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.
* Parts and Pleasure Grounds-by C . H. J. Smith; an American edition, of which has been edited by L. F. Allen. Esq.
"This is a quality more or less desirable in all small residences; and in the vicinity of large cities, it may be regarded as indispensable. Of course it does not consist in the exclusion of light and air; neither does it suppose the shutting-out of fine views, whether at hand or at a distance. It is rather the protection of the family from that exposure to public gaze which would prevent them from using any part of their grounds as freely and comfortably as they would their drawing-room. A certain amount of privacy, at least, is essential to that rural feeling which is a principal charm in retirement from the bustle of city life. Some individuals, indeed, seem to have a particular fancy for displaying their flower-beds and lawns to the eyes of the public; a taste, we humbly think, more suited to hotel establishments, than to the abodes of private families. We would have the greater portion of the villa grounds to be possessed of the characters of complete seclusion. At the same time, the error arising from the excess of this quality - the dull, gloomy insipidity caused by over-planting and an over-affectation of privacy - is to be carefully guarded against.
On level or gently-sloping surfaces, the proper amount of seclusion may generally be obtained by building the boundary walls from eight to ten feet high. On surfaces with a considerable declivity, such walls will be found insufficient; and as no considerable addition can be made to their height, nor indeed, if added, would prove effectual, the object aimed at must be attained by planting trees and shrubs, which will have to grow for several years, before they afford the desired shelter. As the sue of villa residences increases the difficulties in regard to privacy diminish, as there is room for enlarged masses of trees and shrubs, and the whole place naturally assumes the character of a common country residence".
Another English writer,* who is also a thoroughly practical man of great experience, says:
"Few characteristics of a garden contribute more to render it agreeable than snugness and selusion. They serve to make it appear peculiarly one's own, converting it into a kind of sanctum. A place that has neither of these qualities, might almost as well be public property. Those who love their garden, often want to walk, work, ruminate, read, romp, or examine the various changes and developments of Nature, in it; and to do so unobserved. All that attaches us to a garden, and renders it a delightful and cherished object, seems dashed and marred, if it has no privacy. It is a luxury to walk, sit, or recline at ease, on a summer's day, and drink in the sights, and sounds, and perfumes, peculiar to a garden, without fear of interruption; or of dress, or attitude, or occupation being observed and criticised.
"Something more, however, than mere privacy is involved in the idea of snugness. It includes shelter, warmth, shade; agreeable seats for rest, arbors for a rural meal, and velvety slopes of turf, overshadowed or variously chequered by foliage, to recline upon. A room that may fitly be called snug, is small in its dimensions, and rather amply furnished, with its window not open at any point to the public gaze. A garden, likewise, to deserve the same epithet, should have its principal or subordinate parts of rather contracted limits, be furnished somewhat liberally with tall-growing plants and trees, which will produce some degree of shade, and present an air of comparative isolation.
"Where there is sufficient extent, it is probably better to have one or more small nooks, or partially detached gardens of a particular kind, to realise something of both snugness and seclusion, and give the leading and broader portions of the garden a more airy and open character. Still, in any case, unless it be purely for show, a certain amount of privacy ought, assuredly, to be sought after. And the more thoroughly it is gained, the more pleasurable to most persons, and the more accordant with good taste, will be the entire production".
This principle is applicable in all countries, because the purposes of a garden are everywhere the same. We remember having seen a street garden, in the city of Baltimore, which struck us, at the time, as being admirably arranged, to adapt it to the situation and circumstances. In order to break the view from the street to the house, the ground was thrown up into irregular and natural-looking mounds, and these were planted with trees. The entrance walk was carried through the elevations, and gave a fine view of the dwelling from the street, without causing any objectionable degree of exposure. The same amount of seclusion could not have been obtained without either very high walls, or very thick and formal belts of trees and shrubs. Undulation of surface might, in very many cases, aid in relieving the lawns of cottage residences of that monotony and nakedness which a perfectly level, closely-mown surface presents.
There is another point in the arrangement of suburban gardens, that we think seldom receives proper attention, and that is, the concealment of the fences that form the boundaries, and such other neighboring objects, of a disagreeable or unsightly character, as may obtrude themselves on the view, from either the house or garden. It is impossible to select a situation; in any neighborhood, wholly exempt from objectional features; but, in most cases, they may be excluded from sight, by judicious formation of the ground, and distribution of trees. We know a gentleman who is unfortunate enough to have for his next neighbor a low, filthy fellow, whose premises are an almost insufferable nuisance. He would gladly purchase his ground, and pay him twice as much as it is worth; but he will not sell. Now, instead of having merely a low, open board fence, between him and such a neighbor, he should have dense screens of foliage, to shut out completely such a disagreeable boundary. Rapid-growing trees, such as Silver Maples, Pawlonias, European Larch, and Norway Spruce, will make an effective obstruction, in three or four years.
If the grounds be too small to admit trees of such large size, then live hedges, such as Thorn, Osage Orange, Buckthorn; or evergreens, such as Arbor Vitae, Hemlock, Red Cedar, or Spruce, all of which may be allowed to grow up (for a screen), without shearing, except on the sides.
Very well in style, but too much outside wall for the inside room it contains. I fear our house architects are running into the extreme in this particular. Why not have the outer walls of a house, instead of single, inclose double rooms? They would thus get much more space within a given range of wall, and at far less cost, and the rooms would be more compact, warmer, and, I think, in better character. The peculiar Italian style, too, can be quite as well preserved. The flat water-tables at the eaves in this house, are objectionable in point of utility, subjecting the roof water to detention and frost, and, in consequence, to leakage, which will stain and injure the walls. Our modern American architecture is too much assuming the gossamer style. After all, the old-fashioned, nearly square, compact form of our best country houses of fifty years ago, with some modern improvements in outside style, and conveniences within, are nearer the mark than many a fine palace under the reformation in architecture; and so the public will say a dozen years hence.
How queer those women in the foreground of the picture look, with such a mass of distending whalebone under their petticoats! Jeffreys.
The accompanying design is one of twelve houses built on Staten Island about three years ago. It is of brick, with brown stone trimmings, and faced with Philadelphia front brick, and has a slate roof. Having fine views in all directions, it was thought more desirable to have the kitchen, laundry, and servants' rooms in the basement; but should it be preferred to have the kitchen on a level with the ground floor, a wing could be added, as indicated by fig. 99. For reasons of economy, the Mansard roof of the tower was omitted; what the effect of it would be, can be seen by referring to the perspective fig. 95. The ground floor contains a reception-room or library, parlor, dining-room, butler's pantry, and hall closets. In the principal front to the right of the tower, it will be seen that the rectangular form of the lower story was not continued in the second, but given a semi-octagon appearance to the second story front, affording a balcony at one angle and a convenient entrance to an oriel window at the other angle.
This oriel window has proved a desirable feature, especially to the ladies of the house, to read, to write, or sew in, affording a fine view in several directions; it also forms a pleasing feature of the exterior.
The house was built by days' work, but it is estimated to cost $8,000.
Plain and massive, and for a city block or houses closely contiguous, doubtless very good. I confess, however, to a love of open porches, or verandas, rather, as part and parcel of what I consider a suburban residence - that is, a house situated on a goodsized lot or plot of ground in which are growing trees, flowers, fruit, etc. So many days occur when it is pleasant to sit in the open air, and yet be protected by a wall from currents of wind, or the sun; and so heavy are our dews at seasons of the year, rendering it unsafe to sit exposed to the sky, that a porch or portico seems to me to belong to a residence where the object is pure open air, and the association with and study of tree, fruit, and flower, as much or more than a parlor.