Mount Vernon

A repeat “Vintage” from 2012. . .

I love this 1902 photograph of the Upper Garden at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. It’s so high Colonial Revival.

Early American Gardens has a post this week,  “Mount Vernon after George Washington’s death,” with images from the 19th century.  While looking at them I remembered the picture above and the two below.

Above is a hand-colored slide from a 1929 aerial photo, part of the lantern slides collection of Frances Benjamin Johnston.  The Upper Garden is on the right side.

And here is a general view (c.1910 – 1920) of the the Upper Garden by the Detroit Publishing Co.  All three images above via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The 20th century photos are pretty, but they don’t accurately represent the Upper Garden of Washington’s time.  In the late 19th century, restorers thought that the boxwood parterres (many filled with hybrid tea roses) were original to Washington’s time, but research in the 1980s found that they were actually planted in the 1860s or 70s (although they may have been rooted from Washington’s boxwood).

The garden was substantially re-worked in 1985, but such is the romantic power of a boxwood hedge that the mid-19th century bushes were largely “kept in place by their own mythology and the mythology they supported of Washington as American royalty,” according to The History Blog, here.

But by the early 2000s, those boxwoods were dying, so the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which owns the estate, decided to make an extensive (six-year) archaeological dig on the site.  This culminated in a “new” (1780s) design in 2011.  The area now holds large open beds of vegetables and flowers.  They are bordered by low boxwood hedges and centered by a 10′ wide gravel walkway.

You can read about the restoration in this Washington Post article, here.  And I really recommend watching this very interesting 30-minute C-Span video about the research and archaeology that informed it.

(There’s more about the garden in 2017 here.)

The Sunday porch: Edgemont

Edgemont, Covesville, VA, Library of CongressEdgemont (or Cocke Farm), Albemarle County, Virginia, 1935, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Built ca. 1796 for James Powell Cocke, Edgemont is significant as a very early example of a country residence in the combination Palladian and French manner promulgated by Thomas Jefferson. Although the design of the house has been credited to Jefferson for several decades, precise documentation of the authorship remains yet to be established. The character* of the compact and sophisticated dwelling is uniquely Jeffersonian, however, and exhibits the influence he had on the architecture of his region. . . .

from the 1980 nomination to the National Register of Historic Places

At the time of the photo, only two porticoes of the probable original four still existed. The house was restored and renovated in the late 1930s and 1940s. There are more F.B.J. photos here and 1996 photos here.

* “a formality and classical correctness devoid of monumentality. . .”

The Sunday porch: the frame

Oatlands, Leesburg, VA, Library of CongressA view from the summer house at Oatlands, Loudoun County, Virginia, in the 1930s, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Oatlands Plantation was established in 1798 by a member of Virginia’s prominent Carter family. In 1903, it was sold to William and Edith Corcoran Eustis, and  Mrs. Eustis began to revive the old gardens in the Colonial Revival style. Since 1965, the property has been a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is open to the public from April 1 to December 30.