Topiary seat

Interesting garden seat, France, Library of Toulouse:flickr

Deux femmes assises dans un jardin” (two women sitting in a garden), France, between 1859 and 1910, by Eugène Trutatvia Bibliothèque de Toulouse Commons on flickr.

On this clipped green throne, she could take in the sun and still be protected from the chilly winter or early spring breezes.

We can make do with so little, just the hint
of warmth, the slanted light.

Molly Fisk, from “Winter Sun

Life in gardens: blossom time

Under cherry blossoms, H. Hyde, via Library of Congress“Blossom time in Tokyo,” ca. 1914, a woodcut print by Helen Hyde, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Helen Hyde grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and studied at the California School of Design and in Europe. While in Paris, she was influenced by Mary Cassatt’s early works, which made use of  Japanese perspective and pattern and featured the intimate lives of women and children. In 1899, she moved to Tokyo, where she studied woodblock printing techniques. She lived there until 1914.

Life in gardens: Birney, Montana

Montana ranch garden seat, 1941, M. Wolcott, Library of Congress

“Dudes in a covered wagon garden seat,” Quarter Circle U Ranch, Birney, Montana, August 1941, by Marion Post Wolcott for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Montana ranch garden seat 2, 1941, M. Wolcott, Library of Congress

Both photos are via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wolcott had been charged with photographing the recovery of the western cattle industry. The Quarter Circle U ranch in Birney, Montana, like many others in the region, had begun entertaining dudes in the 1920s to augment ranch income, and so she photographed that side of the modern ranch business as well as cattle raising. The ranch scattered its grounds with covered wagon love seats designed for trysting young couples, many of whom purchased western wear as part of their Montana adventure.

— Mary Murphy, from “Romancing the West: Photographs by Marion Post Wolcott”

Vintage landscape: Montross Hotel

This hotel garden had an interesting combination treehouse-garden seat called a shoo fly. The 10′ to 12′ elevated platforms were popular along the Gulf Coast as places to catch the breezes and maybe avoid deer flies.

Montross Hotel, Library of Congress

The photo was taken from “the porch of the Hotel De Montrose [sic], Beloxi, Mississippi,” ca. 1895 – 1910, by the Detroit Publishing Co.* The Hotel de Montross (or Montross Hotel, later the Riviera Hotel) looked out on the waters of the Mississippi Sound.

“Anecdotal history of the early 20th century relates that the Hotel de Montross or Montross Hotel was the oldest hotel extant at Biloxi,” according to Ray Bellande of the Biloxi Historical Society. “It was operational before the first railroad was established between Mobile and New Orleans in 1870. Here on the central Beach of Biloxi and Lameuse Street, . . . the Montross Hotel was the focus of social life and fashion. Its pier was the disembarkation place for the society people arriving at Biloxi to enjoy its fine food, hospitality, and the gaiety of life, joie de vivre, that was offered to all visitors. The Montross Hotel flourished as a fine hostelry and boarding establishment until the late 1920s, when it became overshadowed by Biloxi’s modern beach front hotels. . . .”

I also like the light fixture.
I also like the light fixture.

A Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is located in approximately the same place today.

Beloxi has been a summer vacation resort since the first half of the 1800s.


*via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Vintage landscape: the benches

“Roominghouse district, Washington,” a Kodachrome slide by Charles W. Cushman, mid-September 1940.*

In the two years leading up to the U.S. entering World War II, the population of Washington, D.C., went from 621,000 to over 1,000,000, according to journalist David Brinkley.

Most of the new arrivals were women, many of whom were hired “before they had even found a place to leave their bags.”  Thousands of townhouses were turned into roominghouses and several women shared each room.  (According to one of them, Enid Bubley,  it was “social suicide” to violate the morning schedule of eight minutes each in the bathroom.)

By 1941, Malcolm Cowley described the city this way:  “Washington in wartime is a combination of Moscow (for overcrowding), Paris (for its trees), Wichita (for its way of thinking), Nome (in the gold-rush days) and Hell (for its livability).”

So the two or three benches placed in each little yard above are significant. They were undoubtedly places of real reprieve from the crowded conditions inside the houses and the chaos of the city.

These gardens still have their wrought iron fences.  During the war, the metal was much needed, and many D.C. residents gave up their black railings for wooden pickets.

The photographer, Charles Cushman, was a talented amateur who traveled across the U.S. and other countries and took more than 14,500 Kodachrome slides from 1938 to 1969.  He bequeathed his images to Indiana University, his alma mater.


*Used with the permission of  the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection of the Indiana University Archives.  Please do not “pin” or re-blog without contacting them here.