Friday, May 25, 2012

The George W. Curtis Estate

 The George Warrington Curtis estate designed c. 1905 in Southampton.  Curtis was an artist and sculptor and was a director on the board of the Aeolian Company. A 1927 NYTimes article covering his funeral called him a "pioneer Summer resident" in Southampton.  These 1914 photos were taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston.  It is unconfirmed if the house is extant but it sat on Captain's Neck Lane.

Photos from the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).


Doug Floor Plan said...

The partially covered terrace in the first photograph reminds me of something I read somewhere about the proper visibility into a porch in the days before air conditioning: you should feel only a mild rush of exhilaration if you walk around one at night dressed only in your underwear (or something like that).

I don’t understand that small dish sitting in the intersection of the path in the same photo – purpose? (other than being an obstacle)

magnus said...

If these photos don't inspire you to get off your duff, grab the spade and secateurs and get to work, nothing will.

Two minor notes: Garden photos of this era indicate an almost ubiquitous love for potted plants in the garden- they appear all over the place, in all sorts of gardens, creating what to today's eyes at least, is a rather spotty effect that seems to detract from the overall design.

The second note has to do with the "styling" that took place (or clearly didn't take place) before many architectural and design photos of the era were taken- look at the fourth photo of the set- it appears that the center pool is only half filled.

And I agree with DFP- that dog's water dish or bird bath is an odd note, but it is clearly centered on the paths, so despite it's strange placement and ditzy scale, must have been intentional.

Happy Memorial Day to all. If it doesn't stop raining in New York, I may get to work on my ark this week-end.

archibuff said...

Well a new day, a new post, Zack is back, Otto is doing well and life is good.

To my eye that dog dish/bird bath is actually off centered and looks bad as do all the numerous random pots, but the hollyhocks lining the rustic arbor is beautiful as are all the lush and colorful raised beds.

Views like this and other gardens featured in the past should inspire everyone to add alittle pizazz to their own garden environments. I think I need to hire 20 gardeners this weekend.

The Ancient said...

All these Hamptons gardens must have required enormous amounts of water, day after day.

Does anyone know anything about the water supply in the Southampton in 1910? Was water effectively "limitless"?

The Ancient said...

BTW, the annual cost* of maintaining such a garden today where I live in the country would be in the low six figures. In the Hamptons it would be more.
*Gardener, gardener's helpers, plant material, fertilizer, pool maintenance, miscellaneous.

magnus said...

Ancient- easily. We don't know the size of this property, but the photograph of the pergola length- wise gives some sense of the proportion of the flower beds. I would venture a quarter of a million in today's dollars.

And the terrace of my house is made of identical brick laid in a herringbone pattern- in sand as are the paths in Mr Curtis' garden. Wonderful to look at when the moss grows between the bricks, but a back breaking task to weed- which has to be done at least twice a summer. I used to pay my nephews and nieces a penny a weed to help me- alas, they have grown too old to have any interesrt in the job- at least at my pay scale.

The Down East Dilettante said...

When I was a teenager, my parents, feeling it was time that I learn about 'real work', contrived to have me hired as second gardener (of four) on a summer estate belonging to an old frenemy of my grandmother's. The old girl was heiress to America's largest textile fortune, was married to an even richer man, and notoriously liked things 'just so' (picture the love child of Katherine Hepburn and Mrs. Drysdale, and you've got her). One of my tasks was the weeding of her herringbone brick paths, and I will never forget the day that she, not even the head gardener, came up to me, and kindly but firmly showed me exactly how to do it---removing each brick individually, pulling only the offending weed or blade of grass from the side, and then putting it back, moss intact. I learned enormous amounts about gardening technique, and perfecting one's eye that summer, and much greater respect for manual labor. (as we speak, the short brick path to my back door is spouting tufts of weed in the cracks, taunting me in silent rebuke)

But I'm veering off track. I have a very similar bird bath in inventory now---on three little terracotta feet, about 100 years old. One imagines it just didn't get centered.

I like this garden, I like the area of potted plants (so true to Italian inspiration), I like the pergola, and I like the sense of the ocean just over the horizon.

Lessee, is that everything? Zach was gone four days, I managed not to rise to any CPH bait, and like everybody am glad to know that Otto is going to be better.

Oh, and shameless self promotion, but on a topic which might interest readers here, I interview Michael Kathrens about the new edition of 'American Splendor', his book about Horace Trumbauer, over at today's New York Social Diary

The Ancient said...

archibuff said...

I now appreciate the chores I was given back in the day, from weeding, planting, pruning to endless mowing since it gave me a deep love of the environment and a fondness for large manicured gardens and formal landscape designs which are so precious and whose survival is always tenuous at best due to exorbitant labor requirements, whether one is paying a penny a weed or hundreds a day. OLI constantly reminds me how many magnificent gardens have completely disappeared forever without a trace.

Nice interview at the New York Social Diary. With so many outstanding commissions I am glad a revised edition includes work left out of the previous book.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, as always, Zack.
As for the Down East Dilettante interview on NYSD:
In my mind, an interview involves questions and answers. The dilettante made many statements, however he asked few questions. The result is that the interview became more about the interviewer's knowledge and less about the authors. Disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I just received Michaels revised book from Amazon the other day.I'm building quite the Acanthus Press library. Loved the book, but wished he had more photos of Lynnewood Hall.

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

One round of weeding and then a sprinkle of Preen has always worked for me in minimizing my chores between the bricks.

Do I dare... DED did you asked Mr. Kathrens's about the merits of Gilbert having his own book?

Lodi said...

Beautiful gardens, makes me want to go to the nursery, pronto!

I enjoyed DED's article very much.

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

For what its worth from someone in the swooning class - I found DED's article insightful. The questions were leading, allowing the author to expand on the subject.

Anonymous said...

"The result is that the interview became more about the interviewer's knowledge and less about the authors. Disappointing."

Isn't that interesting. I felt the interviewee seemed pissy, prissy, needlessly argumentative, even annoying in his responses. As I was reading along, I wondered if DED, too, felt it a difficult interview in that way. Gentleman that he is, we'll never know.


Anonymous said...

"that dog's water dish or bird bath is an odd note"

Squinting so that in the mind's eye of this old lady, there is a missing waist-high pedestal topped with a sundial.


The Ancient said...

Well, I thought the conversation interesting -- which is the only real test. At a few points, Dilettante pushed a notion -- as learned people are apt to do -- and the author brushed that notion back. This, I thought, was much better than the usual interviews at NYSD.

It was the best interview I've ever seen at that site.

Anonymous said...

"I thought the conversation interesting"

There ya go, that's exactly what it was, a conversation between equals as opposed to the usual NYSD Q&A driven by an obsequious interviewer, yes.


magnus said...

Flo- I agree with you. If only we could summon the "Way Back" machine from the Peabody cartoons of my youth, we could replace that silly little dish with a properly scaled sun dial.

And I thought the interview in NYSD was great- interesting and insightful on the part of both participants. As is the book itself, sitting in front of me at this very moment.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

magnus said...

My last comment is the first I have made using my newly beloved IPad, only to realize that the dear thing attempts to auto correct the security words when you type them in. Mildly annoying, but good for a laugh.

Latest: neddepus nuatioy corrected to " need puss nation". Not this morning, thank you for asking, though.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Magnus, you and your eyepad have me rolling on the floor.

As to the interview, I had intended to remain silent as to Anonymous's comments, but silence just doesn't become me. Anonymous is of course entitled to his or her equally anonymous opinion, but I assure you that I was in no way trying to show off my own knowledge, but rather, show that I had read the book and paid attention to what I read, that I might have a pertinent conversation with the author. The statements were intended to futher the article as a conversation, not as non-sequitars, and indeed, when I counted questions vs. statements (my curiousity was raised), there were more questions by two. Also, word count shows that Mr. Kathrens appropriately got the lion's share--about 1500 to my 450, a decent ratio, I think. I enjoyed the conversation with him. The actual interview ran over 3,000 words, and necessarily had to be cut to fit NYSD's format.

I wish I were the gentleman Flo gives me credit for being---if I were, I wouldn't now be pointing out to anonymous that when criticism has a vituperative tone, it is best delivered directly to the subject (and a more constructive tone doesn't hurt, either). I merely pointed readers to the interview not really to blow my horn---hundreds of thousands of readers at NYSD assure that already---but merely because I thought it would be of interest to some here. Had I dreamed that it would then be a source of such discussion here on Zach's blog, I wouldn't have, as he runs the most gentlemanly of online saloons (or do I mean salon?) for us, and we should behave in kind.

My shoulders are very broad, literally and metaphorically, and any future disagreements with something I've done will be happily received via my own blog.


The Down East Dilettante said...

As to the real subject here, Mr. Curtis's lovely garden, I repectfully disagree about the sundial (which doesn't mean that I don't agree that there is a scale problem with the little birdbath). There's an old Japanese saying to the effect that perfection is the enemy of aesthetics---and I tend to agree. I think a sundial would detract from the real focus of the composition, the terrific wall fountain under the terrace.

ChipSF said...

Zach -
Welcome back! I've been missing my daily fix so glad you are back. And to all the commenters - thanks for keeping it interesting in the meantime.

The garden? Beautiful & love that brickwork.
Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!!

Zach L. said...

For anyone interested...this has been Otto since our return on Thursday (except when it's time for his meds...which he seems to rather enjoy):

Anonymous said...

"My shoulders are very broad, literally...

Saturday night and an old lady in the deep south is fanning herself.


Anonymous said...

"this has been Otto since our return on Thursday"

Oh Otto, my comrade, you and me both!

"I think a sundial would detract from the real focus of the composition, the terrific wall fountain under the terrace."

One simple, elegant, elevated fantasy bronze sundial [or armillary]is deemed guilty for "detracting" while one hundred and fifty damn thousand extraneous, out of scale, multi-sized helter damn skelter pots spilling of irrelevant froth had not already obliterated said fountain, said focus, said composition?

Bring Otto and me our evening meds please.


Glen said...

A means certain to improve my Memorial Day would be to spend it in this garden admiring first hand the beautiful brickwork, fountains, trellises and, of course, the plantings, flowers and lawns. I even like the potted plants. The few glimpses we are given of the house suggest it was a very aesthetically agreeable garden backdrop and residence. I was hoping someone would know of it and declare it still extant.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Feeling feisty are we, Flo?