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.
Among the improvements carried out, projected, or completed at the country seats "Around New York," as well as elsewhere, we found many gentlemen giving a good account of the Portable Gas Works. Country houses may now be well and economically lighted by this process, and the gas made without risk by the newly simplified apparatus; the gas, throwing out of the question the first cost of a few hundred dollars, is cheaper than that consumed in cities, and more free from injurious qualities; we shall speak of it, however, in another place.
It is some years since we made our first trip up the North River; let us recall the incidents as they are vividly presented to memory.
One of the earliest boats of any note was the Chancellor Livingston, and a very stanch and substantial craft she was. We set out at ten o'clock in the morning for Albany. At one we had a grand lunch, in the style of sea-going ships; at four, dinner for about forty passengers in all. Next morning we stopped a long time at Livingston Manor, to get cream for breakfast, and at two o'clock were safely landed at Albany, having made an extraordinarily quick passage of twenty-eight hours I The fare was eight dollars! "Sleepy Hollow" days those. Let us proceed with times present.
Montgomery Place, the seat of Mrs. Edward Livingston, and occupied by herself and her children, Mr. and Mrs. T. P. Barton, was originally the residence of General Montgomery. It therefore has age and trees consequently of more antiquity than are usually seen. Its speciality now is the Arboretum, the most successful effort yet made among us, and though it has been executed at considerable cost of time, labor, and money, yet we cannot but regret that Mr. Barton has not allowed himself greater space for the future development of his various specimens, which, in process of time, must be seriously injured by their too close proximity. Nevertheless, great credit is due for this first effort.
In the other planting, the trees have become old stagers, and much, that has been done by man represents the plantations of nature, and very beautiful and valuable they are. Combined with these, amid avenues, and shady walks, and a drive of many miles on the property, is an extensive flower-garden, the especial pet of Mrs. Barton, who has here shown effects which have not before been exhibited in this country. Her masses of roses and other flowers are particularly attractive. The arbors, overgrown with Aristolochia sipho, the Dutchman's pipe, exceed anything of the kind we have ever seen. These were designed by Mr. Otton, a wood carver and architectural decorator, of Philadelphia, whose merits are not sufficiently known.
The noble stream and cascades dividing Annandale and Montgomery Place, have already been described as well as words can depict what is indescribable. In short, Montgomery Place is all that a country-seat need, and, in our climate, can be.
Ellerslie, the seat of William Kelly, Esq., we also visited, with much pleasure. This place has passed through several hands, and was last purchased from W. S. Warwick, a Virginia gentleman; he purchased of James Thompson, Esq., who had improved it. It continues to be one of the very best examples of high keeping. As managed by Mr. Kelly, it exhibits a repose that is highly pleasing. The whole 700 acres are almost entirely devoted to the growth of grass for hay. This gave it, at the period of our visit before the first cutting, a uniform appearance, resembling one great park. The hay is pressed on Mr. Kelly's own property, and shipped, for commercial purposes, from Rhinebeck, three miles off, no doubt supplying many a month's feed for horses further south. This is understood to pay an extremely good profit on the large investment, probably at the present price of hay, equal to cotton, when we take into account the amount of. labor expended on each. As a specimen of "gentleman farming," this place should be studied; beyond doubt, the system is highly remunerative.
The surroundings of the mansion are in elegant taste, and from a white temple, on an elevation in the lawn, erected in imitation of the Temple of the Winds, the scene is perfect. A well-known and distinguished author is said to have thrown himself down upon the grass here, exclaiming: "Take from me all my literary reputation, throw my fame and copyrights to the winds, if I can exchange them for this!" Well might such an exclamation be made, for the scene is perfect Surely, few earthly views will ever surpass it.
Ellerslie certainly exceeds all the Hudson River places in the beauty of its glass houses; the conservatories and graperies are remarkably effective, both from their situation and character and the style of the buildings.