Last week I visited Rochester, New York . I traveled there to give a talk…
Victorian homes needed lawn.
The lawn marked the landscape as contemporary in nineteenth century America.
Every Victorian house needed the lawn.
David Stuart writes in his book Garden of Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy, “The front garden, except in the poorest examples, became the site of another piece of competitive gardening: the lawn.
“Of course the great eighteenth-century gardens had lawns, often vast, though these were either cropped by the park’s inhabitants such as fallow deer, rare breeds of sheep and cattle, or kept scythed by the garden staff.
“Soon, every Victorian house had a square of lawn, even if this was scarcely large enough to lie upon outstretched and could be cut with a few sweeps of the scythe.”
A beautiful illustration of a Victorian home with a lawn appears on the cover image from Clifford Edward Clark, Jr.’s book The American Family Home 1800-1960. [below]
Eventually taking care of lawn became an important household task for the middle class.
As Frank Scott in 1870 argued so well in his book http://americangardening.net/latest-free-american-dating-sites/, a homeowner took care of the lawn for the view, for what the neighbor would see.
Thus it was important, he wrote, to keep it cut and looking attractive.
And so Scott set the stage in the nineteenth century for all the stress homeowners feel in the need not only to cultivate a lawn, but to spend hours manicuring it so that it has that certain look.
Victorian homeowners needed a lawn, but a certain kind of lawn, with a certain look.