by Courtney McNamara, D&H Canal Society
Below is an excerpt from a booklet written by Julia McEntee Dillon (1834 – 1919) on Old Gardens of Kingston. Julia was the cousin of the American painter, Jervis McEntee, and an accomplished painter in her own right, best known for her beautiful floral paintings. She lived in the old stone house on Pearl Street that is now the parsonage of the Old Dutch Church. She not only painted flowers. She also knew them and how to grow them. One of her paintings, shown above, graces the collection of the Ulster County Historical Society.
We invite you for a stroll through the ‘Old Gardens of Kingston’.”
We want the old background of one hundred years ago or more. We want something of the life that fostered these gardens, as much as part of the home as a hearthstone.
The Senate House is one of the oldest in Kingston. There is ample space for flower bordered walks around the vegetable garden, and fruit trees, and with the name of Van Gassbeck as a guarantee for the practical and esthetic in horticulture, we have our first old garden.
Next we come to the house of Christopher Tappan. It was a double stone house with gambrel roof; a fine porch on the east side opening on a beautiful garden (which is now Wall Street). The description of this garden is based on the stories told to the writer by her mother of her life therein. She was first attracted by the gorgeous Crown Imperial, the brilliant tulips and lilies, but she formed her lasting friendships among the roses. There were not many; not the embarrassment of riches of these days. There were the red, the white, the pink, there were the Chancellor and Cabbage—but above all the Provence which the Huguenots brought with them to their new home. It has ever remained an alien…unless the season is favorable and everything propitious it does not mature its great clusters of buds.
We do not know the exact extent of this garden, only that Pompey, the house servant, was hiding in it while the house was being burned by the British, having carried the vases from the parlor mantlepiece, hidden them in the asparagus bed, and bringing them to his mistress when the family gathered around their ruined home.
The largest and finest garden in town was Colonel Jacobus Bruyn’s. The house still stands on the corner of North Front Street and Crown. The rarest fruits and flowers were cultivated by the master, a well-earned respite and delight after so strenuous and tragic an experience as a soldier in defense of his country… At the close of the war he came to his garden to spend the rest of his life and enjoy his well-earned laurels, and rest.
…, but we must carry away with us a picture of the average and greater number of the old town. The long low stone house directly on the street in the broad sunlight and fresh mountain air; the double door, the hall through the middle of the house opening on the garden, a path straight on and on, bordered with lovely things, Cinnamon Roses, Ragged Robin, Fleur de Lis and Lilac. A little removed, the feathery plumed carrots, the rich dark beets, the stately onion tops; the parsley, the Scarlet Bean and soft green peas, the dew bespangled asparagus bed; in the shade, a group of house plants taking a rest for winter blooming, and Orange, Lemon and Fig Trees to bring cheer through the long winter with their continuous round of blossom and fruit.
This article is an excerpt from the April 1966 edition of the Ulster County Gazette. If you would like to read the whole article, and peruse the rest of the issue, you can follow the provided link or search the Ulster County Historical Society collection on the New York Heritage website for more: https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/uchs/id/273/rec/12
By Courtney McNamara, D&H Canal Society
Published in the Kingston Wire, April 26, 2021