Out of Doors

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Information about Out of Doors
Education

Published on October 8, 2009

Author: alanwigton

Source: authorstream.com

Oak Hill Out of Doors:  Oak Hill Out of Doors The project to restore the historic landscape at Oak Hill Cottage Slide2:  Oak Hill Cottage was built in 1847 in the Gothic Revival style during the Romantic Revival period in American architecture. Slide3:  Alexander Jackson Davis 1803 – 1892 Architect. Published Rural Residences, the first pattern book for picturesque residences in the domesticated Gothic Revival taste. A. J. Downing 1815 – 1852 American landscape designer and writer, a prominent advocate of the Gothic Revival style in the United States, and editor of The Horticulturist magazine (1846–52). Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing were two of the proponents of the movement and most responsible for popularizing the Gothic Revival style. Note that Downing was a landscape designer. Slide4:  His books successfully spread the popularity of the architecture of the period, while treating the estate in all its aspects; interior design, landscape, gardens, outbuildings and so forth. His second book, Cottage Residences, collaborated with A. J. Davis in presenting patterns and plans that did much to spread the popularity of the Gothic style. Slide5:  In the books, landscape design plans were included and elaborated upon alongside the architectural plans of cottages and villas. Slide6:  Downing put forth the theory that forms in nature follow one of two characteristics… the beautiful, or the picturesque. Beautiful forms are characterized by curved and flowing lines… Picturesque forms are characterized by irregular and broken lines. He uses the finely formed elm or chestnut as examples of the beautiful in trees, the pine or larch with gnarled roots grasping the rocky crag representing the picturesque. In architecture he makes similar contrasts. Slide7:  Here Downing gives us examples in landscape gardening with the beautiful in the upper picture, and the picturesque in the lower. Note the contrast in the types of building architecture. Downing carefully enumerates the characteristics of the two expressions in creating the appropriate landscape. Note that the type of language in Downing’s first book which is about landscape gardening, carries through in the same fashion in later books whose subjects broaden to include all other aspects of the estate, both inside and outside the house. Downing’s books became the “taste” books of his generation. Slide8:  Downing specifically associates the architectural style of the Gothic mansion with the picturesque landscape style. Slide9:  It’s interesting in relation to Oak Hill, what Downing has to say about the oak tree. He elevates it to the ultimate expression of the elements of the landscape. While beautiful when young, it reaches its greatest dignity and grandeur in old age, with its deeply furrowed trunk covered with moss, its huge branches, and its high top, bald with dry antiquity. Slide10:  The oak that stood beside the cottage till 1897 was an ancient tree. Three people could just barely join hands around its trunk. Slide11:  Even the earliest picture taken of the Cottage shows the oak as an ancient tree with it’s top already broken out. During the restoration of the cottage it was discovered that the foundation next to the tree did not extend to the full depth. The house was obviously built close up beneath this old tree in a very purposeful way. Slide12:  This is an 1870 photo of the oak tree and cottage. Slide13:  This companion print gives us another view of the oak and other evergreens in front of the cottage. Poplars that marked the border of the property are seen in the foreground, and are depicted in other renderings of the property as well. The emphasis on the evergreen forms and the purposeful association with the ancient oak tree leads us to the conclusion that the designer of this landscape was expressing the Picturesque, as properly befitted the Gothic architecture according to Downing. Slide14:  It should not be surprising to us that the person who built such a perfect example of Gothic Architecture, during the height of the popularity of Downing and Davis, would have rendered the landscape surrounding the house in a manner appropriate to the style. Slide15:  A view from c. 1867 confirms the picturesque landscape treatment. Slide16:  c. 1853; a rendering from the earliest photo of the house and grounds which accompanied a wall map of the city. Slide17:  Looking once again at the 1870 photo, we see rows of recently planted evergreens on either side of the entrance drive. Dr. Joahnnes Jones had purchased the property in 1864, and the rows of trees he planted represent a departure from the Picturesque ideal. Slide18:  By the time this photo was taken in 1896 the landscape had changed little. The rows of trees lining the entrance drive, the emphasis on the perfect lawn and the introduction of urns and garden statuary were Victorian embellishments to a matured landscape established in the earlier period. Slide19:  Historical Research Archaeology Tax maps Atlases Soil profiles Photographs Engravings Paintings newspapers Journals Household records Published histories Developing a restored landscape plan for Oak Hill has involved delving into all of the above areas of research. Archaeology was completed in 1982 which mapped the carriage drive and provided insight into walks and paths. Photos, published engravings, tax maps, atlases, and aerial birds-eye maps provided the bulk of material for further research, some of which we have already viewed in earlier slides. And finally, surviving landscape elements were documented in the study completed in 1983. Slide20:  Restoration of the carriage drive has become one of the priorities in reestablishing the historic landscape. The 1853 map depicts the drive circling the house, just as it was mapped archaeologically in 1982. Slide21:  Numerous family photos show the carriage drive around the front of the house, and several photos document the entrance drive and the iron fence and gate that Dr. Jones had installed. Slide22:  The original carriage drive exists beneath the sod almost completely around the house. Restoration will provide a unique insight into the days before the automobile, when backing a horse and carriage was not a pleasantly contemplated task, resulting in the looping or circling drives of the wealthier estates. Slide23:  Statuary and cast iron urns from the Victorian period are appropriate to Oak Hill’s restoration which targets the 1870s decade. All three urns and one of the yard statues still survive. The cast iron lampposts remain also. Slide24:  The yard hydrant by the front walk and the arched rose arbor are seen in many photos, including this from the 1896 atlas. Hydrants were installed on the property in 1877 along with the indoor plumbing and bathrooms according to the plumbing contract. Slide25:  The character of the well-tended lawn, uninterrupted between the carriage drive and porch, illustrates a Victorian landscape feature brought about by the invention and popularization of the lawn mower. Restoration will include removal of modern shrubbery and reestablishing the mix of grass and white clover that would have made up the original turf. Slide26:  Existing plantings were mapped and features revealed by research and archaeology to develop the historic landscape plan that we are working to establish today. Slide27:  Work to restore the carriage drive has already begun this summer (2009). When completed, the drive will be surfaced with local gravel that replicates the original. Slide28:  Existing plantings documented in the 1982 study that had survived from the Victorian era will be reestablished. These include lilac, mock orange, and currant bushes in addition to a maple in the east yard and mulberry tree to the northwest. Slide29:  The balance of the plan includes plantings documented from the photo research and a few appropriate trees and shrubs that fill in where research failed. The front yard, and the east and west yards within the carriage drive circle are fully documented. Slide30:  This model gives some idea of how the landscape will appear when restored. Slide31:  Cast iron urns, a yard hydrant, and the rose arbor spanning the front walk have already been installed. Restoration of the front yard and planting the climbing roses for the arbor are scheduled for next Spring (2010). The Sweet Bay Magnolias in the front yard and shrubs in the path of the carriage drive have already been removed. Slide32:  When completed, a new dimension will have been added to the Oak Hill Cottage experience. With installation of interpretive signage, visitors will have reason to come to Oak Hill any day of the week and learn something about 19th Century landscape architecture or simply enjoy the Victorian outdoor environment. Slide33:  THE END Visit our website at oakhillcottage.org and our facebook page at facebook.com/oakhillcottage where you can become a “fan” and keep up with Oak Hill events and updates.

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