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.
GOOD degree of attention has been given to the architecture of suburban and country houses, within the last ten or twelve years. The late Mr. Downing was the first to make any real impression on the public mind, concerning it With his graceful and powerful pen he appealed to the good sense, the domestic feelings, and national pride of his countrymen. He directed their attention, in the most persuasive manner, to the superior comfort of good, well-planned houses, and to the influence of the beautiful on the minds and morals of the people. In the preface to his Country Houses, he says:
THE PEACH PLUM .
VILLA FOR A ROCKY HILL S1TE. A J. DAVIS, ARCHITECT. - No. 2.
Engraved on Wood by J. W. Orr, of New York. expressly tor the Horticulturist.
"There are three excellent reasons why my countrymen should have good houses.
"The first, is because a good House (and by this I mean a fitting, tasteful, and significant dwelling) is a powerful means of civilization. A nation, whose rural population is content to live in mean huts and miserable hovels, is certain to be behind its neighbors in education, the arts, and all that makes up the external signs of progress. With the perception of proportion, symmetry, order and beauty, awakens the desire for possession, and with them comes that refinement of manners which distinguishes a civilized from a coarse and brutal people. So long as men are forced to dwell in log huts and follow a hunter's life, we must not be surprised at lynch law and the use of the bowie knife. But, when smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country, we know that order and culture are established. And, as the first incentive towards this change is awakened in the minds of most men by the perception of beauty and superiority in external objects, it must follow that the interest manifested in the Rural Architecture of a country like this, has much to do with the progress of its civilization.
"The second reason is, because the individual home has a great social value for a people. Whatever new systems may be needed for the regeneration of an old and enfeebled nation, we are persuaded that, in America, not only is the distinct family the best social form, but those elementary forces which gave rise to the highest genius and the finest character may, for the most part, be traced back to the farm-house and the rural cottage. It is the solitude and freedom of the family home in the country which constantly preserves the purity of the nation, and invigorates its intellectual powers. The battle of life, carried on in cities, gives a sharper edge to the weapon of character, but its temper is, for the most part, fixed amid those communings with nature and the family, where individuality takes its most natural and strongest development.
"The third reason is, because there is a moral influence in a country home - when, among an educated, truthful, and refined people, it is an echo of their character - which is more powerful than any mere oral teachings of virtue and morality. That family whose religion lies away from its threshold, will show but slender results from the best teachings, compared with another where the family hearth is made a central point of the Beautiful and the Good. And much of that feverish unrest and want of balance between the desire and the fulfilment of life, is calmed and adjusted by the pursuit of tastes which result in making a little world of the family home, where truthfulness, beauty and order have the largest dominion.
"The mere sentiment of home, with its thousand associations, has, like a strong anchor, saved many a man from shipwreck in the storms of life. How much the moral influence of that sentiment may he increased, by making the home all that it should be, and how much an attachment is strengthened by every external sign of beauty that awakens love in the young, are so well understood, that they need no demonstration here. All to which the heart can attach itself in youth, and the memory linger fondly over in riper years, contributes largely to our stock of happiness, and to the elevation of the moral character. For this reason, the condition of the family home, in this country where every man may have a home, should be raised, till it shall symbolize the best character and pursuits, and the dearest affections and enjoyments of social life".
Quickly after the appearance of Mr. Downing's works, the architecture of the country, and especially in the suburbs of cities and villages, assumed an entirely new aspect Taste was aroused, but not cultivated; and thousands of variously fashioned cottages and villas started up as if by magic, - some tasteful and beautiful, many ugly, and not a few ridiculous; but all, even the wont, an improvement on the meagre, monotonous structures of the olden time. Travelers noted the change, and spoke of it with agreeable surprise. Mr. Downing himself was encouraged with the evidences of his influence, and plied his pen industriously; so that in a few years his works formed several volumes. Others entered the same field, and so Wheeler's "Rural Home" and Allen's "Farm House" came to the rescue. These works have all contributed their mite; and to-day we see improvements going forward in all directions. There is no longer an universal apathy on the subject, but nearly every man seems to desire to make his dwellings, and even his out-buildings, not merely comfortable and convenient, but to his mind, at least, in some degree beautiful. This is well. Our writers on this subject have not labored wholly in vain.