Lewis F. Allen_
Eighteen And Fifty Two_
The writer of these pages ought, perhaps, to apologize for attempting a work on a subject, of which he is not a professional master, either in design or execution. In the science of Farm buildings he claims no better knowledge than a long practical observation has given him. The thoughts herein submitted for the consideration of those interested in the subject of Farm buildings are the result of that observation, added to his experience in the use of such buildings, and a conviction of the inconveniences attending many of those already planned and erected.
Nor is it intended, in the production of this work, to interfere with the labors of the professional builder. To such builder all who may be disposed to adopt any model or suggestion here presented, are referred, for the various details, in their specifications, and estimates, that may be required; presuming that the designs and descriptions of this work will be sufficient for the guidance of any master builder, in their erection and completion.
But for the solicitation of those who believe that the undersigned could offer some improvements in the construction of Farm buildings for the benefit of our landholders and practical farmers, these pages would probably never have appeared. They are offered in the hope that they may be useful in assisting to form the taste, and add to the comfort of those who are the main instruments in embellishing the face of our country in its most pleasing and agreeable features—the American Farmer.
Lewis F. Allen
Black Rock, N.Y. 1851.
Note.—For throwing the Designs embraced in these pages into their present artistic form, the writer is indebted to Messrs. Otis & Brown, architects, of Buffalo, to whose skill and experience he takes a pleasure in recommending such as may wish instruction in the plans, drawings, specifications, or estimates relating to either of the designs here submitted, or for others of any kind that may be adapted to their purposes.
This work owes its appearance to the absence of any cheap and popular book on the subject of Rural Architecture, exclusively intended for the farming or agricultural interest of the United States. Why it is, that nothing of the kind has been heretofore attempted for the chief benefit of so large and important a class of our community as our farmers comprise, is not easy to say, unless it be that they themselves have indicated but little wish for instruction in a branch of domestic economy which is, in reality, one of great importance, not only to their domestic enjoyment, but their pecuniary welfare. It is, too, perhaps, among the category of neglects, and in the lack of fidelity to their own interests which pervades the agricultural community of this country, beyond those of any other profession—for we insist that agriculture, in its true and extended sense, is as much a profession as any other pursuit whatever. To the reality of such neglects they have but of late awaked, and indeed are now far too slowly wheeling into line for more xactive progress in the knowledge pertaining to their own advancement. As an accessory to their labors in such advancement, the present work is intended.
It is an opinion far too prevalent among those engaged in the more active occupations of our people,—fortified indeed in such opinion, by the too frequent example of the farmer himself—that everything connected with agriculture and agricultural life is of a rustic and uncouth character; that it is a profession in which ignorance, as they understand the term, is entirely consistent, and one with which no aspirations of a high or an elevated character should, or at least need be connected. It is a reflection upon the integrity of the great agricultural interest of the country, that any such opinion should prevail; and discreditable to that interest, that its condition or example should for a moment justify, or even tolerate it.
Without going into any extended course of remark, we shall find ample reason for the indifference which has prevailed among our rural population, on the subject of their own domestic architecture, in the absence of familiar and practical works on the subject, by such as have given any considerable degree of thought to it; and, what little thought has been devoted to this branch of building, has been incidentally rather than directly thrown off by those professionally engaged in the finer architectural studies appertaining to luxury and taste, instead of the every-day wants of a strictly agricultural population, and, of consequence, understanding but imperfectly the wants and conveniences of the farm house in its connection with the every-day labors and necessities of farm life.
It is not intended, in these remarks, to depreciate the efforts of those who have attempted to instruct our farmers in this interesting branch of agricultural economy. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have accomplished in the introduction of their designs to our notice; and when it is remarked that they are insufficient for the purposes intended, it may be also taken as an admission of our own neglect, that we have so far disregarded the subject ourselves, as to force upon others the duty of essaying to instruct us in a work of which we ourselves should long ago have been the masters.
Why should a farmer, because he is a farmer, only occupy an uncouth, outlandish house, any more than a professional man, a merchant, or a mechanic? Is it because he himself is so uncouth and outlandish in his thoughts and manners, that he deserves no better? Is it because his occupation is degrading, his intellect ignorant, his position in life low, and his associations debasing? Surely not. Yet, in many of the plans and designs got up for his accommodation, in the books and publications of the day, all due convenience, to say nothing of the respectability or the elegance of domestic life, is as entirely disregarded as if such qualities had no connection with the farmer or his occupation. We hold, that although many of the practical operations of the farm may be rough, laborious, and untidy, yet they are not, and need not be inconsistent with the knowledge and practice of neatness, order, and even elegance and refinement within doors; and, that the due accommodation of the various things appertaining to farm stock, farm labor, and farm life, should have a tendency to elevate the social position, the associations, thoughts, and entire condition of the farmer. As the man himself—no matter what his occupation—be lodged and fed, so influenced, in a degree, will be his practice in the daily duties of his life. A squalid, miserable tenement, with which they who inhabit it are content, can lead to no elevation of character, no improvement in condition, either social or moral, of its occupants. But, the family comfortably and tidily, although humbly provided in their habitation and domestic arrangements, have usually a corresponding character in their personal relations. A log cabin, even,—and I speak of this primitive American structure with profound affection and regard, as the shelter from which we have achieved the most of our prodigious and rapid agricultural conquests,—may be so constructed as to speak an air of neatness, intelligence, and even refinement in those who inhabit it.
Admitting, then, without further argument, that well conditioned household accommodations are as important to the farmer, even to the indulgence of luxury itself, when it can be afforded, as for those who occupy other and more active pursuits, it is quite important that he be equally well instructed in the art of planning and arranging these accommodations, and in designing, also, the various other structures which are necessary to his wants in their fullest extent. As a question of economy, both in saving and accumulating, good and sufficient buildings are of the first consequence, in a pecuniary light, and when to this are added other considerations touching our social enjoyment, our advancement in temporal condition, our associations, our position and influence in life, and, not least, the decided item of national good taste which the introduction of good buildings throughout our extended agricultural country will give, we find abundant cause for effort in improvement.
It is not intended in our remarks to convey the impression that we Americans, as a people, are destitute of comfortable, and, in many cases, quite convenient household and farm arrangements. Numerous farmeries in every section of the United States, particularly in the older ones, demonstrate most fully, that where our farmers have taken the trouble to think on the subject, their ingenuity has been equal, in the items of convenient and economical arrangement of their dwellings and out-buildings, to their demands. But, we are forced to say, that such buildings have been executed, in most cases, with great neglect of architectural system, taste, or effect; and, in many instances, to the utter violation of all propriety in appearance, or character, as appertaining to the uses for which they are applied.
The character of the farm should be carried out so as to express itself in everything which it contains. All should bear a consistent relation with each other. The former himself is a plain man. His family are plain people, although none the less worthy, useful, or exalted, on that account. His structures, of every kind, should be plain, also, yet substantial, where substance is required. All these detract nothing from his respectability or his influence in the neighborhood, the town, the county, or the state. A farmer has quite as much business in the field, or about his ordinary occupations, with ragged garments, out at elbows, and a crownless hat, as he has to occupy a leaky, wind-broken, and dilapidated house. Neither is he any nearer the mark, with a ruffled shirt, a fancy dress, or gloved hands, when following his plough behind a pair of fancy horses, than in living in a finical, pretending house, such as we see stuck up in conspicuous places in many parts of the country. All these are out of place in each extreme, and the one is as absurd, so far as true propriety is concerned, as the other. A fitness of things, or a correspondence of one thing with another, should always be preserved upon the farm, as elsewhere; and there is not a single reason why propriety and good keeping should not as well distinguish it. Nor is there any good cause why the farmer himself should not be a man of taste, in the arrangement and architecture of every building on his place, as well as other men. It is only necessary that he devote a little time to study, in order to give his mind a right direction in all that appertains to this department. Or, if he prefer to employ the ingenuity of others to do his planning,—which, by the way, is, in most cases, the more natural and better course,—he certainly should possess sufficient judgment to see that such plans be correct and will answer his purposes.
The plans and directions submitted in this work are intended to be of the most practical kind; plain, substantial, and applicable, throughout, to the purposes intended, and such as are within the reach—each in their kind—of every farmer in our country. These plans are chiefly original; that is, they are not copied from any in the books, or from any structures with which the writer is familiar. Yet they will doubtless, on examination, be found in several cases to resemble buildings, xvboth in outward appearance and interior arrangement, with which numerous readers may be acquainted. The object, in addition to our own designs, has been to apply practical hints, gathered from other structures in use, which have seemed appropriate for a work of the limited extent here offered, and that may serve to improve the taste of all such as, in building useful structures, desire to embellish their farms and estates in an agreeable style of home architecture, at once pleasant to the eye, and convenient in their arrangement.
The lover of country life who looks upon rural objects in the true spirit, and, for the first time surveys the cultivated portions of the United States, will be struck with the incongruous appearance and style of our farm houses and their contiguous buildings; and, although, on examination, he will find many, that in their interior accommodation, and perhaps relative arrangement to each other, are tolerably suited to the business and convenience of the husbandman, still, the feeling will prevail that there is an absence of method, congruity, and correct taste in the architectural structure of his buildings generally, by the American farmer.
We may, in truth, be said to have no architecture at all, as exhibited in our agricultural districts, so far as any correct system, or plan is concerned, as the better taste in building, which a few years past has introduced among us, has been chiefly confined to our cities and towns of rapid growth. Even in the comparatively few buildings in the modern style to be seen in our farming districts, from the various requirements of 14those buildings being partially unknown to the architect and builder, who had their planning—and upon whom, owing to their own inexperience in such matters, their employers have relied—a majority of such dwellings have turned out, if not absolute failures, certainly not what the necessities of the farmer has demanded. Consequently, save in the mere item of outward appearance—and that, not always—the farmer and cottager have gained nothing, owing to the absurdity in style or arrangement, and want of fitness to circumstances adopted for the occasion.
We have stated that our prevailing rural architecture is discordant in appearance; it may be added, that it is also uncouth, out of keeping with correct rules, and, ofttimes offensive to the eye of any lover of rural harmony. Why it is so, no matter, beyond the apology already given—that of an absence of cultivation, and thought upon the subject. It may be asked, of what consequence is it that the farmer or small property-holder should conform to given rules, or mode, in the style and arrangement of his dwelling, or out-buildings, so that they be reasonably convenient, and answer his purposes? For the same reason that he requires symmetry, excellence of form or style, in his horses, his cattle, or other farm stock, household furniture, or personal dress. It is an arrangement of artificial objects, in harmony with natural objects; a cultivation of the sympathies which every rational being should have, more or less, with true taste; that costs little or nothing in the attainment, and, when attained, is a source of gratification through life. Every human being is bound, under ordinary circumstances, to leave the world somewhat better, so far as his own acts or exertions are concerned, than he found it, in the exercise of such faculties as have been given him. Such duty, among thinking men, is conceded, so far as the moral world is concerned; and why not in the artificial? So far as the influence for good goes, in all practical use, from the building of a temple, to the knocking together of a pig-stye—a labor of years, or the work of a day—the exercise of a correct taste is important, in a degree.
In the available physical features of a country, no land upon earth exceeds North America. From scenery the most sublime, through the several gradations of magnificence and grandeur, down to the simply picturesque and beautiful, in all variety and shade; in compass vast, or in area limited, we have an endless variety, and, with a pouring out of God's harmonies in the creation, without a parallel, inviting every intelligent mind to study their features and character, in adapting them to his own uses, and, in so doing, to even embellish—if such a thing be possible—such exquisite objects with his own most ingenious handiwork. Indeed, it is a profanation to do otherwise; and when so to improve them requires no extraordinary application of skill, or any extravagant outlay in expense, not to plan and to build in conformity with good taste, is an absolute barbarism, inexcusable in a land like ours, and among a population claiming the intelligence we do, or making but a share of the general progress which we exhibit.
It is the idea of some, that a house or building which the farmer or planter occupies, should, in shape, style, and character, be like some of the stored-up commodities of his farm or plantation. We cannot subscribe to this suggestion. We know of no good reason why the walls of a farm house should appear like a hay rick, or its roof like the thatched covering to his wheat stacks, because such are the shapes best adapted to preserve his crops, any more than the grocer's habitation should be made to imitate a tea chest, or the shipping merchant's a rum puncheon, or cotton bale. We have an idea that the farmer, or the planter, according to his means and requirements, should be as well housed and accommodated, and in as agreeable style, too, as any other class of community; not in like character, in all things, to be sure, but in his own proper way and manner. Nor do we know why a farm house should assume a peculiarly primitive or uncultivated style of architecture, from other sensible houses. That it be a farm house, is sufficiently apparent from its locality upon the farm itself; that its interior arrangement be for the convenience of the in-door farm work, and the proper accommodation of the farmer's family, should be quite as apparent; but, that it should assume an uncouth or clownish aspect, is as unnecessary as that the farmer himself should be a boor in his manners, or a dolt in his intellect.
The farm, in its proper cultivation, is the foundation of all human prosperity, and from it is derived the main wealth of the community. From the farm chiefly springs that energetic class of men, who replace the 17enervated and physically decaying multitude continually thrown off in the waste-weir of our great commercial and manufacturing cities and towns, whose population, without the infusion—and that continually—of the strong, substantial, and vigorous life blood of the country, would soon dwindle into insignificance and decrepitude. Why then should not this first, primitive, health-enjoying and life-sustaining class of our people be equally accommodated in all that gives to social and substantial life, its due development? It is absurd to deny them by others, or that they deny themselves, the least of such advantages, or that any mark of caste be attempted to separate them from any other class or profession of equal wealth, means, or necessity. It is quite as well to say that the farmer should worship on the Sabbath in a meeting-house, built after the fashion of his barn, or that his district school house should look like a stable, as that his dwelling should not exhibit all that cheerfulness and respectability in form and feature which belongs to the houses of any class of our population whatever. Not that the farm house should be like the town or the village house, in character, style, or architecture, but that it should, in its own proper character, express all the comfort, repose, and quietude which belong to the retired and thoughtful occupation of him who inhabits it. Sheltered in its own secluded, yet independent domain, with a cheerful, intelligent exterior, it should exhibit all the pains-taking in home embellishment and rural decoration that becomes its position, and which would make it an object of attraction and regard.
In ascertaining what is desirable to the conveniences, or the necessities in our household arrangement, it may be not unprofitable to look about us, and consider somewhat, the existing condition of the structures too many of us now inhabit, and which, in the light of true fitness for the objects designed, are inconvenient, absurd, and out of all harmony of purpose; yet, under the guidance of a better skill, and a moderate outlay, might be well adapted, in most cases, to our convenience and comfort, and quite well, to a reasonable standard of taste in architectural appearance.
At the threshold—not of the house, but of this treatise—it may be well to remark that it is not here assumed that there has been neither skill, ingenuity, nor occasional good taste exhibited, for many generations back, in the United States, in the construction of farm and country houses. On the contrary, there are found in the older states many farm and country houses that are almost models, in their way, for convenience in the main purposes required of structures of their kind, and such as can hardly be altered for the better. Such, however, form the exception, not the rule; yet instead of standing as objects for imitation, they have been ruled out as antiquated, and unfit for modern builders to consult, who have in the introduction of some real improvements, also left out, or discarded much that is valuable, and, where true comfort is concerned, indispensable to perfect housekeeping. Alteration is not always improvement, and in the rage for innovation of all kinds, among much that is valuable, a great deal in house-building has been introduced that is absolutely pernicious. Take, for instance, some of our ancient-looking country houses of the last century, which, in America, we call old. See their ample dimensions; their heavy, massive walls; their low, comfortable ceilings; their high gables; sharp roofs; deep porches, and spreading eaves, and contrast them with the ambitious, tall, proportionless, and card-sided things of a modern date, and draw the comparison in true comfort, which the ancient mansion really affords, by the side of the other. Bating its huge chimneys, its wide fire-places, its heavy beams dropping below the ceiling overhead, and the lack of some modern conveniences, which, to be added, would give all that is desired, and every man possessed of a proper judgment will concede the superiority to the house of the last century.
That American house-building of the last fifty years is out of joint, requires no better proof than that the 21main improvements which have been applied to our rural architecture, are in the English style of farm and country houses of two or three centuries ago; so, in that particular, we acknowledge the better taste and judgment of our ancestors. True, modern luxury, and in some particulars, modern improvement has made obsolete, if not absurd, many things considered indispensable in a ruder age. The wide, rambling halls and rooms; the huge, deep fire-places in the chimneys; the proximity of out-buildings, and the contiguity of stables, ricks, and cattle-yards—all these are wisely contracted, dispensed with, or thrown off to a proper distance; but instead of such style being abandoned altogether, as has too often been done, the house itself might better have been partially reformed, and the interior arrangement adapted to modern convenience. Such changes have in some instances been made; and when so, how often does the old mansion, with outward features in good preservation, outspeak, in all the expression of home-bred comforts, the flashy, gimcrack neighbor, which in its plenitude of modern pretension looks so flauntingly down upon it!
We cannot, in the United States, consistently adopt the domestic architecture of any other country, throughout, to our use. We are different in our institutions, our habits, our agriculture, our climates. Utility is our chief object, and coupled with that, the indulgence of an agreeable taste may be permitted to every one who creates a home for himself, or founds one for his family. The frequent changes of estates incident to our laws, and the many inducements held out to our people to 22change their locality or residence, in the hope of bettering their condition, is a strong hindrance to the adoption of a universally correct system in the construction of our buildings; deadening, as the effect of such changes, that home feeling which should be a prominent trait of agricultural character. An attachment to locality is not a conspicuous trait of American character; and if there be a people on earth boasting a high civilization and intelligence, who are at the same time a roving race, the Americans are that people; and we acknowledge it a blemish in our domestic and social constitution.
Such remark is not dropped invidiously, but as a reason why we have thus far made so little progress in the arts of home embellishment, and in clustering about our habitations those innumerable attractions which win us to them sufficiently to repel the temptation so often presented to our enterprise, our ambition, or love of gain—and these not always successful—in seeking other and distant places of abode. If, then, this tendency to change—a want of attachment to any one spot—is a reason why we have been so indifferent to domestic architecture; and if the study and practice of a better system of building tends to cultivate a home feeling, why should it not be encouraged? Home attachment is a virtue. Therefore let that virtue be cherished. And if any one study tend to exalt our taste, and promote our enjoyment, let us cultivate that study to the highest extent within our reach.
Style of Building_
Diversified as are the features of our country in climate, soil, surface, and position, no one style of rural architecture is properly adapted to the whole; and it is a gratifying incident to the indulgence in a variety of taste, that we possess the opportunity which we desire in its display to almost any extent in mode and effect. The Swiss châlet may hang in the mountain pass; the pointed Gothic may shoot up among the evergreens of the rugged hill-side; the Italian roof, with its overlooking campanile, may command the wooded slope or the open plain; or the quaint and shadowy style of the old English mansion, embosomed in its vines and shrubbery, may nestle in the quiet, shaded valley, all suited to their respective positions, and each in harmony with the natural features by which it is surrounded. Nor does the effect which such structures give to the landscape in an ornamental point of view, require that they be more imposing in character than the necessities of the occasion may demand. True economy demands a structure sufficiently spacious to accommodate its occupants in the best manner, so far as convenience and 24comfort are concerned in a dwelling; and its conformity to just rules in architecture need not be additionally expensive or troublesome. He who builds at all, if it be anything beyond a rude or temporary shelter, may as easily and cheaply build in accordance with correct rules of architecture, as against such rules; and it no more requires an extravagance in cost or a wasteful occupation of room to produce a given effect in a house suited to humble means, than in one of profuse accommodation. Magnificence, or the attempt at magnificence in building, is the great fault with Americans who aim to build out of the common line; and the consequence of such attempt is too often a failure, apparent, always, at a glance, and of course a perfect condemnation in itself of the judgment as well as taste of him who undertakes it.
Holding our tenures as we do, with no privilege of entail to our posterity, an eye to his own interest, or to that of his family who is to succeed to his estate, should admonish the builder of a house to the adoption of a plan which will, in case of the sale of the estate, involve no serious loss. He should build such a house as will be no detriment, in its expense, to the selling value of the land on which it stands, and always fitted for the spot it occupies. Hence, an imitation of the high, extended, castellated mansions of England, or the Continent, although in miniature, are altogether unsuited to the American farmer or planter, whose lands, instead of increasing in his family, are continually subject to division, or to sale in mass, on his own demise; and when the estate is encumbered with unnecessarily large and expensive buildings, they become an absolute drawback to its value in either event. An expensive house requires a corresponding expense to maintain it, otherwise its effect is lost, and many a worthy owner of a costly mansion has been driven to sell and abandon his estate altogether, from his unwillingness or inability to support "the establishment" which it entailed; when, if the dwelling were only such as the estate required and could reasonably maintain, a contented and happy home would have remained to himself and family. It behooves, therefore, the American builder to examine well his premises, to ascertain the actual requirements of his farm or plantation, in convenience and accommodation, and build only to such extent, and at such cost as shall not impoverish his means, nor cause him future disquietude.
Another difficulty with us is, that we oftener build to gratify the eyes of the public than our own, and fit up our dwellings to accommodate "company" or visitors, rather than our own families; and in the indulgence of this false notion, subject ourselves to perpetual inconvenience for the gratification of occasional hospitality or ostentation. This is all wrong. A house should be planned and constructed for the use of the household, with incidental accommodation for our immediate friends or guests—which can always be done without sacrifice to the comfort or convenience of the regular inmates. In this remark, a stinted and parsimonious spirit is not suggested. A liberal appropriation of rooms in every department; a spare chamber or two, or an additional room on the ground floor, looking to a possible increase of family, and the indulgence of an easy hospitality, should always govern the resident of the country in erecting his dwelling. The enjoyments of society and the intercourse of friends, sharing for the time, our own table and fireside, is a crowning pleasure of country life; and all this may be done without extraordinary expense, in a wise construction of the dwelling.
The farm house too, should comport in character and area with the extent and capacity of the farm itself, and the main design for which it is erected. To the farmer proper—he who lives from the income which the farm produces—it is important to know the extent of accommodation required for the economical management of his estate, and then to build in accordance with it, as well as to suit his own position in life, and the station which he and his family hold in society. The owner of a hundred acre farm, living upon the income he receives from it, will require less house room than he who tills equally well his farm of three, six, or ten hundred acres. Yet the numbers in their respective families, the relative position of each in society, or their taste for social intercourse may demand a larger or smaller household arrangement, regardless of the size of their estates; still, the dwellings on each should bear, in extent and expense, a consistent relation to the land itself, and the means of its owner. For instance: a farm of one hundred acres may safely and economically erect and maintain a house costing eight hundred to two thousand dollars, while one of five hundred to a thousand acres may range in an expenditure of twenty-five hundred to five thousand dollars in its dwelling, and all be consistent with a proper economy in farm management.
Let it be understood, that the above sums are named as simply comporting with a financial view of the subject, and such as the economical management of the estate may warrant. To one who has no regard to such consideration, this rule of expenditure will not apply. He may invest any amount he so chooses in building beyond, if he only be content to pocket the loss which he can never expect to be returned in an increased value to the property, over and above the price of cheaper buildings. On the other hand, he would do well to consider that a farm is frequently worth less to an ordinary purchaser, with an extravagant house upon it, than with an economical one, and in many cases will bring even less in market, in proportion as the dwelling is expensive. Fancy purchasers are few, and fastidious, while he who buys only for a home and an occupation, is governed solely by the profitable returns the estate will afford upon the capital invested.
There is again a grand error which many fall into in building, looking as they do only at the extent of wood and timber; or stone and mortar in the structure, and paying no attention to the surroundings, which in most cases contribute more to the effect of the establishment than the structure itself, and which, if uncultivated or neglected, any amount of expenditure in building will fail to give that completeness and perfection of character which every homestead should command. Thus the tawdry erections in imitation of a cast-off feudalism in Europe, or a copying of the massive piles of more recent date abroad, although in miniature, both in extent and cost, is the sheerest affectation, in which no sensible man should ever indulge. It is out of all keeping, or propriety with other things, as we in this country have them, and the indulgence of all such fancies is sooner or later regretted. Substance, convenience, purpose, harmony—all, perhaps, better summed up in the term 'Expression'—these are the objects which should govern the construction of our dwellings and out-buildings, and in their observance we can hardly err in the acquisition of what will promote the highest enjoyment which a dwelling can bestow.
The site of a dwelling should be an important study with every country builder; for on this depends much of its utility, and in addition to that, a large share of the enjoyment which its occupation will afford. Custom, in many parts of the United States, in the location of the farm buildings, gives advantages which are denied in others. In the south, and in the slave states generally, the planter builds, regardless of roads, on the most convenient site his plantation presents; the farmer of German descent, in Pennsylvania and some other states, does the same: while the Yankee, be he settled where he will, either in the east, north, or west, inexorably huddles himself immediately upon the highway, whether his possessions embrace both sides of it or not, disregarding the facilities of access to his fields, the convenience of tilling his crops, or the character of the ground which his buildings may occupy, seeming to have no other object than proximity to the road—as if his chief business was upon that, instead of its being simply a convenience to his occupation. To the last, but little choice is left; and so long as a close connection with the thoroughfare is to control, he is obliged 30to conform to accident in what should be a matter of deliberate choice and judgment. Still, there are right and wrong positions for a house, which it is necessary to discuss, regardless of conventional rules, and they should be considered in the light of propriety alone.
A fitness to the purposes for which the dwelling is constructed should, unquestionably, be the governing point in determining its position. The site should be dry, and slightly declining, if possible, on every side; but if the surface be level, or where water occasionally flows from contiguous grounds, or on a soil naturally damp, it should be thoroughly drained of all superfluous moisture. That is indispensable to the preservation of the house itself, and the health of its inmates. The house should so stand as to present an agreeable aspect from the main points at which it is seen, or the thoroughfares by which it is approached. It should be so arranged as to afford protection from wind and storm, to that part most usually occupied, as well as be easy of access to the out-buildings appended to it. It should have an unmistakable front, sides, and rear; and the uses to which its various parts are applied, should distinctly appear in its outward character. It should combine all the advantages of soil, cultivation, water, shade, and shelter, which the most liberal gratification, consistent with the circumstances of the owner, may demand. If a site on the estate command a prospect of singular beauty, other things equal, the dwelling should embrace it; if the luxury of a stream, or a sheet of water in repose, present itself, it should, if possible, be enjoyed; if the shade and protection of a grove be near, its benefits should be included; in fine, any object in itself desirable, and not embarrassing to the main purposes of the dwelling and its appendages, should be turned to the best account, and appropriated in such manner as to combine all that is desirable both in beauty and effect, as well as in utility, to make up a perfect whole in the family residence.
Attached to the building site should be considered the quality of the soil, as affording cultivation and growth to shrubbery and trees,—at once the ornament most effective to all domestic buildings, grateful to the eye always, as objects of admiration and beauty—delightful in the repose they offer in hours of lassitude or weariness; and to them, that indispensable feature in a perfect arrangement, the garden, both fruit and vegetable, should be added. Happily for the American, our soils are so universally adapted to the growth of vegetation in all its varieties, that hardly a farm of considerable size can be found which does not afford tolerable facilities for the exercise of all the taste which one may indulge in the cultivation of the garden as well as in the planting and growth of trees and shrubbery; and a due appropriation of these to an agreeable residence is equal in importance to the style and arrangement of the house itself.
The site selected for the dwelling, and the character of the scenery and objects immediately surrounding it, should have a controlling influence upon the style in which the house is to be constructed. A fitness and harmony in all these is indispensable to both expression and effect. And in their determination, a single 32object should not control, but the entire picture, as completed, should be embraced in the view; and that style of building constituting the most agreeable whole, as filling the eye with the most grateful sensations, should be the one selected with which to fill up and complete the design.
A discussion of the objects by way of embellishment, which may be required to give character and effect to a country residence, would embrace a range too wide, in all its parts, for a simply practical treatise like this; and general hints on the subject are all indeed, that will be required, as no specific rules or directions can be given which would be applicable, indiscriminately, to guide the builder in the execution of his work. A dwelling house, no matter what the style, standing alone, either on hill or plain, apart from other objects, would hardly be an attractive sight. As a mere representation of a particular style of architecture, or as a model of imitation, it might excite our admiration, but it would not be an object on which the eye and the imagination could repose with satisfaction. It would be incomplete unless accompanied by such associates as the eye is accustomed to embrace in the full gratification of the sensations to which that organ is the 33conductor. But assemble around that dwelling subordinate structures, trees, and shrubbery properly disposed, and it becomes an object of exceeding interest and pleasure in the contemplation. It is therefore, that the particular style or outward arrangement of the house is but a part of what should constitute the general effect, and such style is to be consulted only so far as it may in itself please the taste, and give benefit or utility in the purposes for which it is intended. Still, the architectural design should be in harmony with the features of the surrounding scenery, and is thus important in completing the effect sought, and which cannot be accomplished without it.
A farm with its buildings, or a simple country residence with the grounds which enclose it, or a cottage with its door-yard and garden, should be finished sections of the landscape of which it forms a part, or attractive points within it; and of consequence, complete each within itself, and not dependent upon distant accessories to support it—an imperium in imperio, in classic phrase. A tower, a monument, a steeple, or the indistinct outline of a distant town may form a striking feature in a pictorial design and the associations connected with them, or, the character in which they are contemplated may allow them to stand naked and unadorned by other objects, and still permit them to fill up in perfect harmony the picture. This idea will illustrate the importance of embellishment, not only in the substitution of trees as necessary appendages to a complete rural establishment, but in the erection of all the buildings necessary for occupation 34in any manner, in form and position, to give effect from any point of view in which the homestead may be seen. General appearance should not be confined to one quarter alone, but the house and its surroundings on every side should show completeness in design and harmony in execution; and although humble, and devoted to the meanest purposes, a portion of these erections may be, yet the character of utility or necessity which they maintain, gives them an air of dignity, if not of grace. Thus, a house and out-buildings flanked with orchards, or a wood, on which they apparently fall back for support, fills the eye at once with not only a beautiful group, in themselves combined, but associate the idea of repose, of comfort, and abundance—indispensable requisites to a perfect farm residence. They also seem to connect the house and out-buildings with the fields beyond, which are of necessity naked of trees, and gradually spread the view abroad over the farm until it mingles with, or is lost in the general landscape.
These remarks may seem too refined, and as out of place here, and trenching upon the subject of Landscape Gardening, which is not designed to be a part, or but an incidental one of the present work, yet they are important in connection with the subject under discussion. The proper disposition of trees and shrubbery around, or in the vicinity of buildings is far too little understood, although tree planting about our dwellings is a practice pretty general throughout our country. Nothing is more common than to see a man build a house, perhaps in most elaborate and expensive style, and then plant a row of trees close upon the front, which when grown will shut it almost entirely out of view; while he leaves the rear as bald and unprotected as if it were a barn or a horse-shed—as if in utter ignorance, as he probably is, that his house is more effectively set off by a flanking and background of tree and shrubbery, than in front. And this is called good taste! Let us examine it. Trees near a dwelling are desirable for shade; shelter they do not afford except in masses, which last is always better given to the house itself by a veranda. Immediately adjoining, or within touching distance of a house, trees create dampness, more or less litter, and frequently vermin. They injure the walls and roofs by their continual shade and dampness. They exclude the rays of the sun, and prevent a free circulation of air. Therefore, close to the house, trees are absolutely pernicious, to say nothing of excluding all its architectural effect from observation; when, if planted at proper distances, they compose its finest ornaments.
If it be necessary to build in good taste at all, it is quite as necessary that such good taste be kept in view throughout. A country dwelling should always be a conspicuous object in its full character and outline, from one or more prominent points of observation; consequently all plantations of tree or shrubbery in its immediate vicinity should be considered as aids to show off the house and its appendages, instead of becoming the principal objects of attraction in themselves. Their disposition should be such as to create a perfect and agreeable whole, when seen in connection with the 36house itself. They should also be so placed as to open the surrounding landscape to view in its most attractive features, from the various parts of the dwelling. Much in the effective disposition of trees around the dwelling will thus depend upon the character of the country seen from it, and which should control to a great extent their position. A single tree, of grand and stately dimensions, will frequently give greater effect than the most studied plantations. A ledge of rock, in the clefts of which wild vines may nestle, or around which a mass of shrubbery may cluster, will add a charm to the dwelling which an elaborate cultivation would fail to bestow; and the most negligent apparel of nature in a thousand ways may give a character which we might strive in vain to accomplish by our own invention. In the efforts to embellish our dwellings or grounds, the strong natural objects with which they are associated should be consulted, always keeping in view an expression of the chief character to which the whole is applied.