The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section I. Historical Sketches.

William Hamilton Country Seat at Woodlands, Philadelphia

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The introduction of tasteful gardening in this country is, of course, of a very recent date. But so long ago as from 25 to 50 years, there were several country residences highly remarkable for extent, elegance of arrangement, and the highest order and keeping. Among these, we desire especially to record here the celebrated seats of Chancellor Livingston, Wm. Hamilton, Esq., Theodore Lyman, Esq., and Judge Peters. Woodlands, the seat of the Hamilton family, near Philadelphia, was, so long ago as 1805, highly celebrated for its gardening beauties. The refined taste and the wealth of its accomplished owner, were freely lavished in its improvement and embellishment; and at a time when the introduction of rare exotics was attended with a vast deal of risk and trouble, the extensive green-houses and orangeries of this seat contained all the richest treasures of the exotic flora, and among other excellent gardeners employed, was the distinguished botanist Pursh, whose enthusiastic taste in his favorite science was promoted and aided by Mr. Hamilton. The extensive pleasure grounds were judiciously planted, singly and in groups, with a great variety of the finest species of trees. The attention of the visitor to this place is now arrested by two very large specimens of that curious tree, the Japanese Ginko (Salisburia), 60 or 70 feet high, perhaps the finest in Europe or America, by the noble magnolias, and the rich park-like appearance of some of the plantations of the finest native and foreign oaks. From the recent unhealthiness of this portion of the Schuylkill, Woodlands has fallen into decay, but there can be no question that it was, for a long time, the most tasteful and beautiful residence in America. [William Hamilton's porticoed house still stands, in Philadelphia's Woodlands Cemetery. TT]