the quarters will do very well, and by using them you will save carriage.

“If the soil be stiff and wet, or subject to detain the moisture, there must be under ground drains made to carry off the water.”

  • Repton, Humphry, 1803, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (p. 83)
“A gravel walk is an artificial convenience, and that it should be protected, is one of its first requisites: therefore, so long as good taste and good sense shall coincide, the eye will be pleased where the mind is satisfied.”

  • Marshall, William, 1803, On Planting and Rural Ornament (1:260)
“THE WALK, in extensive grounds, is as necessary as the Fence. The beauties of the place are disclosed that they may be seen; and it is the office of the walk to lead the eye from view to view; in order that, while the tone of health is preserved, by the favourite exercise of nature, the mind may be thrown into unison, by the harmony of the surrounding objects.

“THE direction of the walk ought to be guided by the points of view to which it leads, and the nature of the ground it passes over: it ought to be made subservient to the natural impediments— the Ground, Wood, and Water—which fall in its way, without appearing to have any direction of its own. It can seldom, with propriety, run any distance, in a straight line; a thing which rarely occurs in a natural walk.”

  • Gardiner, John, and David Hepburn, 1804, The American Gardener (p. 123)
“This [March] is a good time to make grass walks. First level and roll the ground—then cut sods of equal size and thickness from a pasture, lay them neatly, and roll them well, or sow grass seed very thick, rake it in and roll the ground soon as it is dry.”

  • M’Mahon, Bernard, 1806, The American Gardener’s Calendar (pp. 59–60, 63)
“As to the distribution of gravel-walks ...first a magnificent one, from fifteen to twenty or thirty feet wide, should range immediately close and parallel to the front of the house, and be conducted directly across the lawn into the nearest side shrubberies; from this main walk, other smaller ones, from five to ten or fifteen feet wide, according to the extent of the ground, should branch off at proper intervals, directed in the serpentine way . . . some leading through the outer boundary plantations, as already hinted . . . others into the internal divisions, and others carried along the boundary plantation of the main lawn; all of which walks being conducted through the different parts, in order to afford the convenience of shade and retirement occasionally, as well as to enjoy the variety of the trees, shrubs, and flowers, variously presenting themselves at different turnings. . . .

“Sometimes, similar to the ancient designs, a spacious gravel walk is extended in a perpendicular line immediately from the front of the house, dividing the lawn, or extended on both boundaries and in other directions, with a wide border on each side, either straight or sometimes a little serpentined, and planted with the most curious low flowering shrubs, ever-greens, and herbaceous flowering plants.

“All these gravel-walks should be laid with the best gravel, six or eight inches deep, at least; but if more the better. ...

“As to avenues and walks of trees, they may be formed either entirely of deciduous trees, or of ever-greens; but the deciduous kinds are in most estimation for this purpose: however, avenues and grass walks, planted with fine ever-green trees, make a beautiful appearance, and will always command admiration. In both sorts, the trees are most commonly disposed in rows, one on each side of the avenue, though sometimes grand walks of trees, may be both in single straight lines, and in double rows, to exhibit the greater variety; planting the trees generally, both in avenues and walks, at proper distances, to have full scope to branch out regularly around and display their beautiful heads and foliage.”

  • Mease, James, c. 1813 (quoted in Gardiner and Hepburn 1818: 149–52)
“Walks are either of grass or gravel. The former are best made in March, the latter in April; and the sooner in March the grass ones are commenced the better...

“Grass walks are troublesome and attended with a constant demand for labour in cutting every new growth of the herbage; besides, in rainy weather, and early in the morning before the dew of the night has been drawn off by the sun, they are damp and productive of colds: yet, where gravel is difficult to be had, they will often be resorted to, and therefore it may be of use to say a few words here upon the manner of making them. . . .

“Gravel walks however should be preferred, and if possible accomplished. . . . The course of the walks being marked out by stumps and lines, the earth should be dug out of them to the depth of eight inches, and thrown into the middle of the plats to give them a convexity, which is agreeable to the eye. That done, rake the bottom of the walk quite level, and lay on the gravel so that the walks shall be at their edges three inches lower than the surface of the plats on either side, as when otherwise they have a mean and flat appearance.

“If edgings are to be made to separate the earth from the gravel, especially if of stone, or wood, or box, they should be done first, and they will be a good rule to lay the walks by.”

  • Gregory, G., 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (n.p.)
“[Vol. 3] WILDERNESS. . . .

“As to the walks, those that have the appearance of meanders, where the eye cannot discover more than twenty or thirty yards in length, are generally preferable to all others, and these should now and then lead into an open circular piece of grass; in the centre of which may be placed either an obelisk, statue, or fountain; and, if in the middle of the wilderness there is contrived a large opening, in the centre of which may be erected a dome or banqueting house, surrounded with a green plot of grass, it will be of a considerable addition to the beauty of the whole. From the sides of the walks and openings, the trees should rise gradually one above another to the middle of the quarters, where should always be planted the largest-growing trees, so that the heads of all the trees may appear to view, while their stems will be hid from the sight. . ..

“But beside the grand walks and openings, there should be some smaller walks through the



  1. Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, “The Archaeology of Vision in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Gardens,” Journal of Garden History 14, no. 1 (spring 1994): 42–54. view on Zotero.

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Walk&oldid=12745"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Walk," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Walk&oldid=12745 (accessed December 11, 2023).

A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

National Gallery of Art, Washington