The Conservatory - Introduction

The Conservatory

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Introduction

During the middle of the 19th century, wealthy landowners in the United States and England viewed conservatories as standard estate buildings.

They used these elaborate greenhouses to grow and display exotic plant specimens, to embellish their landscapes, and to assert their affluence and sophistication. Americans were deeply interested in the ornamental uses of nature during this period.

By drawing on a variety of historical resources, this program explores the conservatory at Montgomery Place, one of the ephemeral features of the estate’s landscape. How did different people and generations view and use the structure? Made of transparent glass and filled with plants and trees, was the conservatory more like a garden than like a building? What does it suggest about the relationship between the built and natural environment, and about people’s relationship with nature, in the 19th century? 

The Conservatory and Flower Garden at Montgomery Place, from “A Visit to Montgomery Place” in The Horticulturist, by Andrew Jackson Downing (1847).

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