This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Our first day's ride left us at night at Poughkeepsie, thoroughly fatigued. We propose to give an account of our second day's run, for that is about the only word that will give a proper idea of the celerity with which we moved. After an early breakfast we called upon Mrs. Thompson, one of our "parishioners." Her place is a little removed from the heart of the city, and is pleasantly located. It is not large, but contains a number of choice things, and is neatly kept, all the operations being directed or performed by Mrs. Thompson herself. She laid out and superintended the formation of the walks, the planting of the trees and shrubs, and, in short, the whole formation of the grounds, and they would do no discredit to a professional gardener. She had the best bed of Verbenas that we have seen during the season; she had also a fine bed of Scarlet Geraniums, propagated by her own hand, and of course every one took root; we should like to see a Scarlet Geranium that would not gladly root when prepared by such delicate hands. We were pleased to see here the new Pinks, the Double Zinnia, and other novelties, presenting, as they did, evidence that the lady was fully up with the progress of the age in such matters.
Women have always been famous for making feather-beds; Mrs. Thompson has demonstrated that she can make, with equal skill, a flower-bed. Women, too (at least some of them,) have been noted for their skill in the use of the broomstick; Mrs. Thompson has made a new and beautiful application of this peculiar weapon; all her flower-beds were marked out with a broomstick! and we are compelled to say, that we have seen others of more pretension not half as well done. We thought our companion looked a little peculiar at this announcement; we shall not be surprised to have from him an article on the "Geometry of the Broomstick." After examining the flowerbeds, the nice little piece of lawn, the fine shrubbery, the Grape-vines, the vegetable garden, etc., and a few moments' rest in the house, we took our departure, very much pleased with what we had seen, and mentally concluding that Mrs. Thompson, as a successful lady-amateur, was a much more useful member of society than a great many others. There is scarcely any thing wanting at her place, except a little grapery, which she expressed a desire to have, and which we trust her husband will soon build for her.
Our next visit was to Mr. Hooker's. This place is shut out from the road in rather an exclusive manner, and the passer-by gets no idea of the beauty within. The place is situated on a hill-side, and presents some very good terracing. The carriage-drive is lined with a neatly-kept Arbor Vitae hedge. There is a pretty little pond, with a big boat in it, which makes the pond look smaller than it really is. There is also a fine course for the children to exercise on horseback, which we consider a valuable feature of the place. There is a good grapery and green-house, fine trees and shrubbery, some nice lawn, rather too much winding walk, and a pretty little jet d'eau. The whole place is well kept, and affords the visitor much gratification.
The sun was now getting up, and the heat, if possible, more intense than on the day preceding. It became necessary, therefore, to map out our work, and nurse our strength as much as possible. We were greatly assisted in this by Mr. Haggerty, on whom we next called. His city place is on the main street, and is the only green spot in it. The nursery is situated some three miles from the city; it is young, but indicates a judicious beginning, and the impression produced is, that Mr. Haggerty is doing a good business, which we are glad to learn is the fact. We next drove to Springside, Mr. Haggerty accompanying us. Springside is the country-seat of M. Vassar. Esq., well-known for his wealth and benevolence. It has never been occupied by him, a circumstance which, on many accounts, is very much to be regretted, the absence of a dwelling with its owner producing sad violence to the associations- naturally looked for in a place like this. At the entrance a grotesque stone statuette meets the eye; we saw many others in the same style around the superintendent's cottage; and they produced a peculiarly unpleasant impression, which we have been unable to get rid of. We could wish them well out of the way, as having no business amid such scenes as these.
We proceeded up the drive to the poultry-yard and deer-park. The birds and animals constitute one of the most interesting features of the place. The poultry-yard and houses are the most extensive and perfect things of the kind that we have seen. We missed Mr. Bement here, but could see a good deal of his handiwork. The pigeons and domestic poultry are in great variety, embracing all the most valuable and beautiful kinds. The deer and their young, some being only three weeks old, had mostly sought shelter from the scorching heat. They were beautiful creatures, but the gazelles were the most beautiful of all. They are small, delicately and gracefully formed, and have eyes of great brilliancy. With curiosity only half satisfied, we passed to the apiary or bee-house, a structure of some size, and well stocked. Leaving this, we passed through the grounds by the gardener's cottage, with those horrid statuettes making faces at us, and continued on through some fine Hemlock hedges and a piece of wood, to the spring which gives name to the place. We noticed in the hedge, that here and there a Hemlock had died out, and been replaced by an Arbor Vitae: this, of course, produced a bad effect; they ought to be removed even now.
In the wood we passed a spot of peculiar wildness, with some fine old moss-covered rocks and stones, which some thoughtless visitor has marred by daubing them with paint. At the spring, which is arched over and well preserved, we quenched our thirst, and hastened along. Soon we came to an open piece of lawn, with a marble fountain, surrounded with vases and flower-beds. The fountain itself is a beautiful work, but the effect would be immensely enhanced if the surroundings were removed. The vases might very well be retained, but the flower-beds, situated as they are, destroy the simple beauty which alone can harmonize with a structure like this. Even beautiful things like flowers have their appropriate place.
But let us hasten on to the graperies and green-house. It was hot enough outside, without going under glass, but we ventured in. The promise was better outside than in. Spider and thrip had mastered the gardener in a moment of neglect, and told their own tale. The seething heat seemed enough to make that tale a short one. It was intolerable, the thermometer being above 170°. We were melting down, and made a rush for the outer air, the perspiration streaming at every pore. It was some time before we could draw a free breath. We would have undertaken to subdue the whole .Southern rebellion in twenty minutes in that house. We thought it might be s good place for Satan to grow grapes in, but not for us. We hastened back through the large vegetable-garden to our carriage, stopping for a moment to take a last look at the gazelles.
Springside is a place of considerable size, with a diversified surface of hill and valley, a good deal of large native wood, some fine introduced trees and shrubs, long drives and walks, and many objects to interest the visitor. It is manifest to every.body that a great deal of money has been expended in beautifying it. We were somewhat disappointed, however, in our visit, not altogether because some portions of the grounds were not treated as we could have wished, but we can not forget the peculiar sensation produced on being told that Mr. Vassar does not live on the place during any portion of the year. It seems such a pity that so much natural beauty should in a manner be lost, because of the absence of the owner. The air of hospitality which is naturally looked for can not, of course, be present under such circumstances. This seems to be the great need of Springside.
Our next point was the graperies of Messrs. Kettell and Haggerty. These occupy, we believe, some seven hundred feet of glass. They were built for work, and not ornament, and are consequently plain. They are mostly forcing-houses. In front of one of them is a long frame, heated with water, in which Strawberries are forced. The kinds of Grapes grown are chiefly Black Hamburgh and Muscat of Alexandria. The enterprise, thus far, we were informed, has been remunerative, though some time was lost at the beginning in consequence of being deceived in the purchase of vines. We were much pleased with the condition of the vines, and have no doubt the houses will pay as long as they are as well kept as they are at present Grape-growing is a success here, and the enterprising proprietors deserve it all, and more. Taking a few pounds of Grapes for a "lunch," we pushed on a couple of miles to the Female College, the beneficent enterprise of Mr. Vassar. Just as we arrived there, a little shower came up, which served for a few moments to cool the heated air. Being introduced to the architect and superintendent, and informing him of our haste, he very kindly put up an umbrella, and showed us what had been done.
He also laid the plans of the building before us, and gave us every needed explanation, of which we took notes. These must form a separate article. Suffice it to say at present, that the building will be vast in all its proportions, with every accessory that can be desired. The grounds are two hundred acres in extent, are finely located, and command an inexhaustible supply of water. All this land, and all the buildings to be put upon it, with their endowments, are the free-will offering of Mr. Vassar to the cause of female education. Wiser than most of his day and generation, he has determined to see, in his own life-time, that his benevolence is not wasted by improvident hands. He is building a monument that the best of men might be proud of. Childless himself, thousands shall yet call him father. We trust he may live to see this work fully completed.
Our allotted time was up, and we hastened to the railroad depot, where we parted with Mr. Haggerty, with warm thanks for his attentions. Our destination was Fishkill, where we soon arrived; but this article is already so long that we must defer our visits here till our next.