How to Grow an Historic Urban Garden
September 27, 2010 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Photo by Nancy Moon
When everything above 14th Street in Manhattan was considered “the country,” fashionable folks from the city headed up to 61st Street by stagecoach or steamboat to the Mount Vernon Hotel where they spent the day sipping lemonade in the ladies’ parlor or playing cards in the gentlemen’s tavern. The Hotel advertised itself as “free from the noise and dust of the public roads, and fitted up and intended for only the most genteel and respectable” clientele.
Built in 1799 as a carriage house for a 23-acre estate on land owned originally by Colonel William Stephens Smith, and his wife Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of John Adams, the estate was converted into and operated as the Mount Vernon Hotel from 1826 until 1833. When the hotel closed, it reverted once again to a private estate for three generations of one New York City family, was purchased 1905 by Standard Gas Light Company (today’s Con Edison), then changed hands again in 1924 when the Colonial Dames of America bought, renovated, and opened it to the public in 1939 as the present Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden.
Photo by Audrey Svensson
Today, one can experience a bit of 19th century New York by touring through the eight period rooms to the sound of pianoforte music. Visitors can hear stories of the well-to-do guests sipping turtle soup in the Lower Hall, and then take a relaxing stroll through the Hotel’s 18th century gardens.
The Hotel’s current gardens were designed in the mid-1970’s by landscape architect Alice Recknagel Ireys. Plans are under way for expanding the present Herb Garden to include an “Edible Kitchen Garden” that will cultivate the same edible and medicinal plants that grew in the museum’s gardens in the early 1800’s.
Proposed garden and drawing by Gina Ingoglia, ASLA
The proposed garden transformation has been designed by Gina Ingoglia, ASLA, landscape and garden designer, who has served as Garden Advisor to the museum since 1995. Ingoglia, vice president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society, is also a columnist, author and illustrator of over 80 gardening books and articles, including her award-winning The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown-Ups. The edible garden is the first step in the museum’s initiative to revive its historic gardens along the sprawling property, slated for completion in time for the museum’s 75th anniversary in 2014.
Monday, October 4, from 6-9 pm, greater New York’s prominent garden and landscape designers, media personalities, authors and garden lovers, will gather for First Bloom of Autumn Benefit and Silent Auction in the museum’s picturesque gardens and on the property’s sprawling lawns. The evening’s festivities will include cocktails, hors d’ouevres, music, and a silent auction featuring a vacation week at Chateau de Rochebonne near La Rochelle, France; a private tour of the Richmond, Virginia gardens at Agecroft Hall and Redesdale; a Society of Four Arts garden tour and lunch in Palm Beach; a flower arranging class at Little Flower School in Brooklyn; and private studio tour with artist Frederick Brosen, who will have a solo exhibition at Hirschl & Adler Modern in 2011.
Suzy Bales, lecturer, television personality, and author of 14 garden books, will be attending the garden party and graciously inscribing copies of her recent book, Garden Bouquets and Beyond, available for purchase at the benefit.
Esther “Faity” Leeming Tuttle, Photo by Diane Smook
The garden’s longest running devotee, Honorary Chair Esther “Faity” Leeming Tuttle, who celebrated her 99th birthday on July 4, started the Garden & Grounds Committee in 1974 by enlisting a highly credentialed team of professionals to design and maintain it. Faity is a member of the Colonial Dames of America, which to this day still owns and operates the museum.
First Bloom of Autumn Benefit and Silent Auction
Monday, October 4, from 6-9 pm
Ticket prices, beginning at $100, can be purchased by contacting:
Amanda Wheeler (212) 838-6878 ext. 25, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets will be held at door.
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden
421 East 61 Street, New York, New York 10065