Van Ness Park

A repeat post of 2013. . .
Van Ness Park, 1880, Washington, D.C.“Two people relaxing in Van Ness Park about 1880,” Washington, D.C.,  via D.C. Public Library Commons on flickr.

This park was not located in the present-day neighborhood known as Van Ness.  The photo was taken in an area southwest of the White House near the corner of C and 18th Sts., N.W. — which was then known informally as “Van Ness Park.”

According to the Library’s notation on the photo, the building that can be seen in the middle of the far right side (above the man’s legs) is a “dependency of Van Ness Mansion.”

Van Ness House (Mansion) and its grounds were located on the block bordered by 17th and 18th Sts. and  C St. and Constitution Ave.  Built about 1816, the Greek Revival house was one of the finest in the city until the Civil War.  But afterwards, it served as a “German beer garden, florist’s nursery, headquarters of the city streetcleaners, and in the end, for the Columbia Athletic Club,” according to the blog Lost Washington.

The college that became George Washington University bought the property in 1903 but later decided that its location was too unhealthy for campus facilities.  At that time, the Potomac River and its marshes came up to B St., now Constitution Ave.

The State Department bought it in 1907, tore down the house, and built the Pan American Union (today OAS) Building.

I think the dependency in the photo is the old stable of the estate, which still exists at C and 18th Sts.  If that’s so, the couple may be lounging in what is now Bolivar Park.

According to the blog DC Ghosts, the stables have a connection to a local ghost story in which six white horses “run wildly around the grounds” and then group together to walk to the P St. Bridge crossing to Georgetown and Oak Hill Cemetery.  The full story is here.

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.

— James Douglas, Down Shoe Lane

The Sunday porch: Richmond, Va.

West Clay Street rowhouses, Richmond, Virginia, ca. 1978, by John G. Zehmer, via VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) Libraries Commons on flickr.

These three late Italianate houses with Eastlake-style ornamental woodwork were built between 1885 and 1890 on the former formal garden of the 1832 Addolph Dill house* —  a corner of which can just be seen on the left side of the picture.

Clay Street is part of the Jackson Ward Historic District. These houses still stand and still have the same beautiful woodwork.  The very little street tree shown above on the right now shades more than all the space shown in the photo.


*Until 2016, it was the Richmond Black History Museum.

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris

A re-post from 2013. . .
Bagatelle/enclos*ure Strolling in Bagatelle Park, Paris, France, ca. 1920, a hand-colored glass lantern slide by an unknown photographer, via Archives of American Gardens, Garden Club of America Collection, Smithsonian Institution (used here by permission).

(Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

The park has been a botanical garden inside the Bois de Boulogne since 1905. Today, it’s best known for its over 9,000 rose bushes. The land was originally laid out in 1777 in a fashionable Anglo-Chinois style as a garden for the Chateau de Bagatelle — built by the Count of Artois in only 64 days as part of a bet with Marie Antoinette.

Another well-dressed lady in the same garden, also ca. 1920, an autochrome by an unknown photographer, via Photographic Heritage on flickr (under CC license).

The Archives of American Gardens (top image) holds over 60,000 photos and records documenting 6,300 historic and contemporary American gardens.  At its core are almost 3,000 hand-colored glass lantern and 35mm slides donated by the Garden Club of America, which is the source of this image.

Lorraine, France

Grave of General Ernest Ancelin, Fort de Douaumont (Lorraine), France, September 20, 1920, by Georges Chevalier, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine.

The General fell during an attack on the fort in October 1916.

The image above is one of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photo (A 23 854) is © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.