The Sawkill Creek - Preserving & Enhancing Nature’s Beauty

The Sawkill Creek

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Preserving & Enhancing Nature’s Beauty

Edward Livingston, Louise’s husband, took a first step toward transforming this productive farm into a pleasure park.

In 1829, he began to lay out walking trails in the Sawkill ravine. Edward's straw hat and cane, here seen in the parlor at Montgomery Place, speak to the refreshment of mind and body that he sought on walks in the north woods or “Wilderness.”

The trail system would eventually cross over the Sawkill to connect with trails on Robert Donaldson’s Blithewood property, present-day Bard College. In keeping with a romantic sensibility, these paths appeared natural, yet a good deal of art and artifice was required to attain the seemingly effortless effect.

During the mid-19th century, altering the woodland in such a way was considered a true enhancement of nature among elites. This idea might seem strange today, when Americans tend to assign higher value to natural areas with a minimum of human impact. 

This image depicts the trails on the Blithewood property, the north side of the Sawkill.

Summer hat and walking stick belonging to Edward Livingston. Straw, silk, willow, gold, and other materials, c. 1830. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

The Cataract, by Alexander Jackson Davis. Watercolor on paper, 1847. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

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