Mid-19th century American Greenhouse*
Monday May 17 Finished planting my flower seeds
Mr Blodget here to dine from Boston
This afternoon have been to Mr Kinsley with
Mr Ames. Miss Nevill there from Salisbury.
Brought home twelve pots of flowers from
their green house. The grapes & flowers look
finely Had a very pleasant visit got home
Evelina enjoyed herself today. It was lovely outside, for “the sun shined about half the day + was pritty warm wind west + south west.”** She gardened for much of the morning and in the afternoon, rode with her husband, Oakes, to Canton to call on the Kinsley family.
Lyman and Louisa Kinsley, whom we’ve heard of before in Evelina’s diary, were about the same age as Oakes and Evelina. They had two children, Lucy Adelaide and Edgar Lyman, who were twelve years apart, suggesting that there may have been other children born between the two. Lucy was close in age to Oakes Angier, and Edgar was a year or so younger than Susie.
The Kinsleys were prosperous; Mr. Kinsley ran an iron business that had been started by his father and had long supplied material for Ames shovels. The Kinsley Iron and Machine Company would eventually be bought by the Ameses and managed by Frank Morton Ames. That being some years in the future, the Ameses could sit and admire the Kinsley place with little thought of acquisition – perhaps. Certainly, Evelina was much taken with the Kinsley greenhouse and the “twelve pots of flowers” she got to take home.
Greenhouses such as Mr. Kinsley’s were becoming more popular in the mid-19th century, particularly in England after the government there did away with the heavy tax on window glass. Hothouses had been known previously on this size of the Atlantic, also, appearing in the colonies as early as 1737, when wealthy Bostonian Andrew Faneuil built one. George Washington, too, had one built at Mt. Vernon to grow pineapple. Greenhouses would increase in size, status, and grandeur as the century progressed. Easton would see its share when the next generation of wealthy men reached maturity. Frederick Lothrop Ames, Edwin Williams Gilmore and probably others would raise orchids and more in the glass-walled wonders.
*Greenhouse from Beekman Estate in Manhattan, circa 1850
**Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection
4 thoughts on “May 17, 1852”
Evelina’s sister-in-law and neighbor Sarah Lothrop Ames would add a massive, domed, glass and iron greenhouse or conservatory to her new home next door. (most likely added in the 1870’s) This was constructed along the north wall adjacent to the church, and approximately 100 feet in length. While replanting in this area in the mid 1990’s we found remnants of curved glass and iron pieces, and terra-cotta tiles, presumably from the floor of the structure.
Interesting, James. In Oliver Ames Jr’s diaries, which run from the 1860s to his death in 1877, he writes extensively about the construction of Unity Church and also occasionally refers to the building of Frederick Lothrop Ames’ greenhouse, but I don’t remember him talking about building his own. So, Sarah Lothrop Ames’ greenhouse would have gone up after his death? Does 1877 or later sound right? And I wonder if she decided for herself or if Fred convinced her…
How fabulous that you found pieces from the building in your garden!
It is difficult to tell from the only (copy) of a photograph I have as to when it was erected. The church is standing, but it does not appear that the parsonage has been built, and it looks well forested where the Village Cemetery stands (though the upper portion and dome of the conservatory may be blocking the cemetery). A portion of Sarah’s “Dutch Garden” is visible in the forefront. Perhaps Frank Meninno can shed some light as to when it was built.
In the 1950’s, the Parker’s constructed a modest and far smaller lean-to style greenhouse against the wall, and rebuilt it once again in the 60’s or early 70’s, for Hazel Varella’s father John Luke who was then the Parker’s gardener . Today it’s remnants stand derelict.
Again, fascinating. Maybe we could organize a walking tour someday of the lost greenhouses of Easton!