I continue to read the great book English Garden Eccentrics. The main idea is that…
In nineteenth century England the wealthy could afford a country house.
In America a similar growth in the number of estates built by wealthy industrialists took place in a period late in the century that was referred to as the “Gilded Age.”
Kenneth T. Jackson writes in his book Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States: “In England some five hundred country homes were built or remodeled between 1835 and 1889. In the United States the brewing, shipping, railroad, iron, and banking millionaires followed this British tradition of the country gentleman.”
At that time in Milwaukee Captain Fred Pabst, owner of the largest brewery in the world, built his neo-Renaissance style mansion on Milwaukee’s main street called Grand, today renamed Wisconsin. The year was 1892. Pabst, through hard work and persistance, had earned the title of ‘brewery baron’.
The Pabst Mansion was only one of over sixty residences on Grand Avenue, housing Milwaukee’s elite.
Not far away the banker Alexander Mitchell had built his home in that grand style as well. His landscape included a lawn, trees, and shrubs, all enclosed in a wrought iron fence. A large conservatory stood to one side of the house as well. Mitchell loved gardening.
Today his home is the Milwaukee Club.
I remember visiting the Pabst mansion a couple of summers ago. It still stands as a sign of that period when the rich could afford elaborate homes and a landscape to complement it.
The landscape, of course, included a lawn, the ultimate symbol of status and respectability.