Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cherry Blossoms & The Evolution of the US Capitol Gardens & Grounds



Cherry Blossoms at the United States Capitol Building

Each spring, America's National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft & Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first 2 trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.


Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Only a little over 100 years before the first Cherry Blossoms arrived in Washington DC from Japan, on May 3, 1802, Washington DC was incorporated as a city. In 1789, the US Congress - Senate & House of Representatives - assembled for the 1st time in New York. Congress moved to Philadelphia in 1790, and then to Washington, DC, in 1800. In 1807, the Congress moved into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, 4 years before the Capitol’s House wing was fully completed. In 1814, the nation was severely tested, when invading British forces burned the Capitol. It would be another 5 years before the chambers were fully restored. In 1857, the House met for the first time in its present-day chambers. This posting will look at the development & the symbolism of the building & the gardens around the United States Capitol.


Classical Temple Dedicated to Liberty, Justice, and Peace. James Trenchard. Temple of Liberty. The Columbian Magazine, (Philadelphia) 1788, Library of Congress.  This engraving of a classical temple building depicts statues on the roof, including Libertas (liberty), Justicia or Themis (justice), & Ceres (peace). Libertas is at the peak with the others on the corners. In the background a rising sun radiating beams of light with one shining upon Libertas holding her staff & freedom cap. Emerging from the pure, bright sunlight in the distance is the new nation--lady Columbia with an eagle headdress. Standing below is Concordia holding a horn of plenty; Columbia's winged son holding a scroll with CONSTITUTION written on it; and Clio, the muse of history, beginning to write the history of the new nation. Scrolling across the front of the classical temple are the words: SACRED TO LIBERTY, JUSTICE AND PEACE. Below this engraving was written,

Behold a Fabric now to Freedom rear'd,
Approved by friends, and ev'n Foes rever'd,
Where Justice, too, and Peace, by us ador'd,
Shall heal each Wrong, and keep ensheath'd the Sword
Approach then, Concord, fair Columbia's Son,
And faithful Clio, write that "We Are One."
In 1788, Philadelphia's Columbian Magazine published an engraving by James Trenchard called the Temple of Liberty. Trenchard, born in 1746, at Penns Neck in Salem County, New Jersey, was an engraver & seal cutter in Philadelphia, and the artist for many of the plates for the Columbian Magazine, whose circulation was the largest of any 18th century magazine published in America.


Dr. William Thornton [Sketch of Section of Monument and Conference Room], c. 1797 Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress. Thornton's drawings and concept won the contest to design the capitol.

Built on what came to be called Capitol Hill, its grounds changed greatly over the first half of the 19th century. I thought you might enjoy seeing the various depictions of the changing landscape.

Dr. William Thornton [East Elevation for North Wing], 1795-1797 Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress.

Fierce competition over the site of the capital city had raged for years, reaching its height during the First Federal Congress, in New York between 1789 - 1790.

Dr. William Thornton [Plan of Ground Story of the Capitol,] c. 1795-1797 Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress.

The always clever Alexander Hamilton helped broker a compromise in which the federal government would assume the war debt incurred during the Revolution, in exchange for support from northern states for locating the capital further south than New York or Philadelphia.

Dr. William Thornton's winning plan for the Capitol of the United States of America.

The compromise between the advocates for the North and those favoring a Southern location ended the feuding by agreeing on a nearly neutral location on the Potomac River, equidistant between North & South, and easily defended. (It had been George Washington's choice all along, and it was Hamilton's goal to please the General.)

c 1800 A View of the Capitol of Washington Watercolor by William Birch.

The agreement called for a 100-square mile federal district to be located somewhere along the Potomac River at a site to be chosen by fellow river-property owner, George Washington. Washington picked the junction of the Potomac & Anacostia Rivers. He then chose Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a military artist who had served under him at Valley Forge, to design the new federal city.

An 1801 View of George Town and the Federal City, or the City of Washington before its development into the federal city. Color aquatint by T. Cartwright of London after George Beck of Philadelphia. Published by Atkins & Nightingale of London and Philadelphia.

The Capitol of the United States crowns what was then Jenkins Hill in Washington, D.C., and houses the legislative branch of government, the House of Representatives & the Senate.

1806 Benjamin Latrobe View of the Capitol of the United States.

Pierre Charles L'Enfant chose Jenkins Hill as the site for the United States Capitol building, which rose 88 feet above the Potomac River, and sat 1 mile from the White House. L'Enfant declared, "It stands as a pedestal waiting for a monument."

A view of the still undeveloped East Branch of Potomac River at Washington. Watercolor by August Kollner (1813-1906) in 1839.

The land on which the Capitol stands was 1st occupied by the Manahoacs & the Monacans, who were subtribes of the Algonquin Indians. Early settlers reported that these tribes occasionally held councils not far from the foot of the hill. This land eventually became a part of Cerne Abbey Manor. At the time of its acquisition by the federal government "Jenkins Hill" was owned by the well-to-do Marylander Daniel Carroll of Duddington, and it stood on a tract of land originally known by the more classically-inspired name of "New Troy."

1814 George Munger (1781-1825). United States Capitol after the British burned the capitol.

Thomas Jefferson came up with the name Capitol Hill, consciously invoking the famous temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill in ancient Rome. The building would be America's Temple of Liberty.

Depiction of the United States Capitol before the fire of 1814.

George Washinton & his allies wanted buildings that would embody the nation's hoped-for future. "In our Idea the Capitol ought in point of prosperity to be on a grand Scale, and that a Republic especially ought not to be sparing of expenses on an Edifice for such purposes."

1815 1st known depiction of the Capitol in Relation to Its Grounds by Benjamin Henry Latrobe [Plan of the Mall and the Capitol Grounds], Geography and Map Division Library of Congress.

The 1792 competition for its design was won by Dr. William Thornton (1759–1828), a physcian & an amateur architect, with a proposal for a Palladian-inspired building featuring a central domed rotunda flanked by the Senate & House wings.




1824 Charles Burton's West Front of the Capitol of the United States. This view of the Capitol was a gift to the Marquis de Lafayette to commemorate his speech delivered in to the House in 1824. Here workmen are constructing the earthen terraces along the western front, while in the foreground are the growing Lombardy poplars planted during Thomas Jefferson’s administration.

President George Washington, dressed in masonic attire, laid the cornerstone in 1793, in a masonic ceremony. At this time the site of the Capitol was a relative wilderness partly overgrown with scrub oak. Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, described the soil as "an exceedingly stiff clay, becoming dust in dry and mortar in rainy weather." A muddy creek with swampy borders flowed at the base of the hill, and an alder swamp bordered by tall woods occupied the place where the United States Botanic Garden now stands. The city's inhabitants, like L'Enfant & Washington, expected that the capital would grow to the east, leaving the Capitol & the White House essentially on its outskirts. For some years the land around the Capitol was regarded as a common, crossed by roads in several directions & intended to be left as an open area.

1828 Contrast Between the Temple of Liberty and Nearby Log Cabins by John Rubens Smith. [West Front of the Capitol]. Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress.

Construction proceeded slowly under a succession of architects, including Stephen Hallet (1793), George Hadfield (1795-98) and James Hoban (1798-1802), architect of the White House, who completed the Senate wing in 1800.

1830-40 Early Perspective Drawing of Completed Capitol Attributed to George Strickland [Perspective drawing of the Capitol from the Northeast,] In the Collection of the Architect of the Capitol.

Though the building was incomplete, the Capitol held its first session of United States Congress on November 17, 1800.

Das Capitol in Washington" Steel engraving by E. Grünenwald after an earlier drawing by H. Brown. Published in 1851.

Benjamin Latrobe took over in 1803; by 1811 he had renovated the Senate wing and completed the House wing.

1839 Capitol Overlooks Pastoral Landscape by Russell Smith. Capitol from Mr. Elliot's Garden. In the Collection of the Architect of the Capitol.

Benjamin Latrobe first considered the Capitol building in relation to its grounds and made a watercolor of the possible landscape design in 1815.

1839 Charles Fenderich's Elevation of the Eastern Front of the Capitol of the United States.


The Senate wing was completed in 1800, while the House wing was completed in 1811. However, the House of Representatives moved into the House wing in 1807.

August Kollner (1813-1906). West Front of the United States Capitol. New York: Goupil, Vibert, & Co., 1839. Library of Congress.

The Capitol was burned by British troops in 1814; and in the following year, Latrobe began its reconstruction and redesign.

1840 W.H. Bartlett's Ascent to the Capitol in Nathaniel P. Willis, American Scenery, vol. 1. London Virtue.

Boston architect Charles Bullfinch succeeded him in 1818; and completed the building, with only slight modifications of Latrobe's master plan, in 1830. Under Bullfinch in 1825, a plan was devised for imposing order on the Capitol grounds, & it was carried out for almost 15 years. The plan divided the area into flat, rectangular grassy areas bordered by trees, flower beds, & gravel walks. The growth of the trees, however, soon deprived the other plantings of nourishment, & the design became increasingly difficult to maintain in light of sporadic & small appropriations.

John Foy, who had charge of the grounds during most of this period, was "superseded for political reasons," & the area was then maintained with little care or forethought. John Foy was dead by 1837, and James Maher took over as the public gardener.  Many rapidly growing but short-lived trees were introduced and soon depleted the soil; a lack of proper pruning and thinning left the majority of the area's vegetation ill-grown, feeble, or dead. strong>

1840 W.H. Bartlett's View of the Capitol at Washington in Nathaniel P. Willis, American Scenery, vol. 1. London Virtue.

By 1837, the Washington Guide reported, The Capitol Square has been enlarged to the west, by taking in that part of the Mall extending from the circular road to First street, west; making about eight acres additional. This space has been properly graded and planted with trees and shrubs by Mr. James Maher, the public gardener:—the other part of the square was planted by the late John Foy, a man of excellent talents and taste. A good substantial stone wall, surmounted by an iron-railing, surrounds the whole square. When the walks are completed, and the water-fountains arranged, this square will afford the most beautiful and healthful walks: a subject well deserving public attention.

1839 South Gateway of the Capitol at Washington, D.C. showing stone walls & iron rails. Gray and sepia wash drawing by August Kollner (1813-1906).

Daguerreotype by John C. Plumbe, Jr., taken about 1846, is the earliest known photographic image of the Capitol. Library of Congress.

In 1874, Congress passed an act making Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) the first landscape architect of the United States Capitol. Olmsted accepted the job, wishing to "train the tastes of the nation." The mid-19th-century enlargement of the US Capitol, in which the House & Senate wings & the new dome were added, required that the Capitol grounds be expanded.


John Singer Sargent (American artist, 1856-1925) Frederick Law Olmsted 1895

Olmsted's original concept for the design for the governmental buildings clustered in Washington, DC envisioned a ground plan that united the White House, Capitol &, other government agencies to symbolize the union of the nation, which was still trying to overcome the divisions of the Civil War. In his previous landscape design plans, Olmsted had made architecture less important than its green surroundings. However, for the seat of the legislative branch of the United States of America, Olmsted wanted to make the Capitol building the crowning centerpiece. Olmsted was determined that the grounds should complement the building.

Reflecting on his work, Olmsted recalled: "The most interesting general fact of my life seems to me to be that it was not as a gardener, a florist, a botanist, or one in any way specially interested in plants & flowers, or specially susceptible to their beauty, that I was drawn to my work. The root of all my work has been an early respect for & enjoyment of scenery, & extraordinary opportunities for cultivating susceptibility to its power. I mean not so much grand or sensational scenery as scenery of a more domestic order -- scenery which is to be looked upon contemplatively & is producing of musing moods."

His 15-year-long project on the grounds of the United States Capitol did envision an open setting immediately surrounding the Capitol & a more naturalistic scenery with shrubbery & trees further from the Capitol, nearer to its entrances.  Because of the many streets & entrances merging at the capitol, the creation of a workable circulation system dominated the design process. The east side of the Capitol needed more open spaces for large masses of people gathered for inaugurations & other large events normally held at the East Front. Two large ovals with scattered trees were designed for the east side to accommodate the grounds needed during such events.


Olmsted's 1874 Plan for the US Capitol

Before he could begin to execute his landscape design, the practical Olmsted had to ensure the soil's nutrients. He began by spending $60,000 to improve the soil; level the ground; & add new sewer, gas & water systems.  Work on the grounds began in 1874. Olmsted constructed marble terraces on the north, west, & south sides of the building, thereby "causing it to gain greatly in the supreme qualities of stability, endurance, & repose."

By 1876, gas & water service was completed for the entire grounds, & electrical lamp-lighting was installed. Utilitarian areas such as stables & workshops were removed from the northwest & southwest corners. A streetcar system, quickly replacing the horses from those displaced stables, north & south of the west grounds was relocated farther from the Capitol. The granite & bronze lamp piers & ornamental bronze lamps for the east plaza area were completed  & installed.  Work on the plantings accelerated in 1877.  By this time, according to Olmsted's report, "altogether 7,837 plants & trees [had] been set out." However, not all had survived: hundreds were stolen or destroyed by vandals, &, as Olmsted explained, "a large number of cattle [had] been caught trespassing." Washington DC had not yet lost all of its rural charm.

By 1879, the roads were paved & most of the work on the east side of the grounds was completed. The stone walls on the west side of the grounds were almost finished.  In 1885, an aging Olmsted retired from superintendency of the huge terrace project; but he continued to direct the work on landscaping the grounds until 1889. In 1895, senility forced Olmsted to retire from his lifetime of work.

Arieal view of the United States Capitol. The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 274 acres.

Information on Olmstead from Architect of the Capitol & from Christine Owen US Capitol Historical Society. 


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Illuminated Manuscripts - An Empty Tomb



Christ is risen. The Resurrection. LPL MS368 f. 12.



Christ appearing to 3 Marys - Bartolomeo Rigossi - Italian - Lombardy 1465



The St Albans Psalter, owned by St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim now at University of Aberdeen, Scotland Maries at the empty Tomb of Jesus.



Christ is risen. The Resurrection.




British Library - Royal 6 E VI fol-13v Biblical cycle The Empty Tomb



Codex Vyšehradensis c. 1085 Manuscript (XIV- A. 13.) Státní Knihovna, Prague The Empty Tomb

Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?  And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.  And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were afraid.  And he saith unto them, Be not afraid: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is arisen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.  But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.  Mark Chapter 16


Saturday, March 19, 2016

South Carolina Churches from the late 1700s


Artist Charles Fraser (1782-1760) painted a series of watercolors of churches & meeting houses in South Carolina. He depicts broad swipes of landscapes allowing the viewer to see the buildings in the ground planned around them. These images are from the Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) A VIEW IN ST. THOMAS’ PARISH POMPION HILL CHAPEL.

The 1765 church was called "Punkin Hill" locally. The Parish of St. Thomas & St. Dennis was made from the union of the Huguenot Church St. Denis & the Parish of St. Thomas which had been laid off by the Church Act of 1706. In Day on Cooper River, it says: "On a high bluff, raising abruptly from the bed of the river, stands the Parish Chapel, commonly known as Pompion Hill Chapel, taking its name from the hill on which it stands.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. ANDREW’S PARISH, APRIL 1800.

Established on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1706, by 1722 the original church had became too small for the parishioners. The church was enlarged in the form of a cross, with a gallery at the west end designated for “people of colour.” Destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by subscription in 1764, and it covered a great territory. It maintained a Chapel of Ease on James’ Island, which was attended by many Presbyterians on the Island; but, after 1787, the Reverend Thomas Mills states that "the inhabitants of James Island, who were nearly all Presbyterians, or Independents, had procured a minister and organized a Church of their own. After this period, in conformity with the injunctions of the Vestry, my Pastoral duties were generally confined to St. Andrew’s on the main.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). CHURCH IN ST. JAMES’ PARISH, GOOSE CREEK.

St. James’ Parish, Goose Creek, was laid off in 1706, and the church was completed in 1719. “So numerous was the congregation of this church that its capacity was found in a few years wholly insufficient,” and a Chapel of Ease was erected about 7 miles from the original church structure.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) CHURCH ON JOHN’S ISLAND.

This was St. John’s Colleton, which had been a part of St. Paul’s but was separated from it in 1734, and served “John’s Island, Wadmalaw Island, Edisto Island, and the other adjacent Islands to the seaward.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) MEETING-HOUSE IN PRINCE WILLIAM’S PARISH.

The Stony Creek Presbyterian Church built in Indian Land on Stony Creek near Pocotaligo in 1743. Fraser notes in his Reminiscences even during his boyhood, the Presbyterian "dissenters" never called their places of worship churches.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) A MEETING-HOUSE NEAR JACKSONBOROUGH, 1799.

This is the meeting-house of Bethel Congregation of Pon Pon organized in St. Bartholomew’s Parish in 1728 and first ministered to by the Reverend Archibald Stobo, the Father of Presbyterianism in South Carolina. One historian told of Reverend Robert Baron, sent out to St. Bartholomew’s Parish by the Society for the Propagation of the gospel in 1753, "He arrived at Charles Town June 1st and entered on the duties of his cure on the 7th of that month. Mr. Baron was soon after taken ill, and had a severe seasoning, as it is usually called. His Parishioners were scattered over a great extent of country, and were an orderly and well behaved people. The Presbyterians were numerous, but they all lived together in mutual friendship and Christian charity.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) REMAINS OF THE CHURCH IN PRINCE WILLIAM’S PARISH.

This parish was often called Sheldon Church because of its proximity to the Bull plantation of that name. “An instance of the hospitality of Carolina, connected with the history of Sheldon Church, has been stated to us b y those who knew the fact. Stephen Bull who live in its vicinity, usually invited as his guests, on the Sabbath, the more respectable part of the Congregation who attended divine service; while his overseer, by his direction, and at his expense, liberally entertained the rest. At that time, seldom less than 60 or 70 carriages, of various descriptions were seen at the Church on the Lord’s Day. It was burnt in 1780 by the British under General Prevost, on their march from Savannah to the siege of CharlesTown.” It was rebuilt on its original lines after the Revolution.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S PARISH, 1796.

“This part of Colleton County was made a Parish, by an act passed Dec. 18, 1708.” The first missionary, sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was a Reverend Mister Osborn, who arrived in 1713. “His cure was very extensive, and his duty laborious. It was 40 miles long, and 30 wide…He officiated at five different places for the accommodations of his parishioners…Mr. Osborn was greatly esteemed and the Church flourished under his care. This prosperity, however, was soon interrupted. In 1715 the Indian War [Yemassee] broke out and the savages destroyed all the plantations in the Parish…The Missionary with difficulty escaped to Charles Town." By 1760, two brick Chapels of Ease had been built. The Church in this sketch was the Chapel of Pon Pon, which was burnt to the birck walls by the British during the Revolution but rebuilt after the war. The locals then called it "the Burnt Church."

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) A VIEW OF ST. JAMES’ CHURCH, GOOSE CREEK, FROM THE PARSONAGE.

The parsonage stood on a slight hill and its lane led dircectly to the church door. In the woods is a small 1759 vestry building, where Parish business could be transacted and where coachmen & grooms might take shelter.


Simple Old American Churches



Old Indian Meeting House Church in Mashpee, MA The oldest Native American church surviving in US


St. James Episcopal Church, Monkton, Maryland


Church, Southeastern United States by Walker Evans 1936 


Christ Church, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia


Steeple of The Gilead Chapel in East Haddam, Connecticut


Church, South Carolina by Walker Evans


Old Christ Church (1832) Pensacola, Florida


St Peters, Milwaukee, Wisconsin's first Catholic Church


St Peters, Milwaukee, Wisconsin's first Catholic Church


Old Scotch Church, Hillsoboro, Oregon


Church Interior, Cleveland, Ohio


Sacred Heart Mission Idaho


Old North Church, Beverly Shores, Porter County, Indiana


Pleasant Ridge Cemetery Chapel (1880) Wisconsin


Palo Pintoi Church, Texas


Church with Hand-made Ladder by Walker Evans 1936


James Creek Missionary Baptist Church, Aberdeen, Mississippi


Oldest & Youngest at The Rock Church, Georgia