A. Dean Knott
TABLE OF CONTENTS
For centuries man has expressed his wealth and
civilization by his ornamental garden. As civilization
and individual wealth rose, so did the garden. The
epitamy of civilization, for without it man would have
no time to devote to such trivial matters preferring to
concentrate on staying alive, was the effort put into
raising plants in an artificial atmosphere during all
types of seasons and regardless of climate. In other
words to produce spring in winter and a rainwater fo'yrest
The earliest traces of greenhouses were le.ft from
the days of the Roman Empire, places such as Egypt and
Persia rarely having extended cold weather thus not
requiring the knowledge for growing plants artificially.
During the reign of Tiberius his doctor perscribed a
cucumber a day for the emperor's ailment. To produce
this medicine his garderner was required to grow the
cucumbers in fermented dung under frames of mica or talc,
both of which were common glazing materials of the day.
It was also suggested, for the early friuti of plants,
to plant in mid-winter in baskets of manued soil which
were then placed in the sun, weather permitting, by a
wall,to protect them from the wind. If the Weather
turned cold, transparent stones were to be kept over the
baskets which would keep out the cold and let in some of
Also, there are records of forcing houses for the
production of early friut called specularia~and were
supposed to have been covered by thin sheets of split
mica (lapis specularis). This is extremely possible for
glaziers at that time were called specularius Additional
proof lies in Seneca's disdainful comments on people who
required out of season friut and flowers, and in Pompeii
where walls were uncovered that had hot air flues and the
remains of what could have been frames for holding glazing
Of course, after the demise of the empire little
was done to try to produce plants out of season. In
1259 Albertus Magnus of Padua was to have had a garden
kept in flower and friut by the aid of heat, and in 1385
an anonymous letter states that at Bois de Due "they grow
flowers in glass pavillions turned to the south."1
Two of the earliest structures for the wintering of
ace (plants were built in 1550 at Padua and in 1599 at Leyden
Botannical Gardens. They were both wood shedetype struc-
scu *Z turesr~and the one at Leyden was called an ambulacrum
and probably had the plants in rows so they could be
walked through. The heating, if any, was by an open fire
or a brazier of charcoal. These were both for the wintering
of citrus trees, though no definite accounting of their
Before delving deeper into the development of plant-
houses, however, the terms used to describe the different
structures should be outlined as to avoid confusion.
05o~3 In the earliest days these houses were used mainly to
protect orange trees in the winter, thus the name orangery.
It was usually a heavy wood or masonry building, arcaded
on one side. The term was use~d synonomusly with green-
house and conservatory for several centuries, but it still
retains it;Forigiona meaning.
John EkeRlyn-was the first to use the words green-
house and conservatory for the same building. They were
called this because a greenhouse was a house for "conserving
delicate "greens" or exotics, terms which applied to many
imported plants, which were from the continent at that
time. These definitions and interchange of terms and their
meanings was continued in use for several centuries.
In 1712 John James, in THEORY AND PRACTICE OF GARDENING,
calls a greenhouse a large pile like a gallery.2 As
late. as 1803 Humphrey Repton was still using the terms
as they had always been used though in 1782 conservatory
had been defined in the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY as a
room for plants off a main saloon or drawing room.3
Stove and hothouses were structures much like what
we now call a greenhouse, except they were almost always
lean-to's with masonry back walls. They were kept hot
by heated pits of tan bark (a wet stove) or hot air flues
in the walls or under the floor (a dry stove). Thei#
definitions have much as they are today.
By the end of the first quarter of the 19th century,
the different variety of plants and their climate require-
ments brought about a mew precision to the nomeclature
of the plant houses. An orangery retained its: original
meaning, a heavy,masonry, arcaded building for the wintering
of orange trees, which could also be used as a summer
banquet house in the garden. Greenhouses became the
glass roofed structures we know today and were for the
actual growing of plants rather than just to keep them
alive in the winter. These buildings, to be considered
greenhouses are not to be heated above 50 to 60 degrees
and not less than 45 degrees. Conservatories were finally
given their places as stated above, as an additional
room off one of the main rooms of a house. It was a room
where the plants were placed in beds rather than on staging
and were shown only when they were at their peak, thus
requiring many of the plants which bloomed to be in pots
and brought fresh from the greenhouses and stoves
whenever necessary to replace plants which were past
their peak. Finally., the stoves and hothouses retained
much of their origional meaning, though the term stove
ceased to be used-around the beginning of the 19th century.
They are a type of greenhouse which has a minimum heat of
60 degrees and is where tropical plants are kept according
to their climatory requirements. Another type of house
was developed in the 1800's which was just the opposite,
the cold or artic house for collections of alpine and
tundra plants; however, these were rare and not much
admired and the house never caught on.
The oraggery was the first form of plant house.
As stated earlier, these were heavy masonry buildings and
were meant to hold the plants only for the least amount
of time absolutely necessary. The reasons for the fascination
with the orange tree were simple. First it was both a
flowering and fragrant plant and also one which bore a
very tasty friut. At any rate, no expense was spared
in trying to keep these trees alive during the winter.
The English at thus time were rather slow in the
development of plant cultivation and protection. The
orangery was introduced fairly late by Lord Burghley in
1561. At the same time he was building his house he wrote
to a friend in France and asked him to secure for him
orange trees,myrtle, and a lemon to stock it. This was the
beginning of a craze which lasted for over 2000years.
Also, little change was to be made in the types of buildings
during this time and the orangery remained a popular
garden structure even in the early 1800's.
Even in the most literate places the conservatory or
orangery held sway, for no other building type was known,
and in 1621 at Oxford's Physic Garden a greenhouse was
built of stone with but the tiniest openings for light and
air. In 1649 Queen Hennrietta Marie (to Charles I) had
an orangery which was built of brick and had a slate roof
ridged in lead.
The theory behind these houses was to keep out the
cold by thick walls and heating only in the coldest
weather. Most garderners knew light should also be provided,
but they did not quite know how to provide it without
letting in frost and vapors. Also, they didn't know
that ventilation was a very important requirement to
have healthy plants. Considering all this it is no
wonder that when John Evelyn was asked by the Lord of
Sandwich for advice about his new greenhouse and how it
should be built Evelyn suggested it to be the usual thich
masonry walls but to also line them with cork for added
insulation rather than the mats of reeds whoih were in
more common use.
By 1677 a greenhouse was connedted to the main hall
at Lord Orlington's mansion and was used to dine in-
a rather early prototype of what would later be called
a conservatory. In 1685 the orangery had reached its
zenith in popularity. At Versailles,in that year, Mansart
began the most elaborate and grandoise orangery in all
Europe, a distinction which it retains even today.
The building was a U-shape with the central facade being
arcaded and 508 feet long, 42 feet high, and 45 feet wide,
while the side wings were 375 feet long. However, glass
lean-to's were being built and gaining in popularity for
the preservation of delicate plants even before the first
stones of this building were laid indicating the future
of artificial plant cultivation and the directions it would
There were undoubtably many failures using these early
houses, and any garderner who kept alive at least half
of his stock was considered a rare and valuable person
to have on one's staff. Still there were successes,
some 17 t
especially in the feild of the early forcing of friut and
flowers. This is born out by the fact that in April of
1667 Charles II gave a dinner and for dessert had cherries
and strawberries on ice cream. The quality of the friut
was probably not what we today would expect, but the fact
that they even had the friut, at a time when even kitchen
vegetables were imported from the south of France, was
a great achievement indeed!
During these years the Dutch led the progress made
in the developing and refining of their early ambulacrum.
As early as 1703 Henry Van 00steen advised that houses
should be built with large operable windows,from 3' above
the floor to the ceiling and 5'to 6' wide, facing the
south, and that shutters,so common at the time, should be
discarded and replaced with an extra frame of oiled paper
as to not cheat the plants of sun even on the coldest
By 1714C the fore runner of the modern greenhouse
was developed and though it had an opaque roof, the windows
on the pavillion went from the floor to the ceiling and
were completely operable like fr~Sinch doors. In 1737 this
became a lean-to and was almost all glass except for a very
small cover at the top which was hinged for access and
ventilation, and in 1744, this idea was carried further
when a house was built at Leyden that was insulated with
straw and worked so well that even in the winter of 1928
when the temperatures were at 4 degrees outside the indoor
temperature of the house was 30 degrees,
All these new ideas were not redily accepted in
England, however. The English tended to hold on to
their solid orangeries and conservatories, though glass
ranges were included along with the greenhouses. For
the most part these were the forcing of friut and the
most delicate exotics and was not used for any of the
other types of plants.
One of the main reasons for this tendency not to
explore the uses of the all glass house or the houses
with more window area was was because though a gentleman
might be able to afford a small range of forcing houses
the glass used was far too expensive to be applied to
such great areas as reccomended by the Dutch. Also, there
was a time lage between Britan and the rest of Europe.
Thus, while greenhouse culture was advancing on the continent,
writers like Phillip Miller, who later changed his mind,
not only advocated the typical type of construction,
but believed that apartments could be added in a second
story over the greenhouse for the garderner. As late
as 1807 it was complained that though glass roofed green-
houses were more common they were still the exception
rather than the rule and even new buildings were being
built with solid roof, specifically for a Lady Clarke,
who would not have a glass one because the opaque dome
was more in keeping with the architecture of her mansion
and the plants be damned.
Writers like Humphrey Repton, in his 1803 book,
kept the old-fashioned oraggery alive by saying that
many houses had windows smaller than the piers between
them and this was perfectly acceptable, also if the windows
were made so they could be removed in the summer when
the plants were taken out for the season one could have
a pleasant pavillion for the summer (just as they had
been used for many years) though he did specify a glass
roof could be used.
This is not to say that the English did not innovate
anything new in the practice of greenhouse culture. On
the contrary, many virters and garderners were hard at
work theorising and expiramenting with plant cultivation
and with the structures themselves.
One of the earliest theoretician was Sir Hugh Platt
who in 1660, advised all gentlemen of taste and refinement
to have some sort of botannical conservatory and that
in the winter window boxes could be places in the windows
of their houses and for plants requiring less sun to be
put in the shadows. Platt also thought ten years before
the Dutch had even invented the stove, it would be a good
idea to use the steam form kitchen cooking to keep the
plants warm. An idea that was put to use when steam heat
came along about 150 years later, though the source of the
steam was to be a little different.' About this time
Robert Sharrock wrote about the advisability of giving
the plants light and air, though he wasn't quite sure about
how to go about doing it without letting in too much cold
air. Also in the 1660's, John Evelyn invented a stove which
was to provide ventilation and heat by heating air by
passing it through a fire and into the house,:anrd-"r:r
it proved to be rather successful. At the Oxford Physic
Garden in the 1730's the old stone conservatory was
replaced by two huge stoves and a greenhouse. The stoves
were the notable part of the ensemble,however, in that
they had glass from the floor to the ceiling. So successful
were these houses, that they were kept in use for about
100 years until 1834. Forty years before this a conservatory
was built at Wollaton Hall which had a glass roof (said
to be the first in England).
Other authors, like Sir John Hill, advised against
upper rooms on greenhouses, preferring lean-to's with
glass walls to the south and service areas behind the
support wall. He even reccomended dividing the stoves
into different sections for different temperatures for
various species of plants.8 Phillip Miller had even
reversed his eralier ideas as to what constituted good
greenhouse design, though he had always said they should
be practical buildings for the studying and cultivation of
plants not mere garden ornaments. In one of his later
books he included revised designs for conservatories with
glass roofs.9 However, most of these novel structures and
authors advocating them were ignored and gentlemen.
continued to hide their plants in dark, dank, and cold
vaults till the 19th century.
The buildings and gardening practices can be summed
up as follows. First conservatories,greenhouses, and
orangeries were all the same (though orangeries were usually
for citrus trees alone). Stone, brick, or wood buildings
with slate roofs and openings of various size on the south
side. All these were used for the wintering of plants alone
and were empty of plants during the summer when they could
be used as pleasure pavillions. Many times they were
located specifically to hide the other outbuildings form
the view of the main house and they usually matched the
architecture of the mansion they accompanied. These
buildings were lined with mats and reeds or cork for
extra insulation. Also, they were equipped with heavy
wood shutters (1" to 15" thick) or canvas shades to be
closed when frost fell an thus made up for the ineffiency
of the glazing of the day. The interiors of the buildings
had plaster walls or wood paneling, and in the earliest
times were painted black but later white became in common
use. In many cases houses would have a second story
where the head garderner would have his apartments.
These buildings could or could not be heated and in
general were not, except by small open fires or braziers
of smoldering charcoal. If they did have built in heat
this was by hot air flues in the walls or floors.
Hothouses and stoves, which are much like our modern
greenhouse, came along shortly after greenhouses and were
usually placed at either side of the stone structure. They
were wood and glass frames, built as a lean-to against
a wall which had hot air flues. TGhese flues could also
be in the floor. The building in general was used for the
cultivation of plants with special emphasis on the early~
forcing of friut and flowers. At this time most of the
garden plants were friut or vegetable or herbs and very
littel effort was put into the production of flowering
plants just for their beauty.
These stoves were of two types, wet and dry. The
wet heat stove had pits of fermenting tan bark into which
the plants were sunk, and the dry heat stove had the hot
air flues mentioned above.
The conservatory, as we know it today and as it was
known in the 19th century, came about much later. Also,
at this time, glass roofed greenhouses were developed from
their forerunners, the stoves. As statedearlier, the
first glass roofed greenhouse was at Woliaton Hall in
1696. This set the precedent, and along with the new
books reccomending these new types of structures, whi h
was eventually to come into common use, but it would not
be until around the beginning of the 19th century and well
after the technology was developed.
Again, the main reason for this slowness of the
development of an all glass structure, in England, was
the extra expense of glass due to the glass tax which
wasn't repealed until 1845. Before 1845 a crate of
crown was b 12 but by 1865 was only b 2 8s. This decrease
in cost also had the effect of putting the greenhouse and
conservatory in the price range of the middle class,
along with the rise in wealth of the middle class at
this time. Therefore, greenhouses were no longer the
amusement of the landed gentry or the wealthy amatuer
botanist, but were for almost everyone.
All these facts combined were the death knell for
the old orangery and conservatory. After the necessity for
as much glass as possible in the buildings was realized,
many of the older structures were "converted" by replacing
the old roof with one of glass however, this did not
prove successful in that the great height of the masonry
walls madetheglass too far from the plants and thy would
draw up spindley and weak, for it has always been best
to have the glass close to the plants as is possible.
The first actual recorded conservatory,in the
Victorian and modern sense of the word iFch I shall use
for the rest of this paper, was built in 1761 at Epsom.
This was merely an orangery placed next to a drawing room
and separated by large glass doors. However, it was
almost all glass on the front, roof, and at one end.
Which means the fourth wall at the back was of masonry and
probably flued. Just previous to this building, the
attitude of entertaining in conservatories while the
plants were still in them had just developed. In 1704
no less a noted person than Defoe tells of how greenhouses
of the day (meaning the masonry ones) were becoming
quite palatial, and how the Queen often banqueted in hers.
At the same time the buildings were beginning to be more
open to the light and air even if they weren't all glass,
and their progress can be seen in the extant structure
#3 at Kew, which was the orangery built in 1761 for the
Dowager Princess of Wales. It is 174' by 30' by 25j' high,
and contained large windows from the floor to the ceiling,
closely achieving its Dutch prototype of almost 50 years
For the most part, however, in the first half of the
18th century, the emphasis was on the keeping of plats
alive and these were practical structures, wh~ch were not
used in any ornamental (therothan the exterior) way until
As the conservatories got larger, they became more
elaborate, of course none supersceeded the orangery
3LOwns 14 at Versailles, but they did try. At Schoenbrun a range
of houses was built which took six shiploads of plants
to fill. A winter garden in St. Petersburg in 1802 was
built in a semicircle 300' in diameter. The support
pillars in this building were iron palm trees which also
held the hot air flues. In 1803 a man with Napoleon's
army in Vienna records "... the boudoir of the Countess
of C., whose couch was surrounded with jasmine climbing...
You repaired from it to the sleeping chamber through
actual clusters of African heaths,.... camellias,...,
and other precious shrubs planted in well-kept borders...
On the opposite side was the bathroom, likewise placed
in a sonservatory...". He goes on to describe this and
other apartments and finishes by saying the whole was
kept up at little expense.10 Though this could be considered
5 an exceptional case, by the early 1800's most of the
major European cities had glass ranges; Paris, London,
Berlin, Vienna, Antwerp, St, Petersburg, Moscow, and others
There was even a conservatory and range in New York at
the New York Botannical Gardens, which were established
around 1812 and contained tow glass houses and a tall
orangery type building.
Greenhouses had become so popular that in 1824
Loudon wrote "A greenhouse, which 50 years ago was a
luxury not often to be met with is now become an app-
endage to every villa and to many town residences- not
indeed one of the first necessities, but one which is
felt to be appropriate and highly desirable,...1 Yet
the actual practice of managing these houses and cul-
tivating the plants had not progressed much and he continued
on to say that "... it is much more common to see a
greenhouse that to see one filled with a proper selection
of plants in high health and beauty."1 But he still
advocated having them for what better place for the delicate
female to exercise when the welther turned bad,
Still other writers of the day did not wholly
advocate these new structures. Repton still maintained
that the buildings were hopelessly ugly and marred the
look of mansions when attached and should be placed
away from the house if possible. Also, he warned that the
smell of earth might be more powerful than the scent of
the flowers.1 Others even said the plants depleted the
oxgyen supply and gave off dangerous gases. However,
these men were in the minority and the Victorian era
went full staam ahead with its fanciful conservatories.
Many of these conservatories and greenhouses were
built by the noveau richer. They were a status symbol
and a show of wealth. The types of plant stock also
was of great importance, the rarer being the better.
Some even collected diffe6Ret varieties of the same plant
with some of the collections having upwards of 800 different
types of cactus, heather, of anything else which struck
the master's fancy. By now everyone all over England
and America caught the greenhouse fever.
The Victorians expanded the greenhouse and conservatory
to the technical limist of the day to case their floral
splendors. This was due, again, to the reduction of glass
cost and the introduction of iron as a structual element,
which increased the height of the structures and the all-
owable area of glass to the maximum.
One gentleman in Wales has a miniature rein forrest
complete with rockwork, waterfall, pool, ferns, etc.
Another house in Yorkshire held plants from all over
Japan and Australia and even had houses specifically for
orchids, cactus, geranimums, and ferns. One fern from
this estate, a "filmy fern" ended up at Kew. In Scot-
land the buildings, in one instance, were castellated to
match the house architecture and had a second story
balcony enabling the owner to see everything from his
private drawing room. Sir George Sitwell had a house so
tall that a walk connected the second story rooms and the
main house and ran through the conservatory above the
tree ferns and palms so that it appeared to be supported
by the plants.
rj ;, However, for pure splendor, none could top the Great
Conservatory at;Chatsowrth. Built in 1836-'40, it was
the wonder of its day, at a cost of b 11,867. The building
was designed by Paxton, utilizing the ridge and furrow
roof system he later used for the Crystal Palace (though
he did not invent the system), and was one of the first
planthouses to separate the boilers and other utilitarian
services from the house totally. This idea was later
copied often and carried to such extremes that in later
years the garderners themselves were hidden by dressing
them in livery not allowing them to speak to the
owners, and arranging for separate entrances to the
conservatory, sometimes by trap door under the staging
for the plants, so when the owners entered they could
quietly disappear and the house would seem to be kept
in perfect condition by itself. This particular house
was just one of many at Chatsowrth; however, it was the
most grandoise, having a central dome 67' high, the
entire structure being supported by 48 columns of iron, and
with a blacony 25' off the ground encircling the whole
length and breath ( 277' and 123'). The main asile was
so wide that Victoria rode through it in a carriage and
pair while on a visit.
This house served to symbolize the desire for green-
houses and by the 1840's they were no longer botany labs,
but places where the young could be influenced in their
marals and be kept from idle diversions and temptations
to evil, where the delicate females of the household could
exercise during inclemet weather, and where one could
entertain and show off one's wealth. By this time, Queen
Victoria herself erected a range of glasshouses, started
in 1843, costing b 50,000. This range covered 31 acres
total and sat on a terrace 1,132 feet long. Its rafters
were iron capped in wood andthe sashes were hollow copper
tubes,for the reduction of the conduction of heat, and
it was heated by hot water pipes with cold water pipes next
to them to spray water on the hot pipes and therefore
humidify the air.
Also, during this same period, the Palm House at
Kew was built (1842-'48). This house was especially
grand, being 362' 6" long and 100' wide, 63' high with a
69' lantern over the central section, and had wings So'
wide and 27' high. As in the houses at Chatsworth, the
heating system was hidden from view for asthetic reasons.
The twelve boilers were in vaults under the floor and a
tunnel 55' long led to them and flues running along it
carried the smoke out.
These were just a few of the more exemplerary houses
in England. Besides these there was a special house for
waterlilies at Chatsowrth, a fern house at Kew, and other
houses for differnet plants and climates. All this made
the Crystal Palace aesthetically practical as the main
exhibition hall at the Great Exposition of 1851, and it
Suaglc 12- L
was proposed by Paxton that it be taken over by the gov-
ernment and made into a winter park for the public.
Paxton himself having built quite a reputation with his
Chatsworth houses and theCrystal Palace went on to publish
a book of standard patterns,for the average consumer,
of greenhouses, sometimes combining them with aviaries.
By now the green house had become a must for all
those who had the means for their upkeep. The plants and
friuts these houses provided were and important part of
the lavish entertainments of the day. Besides having
flowers at the dinner table, the friut bearing shrubs and
trees would be ranged in the center of the table so the
guests could pick their own friut for dessert or there
might be a plant behind each guests seat or just one
tree behind the host so the friut could be distributed
by him at the appropriate time. The further out of season
all these plants and specialties were the more socially
successful one's fet4 would be.
During major events, the houseswould be raided
and drawing rooms converted to groves of orange trees,
halls into arbors, and parteres would be laid out in
other rooms. To do all this thousands of houses were
built, for each conservatory required at least one green-
house to supply it with fresh plants in the peak of bloom.
Some of these plant houses were successful and others
were absurd and vulgar and completely useless in growing
and keeping plants. Still they continued to build, so
much so that Loudon predicted entire towns under glass
including toos, parks, and ponds of salt water for
Certainly the natural landscape was to be sought after
as another type of novelty to keep under glass, and
novelty was a key word. Each man tried to out show his
his friends in a never ending game of one-upmanship.
In the conservatories a lawn would grow in mid-winter,
and would have a fallen stump with stuffed squirrels and
rabbits to give life to the scene. This would be surrounded
by mosses and ferns, even fallen branches and leaves
could be included and an ever changing array of Ilowers
in bloom would keep the conservatory colorful. The most
natural or woodland type settings gave rise to specific
types of conservatories, which was especially set aside
for its garden-like atmosphere. These were called
jardin d' hiver or winter-gardens. They had pools, rock-
work, paths, shrubs, trees, lawns, benches, statuary
and other accounterments of regular gardens, and was laid
out as if it were outside.
Another very clever way of using the conservatory
was the'floral table' used for dinner parties. This would
be a large table hollow in the middle so the guests
could look upon a huge floral display in the center,
Usually these displays had lawns, pools, and other
devices typical of the floral displays of the period.
Finally, these houses were to provide all the flowers
required for any special occasion, gifts, and general use
for the decoration of the house daily. Also, at this time
carpet bedding, a natural outgrowth of improved greenhouses
and their management practices, became the rage. Formerly
patteres were bordered in boxwood or yew shrubs and filled
with boxes of plants or colored gravels were arranged
in patterns with potted planets arranged in with the
gravels. Now these patterns and colors were duplicated with
thousands of seedling plants, some schemes requiring more
Because of these rather heavy demands on the greeh-
houses, there was kept staffs of garderners, as many as
fifty on the large country estates, to take care to the
floral needs of the lord of the manor. The head gardeners
ran everything, and was considered almost an equal to the
gentry, Paxton himself was knighted. The rest of the staff
was under the brothy system, where the garderners were
young unmarried men who shared communal quarters, apprentices
and journeymen alike. Also, members of the staff tended
to specialize. There were outside men, inside men, friut,
orchid, and succulent garderners, and young garderners
were often traded between estates to learn a different
specialty under a particular head garderner.
In America the development of the greenhouse differed
very little .from that in England. During the earliest
years, when America was still wilderness, the colonies
wer=_not to the point of civilization where artificial
cultivation of plants was a fesible concern of the day.
By the time America had become settled enough to start
appreciating such refinements, travel had improved so that
the time lag between the newest development in Europe and
their introduction over here was very little. For these
reasons the oranrgery was not a very popular type of
garden structure in this country, for it was not until
the Victorian Era,and its all glass houses, that people
in the U.S. had the money, security, and time to put effort
into the growing and display of plants under glass, though
there was supposed to have been an orangery (and is presently
s reconstructed) at Mt. Vernon, and in 1812, as previously
mentioned, the New York Botannical Gardens had a building
similar to an orangery.
However, even though we finally did get caught up
in the greenhouse craze, it was not to be developed to
the extent of lavishness as in England or son the Continent,
except in a few private expamplesand several public ones.
oce & One of the first great private greenhouses was
at Lyndhurst. The first house was built by George Merrit,
the third owner of the Lyndhurst estate, around 1870.
This structure was considered to th the grandest in ALmerica
at that time. It had a central conservatory with two
long wings, the northern one containing utilitarian services,
a bowling alley, billiard room, gymn, and reception room.
Above the central portion of the building an onion shpaed
dome and observation tower 100' tall crowned the structure.
The overall dimensions were about 380' long, 37' wide,
with 60' wings extending south from each end. The entire
structure was of wood and this fact eventually led to
Seven years after Merrit's death in 1873, Jay Gould
bought the property and set about restoring tha~greenhouse
and restocking it. Eight months after the restoration
had begun, the house caught on fire in its rafters next
to the chimney from the heating system (which was not
separate from the rest of the building as was common in
England), and in two hours was gone along with about
$40,000 woth of rare plants.
<27 However, shortly after, in 1881, the new greenhouse
was started. The dimensions were approximately the same,
but since the recreational facilities and the service
areas were removed from the new building, the actual area
for plants was about doubled. The new house had another
major change in its design. The main rafters of the super-
structure were steel and not wood, though the mullions
were still of wood. This was one of the first houses in
America to have this type of construction. Also, parts
of the greenhouse were double glazed for insulation
however, this proved unsuccessful and was later removed.
The whole was painted a light yelZlow and had chocolate
colored trim. Though the total cost was not known, the
designers and contractors were paid $48,109.64 for the
original structure. The greenhouse was the finest in
the United States and was kept up even after Gould's death
by his oldest daughter Helen, who even opened it to the
public six days a week. Other notable private houses were
the ranges at the White House, which incorporated one of
sL o3 9-~ the Jefferson terraces and at the Greshan House in
Until well into the 29th century, conservatories
and glass houses were of the greatest interest to many
Americans. Greenhouses rose in principle parks all around
the country, many of which have since disappeared, mostly
::i-nE" because of the expensive upkee-p. San Francisco, Pitts-
berg, Chicago, and New York all had botannical gardens
under glass. Philadelphia's was a remnant of its great
Centennial Expn. of 1876 for at the time it was unheard
of to have an exposition without a conservatory or
horticulture building; indeed, New York's Exposition of
1853 was housed in the equivilant of London's Crystal
Palace, although smaller, and as late as 1903 at the
Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, a vast house called
suo Llf3 Horticultural Hall was installed which had a gigantic
central tower of glass, long wings with an opaque roof
s oo E 32 and skylights and a clearstory.
However, all of this had to end. For the most part,
afts the turn of the century, the upkeep and heating costs
alone were prohibitive. Also, the shortage of skilled
labor and labor costs took their toll. Though structures
like the Gould greenhouse had cost only $48,000, the
average pay for a day's labor was only $3. O and now is
almost double that per hour. Even in the past these
glass extravaganzas, especially the large ones, were not
cheap to maintain. In 1846 a years upkeep for the Chatsworth
greenhouse was b 9,015 los. and this was when labor
went for 2s. a day. Other houses could range from L 10,000
to L 43,000, as at the Temperate House at Kew, just for
their construction. These were, of course, the exception
rather than the rule, for in his book, THE ORCHARD HOUSE,
Thomas Rivers describes how to construct a very adequate
wood greenhouse (_even by today's standards) for as little
as b 27 to L 1001 however, for the most part, it was only
the upper middle class and rich who built conservatories
and greenhouses and they~had no use for such small, plain
structures, and felt that cost should be forgotten to
achieve the maximum effect. This attitude changes, though,
as the yearly upkeep and other costs creep higher. Also,
World War I and changing society and values made the
required staff too costly or impossible to find. So,
victims of the elegance and outlandishness which was their
charm, one by one they were shuttered, abandoned, painted
over, or destroyed. One could say the era formerly
ended with the destruction of the Great Conservatory
at Chatsworth on May 27, 1920, when it was dynamited to
bits. Though small greenhouses would still be built
and considered a great asset, they would never regain
either the architectural or social prominence they onee
enjoyed and which caused later generations to study
them and write silly papers.
When one was about to build a greenhouse or conservatory,
the first thing to consider was the siting. In the earliest
days, the buildings always faced south or eastor west
is the southern exposure wasn't practical. Of course,
the only windows were on the southern side or the main facade,
The hot houses were ranged along Either side of the main
building, with the usual 45 degree slope for their roofs,-
though this could be from 32 degrees to 64 degrees. Later
when buildings were all of glass the location was of less
importance, though northern exposures were still discouraged.
When greenhouses became all glass ca different problem
beset them. What shape should the building be to best
catch the rays of the sun? Also, because of the large
amounts of exotic plants being imported, they wereunot
sure of what slope would be best for the roofs.
At the time one could pick from domical, ridge and
furrow, polygonal, lean-to, span, 3/4 span, se ~icircular,
$ylindrical, square, conical, or many other~shapes. One
Mrs. Beaumont built a dormical conservatory all of iron
that was 100' in diameter and 60' high, but this amazing
house had to be pulled down later for it couldn't be kept
warm and the plants were too far from the glass and were
thin and weak.
The first man to think about the problem of shape
and try to find a solution was Sir Geo. McKinzie in 1815.
He felt that a straight roof with a 45 degree slope was
perpindicular to the line of the sun only at certian times
during the day. The rest of the day the sun would be at
a slant to the plane of glass. He advocated not changing th
roof slope, but in changing the form of the roof, making
the house spherical or any part thereof. He advised
a half dome placed against a north wall not over 15' in
redius. It was to be built of cast iron ribs that tapered
to the top. Also, it could be made in two~ parts and placed
on rollers so it could be opened in pleasant weather.li
Loudon also advocated a domical shpae or $ the dome
is the full one was not possible.
The ridge and furrow roof, which became so popular,
was introduced by Loudon and by its use increased the area
that could be covered in glass. Some houses even had
an arrangement which made it possible to roll away the
front and back of the building during fair~weather for
When the shape and site were settled upon, then the
structural system had to be decided. Again, in the early
days there was not a great deal of choice. The conservatories
could be brick or stone or, in cases of economy, wood
sheds with slate or lead roofs. These could be insulated
with mattresses of hay or,reedsplastered with lime, or
cork. The hothouses, which were always lean-to's, were
of wood frame construction with glass infill, usually
leaded. These were built against a masonry wall with
the ends being masonry or wood. Also, they could be
entered through a hinged sash in the glass front, from
above through the vent openings, or through doors on the
ends. If the end door arrangement was used then tow sets
of doors could be placed on the entrance as to protect
the plants inside from cold blasts and prevent the loss
However, the later builders had no simple matter
to choose which system to use in construction. For many
years after all glass houses came in a combination of
materials was used. Masonry and wood, or masonry and
iron, iron and wood, or all iron. In 1803 Repton
advocated having heavy masonry piers and an iron and glass
roof supported by a central iron column in the gothic
style, for this would resemble the actual construction
practices of the prototypical gothci chapterhouses and
the iron roof frame would appear similar to the ribs in
real gothic vaulting.15 Others continued to usefheavy
stone columns to support roofs of wood rafters and sashes
like the one Adam built at Bowood. One reason for this is
the effort to imitate the past styles and have the green-
De. lo 0 l
house fit the architecture of the rest of the mansion.
Several writers up to the 20th century considered most
patent houses ugly and that a conservatory should not
be added cause they always marred the architecture of
the home, but if one must be added directly to the house
then it should be made as architectural as possible
and even, in extreme cases, try to hid the fact that it
is a greenhouse.
In America the most popular structual system, even
for very large and fine greenhouses, was wood. Though
they knew of cast iron and its uses, iron was not widely
used in plant houses. The Gould greenhouse at Lyndhur t
being the exception with its main rafters of iron and the
mullions of wood. Also, the Crystal Palace in New York
was entirely of iron.
In England one if the first all iron houses was
the Great Conservatory (1836-'40), which uses iron ribs,
mullions, and columns for support. This system is seen
on a larger saale at the London Crystal Palace of 1851.
In Victoria's own glasshouse ranges, the rafters were of
iron but they were capped with wood to reduce expansion
and contraction, and the sash bars were hollow copper tubes
for the same reason. For the most part, the houses were
usually of iron and smaller less expensive houses were of
Now that we have our house framed the next step is
to consider the glazing. Many of the old stone consery-
atories and orangeries had only small amounts of glass,
and sometimes no glass at all but oiled paper because of
the expense of the glass, and the difficulty of manu-
facture made it hard to obtain. In the early 17th centyryr,
a day's labor brought is 6d, but a 6" x 8" pane of crown
brought 9d and by the late 17th century this was up to
1s Id. The earliest glass had a greenish tint and was
placed loosely into the frame. It wasn't until the mid-
1700's that glass was puttied or held fast by wood.
In 1845 the glass tax was repealed and along with
improved technology of making glass the price depooed
immensely. Also, the newer glass was stronger, clearer,
and had fewer flaws so vast expanses bf glass could be
covered without as many ribs and sashes, but, as with
everything else, the market became flooded with different
types of glass, each claiming to be the best. Which one
should a person buy?
As stated previously, there was originally only twor~
types of glass, bread and crown. The crown was the better.
Crown was spun in a flat circle and then the panes were
cut out of it. Broad was made into a cylinder which
was then cut and pressed out flat, frmR this the panes
would be cut and they were usually smaller than panes of
crown. Also, because of the process broad glass tended
to have an uneven thickness and more flaws.
In 1833 sheet glass was available for the first time
up to six feet long, though toqy to three feet was more
common, and one foot wide. By 1853 there was British plate,
patent plate, patent rolled plate rough, crown, British
sheet, Belgian sheet, and Hartley's patent rough plate.
Crown, British sheet, and Hartley's being the most
As for how to put the glass in the frame, there was
a member of different glazing processes. There were fdur
methods for lapping. "S" bends, angle bends, Barret's
method, Saul's method or you could just let the glass
overlap. Also, the shape of the glass could be a plain
rectangle, fragment (Irregularly shaped due to the use
of old fragments of glass), rohmbodial (a rohmbus which
drained the water to one side of the sash), curvilinear
(the glass curved down and the water ran down the center
of the glass), or reverse curvilinear (the glass curved
up and the water ran to both sides of the sash), per-
forated shield, or entire shield. There was even glass
tiles curved with a flange which made sashes unnecessary.
When the glass was picked and if one had settled
on an angle for the roof, for now other authors considered
curved surfaces bad saying that they cast shadows and
that a straight line of glass was best and the angle of
the roof should be adjusted to the latitude of location
and the sun's inclination (most were built at 4-5 degrees),
then you needed to decide upon the color of the glass.
Of course the mo& simple solution would be to have the
glass clear; however, the Victorians did nothing that
was simple. For one thing, though the quality of glass
had improved, there were still flaws which tended to cause
scorch. To solve this and help improve the growth of
plants different colors were tried. One gentleman,
Richard Hunt, reccomended a pale greenish-yellow glass
for the new Palm House at Kew and this was actually
installed, but it was taken out later when it proved
unsuccessful. However, by the time it was taken out
Hunt had established himself as a big authority on the
subject, and went on to discuss the uses of other colors
in the greenhouse. He felt yellow slowed seed germination
and would kill plants, red helped germination if they
were kept wet but the plants grew to be thin and pale,
blue kept blooms at their peak longer but plants grown
under this light grew too rapidly and were therefore weak.
Finally co~mmo~S3~SE a spiiitrefail and;. c~i~:g3~i;Sa
adopted as a general practice. Except as a decortaive
trim colored glass had never gained much popularity.
Now the house is built and glazed. The next thing
is to heat and vent the thing so it won't get too cold
or too hot. From the beginnings of artificial plant
culture, this was a problem. Many writers when having
to choose what system of heat was best, simply refused
to advocate heating at all, believing that if the house
were really well insulated then on the coldest days
braziers of charcoal and small fires would keep off the
frost. At the Oxford Physic Gardens's conservatory,
from 1621 to 1650, a wagon full of smoldering charcoal
was drawn back and forth to provide heat for there
was no flue system in the building. For the most part,
everyone used hot air flues in the back walls or under
the floors in the dry heat stoves or flues running under
pits of tan bark which heated the tan and then the plants,
pot and all, would be sunk in the pit. The Dutch were
the ones who expiramented and developed these systems,
and though they were an important improvement over the
open fire, there were drawbacks. First the flues were no'
more than elongated chimneys which carried smoke as well
as hot air, and many times these would crack or had leaks
and the building would be filled with smoke which damaged
the plants. Also, there was the problem of uneven flow
and distribution of heat. The flues in the wall tended
to scorch the trees at the back while the plants in front
froze, or it under the floor they would scorch the roots
and lower leaves while the upper parts would freeze.
Finally, if they could get a good even heat there was no
type of thermometer until 1714, so it was hard to judge
the temperature of the house in which the plants were
kept and many plants were scorched because of overheating.
However, they kept trying and most people did use
some type of flue. The first improvement on the flue
~L ?CS $-i
system was to lay the flues on the ground, but these did not
draw well so they were raised off the ground at an incline
by terra cotta shoes. This type of flue was still in
use until the 19th century, but they were often covered
by a grating of iron or stones which held water to help
humidify the air. Other improvements were to run a flue
from the outside through the fires and then through the
house, however this was not very successful and by 1813
flues for heating were abandoned.
In the late 1780's steam heat was first used in
Liverpool, considering the fact that in 1660 Sir Hugh
Plat had reccomended basically the same thing it was very
late in developing. Steam killed the hot air flue.
The first system was simply a steam tube leading into
the house, however this could scorch the plants or explode.
The next stpe was to put a small steam tube in a larger
pipe, which would have air in it heated by the steam
then the air would radiate the heat. Steam was also used
to heat the old tan pits. In 1807 a Mr. Hay ran a per-
forated pipe under loose stones and when they stopped
sweating then the house was the temperature of the steam
and the plants were then placed on the stones. The ad-
vantages of this system was in the little loss of heat
over long distances, but the heat was excessively dry.
To correct this they would allow the steam into vaults
under the greenhouse ar run the pipes through pans of
The next improvement led to hot water heating systems.
They began by running a small steam pipe through -pipes 6:f
water and the hot water would radiate the heat and small
holes allowed the water to bubble out and humidify the
air. In 1818 a french count was the first to use a
real hot water system successfully and advised having
a complete system which the hot water went out the top
and returned to be reheated.
One of the earlicat British systems only had one
pipe and no recirculation so a waste of fuel was encountered,
and a Mr. Atkinson was the first Englishman to invent
a successful hot water scheme which used two pipes,at the
top and bottom of the boiler leading to and returning from
an open reservoir. The pipes were level thought however,
when the boiler was closed Atkinson found the water could
be carried 30 above the boiler. Finally, by completely
sealing off the whole system and using high pressure and
small bore pipes the water was made to travel great
distances above and below the level of the boilers.
With this invention the old flues were dead for
sure. Though some people still held on to them, the hot
water system took over the market because it was much more
efficient and economical to run.
Of course, with the development of this relatively
simple system, a multitude of different methods for its
application were developed. At one time there were as
many as founrty different systems. They had radiators,
cast iron vases filled with hot water, hollow blaustrades
to be used instead of pipes and even moveable systems
for small places and plant cabinets. One system (Penn's)
put the pipes outside the house and was to make the hot
air decend into the greenhouse, another used high pressure
and no boiler, another ranged the pipes in tiers before
returning the water to the boiler. In conservatories
pipes were placed under beds and in greenhouses under the
staging. Because of this increase in technology of
heating the different types of climates in different
houses were able to be developed,or even in the same
house there could be different temperatures.
Another side effect of this increased efficiency
in heating and better glazing was that ventilation
became more important. Rivers, in his book on orchard
houses, talks of simple sliding shutters in the top and
bottom of the back wall of a lean-to,and in full span=
houses planks on the sides which would be tingedd and open
out and down close to the bottom with openings in the
gable of the foof over the door in the ends,that would
provide ample air flow. The whole problem was mainly
to reduce the heat and keep the air fresh, which was a
complete reversal of the thoughts on the subject in the
16th and 17th centuries.
Before these methods were developed many other were
tried. First they tries shading with colored glass,
but this, for reasons already covered, was abandoned
after a few trials. Another early system was to have tubes
piercing the wall at intervals that allowed fresh air to
enter and could either be sprayed through nozzels or in
a stream. John Williams invented a cylinder and piston
whose expansion and contraction would operate a sliding
sash connected to it and could be adjusted to different
temperatures. Another cylinder and piston moved the hot
air out of the house when necessary. Another system
used a bladder filled with air and when the heat expanded
the air in the bladder the bladder would become oblong
and pull on a rope connected to a sliding sash which
slid open, or a pole of brass would support a cover over
a hope in the ridge of the greenhouse and when the temp-
erature rose the pole would expand and raise the cover
from the opening, when the iar had cooled the pole would
contract and close the vent, These are just a few of
the more simplemethods. There were other which would
ring alarms, shut or open vents and steam valves, and
preform a multitude of other tasks. All this as early as
Now the house is fully complete a short word should
be said about itscontents. In the earliest times from
the 1500's to the late 1700's, the major plants to be
kept were orange trees, lemons, myrtle, peaches, grapes,
and other friuts, herbs, and economic plants. The major
emphasis was on growing edible plants. Henry VIII even
had forcing houses built by artisans from Flanders just
to grow salad:greens, but by the early 19th century the
orange tree began to lose its popularity and the con-
servatories began to assume the color it would have in the
latter part of that century.
Many of the plants of the later years and that we
take for granted were not native of the area and had
to be imported, thus the problem. In those days travel
was slow and ardurous. Though men scoured all over the
world for plants, many of the plants and seeds they sent
back never reached England or America, or were so damaged
as to be worthless. Most plants which were successfully grown
were imposed as seeds and this limited even further the
types of plants that could be imported.
Methods for sending these seeds were various. Seeds
were packed in bags of tanned rope, charcoal, corcked bottles,
sugar or gums, wax,bladders with earth and water, or paper.
The containers would be suspended from the rafters of
the ships to prevent rats from getting to them, but still
they did. It was estimated that one out of 1,000 plants
would survive. It was so hard to import exotics that before
1700 only 1,000 varieties, and some of these not very
exotic, were recorded to be in England, by the 18th
century there were 5,ooo, and by the early 19th century
11,740 imported plants were under cultivation, varieties
that is. The flow of plants into England can even be
traced in relation to the reign of the kings and queens.
Under Henry VIII 47 exotics were brought in, Edward VI- 7,
Elizabeth I- 533, James I- 20, during the Usurption- 95,
Charles II- 152, James II- 44, William and Mary- 298,
Anne- 230, George I- 182, George II- 1,770, and under
George III 6,756 plants were imported. Peter Collinson
had the first orchid sent over in 1731, by 1798 Kew had 15,
by 1813 84 and by 1850 over 1,ooo.
The reason for the sudden increase in the rmumber of
imports was the Wardian Case. This case, invented in
0~53 1824 by a Dr. Ward, was actually a terrerarium or small
greenhouse and finally made possible the transport of
delicate plants through all extremes of weather, temperature,
and over all types of travel conditions.
Now that the method is provided all one has to do
is to go get the plants, and there were plenty of young
men seeking adventure and willing to go. Some went with
Captian Cook and Captian Bligh on their voyages of
exploration, others covered the jungles of the Amazon,
New Zealand, and Australia for their treasures, most
met with their death.
One of the first plant collectors was John Bartram of
Philadelphia, who from 1735 to 1775 sent North American
plants to Peter Collinson to fill the conservatories of
England. Sir Joseph Banks trained collectors at Kew for
50 years, many of which, for some obscure reason, were
Scots. Some of these men died in muties, as did David
Nelson on Bligh's ship, others were killed by natives, or
lost in jungles and never seen again.
: c: =+ H-I however, nothing stopped these men from collecting
rare species of plants. If natives would not climb trees
to gather orchids, then the trees were felled. Sometimes
entire areas would be deforrested to gather as many plants
If not for these brave souls, who often faced dis-
comfort, danger, and death in places far from home and
family, the greenhousese of the Victorian era would have
never have been developed to the degree they knew. Also,
their contents would have been a lot less colorful and
more mundane. Conservatories might not have even been
developed but for the thrill of being able to house
rare and unusual plants. So, to a large degree,
we can thank many of these collectors not only for the
botannical additions to our lives but for spurring on
the technical achievements which would preserve these
1. Kenneth Lemmon, The Covered Garden, (London: Museum
Press Ltd., 1962), p. 15.
2. IBID, p. 125
3. IBID, p. 129
4. IBID, p. 22
5. IBID, pp. 40-44
6. J.C. Loudon, The Landscape Gardening and Landscape
Architecture of the Late Humphrey Repton, Esq.,
(Londons Longman & CO., 1839), p. 217.
7. Kenneth Lemmon, The Covered Garden, (Londons Museum
Press Ltd., 1962), pp. 31-32
8. IBID, pp. 78-81
9. IBID, p. 56
10. IBID, p. 130
11. IBID, p. 132
12. J.C. Loudon, The Landscape Gardening and Landscape
Architecture of the Late Humphrey Repton, Esq.,
(Londons Longman & Co., 1839), p. 217
13. Thomas Rivers, The Orchard House, (Londons Longman's,
Greer, &e Co., 1870), p. 20. 2
14. Kenneth Lemmon, The Covered Garden, (Londons Museum
Press, Ltd., 1962), pp. 121-123. P
15. J. C. Loudon, The Landscape Gardening and Landscape
Architecture of the Late Humphrey Repton, Esq,,
(Londonr Longman & Co., 1839), p. 218.
16. Kenneth Lemmon, The Covered Garden, (Londons Museum
Press, 1962), pp. 91-92.
1. Britz, Billie Sherrill. "Lyndhurst Greenhouses
Emblem of a Grand Society". Historic Preservation
Quaterlyv, January-March 1973, pp. 15-21.
2. Dowing, Andrew Jackson. A Tretesie on the Theory and
Practice of Landscape Gardening. New Yorks Funk &
Wagnalls, 1859 rpt. 1967.
3. Lemmon, Kenneth. The Covered Garden. LondonsMuseum
4. Loudon, J.C., The Landscape Gardening and Landscape
Architecture of the Late Humphrey Repton, Esq.
London:Longman & Co., 1839.
5. Loudon, J.C. The Villa Garderner. Londons WEm. S.
Orr & Co., 1850.
6. Mawson, Thomas H., The Art and Craft of Garden Making.
New Yorks Scribner's Sons, 2nd ed., 1900.
7. Preston, F.G. ED. The Greenhouse. London &c Melborne:
Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd., 1951.
8. Wright, Walter P. Pictorial Greenhouse Management.
Londons Cassell &c Co., Ltd., 1992.
9. Rivers, Thomas. The Orchard House. London: Longmans,
Greer, & Co., 1870.
1.Goethe's Palm House, Padua, Renn*, History of Gardens&
Gardening, p. 129, #151
2. Early Dutch Ambulacrum, Covered Garden, p. 20.
3. Orangery at Grosssedlitz, History of Gardens and Gardening,
p. 192, #219.
4. Orangery at Heveningham Hall, Eng., 1791, Great Houses
of Britan, p. 270.
5. Conservatory at Shrubland Park, Eng., 1830-33, Covered
6. Conservatory at Oxford Physic Garden, Eng., Covered
Garden, p. 34.
7. Orangery at Versailles, 1685, Versailles, p. 40.
8. Early Continental Orangery, 1714, Covered Garden, p. 41.
9. Miller's Greenhouse and Garderner's Apts., 1759,
Covered Garden, p. 59.
10. Typical Greenhouse and Stoves, 1794, Covered Garden,p. 51.
11. Vinery, 1724, Covered Garden, p. 72.
12. Forcing House, Covered Garden, p. 44.
13. Conservatory at Seincote, Covered Garden.
14-. Conservatory at Schorenbrun, History of Gardens &
Gardening, p. 186, #212.
15. Botannical Gardens at Paris, Space, Time, & Architecture,p>.l >
16. Conservatory at the Copenhagen Botannical Gardens,
History of Gardens and Gardening, p. 287, #326.
17. New York Botannical Gardens, History of Gardens and
Gardening, p. 201, #229.
18. Great Conservatory at Chatsowrth, American B~uildingand
The Historical Forces That Shaped It,
19. Water lily house at Chatsoweth, American Building and
the Historical Forces that Shaped It.
20. Paxton Patent Conservatory, The Covered Garden, p. 145.
21. Paxton Patent Conservatory, "1 p. 147.
22. Palm House at Kew, exterior, A History of Gardens and
23. Crystal Palace, London, 1851, A History of Cast Iron in
24. Greenhouse at Capestone, American Building and the Historical
Forces that Shaped It.
25. Orangery at Mt. Vernon, A History of Gardens and Gardening,
p. 205, #235.
26. Lyndhurst Greenhouse, 1881, Mr. Fiess
28. Gresham House, Galveston, Texas, A. Dean Knott
29. New York Cryatal Palace, 1853, A History of cast Iron
30. Horticulture Hall, Cotton Centennial, 1903, New Orleans,
A Pictorial History.
31. Horticulture Hall, Cotton Cent., 1903, New Orleans and
The Bayou Country.
32. Hort. Hall, Cotton Cent., 1903, New Orleans; A Pictorial
33. Hort. Hall, Cotton Cent., 1903, New Orleans and the
34. Chatsworth's Conservatory, before and after May of 1920,
American Building and the Historical Forces that Shaped It.
35. Thomas Fairchild's Forcing Houses, The Covered Garden, p. 75.
36. Circular Conservatory, The Covered Garden, p. 122.
37. Domical Conservatory, The Covered Garden, p. 123.
18. Greenhouse at Wolburn Abby, The Covered Garden.
39. Orangery at Broughton Hall, The Covered Garden.
-0. Orangery at Bowood, The Covered Garden.
1l. Lyndhurst Greenhouse, Bauer
C2. Glazing Patterns, The Covered Garden, p. 95.
c3. Ridge and furrow roof, Crystal Palace, London, 1858,
A History of Cast Iron in Architecture.
c4. Heating Wagon at Oxford, The Covered Garden, p. 67.
c5. Forcinghouse, 1759, The Covered Garden, p. 63.
G6. Flues, The Covered Garden, p. 101.
-7. Boilers for Hot water heat, The Covered Garden, p. 109.
G8. "t , p. 112.
E9 p. 113.
j0. Palm House at Kew, Entrance, A History of Cast Iron in
j1. Palm House at Kew, Interior, The Covered Garden.
j2. Travel Arrangements for Breadfriut aboard the Bounty,
A History of Gardens and Gardening, p. 4r, #rC.
j3. Wardian Case, A History of Gardening and Gardens, p. 1, #1.
j4., Birdnest Pern, A. Dean Knott
j5. Conservatory at Grimstone Park, The Covered Garden.
SYNOPSIS OF` REPORT "UNDER GLASS"
AE68)1 GARY V. MAGARIAN FALL 1976
Man has often expressed his wealth and civilization by his
ornamental garden. Also, the urge to have some fruit or
plant out of season prompted the study of plant growth in, an
The earliest greenhouses were from the Roman Empire. Tiberius'
doctor prescribed a cucumber a day for an ailment, which were
grown in fermented dung in frames covered with mica or talc
as a g~lazing material.
After the fall of the Empire, little was done to produce
plants out of season. In 1259 Albertus MagTnus of Fadua was to
have had a garden kept blooming with the aid of heat.
1 Wood structures were built in Padua in 1550 and in 1599 at
Leyden Botanical Gardens.
2 The earliest houses were to protect orange trees. This Dutch
ambulacrum was used for winter strolls. Usually they were
3 heavy buildings with reeds:or cork for insulation. They were
fascinated by the orange tree because it had a flower, wras
4 fragrant, and produced a good fruit. Later orangeries devel-
oped.or wc;ere modified with gElass roofs.
4 The words "greenhouse" and "conservatory" were used inter-
changably for a long while. This is what we now think of as
a conservatory, a room off the main house where plants are
6j shown at their peak, brought in from working stoves or gpreen-
7 houses. Stoves, forcing-frames, and hothouses were structures
similar to greenhouses, except that they were always leanto's
8 with masonry back walls. This house shows the back wall used
as a flue to heat the shed.
9 1685 was the peak of the orangery. That year Mansart built
the one at Versailles. It was 508ft, long, 42ft. high, 45 ft.
wide, and had side wings 375ft. long.
10 By 1714 the forerunner of the modern greenhouse was developed,
though it had an opaque roof it had large windows like french
11 Miller suggested putting the gFardeners' quarters over the
greenhouse, here shown with adjacent stoves.
12 By the early 1800's most European cities had a range of green-
13 houses : Shoenbrun, Paris, Copenhagen, and in -the U.S. at
The main reason that glass was not more fully developed until
the 19th century has been mentioned in other reports on glass:
namely, the English glass tax. Also, many people considered
14 the all glass house ugly and not compatible with their homes.
The reduction in.the rise of glass and the introduction of
cast iron as a structural material sparked the building of'0
such buildings as the Great Conservancy at Chatsworth (80
designed by Joseph Paxton, using ridge and furrow design
with separate boilers and utilitarian service snaces. This
house was one of~many at Chatsworth. The central. dome was 67'
high, the entire structure supported on 48 iron columns, with
a balcony 25' off the ground and the entire building 28E8' by
123'. This was one of the first all iron structures.
Queen Victoria had houses built at this time with iron
rafters capped with wood torallow for expansion. Included
were hot water pipes with cold water pipes next to them to
spray water on the hot ones and humidify the air.
17 Also during this time the Palm House at Kew was constructed
(1842-k48). It covered a large area, being 362'-6" long, 100'
wide, 63' high, with a 69' lantern over the center and wings
50' wide and 27' high.
18 The Crystal Falaxe of 1Ef51 was practical because of these
19,20,21 forerunners. We can see the glazing details in these slides.
The gutters were built into the structure. Paxton also pub-
22 lished a book of standard patterns for greenhouses for
23 people of more modest incomes.
24 In America, the orangery was seldom used because of the lag
time to Europe and the fact that the work of building a new
country did not leave much time for such activities. However,
George Washongton was supposed to have had an orangery, here
When we did get caught up in the greenhouse craze, there were
25 both public and private ones, One of the first great private
greenhouses was at Lyndhurst. The first house was built about
18)70 by George Merritt. It had a central conservatory with
two long wings containing a bowling alley, billiard room, gym,
and reception room. In the center was a 100' observation
26 tower. The entire structure was of wood. In 1873 Jay Gould
the estate and began restoration of the greenhouse, but it
burned because the heating system was included in the house
instead of separate as the English did. In 1881 a new green-
house was started, which you see here. It was only a green-
house, using main rafters of steel and mullions of wood.
Double glazing was installed, but was removed later,
27 The New York Exhibition of 1&53 was patterned after Paxton.
28 The Cotton States Exhibition of 1903 in New Orleans used
29 an opaque roof with clerestory, which was late for such a
However, this wasn't to last. The increased cost of heating,
labor, upkeep, WW~I, and changing social values dealt the
30 death blow for the large greenhouse. In May 1920 the Great
House at Chatsworth was dynamited.
There are certain things to remember about greenhouse design.
31 Buildings are faced south, usually with 45 degree sloped roof,
but this varied.
When all glass greenhouses became predominate, the problem
was what shape was best to catch the sun's rays. They tried
32 ridge & furrow (already discussed), semicircle, circle(shown),
33 square, conical, domical(shown), and others. In 1815, Sir
George McKinzie Advocated making the sides sphereical or a
section thereof, which was used at Chatsworth, Kew, and
34 Lyndhurst. Structural systems varied, from masonry and wood,
35 masonry and iron, iron and wood to all iron. How the
36 structure went with the house was important, but this held
back design in general.
The next step was glazing. At first they had a small amount
of glass or used coated cloth or paper because of costs.
Early glass was laid loose in the frames. Not until mid 18th
37 century wereputty and glazing frames used. Different glazing
shapes were used: 1)rectangular, 2)fragment, 3)Ferforated
shield, 4)entire shield, 5)rhomboidal, 6)curvilinear, 7)
Normally, one would think that clear glass was best, but
that was too simple. In the Falm House at Kew, yellow-
greenish glass was tried, but' later was removed when proved
unusable. Yellow and red were also tried, However, common
sense prevailed and clear glass was universally adopted.
38 The next important part is the heating system. In 1621 the
Oxford Physic Garden used a w~agon of smoldering coals drawn
back and forth.
39 Another type of heating were air flues in floor or wall.
However, there were problems with smoke and distribution
of heat (plants near wall or roots in floor could be
scortched). It was difficult to judge temperature until 1714
when the thermometer was invented. The flue was most accepted,
40 sometimes inclined on shoes.
In the late 178f0's steam heat first used at Liverpool,
although the idea was considered in 1660. Steam heat killed
thehot air flue. It had the advantage of little heat loss
over long runs, but it was excessively dry heat.
41 The next step was hot water heat. It began with a steam pipe
inside a perforated water pipe to allow humidification. In
1818t the first complete system was installed in France with
supply on top and return on the bottom.
42 Improved systems included such developments as: high pressure
lines, all kinds of radiators and boilers, cast iron vases
43 filled with hot water, hollow balaustrades instead of pipes,
44 movable systems. The increase in technology meant that
different types of houses could be developed and different
temperatures maintained in the same house.
Ventilation became more critical with the introduction of
heat, a reverse of thought in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Several systems were devised to operate sashes via cylinder
and piston or bladders filled wuth air. Heat expanded the air
in the bladder and it would become oblong and pull on a rope
connected to a sliding sash or a brass pole would support a
cover over a hole in the ridge of a greenhouse. When the
temperature rose the pole would expand and raise the cover
and when the air cooled the pole would contract and close the
45 Plants had to be imported in large numbers to fill these
giant greenhouses. Many times vast areas were stripped of
vegetation to get the choicest specimens in quantity.
The BOUNTY brought breadfruit trees as shown in the slide.
Most died, so they later brought seeds too, but rats on
the ships usually got into the packages of seeds as well.
46 In 1824, a Dr. Ward invented a plant travelease, actually a
terrarium. It was therefore possible to transport delicate
plants through extremes of climate. This case was called
the Wardian Case.
Before 1700 only 1000 varieties of plants were known in
England, by 18th century 5000, and by early 19th century
11,740 imported plants were cultivated.
We owe the development of modern heating systems, standard-
ized building components, and large scale glazing to the
Britz, Billie S., "Environmental Provisions For Plants In 17th
Century Northern Europe", JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY OF
SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL HISTO~RIANS, 33:133-44, May 1974.
Britz, Billie S., "~Lyndhurst Greenhouse: Emblem Of A Grand
Society", HISTORiICAL PRESERVATION, 25:15-21, Jan-Mar. 1973
"C&I Bank',' ARCHITECTURAL RECORD, 151:109-12, Miay 1972.
"Crystal Palace"!, ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW~, 125:263-65, April 1959.
"Glass Prism Leaning Against Cathedral", DOMUS, 554:32, Jan.
"Greenhouses", DOMUS, 554:30, August 1976.
"Roche &c Dinkeloo", DOMLUS, 555:21-Ef, Feb. 1976.
Shaw, R.L., "Designed For Display: Exhibition Plant Houses,
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh", COUNTRY LIFE, 154:1800-1
June 21, 1973.
Slesin, S., "Geodesic Dome Greenhouses", DOMUS, 524:11, July