Landscape Gardens on the Hudson, a History: The Romantic Age, the Great Estates, and the Birth of American Landscape Architecture: Hyde Park, Sunnyside, Olana, Clermont, Lyndhurst, Montgomery Place, Locust Grove, Wilderstein, Springside, and Others


"Landscape Gardens on the Hudson" is a new look at the golden age of grand designs and great estates, and features the designed historic landscapes of the Hudson River Valley: Hyde Park (Vanderbilt) • Sunnyside • Olana • Clermont • Lyndhurst • Montgomery Place • Locust Grove • Wilderstein • Springside • Idlewild • Blithewood • Millbrook • Kenwood • The Point • Philipse Manor • Van Cortlandt Manor • The Pastures (Schuyler Mansion) & others. These are some of the most significant designed 18th- and 19th-century landscapes in America, and
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"Landscape Gardens on the Hudson" is a new look at the golden age of grand designs and great estates, and features the designed historic landscapes of the Hudson River Valley: Hyde Park (Vanderbilt) • Sunnyside • Olana • Clermont • Lyndhurst • Montgomery Place • Locust Grove • Wilderstein • Springside • Idlewild • Blithewood • Millbrook • Kenwood • The Point • Philipse Manor • Van Cortlandt Manor • The Pastures (Schuyler Mansion) & others. These are some of the most significant designed 18th- and 19th-century landscapes in America, and "landscape Gardens on the Hudson" is the first comprehensive study of the development of these landscapes and the important role they played in the cultural underpinnings of the young United States—a legacy that continues today with the design of America’s urban parks and nearly every rural or suburban home.
This garden design work stands at the center of historic events that decisively shaped the concept of scenic beauty in America and became a core value of the American dream. Fueled by sympathetic political, religious and nationalistic principles, America’s cultural aspirations joined with the nation’s physical assets, the landscape, to achieve a distinctive artistic expression. Most famously, this aesthetic found expression in the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School artists. Less well known is how this aesthetic determined the way Americans transformed the natural world around them.
This romantic sensibility expressed itself along the Hudson in the “Picturesque” landscape design approach, wherein art is hidden so that a fully natural and vernacular expression could prevail. These thoughts were exemplified at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside and other cottage-style properties, and it reached a magnificent aesthetic crescendo with Olana, the unique and famed landscape creation by renowned Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church. Olana has been rightly called by a recent commentator “one of the most perfectly realized Romantic landscape gardens in the world.”
First, the predominantly English history of landscape gardening is traced as a prelude to landscape gardening in America. Then, the evolution of landscape design in New York’s long colonial period is described at such historic sites as Philipse Manor (Yonkers), Livingston Manor (Clermont), Van Cortlandt Manor (Croton), and Schuyler House (Albany).
After the Revolutionary War, with the blossoming of the Romantic period, landscape gardening achieved a regional culmination in the Hudson Valley that was unique in America. A dozen of the finest examples on the Hudson are presented in this book. The history and design of such well-known historic properties as David Hosack’s Hyde Park (today’s Vanderbilt Mansion NHS), Irving’s Sunnyside, the Livingstons’ Montgomery Place, Samuel F. B. Morse’s Locust Grove, and Frederic Church's Olana are interpreted not as historic houses alone, but as landscape garden compositions.
The historical commentary of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852) is included at each site visited. Downing was a Hudson Valley native and America’s leading landscape gardener in the antebellum years. His protégé, Calvert Vaux, coined the term “landscape architect” and later teamed with Frederick Olmsted on the design of Central Park (1858), a triumph of romantic landscape design and the inspiration for nearly every American public park created in the subsequent 150 years.
The text is illustrated with over 140 period and contemporary images, including plans, photographs, bird’s-eye views, paintings and engravings, many in color.
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What People Are Saying

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
“Robert Toole’s important contribution in this book is to perform what amounts to a feat of garden archaeology, bringing to light the many-layered landscapes of these historic Hudson River places. This kind of knowledge is indispensable if their grounds are to be restored to a semblance of their former Romantic glory.” Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, President of the Foundation for Landscape Studies and founding President of the Central Park Conservancy
Withrop Aldrich
“In an artful and effective organization of material, the writer has told the story of landscape design along the Hudson, from agrarian land use in the colonial era until the last decades of the nineteenth century, accompanied by the commentary of Hudson Valley native Andrew Jackson Downing, one of America’s early landscape design professionals, who knew many of these properties intimately. … This book is a marvel.” J. Winthrop Aldrich, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Waddell Stillman
“This book presents, for the first time, the wonderful, holistic story of American landscape design in the Hudson Valley’s Romantic age. It is a subject long-deserving of exploration, and landscape architect Robert Toole, with his specialty in Hudson Valley historic landscape study and restoration, has the professional perspective and the onsite experience to guide us on the journey.” Waddell Stillman, President, Historic Hudson Valley
Sara J. Griffen
“The story of the development of landscape gardening in the Hudson Valley closely parallels the story of the development of the Hudson River School of art and should have similar prominence. By illustrating the historic links between painting and landscape design, this book achieves that synthesis” Sara J. Griffen, President, The Olana Partnership
John H. Braunlein
“Lyndhurst is enjoyed by over 68,000 visitors annually, but few are aware of the significance and importance of the landscape and grounds they so enthusiastically enjoy. This book will enable them to gain appreciation for its importance and deepen their experience. It is a welcomed addition to any bookshelf on New York State history and will fill a void in scholarly attention to the landscape history of the Hudson River Valley.” John H. Braunlein, Director, Lyndhurst
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883789688
  • Publisher: Black Dome Press, Corporation
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,528,488
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Toole is a landscape architect whose private practice in Saratoga Springs, New York, initiated in 1975, has specialized in historic landscape study and restoration while also providing design services on a variety of landscape design projects, including campus planning, environmental assessments and many private residences.
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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Landscape Gardens on the Hudson by Robert M. Toole: an Engaging Must-Read for Students, Scholars, Armchair Travelers, and Others

    In this generously- illustrated (over 140 reproductions) publication, Toole, a practicing landscape architect (1975- , private practice, Saratoga Springs, New York), who specializes in historic landscape study and restoration while also providing landscape design services on a variety of projects, retells for the first time the story of landscape gardening and architecture along the Hudson River during the "Romantic Age." In fifteen chapters, each averaging eleven pages, Toole covers landscape gardening and architecture along the Hudson River from the end of the colonial era in the late eighteenth century until the last decades of the nineteenth century, a period during which American landscape gardening and architecture were born amidst the Nation's quest to discover and sometimes assert its unique, cultural, political, and social identities amidst the natural resources and wonders of the American continent. In introductory chapters, the author sets forth the cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds as well as describes some early colonial gardens along the Hudson River, in order to distinguish them from later aesthetic and design components, influenced by but not limited to the Beautiful, Picturesque, and Gardenesque modes. Extensively referencing the writings and works of the landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing (1815- 1852) and the architect Alexander Jackson Davis (1803- 1892), both of whom figured prominently in the history of nineteenth- century landscape gardening, architecture, and design along the Hudson River and were notable for helping to establish the Picturesque mode of landscape gardening and architecture in the United States, he then examines specific Hudson River landscape gardens of the Romantic age, mainly focusing on those of Hyde Park, Montgomery Place, Blithewood, Sunnyside, Knoll (Lyndhurst), Millbrook, Kenwood, Locust Grove, Highland Gardens, Springside, Wilderstein, Idlewild, The Point, Wilderstein, and Olana. Not only does the author showcase the significant aspects of each garden's design, layout, historic buildings, ornamentation, indigenous features, and plantings, but he also distinguishes each in terms of the various aesthetic ideals and influences that shaped its development. Including a list of illustrations, two appendices pertaining to visiting landscape gardens along the Hudson River and in England, endnotes, and a bibliographical essay, this publication is well-documented and thoughtfully- illustrated, with many historic images, not limited to ground plans, photographs, bird's eye views, paintings, engravings, and other reproductions. Toole uses his own sketches and ground plans to further clarify and enhance the text, which is well- organized and fairly effectively written. Students, scholars, professionals, and some general readers interested in "touring" (Foreword by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, p. vi) the showcased, historic gardens with Toole will be interested in reading this book. As the first comprehensive study of the Hudson River gardens of the Romantic age and their legacies, it constitutes an important, scholarly contribution to the study of garden history in the United States as well as a "feat of garden archaeology" (Foreword, p. vii), since many of the gardens do not exist any longer or are experienced in ways "at variance with the historic situation" (p. 168). This publication is very highly recommended for large public, academic, and special library collections.

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