Cora Livingston Barton - Downing's Friend and Muse

Cora Livingston Barton

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Downing's Friend and Muse

Andrew Jackson Downing visited Montgomery Place many times, working with the Livingston women to create additions to the landscape.

These women were participatory clients. At times, they rejected Downing’s suggestions wholesale. At other times—as when Cora Barton seems to have reduced the scale of Downing’s plan for the elaborate romantic gardens surrounding the conservatory (see Site Map)—they tweaked what had been offered without seeking approval. Cora in particular seems to have been full of the creative impulse, especially where gardens and landscape features were involved.

In 1847, Downing devoted a whole article in his magazine The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste to Montgomery Place and “its varied mysteries of pleasure-grounds and lawns, wood and water.” Very few estates in the United States received such special attention from Downing. This tutor of American taste considered Montgomery Place exemplary to a wide public. In the article (reproduced in full in PDF transcript below) he described in detail how the property’s different features came together to make a spectacular whole. Downing asserted “there are numberless lessons here for the landscape gardener; there are an hundred points that will delight the artist; there are meditative walks and a thousand suggestive aspects of nature for the poet…”.           

In the audio clip here, Downing’s admiration for Cora Barton is evident.

In 1852, Downing died in a tragic steamboat accident. Cora Barton lived on and continued to build gardens at Montgomery Place until her death in 1873.

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

Audio: A. J. Downing

A. J. Downing describes Cora Barton, c. 1847.

“A Visit to Montgomery Place” in The Horticulturist, full text, by Andrew Jackson Downing (1847).

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