The Landscape Guide

American Parks and Public Gardens

1492. It is easy to foresee that America will one day be possessed of public gardens far superior to any now existing in Europe. Our grounds for this prediction are, that in America there are no other means by which the grandeur and magnificence of gardening can be displayed; that the Americans delight in doing everything on the grandest scale; and that nature has bountifully supplied every description of material. Taste and wealth, which are rapidly accumulating, are all that are wanting to realize this view. In the mean time, all the old towns have public walks or garden and, in the new parts of the country, all nature, as Mrs. Trollope has remarked, is so beautiful, that there is no need of them.

1493. New York Public Gardens. At New York "the principal promenade is the battery; and a more beautiful one no city can boast. It commands a fine view of the magnificent bay, and forms a termination to the splendid street called the Broadway, which runs through the whole city, and is ornamented by several handsome buildings, some of which are surrounded by grass and trees. The park in which stands the noble city hall, is a very fine area." Ibid vol. ii. p. 158.) St. John's Park is of considerable extent, and has lately been thrown open to the inhabitants: it is tastefully and very judiciously planted, with the ornamental trees and shrubs indigenous to the country. (Gardener's Magazine, vol. iii. p. 347.) There are a few trees in different parts of the city, observes Mrs. Trollope, and many young ones have been planted, and guarded with much care: were they more abundant, it would be extremely agreeable, for the reflected light of the fierce American summer "sheds in tolerable day." The enclosure in the center of Hudson's Square (New York) is beautiful. It is excellently well planted with a great variety of trees, and only wants our frequent and careful mowing to make it equal to any square in London. The iron railing which surrounds this enclosure is as high, and as handsome, as that of the Tuilleries; and 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. (Domestic Manners of the Americans, &c. vol. ii. p. 160.)

1494. Hoboken, on the North River, about three miles from New York, is a public walk of great beauty and 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; sometimes it feathers the rocks down to its very margin and at others leaves a pebbly shore just rude enough to break the gentle waves and make a music which mimics softly the loud chorus of the ocean. Through this beautiful little wood, a broad well-graveled terrace is led by every point which can exhibit the scenery to advantage; narrower and wilder paths diverge at intervals, some into the deeper shadow of the woods, and some shelving gradually to the pretty coves below. At Hoboken there are various repositories or smoking-houses some not unpleasing to the eye: one, in particulars has quite the air of a Grecian temple; and, did they drink wine instead of whisky within it, might be inscribed to Bacchus. (Domestic Manners of the Americans.) vol. ii. p. 170.)

1495. Public Promenade in Philadelphia There is a very pretty enclosure before the walnut tree entrance to the statehouse, with good well kept gravel walks, and many beautiful flowering trees. It is laid down in grassy not in turf; which, indeed, Mrs. Trollope observes, "is a luxury she never saw in America. Near this enclosure is another of a similar description, Washington Square, which has numerous trees, with commodious seas placed beneath their shade." (Ibid., vol. ii. p. 48.) These and all the public squares of Philadelphia were laid out and planted, in consequence of a petition drawn up by Dr. Mease, and signed, on his personal application by such a number of citizens, as produced the effect intended. (Gardener's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 387.)

1496. Fair Mount Park. Waterworks at Fair Mount, near Philadelphia " Fair Mount is one of the prettiest spots the eye can look upon. A broad wear is thrown across the river kill, which produces the sound and look of a cascade. On the farther side of the river is a gentleman's seat, the beautiful lawn of which slopes down to the water's edge; and groups of weeping willows and other trees throw their shadows on the stream. The works themselves are enclosed in a simple but very handsome building of freestone, which ha an extended front opening upon a terrace which overhangs the river: behind the building, and divided from it only by a lawn, rises a lofty wall of solid limestone rock, which has at one or two points been cut into, for the passage of the water into a magnificent reservoir, ample and elevated enough to send it through the whole city. From the crevices of this rock the catalpa was every where pushing forth, covered with its beautiful blossoms. Beneath one of these trees, an artificial opening in the rock gives passage to a stream of water, clear and bright as crystal which is received in a stone basin of simple workman ship, having a cup for the service of the thirsty traveler. At another point a portion of the water, in its upward way to the reservoir, is permitted to spring forth in a perpetual jet d'eau that returns in a silver shower upon the head of a marble naiad of snowy whiteness, admirably relieved by its dark rocky background and the flowery catalpas which shadow it." (Domestic Manners of the Americans, vol. ii. p. 44.)

1497. Washington Public Gardens. In the city of Washington there are several squares newly planted and some of the streets are bordered by rows of trees. The avenue of Pennsylvania, when the trees are a few years older, will be the finest street in the world; it leads to the capitol, a Grecian building, on the capitals of the columns of which the Indian corn takes the place of the acanthus.

1498. At Baltimore, the public walk is along a fine terrace belonging to a fort nobly situated on the Patapsco, and commanding the approach from Chesapeake flay, and a magnificent view of the city and river. The terrace is ornamented with a profusion of evergreens and wild roses. (Ibid., vol. ii. p. 303.)

1499. At Cincinnati there is a public garden where the people go to eat ices and look at roses. For the preservation of the flowers, there is placed at the end of one of the walks a kind of sign-post representing a Swiss peasant girl holding in her band a scroll, equesting that the roses might not be gathered. (Ibid.)

1500. At Boston there are extensive public pleasure grounds called the Common, consisting of seventy-five acres, in the very heart of the city. This piece of ground is well laid out, and contains many fine trees. The statehouse, and the handsome houses of the city, surround it on three sides.