Nineteenth century America’s swept yard
As I walked around the extensive Atlanta History Center grounds a few weeks ago, I came across a farm-house from the mid 1800s. Barns for various animals surrounded the structure.
The house had a wooden fence along part of its perimeter, probably to keep the animals from roaming too close to the house.
The house was called the Tallie Smith House, a rural home preserved from the mid-nineteenth century. A variety of activities such as spinning, weaving, and preparing food would have taken place on its large front porch. [below]
Then I noticed that there was no front lawn, but rather a swept area of soil outside the front door, along the front, and on each side of the house as well.
Information on a near-by post said, “No garden form is more strongly tied to the South in the 1800s than the rural, grass-free swept yard.” The swept yard was, it said, probably African in origin. [below]
The fact that no lawn surrounded the house caught my attention. This landscape represented a certain time period in American garden history.
The word ‘yard’ has had a series of meanings for the landscape over the centuries. Here it includes the area that surrounds the front of a nineteenth century rural house.