Colonial Williamsburg, the Grandest of all Colonial Revival Gardens

The colonial revival movement is important here because it began about 1870 and lasted well into the twentieth century.  The movement gave America many houses and gardens from the colonial period.

The most famous example of colonial revivalism has to be Colonial Williamsburg, completed in 1938.

Charles B. Hosmer, Jr. wrote a chapter in the book The Colonial Revival in America.  He said “The landscape decisions made at Williamsburg were replayed at private and public restorations all over the United States.”

Colonial Williamsburg’s gardens. [Photo courtesy of DCTours.]

The gardens at Williamsburg however assumed a certain embellishment.

Hosmer wrote: “The ideal of historical accuracy was important when architects dealt with restoring or reconstructing Virginia buildings  But, where gardens were concerned, the revival of the past was the creation of a picture of beauty, a romantic setting that would give pleasure.”

The decisions for the gardens, especially ornamental plants, were made according to the recommendations of the landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff and the benefactor for the entire project, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Thus what we see there includes the vision of designers and architects of what they thought the colonial period embodied.

Hosmer said about Williamsburg: “When the causes of history and aesthetics [in garden restoration] collided, beauty almost always won.”

Gardens are subject to fashion and style.  When it comes to restoring a garden of an earlier period, sometimes current style and fashion can enter a decision about design and plants.

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