Friday, September 25, 2015

35/15 Part 14 - The Palace Gardens

What is 35/15? Read the Introduction first.

(Note: All 1935 photographs are on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library Omeka site. They are viewable by clicking the link provided, scrolling to the bottom of the page, then clicking the image.)

   We have now been invited to the Governor's Home and Gardens. The house is still not ready, but we are allowed to walk about the gardens until the time they are so.

   The Governor's Palace Gardens you see today are an abbreviated version of the 18th century ones. The governor's lands would have gone all the way to the York River. They would not have been all fancy, formal gardens. Some would be farm land, others used for hunting.

   Arthur A. Shurcliff, Colonial Williamsburg's first Landscape Architect, designed ten distinct areas around the gardens. They opened along with the Palace in April 23, 1934 during Garden Week. W.A.R Goodwin claimed the property was the pièce de résistance of the Restoration.

Palace Green



Palace Green, September 2015 [Shadows not lined up,
quick guess it was taken in the morning 8-10am]

   The Palace Green is an unofficial part of the Governor's Palace, focusing the viewer's gaze to where the power and authority of the colony is located. (That is, unless you're on the opposite end. Then your gaze is towards some trees. I digress...)

   This shot is lined up correctly, the Catalpa trees have just grown upwards and outwards. Almost all of these trees are the same trees from 1935.

   As imported by Governor Gooch in 1737 and marked on the Frenchmen's Map of 1782, two rows of Catalpa trees were here in the 18th century. These trees currently here were planted for the Restoration.

Palace Kitchen



Palace Kitchen, August 16, 2015

   Like most kitchens in the 18th century, the Palace Kitchen is a separate building from the main house. It is located on the west service courtyard.

   The kitchen today looks less like a set, and more like an actual working kitchen. That's mostly because it is. Every day it is open, they make and show off the meals the Governor would be eating. 

   The room layout has changed. It looks like visitors in 1935 could walk all around the whole room. Nowadays, they are allowed to stand (or sit on one bench) in one half of the room, while the work happens on the other side. There are more shelves, a longer table, and a new oven on the left side of the main one. The chairs have been removed. Chairs get in the way.

Although it seems to be a common item associated with Williamsburg, there is a scarcity of butter churns in town. The only one I am aware of is at the Coopers, as an example of their craft (they make buckets, barrels, tubs, etc).

Out the Kitchen Window

"Kitchen Garden Seen from Kitchen"

Out the Kitchen window, 1935 [Not on Rockefeller Omeka]


Palace Kitchen Window, August 16, 2015, 3:35pm

   At one time, you could see Scotland Path from here. With more trees of varying sizes, that is no longer possible. Plants for meals are still growing in the kitchen gardens.

   The window in 1935 does not have the vent that is present in 2015. 

Kitchen Garden Gate

"Outbuilding in Kitchen Garden of Palace"

Ladies at Kitchen Gardens, 1935
[Not on Rockefeller Omeka]


Kitchen Terraces, August 16, 2015, 2:41pm

   Here we've gone down the hill from Kitchen Gardens and come across a gate into the formal section of the gardens. Two hostesses/interpreters greet us there. 

   The path is wider, less curving. A tree dominates the sky and sunlight here. The fence boards are not as close together/different, painted a tar color (They are painted white on the other side).

   While both sets of ladies and their gowns are gorgeous, our 18th century styles (and knowledge) have changed. Learn about the changes in Colonial Williamsburg clothing HERE and HERE

Kitchen Garden Fence

"Palace Kitchen and Scullery Seen from Canal"

Kitchen Garden, 1935 [Not on Rockefeller Omeka]


Kitchen Terraces, August 16, 2015, 3:37pm

   Here we are, a few steps away from the previous shot, looking towards the Kitchen and the Scullery. It is a lot less bushy right here, but the tree seems to compensate.

Unobstructed view of the Kitchen and Scullery, 2015

   Oak trees now tower over the Kitchen and Scullery. Shurcliff planted these trees "to give necessary shade without which, during the intense heat of midsummer, the yards would be uncomfortable" (Landscape Architecture). I have worked in that yard in the summer, and those trees make a huge difference compared to the other gate.

The Terraces



Garden Terraces, August 16th, 2015, 2:49pm

   The terraces are an original garden feature that survived from the 18th century till the Restoration. It was preserved under a "jungle" of trees, as Shurcliff described it.

   In 1935, trees were planted on the terraces because "grass could not be made to grow because of the hot sun" (Landscape Architecture). Those trees are now gone, but the ones on the canal have grown to make this section of the walk shaded.

   The benches still line the lowest tier pretty faithfully. In 1935, it looks like there is nothing beyond the top terrace. Now, everything has grown. The path's edges aren't as orderly. The rope fence along the path is to prevent visitors from falling into the canal due to that small section's steepness.

Terrace Steps



Garden Terrace Stairs, August 16th, 2015, 2:55pm

    Here we are at the terrace's tiered steps. Pieces of the original steps were found while excavating, allowing for an accurate reproduction of the tread, rise, and run of the steps.

   The garden surrounding this area was called a "falling garden." Currently, there is some plant growing on the upper level, but grass has taken over the lower levels. The bushes and trees are gone from all levels. What is towering above our interpreter are trees and bushes from the Revolutionary Soldiers' Burial Grounds and the Box Garden.

The Canal



Canal, August 15, 2015, 3:00pm

   Ah, the peaceful canal. This is another original part of the garden. We are on the north side, just west of the bridge, looking southeast. According to 1930's blueprints, there used to be 3 permanent benches in a semi-circle behind where I am standing here. This would have been their view. It's a great vantage point.

   No, the Canal has not been filled in and covered in grass. There is water somewhere still in there.

   In other changes, in 1935 you could see the spire of Bruton Parish Church peeking through the treetops. This is no longer an option. Also in 1935, there was a boat in the canal. Shurcliff constructed a boat landing on the far side of the fish pond. With regards to the modern visitor, I can see how having this display would become a bad idea quickly.

Revolutionary Soldiers' Burying Ground



Burying Ground, August 15, 2015, 3:07pm

   This is where Revolutionary War soldiers' graves were found. They were believed to be from when the Governor's Palace served as a hospital from 1780 until it burned in 1781. Restoration workers were searching for a north-south path indicated by the Frenchmen's Map when they started to uncover shallow graves. They eventually found 156 bodies. By the layout of the bodies, it was inferred a North-South and an East-West path crossed this land.

   With the finished design of the garden, this area was hedged off to leave the ground undisturbed and to honor those buried there. A willow tree was planted in the middle, where the paths had crossed and no bodies were buried.

   Today, the willow tree is gone. New trees have been planted in the hedges, bordering the ground. The hedges themselves are much taller, actually creating a barrier which you cannot see the open field except for a few openings. The Ice Mound is not as visible. You can barely see the brick arched opening leading to the maze.




Palace Gardens, August 15, 2015, 3:09pm

   To orient, we are looking east towards the Ballroom Garden West Gate. To the right is the Box Garden. To the left is the Burial Grounds.

   Well, the bushes have come in nicely here! Trees are now in the hedges instead of crepe myrtles in the midst of the box garden.

   Here's a less obstructed view of the main path:

Less obstructed view of the Palace Garden path, 2015

   The bench is still there, now green!

   The gates heading into the formal garden are actually based off decorative ironwork they found while excavating the grounds.

   Here is the plaque marking the Revolutionary Soldiers' Burying Ground.

Burying Ground Plaque, 2015

   In 1935, there seems to be color on the plaque. This is now gone.

Palace Formal Garden



   Finally, we are in the formal Ballroom Gardens. Here we find the marriage of the human touch and the natural world.

   This shot is no longer possible. The window this was shot from is in a 3rd floor room used for radio technology, so only authorized personnel are allowed. I hope you will accept these substitutions of the area.

   Most of the garden here has retained its structure. This part of the garden is based off what can be seen in the Bodleian Plate, so it is 100% accurate as to what was here in the 18th century!

   The bushes in the corners of the diamonds' plots all gone. From what I can tell, they existed at least till the 1990's. Why are some taller than the others? They mark the corners of the greater square made by the four smaller ones. The decorative lead urns in the middle of the "greater squares" are now gone. They moved some time before 1947.

   The diamond hedges are wider. They have more style, with raised corners and angled sides. Nothing grows in the middle of them.

Under an Arbor



West Wall of Ballroom Gardens, August 16, 2015, 6:39pm

   Here we are, under a now arbor-less plant arch. The arbor used to support the plant. Now the plant supports itself in the same shape.

   Remember the lead urns? The four urns replaced the lead vases that used to be at these stairs and on the other side arbor stairs. In 1935, there were 12 lead vases in the garden. Now, there are 10 along the main path from the back of the palace to the North Lawn. I don't know why the change occurred. It looks like the move was either to free up path space, or some of the vases were damaged so the urns were moved to replace them.

   The hedge in front of the hostess of 1935 is now gone. A weird tree-bush grows in the hedged garden behind the interpreter in 2015. 

Other changes:
  • The path is as wide as the whole stair now. 
  • Ropes are up to tell you where to walk.
  • The giant tree in the background in 1935 was an Elm tree planted long before the Restoration, but was incorporated into the final design of the gardens. It is no longer here. 
  • A chimney now comes out of the Ballroom. It goes to a warming machine added to the Palace during its 1981 reinterpretation.

Under the East Arbor



East Wall, September 14, 2015
[Did not try to line shadows up]

   Now at the other arched plant path. Here you can easier see that there is no arbor supporting the plant anymore. 

   It is no longer possible to see the side of the East Advance Building, but now we get peeks of the back of the Palace and the side of the ballroom addition.

   A new tree happily grows into the path.

Ballroom Garden



Behind the Ballroom, August 16, 2015, 6:46pm

   "Twelve large redcedars [sic] flank the Ballroom and extend north into the North Garden. Their position and their number were determined by the wall spaces between the windows of the ballroom and by the corresponding positions of the northernly diamond hedge patterns derived from the Bodleian engraving. These trees correspond in position to the clipped trees often set out in English Gardens dating from the eighteenth century to flank important approaches; it is said they symbolize the Twelve Apostles, but the number twelve here was determined independently of this characteristic English symbolism."
- Shurcliff, "The Gardens of the Governor's Palace," Landscape Architecture, January 1937 

   Regardless of whether or not they were intended to be known as such, the twelve hedges are known as The Apostles today. 

   Let's digest this shot. The Apostles have become wide and short. They now almost touch the diamond hedges. In 1935, a path ran between the Apostles and the diamonds. Now, that path no longer exists. I had thought the hostess on the right was next to the Apostle behind her, but looking at it now, she's right on the corner of the path intersection. The hostess on the left was farther left, but we cheated so a little bit of our interpreter could be seen.

  I know the Apostles have been replaced at least once before. They also were cut down a few feet this summer, leading to their tops to look ragged/dead.

   The lead vase is still there, hiding behind the Apostle.

Back of the Ball Room Wing



Palace Behind, August 15, 2015, 6:52pm

   So, I waited for the right shadows. As the sun started setting, the edges of the golden coat of arms started to glow... and then the sun was blocked by trees. Even before it could have reached its mark, the trees completely blocked out the back of the Palace from sunlight.

Big Tree Shadow. Never say I didn't try.

   Other than that, has anything changed? The paint on the gable was a darker color than the trim and molding. Now, they are the same color. A new rail leads down the stairs for anyone who needs it. The bushes have grown taller here. No growing ivy on the porch. The benches and the porch railing are different colors now.

Closer to the Back of the Ball Room Wing



Gable Detail, August 15, 2015, 6:54pm

   Just a closer picture of the door.

   The Governor sends word we are allowed inside his home. Let's go!

Thank you to Ms. Nicole, Ms. Emily, Ms. Justice, Ms. Amy, Mr. Tyler, and Ms. Tiffany for being great models! Thank you to the Palace for being awesome.
Thank you to Food Lion for the flowers. I mean, I paid you, so technically you should be thanking me for being a last-minute flower patron of your store.

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
"Behold Williamsburg" Book by Samuel Chamberlin, 1947
"The Gardens of the Governor's Palace," Landscape Architecture, January 1937
"Arthur A. Shurcliff: Design, Preservation, and the Creation of the Colonial Williamsburg Landscape," Book by Elizabeth Hope Cushing, 2014
"Williamsburg Before and After" Book by George Humphrey Yetter, 1988
Colonial Williamsburg: Palace Green

View the whole 35/15 Project:
Part 1 - College of William and Mary 
Part 2 - Merchants Square
Part 3 - Buildings that Move
Part 4 - Market Square
Part 5 - Ludwell-Paradise
Part 6 - Queen Street to Botetourt Street
Part 7 - Raleigh Tavern
Part 8 - Paints
Part 9 - Botetourt Street to the Capitol Area
Part 10 - Capitol
Part 11 - No Longer Here
Part 12 - Francis and Nicholson Streets
Part 13 - Garden Edition
Part 14 - The Governor's Palace Gardens (You are currently viewing this one)
Part 15 - Inside the Governor's Palace

Bonus 35/15 Posts:
35/15: A Dessert Order
35/15: Life in Williamsburg in 1935
35/15: Governor's Palace Wallpaper
35/15: Governor's Palace Wallpaper II

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