Gardens of the Gilded Age in 40 Glorious Images

Frances “Fannie” Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female photographer from Grafton, West Virginia, was given her first camera by George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

After a period of training with Thomas Smillie, director of photography at the Smithsonian, she toured Europe, learning from other prominent photographers to further her craft.

In 1894, she opened her own studio in Washington D.C. and was commissioned by magazines to take celebrity portraits, including Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington and even Alice Roosevelt’s wedding.

Well connected among the elites of society, from the late 1800s through 1935, she photographed the gardens of the rich and famous.

To the wealthy and class-conscious, gardens signified status and refinement in an ever growing industrialized America.

Deemed “the finest existing on the subject”, many of her meticulously composed images were hand tinted and were meant to educate the masses on how to beautify their yards.

What must be the sensations of a visiting Martian, when after thrilling to the matchless beauty of the New York skyline… [he sees] the squalor and sordidness of many of our city districts…? (1922).Francis Benjamin Johnston

Francis Benjamin Johnston played a significant role in defining American landscape design.

Here are 40 glorious gardens from the Gilded Age.

Kenarden Lodge, John Stewart Kennedy house, Shore Path, Bar Harbor, Maine. Italian Garden, view from pergola
Kenarden Lodge, John Stewart Kennedy house, Shore Path, Bar Harbor, Maine. Italian Garden, view from pergola
William Albert Smoot, Jr., house, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Rose garden
William Albert Smoot, Jr., house, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Rose garden
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. Terrace
Arnold Schlaet house, Campo Point, Saugatuck, Connecticut. Terrace
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Terrace balustrade
Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. Terrace balustrade
'Las Tejas,' Oakleigh Thorne house, 170 Picacho Road, Montecito, California. View from swimming pool pavilion to house
‘Las Tejas,’ Oakleigh Thorne house, 170 Picacho Road, Montecito, California. View from swimming pool pavilion to house
'Senuelo,' Edward Ditmars Wetmore house, 1050 Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Path to rose garden
‘Senuelo,’ Edward Ditmars Wetmore house, 1050 Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Path to rose garden
'Villa Rose,' Joseph Donahoe Grant house, 2260 Redington Road, Hillsborough, California. Garden wall
‘Villa Rose,’ Joseph Donahoe Grant house, 2260 Redington Road, Hillsborough, California. Garden wall
'Uplands,' Charles Templeton Crocker house, 400 Uplands Drive, Hillsborough, California. View to porte cochère terrace with herbaceous border
‘Uplands,’ Charles Templeton Crocker house, 400 Uplands Drive, Hillsborough, California. View to porte cochère terrace with herbaceous border
'Inellan,' Walter Douglas house, Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Pergola at the Pacific Ocean
‘Inellan,’ Walter Douglas house, Channel Drive, Montecito, California. Pergola at the Pacific Ocean
Michael Cochrane Armour house, 962 Linda Vista Avenue, Pasadena, California. Native plant garden pathway
Michael Cochrane Armour house, 962 Linda Vista Avenue, Pasadena, California. Native plant garden pathway
'Laurelton Hall', Louis Tiffany Foundation, Laurel Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Octagonal garden
‘Laurelton Hall’, Louis Tiffany Foundation, Laurel Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Octagonal garden
'The Causeway,' James Parmelee house, 3100 Macomb Street, Washington, D.C. Fountain
‘The Causeway,’ James Parmelee house, 3100 Macomb Street, Washington, D.C. Fountain
'Gray Gardens,' Robert Carmer Hill house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Sun-room overlooking walled garden
‘Gray Gardens,’ Robert Carmer Hill house, Lily Pond Lane, East Hampton, New York. Sun-room overlooking walled garden
'Il Paradiso,' Mrs. Dudley Peter Allen house, 1188 Hillcrest Avenue, Oak Knoll, Pasadena, California. Lower garden stairs
‘Il Paradiso,’ Mrs. Dudley Peter Allen house, 1188 Hillcrest Avenue, Oak Knoll, Pasadena, California. Lower garden stairs

Continued …

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David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.