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The Philadelphia Country House: Architecture and Landscape in Colonial America

The Philadelphia Country House: Architecture and Landscape in Colonial America

by Mark E. Reinberger, Elizabeth McLean


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A highly readable, beautifully illustrated study of the homes built by elite colonial Philadelphians as retreats—which balanced English models with developing local taste.

Colonial Americans, if they could afford it, liked to emulate the fashions of London and the style and manners of English country society while at the same time thinking of themselves as distinctly American. The houses they built reflected this ongoing cultural tension. By the mid-eighteenth century, Americans had developed their own version of the bourgeois English countryseat, a class of estate equally distinct in social function and form from townhouses, rural plantations, and farms. The metropolis of Philadelphia was surrounded by a particularly extraordinary collection of country houses and landscapes. Taken together, these estates make up one of the most significant groups of homes in colonial America.

In this masterly volume, Mark Reinberger, a senior architectural historian, and Elizabeth McLean, an accomplished scholar of landscape history, examine the country houses that the urban gentry built on the outskirts of Philadelphia in response to both local and international economic forces, social imperatives, and fashion. What do these structures and their gardens say about the taste of the people who conceived and executed them? How did their evolving forms demonstrate the persistence of European templates while embodying the spirit of American adaptation?

The Philadelphia Country House explores the myriad ways in which these estates—which were located in the country but responded to the ideas and manners of the city—straddled the cultural divide between urban and rural. Moving from general trends and building principles to architectural interiors and landscape design, Reinberger and McLean take readers on an intimate tour of the fine, fashionable elements found in upstairs parlors and formal gardens. They also reveal the intricate working world of servants, cellars, and kitchen gardens. Highlighting an important aspect of American historic architecture, this handsome volume is illustrated with nearly 150 photographs, more than 60 line drawings, and two color galleries.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421411637
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 10/21/2015
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 935,830
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mark Reinberger is a professor of architecture at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Utility and Beauty: Robert Wellford and Composition Ornament in America. Elizabeth McLean is a research associate in botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. She is the coauthor of Peter Collinson and the Eighteenth-Century Natural History Exchange.

Table of Contents

Note to Reader
Part I
1. The Bourgeois Country House in England
The Changing Nature of the English Gentry
The Rearrangement of the House
Country House and Town House
The Compact House in the Seventeenth Century
Seventeenth-Century English Landscape and Gardens
The "Reform" of Eighteenth-Century English Architecture and Lands
2. The Bourgeois Country House in the Colonies
Colonial Architecture at Pennsylvania's Founding
The Later Colonial Bourgeois Country House
The Colonial Landscape
3. The Rise of the Philadelphia Country House
William Penn and the Country Life
The Lure of the Country in the First Generation, 1682–1722
Hiatus in the 1730s
4. Fulfillment in the Middle and Late Colonial Periods
A New Generation of Country Seats
The Proliferation of Country Seats in the 1740s and 1750s
The General Character and Use of Country Seats at Midcentury
The Flowering of the 1760s and Denouement in the 1770s
Part II
5. The Process of Design and Building
Design and Drawing
The Process of Building
Elements of Landscape and Architecture
Architectural Exteriors
Urban and Rural
7. Organizing the Fabric
Room Use and Parade
8. The Logic of Service Spaces
Service Spaces
The Working Landscape and Agriculture
Part III
9. Diversity in the First Generation of Country Houses
William Penn's Pennsbury Manor
Fountain Low (Later Graeme Park)
10. Establishing an Architectural Norm
The Progeny of Stenton, Especially Hope Lodge
11. The New Ideal of the Villa
Bush Hill
The New Ideal of Retirement
12. An Explosion and Variety of Country Houses at Midcentury
The Jacob Marks House and Whitby Hall
Cedar Grove, The Cliffs, Grumblethorpe, Mount Airy, Bartram's House and Garden
Fountain Low to Graeme Park
13. The Flowering of the 1760s
Mount Pleasant
Port Royal
14. Denouement
Laurel Hill
Waln Grove
The Deshler-Morris House
The Thomas Mifflin House (with an Aside on Smith's Octagon)
Chalkley Hall
The Hills
Essay on Sources

What People are Saying About This

Damie Stillman

"Reinberger and McLean have succeeded in illuminating the nature and significance of a specific building type in colonial America, the country house or seat, focusing on those around the city of Philadelphia. The scholarship is extremely sound, the documentation is profuse, and the book effectively presents a tremendous amount of information on a significant topic that deserves elucidation. No comparable study exists."

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