North Easton Historic District - Table of Contents.................Architecture Around the World

H. H. Richardson's Ames Gate Lodge and the Romantic Landscape Tradition

By Francis R. Kowsky
Reprinted with permission from the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, June 1991

- The footnotes in the original publication have been inserted into the main body of the text using
brown type.
- The illustrations, taken in 2013, were not part of the publiction in 1991.

The Ames gate lodge in North Easton, Massachusetts, has long been acknowledged as one of Henry Hobson Richardson's most remarkable works. Designed in 1880-1881, the building was set amidst grounds landscaped by Richardson's friend Frederick Law Olmsted. The distinctive elements of the gate lodge are its boulder walls and its great archway spanning the estate drive. These features surely drew their inspiration from Richardson's knowledge and understanding of bridges erected according to designs chiefly by Calvert Vaux in Central Park, America's first important municipal pleasure ground. This article seeks to identify the gate lodge as a descendent of those imaginative structures and an expression of the romantic ideals of landscape architecture that informed their design.

Ames Gate Lodge

The gate Lodge that H. H. Richardson (1838 -1886) designed in 1880-1881 for Frederick Lothrop Ames establishes the entrance to the grounds of Langwater, one of several Ames family estates near the village of North Easton, Massachusetts. The low-lying, broad-roofed structure straddles the road leading into the property from the public highway to the north and compels visitors to pass beneath its gaping arch on their way to the manor house. The cubic bulk of the lodge itself, which housed bachelor guests and the estate gardener, stands to the west of the archway; and a long, low wing, containing a large room for the storage of plants during the winter months, extends eastward from the arch to terminate in a circular bay. The walls of the building are especially bold and massive: Richardson formed them of boulders gathered from the grounds, which, like most New England farmlands in the nineteenth century, were strewn with large cobbles. The great semicircular arch itself, embedded in the boulder walls, springs from a low base; its flat, roughly dressed voussoirs fit tightly together without visible mortar joints.

Although recognized in its own day as a powerful and original manifestation of Richardson's genius -- in 1886, Henry Van Brunt called it an "extraordinary piece of architectural athleticism"

[Footnote:]  H. Van Brunt, "Henry Hobson Richardson, Architect," "Atlantic Monthly Magazine," LVIII, 1886, reprinted in W. A. Coles, ed., "Architecture and Society, Selected Essays of Henry Van Brunt," Cambridge, Mass., 1969, 178. For other evidence of positive acceptance of the gate lodge, see "The Illustrations: Gate Lodge to Estate of F. L. Ames, Esq., North Easton, Mass.," "American Architect and Building News," XVIII, 1885,304; "Mr. Richardson~s Work at North Easton, Mass.," American Architect and Building News," XIX, 1886, 223-224; "The Ames Memorial Buildings, North Easton, Massachusetts, Henry Hobson Richardson, Architect" (Monographs of American Architecture, 3), Boston, 1886; and M. G. Van Rensselaer, "Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works," Boston,1888, 103104. For further references to the gate lodge, see J. K. Ochsner, ". H. Richardson, Complete Architectural Works," Cambridge, Mass., 1982, 217.

-- the Ames gate lodge fell short of receiving universal acclaim as a model worthy of imitation. In August 1891, an editorial in the magazine Garden and Forest called into question the particular appropriateness of using boulders to construct urban park structures, a practice popular at the time and one for which the writer laid blame at the door of Richardson's Ames gate lodge.

This editorial, which was entitled "Architectural Fitness," is reprinted in C. Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm and the Structures of the Boston Park System,"JSAH, XXXII, 1973, 168-170. Zaitzevsky also discusses this material in "Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System," Cambridge, Mass., 1982, 171-172.

Cynthia Zaitzovsky has determined that this editorial was composed by Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer (1851-1934), a close friend of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and the biographer of Richardson.

Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm," 168.

Ames Gate Lodge

Ames Gate Lodge

In the editorial, Mrs. Van Rensselaer was critical specifically of the boulder structures that had been erected by the Olmsted firm in the early 1880s in Franklin Park and along the Fenway in Boston.

Olmsted, who at the time was unaware of the identity of the author of the commentary, felt compelled to write a rebuttal. In this statement (which was a private protest, not intended to appear in the pages of Garden and Forest), Olmsted maintained that "Richardson's work at North Easton was conceived after he had examined two works of rough-hewn stones and boulders built in Central Park twenty years before."

F. L. Olmsted, "A Few Annotations, For Private Use Only, Upon 'Architectural Fitness,' Humbly Submitted To The Consideration Of His Omniscient Editorial Majesty, By His Prostrate Servant, F.L.O.," reprinted in Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm," 170.

Charles Beveridge, editor of Olmsted's papers, suggests that Richardson's models were the Riftstone Arch (1860) and the Huddlestone Arch (1863-1865).

C. E. Beveridge and D. Schuyler, eds., "Creating Central Park," 1857-1861, 111: "The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted," ed. C. C. McLaughlin, Baltimore, 1983, 32.

These, along with the Rustic Arch in the Ramble (1859) and several other structures, were erected of roughly dressed stone found on the Central Park site. Olmsted, of course, was thoroughly familiar with these archways: he even claimed responsibility for modifying the design of the Riftstone Arch in order to make it more economical to construct.

Beveridge and Schuyler, "Central Park," 32-34.

In 1858, Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) won the competition held to determine the design of Central Park. They had labeled their entry "Greensward," a reference to the rolling meadowland that was an essential feature of their scheme.

For a more complete discussion of the creation of Central Park, see F. L. Olmsted, Jr., and T. Kimball, eds., "Central Park as a Work of Art and as a Great Municipal Enterprise," 1853-1895, 11: "Frederick Law Olmsted, Forty Years of Landscape Architecture," New York, 1970; H. H. Reed, "Central Park: A History and a Guide," 2d ed., New York, 1972; and Beveridge and Schuyler, "Central Park."

Central Park as conceived by Olmsted and Vaux was to be evocative of the pastoral scenery that both men believed would refresh spirits of urban dwellers who otherwise passed their lives confined within the "artificial" environment of the city. In the words of historian Thomas Bender, Olmsted and Vaux sought to "accommodate growth and change to a romantic perspective" by providing in their parks a means by which modern urban men and women of all classes could maintain the age-old human bond with nature.

T. Bender, "Toward an Urban Vision: Ideas and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century America," Baltimore, 1975, 164.

Sharing the artistic values of many contemporary landscape painters, the architects endeavored to create parks in which visitors might experience artfully arranged passages of seemingly rural scenery. Through unconscious influence, such scenery, it was believed, would promote tranquility and taste. Olmsted, Vaux, and many nineteenth-century intellectuals feared that these and other traditional values were threatened by modern day materialism and competitiveness. In their desire to keep before the eyes of their fellow citizens a compelling image of nature, Olmsted and Vaux stressed the importance in their park work of subordinating all architectural elements, by means of location and design, to the natural setting.

In addition to large areas of open green space, their plan for Central Park called for a system of park roads, bridle paths, and footpaths arranged to keep riders and walkers separate from each other. This carefully thought-out system required the construction of bridges at crossings throughout the park for the passage of carriages and horseback riders above or below the pathways reserved for strollers. In addition, the sunken roads that traversed the park from east to west to accommodate cross-town traffic required bridges at several points. The Central Park bridges, which numbered more than forty, attracted special attention in the nineteenth century as outstanding features of the splendid new park landscape. Clarence Cook, the art critic of the New York Tribune, wrote in 1873: "For the most part, our bridges are as ugly as engineers, with their dryasdust brains, can devise. But in the Park the effort was made to have the bridges not only solidly built, but as elegantly, and in as great variety of designs, as could be contrived."

[C. Cook], "Central Park," "Scribner's Monthly," Vl, 1873,535-536. For a recent appraisal of the Central Park bridges, see H. H. Reed, R. M. McGee, and E. Mipaas, Bridges of Central Park, New York, 1990.

Many of the drawings for these bridges are missing from the Central Park collection in the Municipal Archives in New York City, and those that remain, most of which are working drawings, seldom bear an architect's name.

See "Catalog-Index of Central Park Drawings," 1857-1934, New York, 1981.

Nonetheless, most of the archways can be verified as by Vaux from references in park reports. In the case of others - among them, the Riftstone Arch - for which signed drawings or written records no longer exist, one may assume that Vaux, the professional architect associated with the Central Park work (Olmsted had no architectural training), guided their design as well. The powerful Huddlestone Arch, however, presents a special problem of attribution, for it appears to have been conceived and built during 1863-1865, a period when both Vaux and Olmsted had resigned from the park.

Several working drawings dating from December 1863 for the Huddlestone Arch (Bridge 29) exist in the Municipal Archives. One bears the name of M. A. Kellogg, an engineer who assisted Olmsted and Vaux on the park work, but the others have no names on them. According to the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, "Eighth Annual Report" (1865), 122, the Huddlestone Arch was completed in 1865. Olmsted and Vaux resigned their Central Park positions on 14 May 1863. They resumed their appointment as the park's landscape architects on 19 July 1865. Olmsted left New York to manage the Mariposa Mining Estate in California in September 1863, while Vaux remained in New York, where he had a successful architectural practice. Yet even though Vaux had no official association with the park, he kept close watch on developments there and conceivably could have informally influenced the construction of the Huddlestone Arch. It was during this time that Vaux undertook an energetic campaign to prevent the construction of several gateways that architect Richard Morris Hunt proposed for park entrances. (See F. R. Kowsky, "The Central Park Gateways: Harbingers of French Urbanism Confront the American Landscape Tradition," in Susan Stein, ed., "The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt," Chicago, 1986, 79-90.)

It is still possible that Vaux was responsible for this arch, for it is clear from contemporary references that Vaux enjoyed wide recognition as the creator of Central Park's bridges. Edouard Andre, the French landscape architect and friend of Olmsted, wrote in his book "L'art des jardins" that "among the bridges to be remarked upon in public parks, those of the first order are those that C. Vaux has designed for Central Park."

"Parmi les ponts a citer dans les parcs publics, se placent en premiere ligne ceux que M. C. Vaux a dessines pour le Central-Park de New York . . ." (E. Andre, "L'art des jardins," Paris, 1879, 858).

Olmsted himself, in a letter to Vaux referring to their respective roles in the planning of Central Park, stated that "architectural design and superintendence, in which I have no appreciable property . . . is wholly yours."

Vaux quotes Olmsted's letter of 26 November 1863 in a letter to H. W. Bellows of 25 February 1864. See Olmsted, Jr., and Kimball, "Olmsted," 78.

Yet, in light of Olmsted's preference for rustic stone architecture (as opposed to more ornamental work) in the parks he later built without Vaux, it may be that Olmsted too had a hand in the design of the Central Park fieldstone arches.

The bridges that Vaux placed in the park varied considerably in design and materials. Those in more prominent and open locations, such as the Denesmouth Arch (1860) and Trefoil Arch (1862), were usually built of ashlar masonry and possessed a high degree of finish in their construction and details. Others, such as the Springbank Arch (1863), which were located in less conspicuous areas, conveyed a rougher and simpler appearance. Vaux's choice of materials and finish was, of course, carefully orchestrated to adapt his individual structures to the character of the landscape in which they stood. In rugged, out-of-the-way places, such as the Ramble in the southern part of the park and the Loch in the northern section, he built log bridges and archways of boulders and rusticated stones.

Vaux was perhaps the first architect in America to advocate the use of such construction in picturesque situations. In his 1857 book, Villas and Cottages, he had proposed that a terrace for viewing the Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Mountains be erected using a "rough stone wall built up in great blocks . . . without mortar . . . in a bold irregular manner."

C. Vaux, Villas and Cottages: A Series of Designs Prepared for Erection in the United States, New York, 1857, 155.

The rustic stone bridges in Central Park were remarkable and early instances of this sort of primitive expressionism in American architecture. Central Park also abounded in other rockwork architecture: cascades, caves, embankments, and other features imitative of nature in its most negligent mood were deliberately introduced to refresh the visitor with enticing vignettes of rural picturesqueness.

As a resident of New York City in the later 1860s and early 1870s, Richardson must have frequented the new park. (Construction of Central Park was substantially completed by 1861, although important additional work was done throughout the 1860s and 1870s.) He was undoubtedly acquainted with Vaux as well as with Olmsted.

Vaux and Richardson had many occasions to meet. Not only were both associated with Olmsted, but they also shared membership in the Century Association.

Surely he would have been aware of the unprecedented constructions (rustic and other) that the two designers took pleasure in creating in the park. Richardson moved to the Boston suburb of Brookline in 1874; seven years later Olmsted became his neighbor. The return visit to Central Park that Olmsted said Richardson made at the time he was living in Brookline and designing the Ames gate lodge must have refreshed the architect's memory of the many archways, finished as well as rustic, located in that arcadian landscape.

The return visit to Central Park is mentioned in Olmsted, "A Few Annotations," in Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm," 170.

Richardson would have been particularly impressed with the forthright, "lithic" quality of the rustic stone bridges, especially the unmortared Huddlestone Arch, which gives the appearance of rocks piled up by giant hands. "A rather savage and dangerous looking tunnel, under which we pass for the first time with not a little inward misgiving," wrote Clarence Cook, who added that over "all such structures as this, the art of the Park gardener hastens to throw some veil of bloom or verdure that, in time will take away, for timid people, the look of danger, and will reconcile the artist to what would else seem too bare and bleak for such surroundings."

C. Cook, "A Description of the New York Central Park," New York, 1869, 175-177.

The Rustic Arch in the Ramble (1859), constructed of stones chosen for their worn appearance and laid up in large blocks without mortar joints, was one of the earliest of these rockwork structures in Central Park. It too was to have had a mantle of vines draping its brusque surfaces, for such vegetation was thought to enhance the romantic appeal of rural architecture. In Villas and Cottages, Vaux had frequently recommended that verandas and walls of country houses be covered with vines and creeping plants.

Vaux, "Villas and Cottages," 65, 144, 151, 156.

Certainly, in the late 1870s and early 1880s, when the vegetation planted in the park in the 1850s and 1860s was reaching a healthy fullness, the park that Richardson saw would have approximated the ideal that Olmsted and Vaux had had in mind when they conceived its design.

In addition to using plants to domesticate the park's architecture, Vaux had sought diligently to subordinate his structures to the landscape's characteristics. The use of complementary materials was one way of achieving this goal, especially in the case of rockwork arches. But Vaux, always a devoted practitioner of romantic landscape principles, designed his more formal bridges so that they too appeared to rest comfortably within the setting nature provided. The profiles of his larger bridges - for example, the Trefoil Arch - were deliberately made long and low. Here, as in other instances, the low, arched passageway pierces the extended mass of the wall to form a ground-level tunnel in the ravine: architecture and topography are perceptibly joined. In the same spirit, the archway of the SpringLank Arch seems half buried in the earth, and the Seventy-ninth Street transverse road passes through an immense boulder, the center of which was carved out to accommodate the roadway beneath a heavily planted "natural bridge."

Olmsted and Vaux clearly intended that the bridges work with the path system to guide the visitor's enjoyment of the park's rural scenery. Frequently, as in the case of the Trefoil Arch and the SpringLank Arch, the vaulted passageways marked transitions along the paths between different areas of landscape. Coming out of the Springbank Arch, for example, one suddenly encountered a waterfall and a glen. Strollers approaching the Trefoil Arch from the east left behind the wooded area along the Fifth Avenue side of the park as they entered the arch and emerged on the other side in the area of lake scenery. In the design of the Trefoil Arch, and others like it, broad spandrels cut off visitors' view of the grounds that lay beyond the archway and directed their attention and movement through the arch opening, which became the prelude to the next "event'' in the landscape. Undoubtedly, Richardson, with Olmsted as his friend, was aware of the scheme of unfolding sequences of pastoral imagery in Central Park. One can even imagine Olmsted leading Richardson through the park just as he had once guided the architect around Niagara, commenting all the while on the pleasing effects of scenery there.

This trip to Niagara took place in 1875 and is recounted in Van Rensselaer, "Richardson," 27. See also F. Kowsky, "In Defense of Niagara," in "The Distinctive Charms of Niagara Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Niagara Reservation," exhib. cat., Niagara Falls, N.Y., 1985, 8-15

As Olmsted asserted, Richardson also must have received guidance in his choice of boulders for the fabric of the Ames gate lodge from rustic stone structures in Central Park. Richardson, however, had already experimented with this sort of construction before he built the gate lodge. In 1867, he had designed Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Massachusetts, using for its walls large, irregularly shaped rocks collected locally. And like this earlier work - which, Olmsted remarked, Richardson had talked about with renewed enthusiasm toward the end of his life (he died in 1886)

Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm," 171.

Ames Gate Lodge: Voussoirs

- the stones of the gate lodge were set in wide beds of mortar, a technique slightly different from that Vaux generally employed for his bridges, which were intended to appear as dry construction. This latter method, however, is echoed in the laying of the voussoirs of the gate lodge arch, which recall the facing of flat, closely spaced, slanting stones on the Riftstone Arch. Details of construction aside, the rugged masonry surfaces of the North Easton building evoke the spirit of romantic primitivism of which Vaux's 1860s structures were the first significant manifestation in American architecture.

In his own career after the Civil War, Olmsted continued his fondness for such seemingly rudimentary construction. Apparently, he saw it as the most convincing metaphor for "natural" architecture, the essential characteristic of which was identification with the landscape. Andre had particularly praised Olmsted for the naturalistic combinations of vines, plants, and boulders that in the late 1860s he had placed along pathways in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

Olmsted, "A Few Annotations," in Zaitzevsky, "The Olmsted Firm," 171.

In writing about another commission from the Ames family, Olmsted took pains to reveal his ideas about the beauty and meaning of rustic stonework, which he seems to have equated with the origins of human community and with life lived in simple harmony with nature's order.

Letter from F. L. Olmsted to O. Ames, 10 April 1882. F. L. Olmsted Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

In a much rewritten draft of a letter that Olmsted sent in April 1882 to Oakes Angier Ames explaining the landscape design he was proposing for the area around Richardson's Memorial Hall in North Easton, Olmsted spoke of "evergreens, vines, shrubs and blooming rock plants" seen in association with rough stone construction as emblematic of peace taming war. Continuing in this poetic vein, Olmsted recounted how early men employed stones that nature provided close at hand to erect their most cherished memorials. "In the old times," he remarked,

it was customary to commemorate important events by a form of monument in the raising of which all the members of a community could [play?] a direct part. This was done by them bringing together at a place agreed upon a great quantity of loose field stones and laying them up in the conical pile known as a cairn. The outside stones of a cairn are usually so heavy that they could only have been lifted to their place by machinery or with great labor of many men, but the inner mass is . . . in part of smaller stones, some of which might have been brought by the hands of the poorest and feeblest of the community. The oldest and most enduring monuments in the world of this class, . . . because of the beautiful plants that have become rooted in them and which spring out of their crannies or have grown over them from . . . their base are far more interesting and pleasant to see than the greater number of those constructed of massive masonry and elaborate sculpture.

Letter from F. L. Olmsted to O. Ames, 10 April 1882. F. L. Olmsted Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

The Rockery

Olmsted proposed that a cairn of rocks [The Rockery] be constructed, partially with the labor of local school children, adjacent to the Memorial Hall to commemorate the Civil War, "the heroic days of great struggle through the results of which the American people are today a free and . . . indivisible nation."

Letter from F. L. Olmsted to O. Ames, 10 April 1882. F. L. Olmsted Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

Surely Olmsted had shared his thoughts with his friend Richardson, whose work at North Easton, beginning in 1879, went forward in close cooperation with Olmsted.

For a summary of Olmsted and Richardson's work at North Easton, see R. Brown, "The Aesthetic Transformation of an Industrial Community," "Winterthur Portfolio," XII, 1977, 35-54.

The Rockery

Indeed, Richardson's monument to Oakes and Oliver Ames, which a colony of workmen were erecting on the prairie near Sherman, Wyoming, during the time that the gate lodge was being built and construction was proceeding on the other Ames buildings in North Easton, vividly evokes the "cairn" monument that Olmsted described in his letter. Olmsted felt great admiration for that lonely, immutable memorial to the nation's heroic effort to bind together East and West by means of the transcontinental railroad. It was a monument, James O'Gorman points out, that was created by men who lived according to a strict code of conduct and who "gathered" the stones from near the site. Perhaps Richardson's rough-faced ashlar pyramid of native stone embodied Olmsted's notions about the relationship that should exist between community, art, and nature.

J. F. O'Gorman, "H. H. Richardson: Architectural Forms for an American Society," Chicago, 1987, 103. For Olmsted's opinion of the Ames monument, see Van Rensselaer, "Richardson," 72.

At Central Park, Olmsted, in company with Vaux, had taken the first steps along the path that led to this romantic theory.

For the Ames gate lodge, it is apparent that Richardson derived from Central Park even more than renewed impetus for the bold use of nature's materials. As first proposed, the Ames building was to have been only a stone house standing beside the entrance road.

For a discussion of the evolution of the gate lodge design, see Brown, "The Aesthetic Transformation ... 48-54. Drawings for the gate lodge are in the Richardson collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Later - and one would like to think after Richardson's return visit to Central Park - the building evolved into a "gate lodge," an expanded structure distinguished by the low, round-arched passageway framing the road and giving access to the grounds of the estate. (The works in Central Park, however, seem not to have influenced Richardson's plan for the gate lodge.) A powerful symbol for entry, the gate lodge arch especially recalls Vaux's archways in Central Park for the way in which it signifies progress to a farther landscape. For like many of Central Park's archways, the Ames gate lodge - which Olmsted at least once referred to as a "bridge"

Zaitzevsky, "Boston Park System," 244 n. 29.

- marks a transitional point in the grounds. Visitors entering the Ames property from the public road are guided a short distance along the drive to the arched opening. The grounds between the public road and the gate lodge itself are landscaped with trees and shrubs that together with the gate lodge limit the approaching visitors, view to the immediate area. Once through the passageway, they see a different landscape, one of wide lawns, spreading out before them, with the road continuing in the distance into the grounds of the estate.

In 1888, two years after Richardson's death, Olmsted was commissioned to modify the landscape on the south, or estate, side of the gate lodge (see Brown, "The Aesthetic Transformation," 55-58). He recommended the removal of many of the evenly spaced trees that had apparently lined the road and suggested that they be replaced with groups of shrubs. According to photographs that appeared in "The Ames Memorial Buildings" (1886), the area immediately adjacent to the gate lodge on the south was already given over to broad, rolling lawn (Fig. 2). The rows of trees, therefore, must have begun some distance south of the building. Although it is unclear how much of Olmsted's scheme was carried out, in effect, his work would have served to enhance the "natural" character of the landscape as well as to have reinforced the impression of breadth the visitor received when coming through the gate lodge arch into the estate grounds.

The gate lodge arch, like that of Vaux's Trefoil Arch, is embedded in walls that screen the farther landscape from the gaze of those advancing toward it. In effect, it serves - as Vaux's archway did - as a diaphragm between different areas of scenery, here signifying the end of the public world and the beginning of the private realm of the estate. A masterpiece of picturesqueness that marks the juncture between "outer" and "inner" landscapes, the gate lodge speaks forcefully of passage.

Ames Gate Lodge

Seen in this light, the gate lodge, in addition to its striking materials, shares a number of characteristics with Vaux's Central Park bridges. The low, round arch, springing nearly from ground level so as to appear wedded to the earth, echoes a form Vaux employed repeatedly in his Central Park bridges, notably in the Trefoil Arch and the red and yellow brick Playmates Arch (1861). With this type of arch, Vaux achieved his aim of keeping his bridges low to the ground and in a subordinate position to the topography. Adopting the same form of arch, Richardson achieved a similar scenic effect. Furthermore, the low, ground-hugging silhouette of the plant storage wing of the gate lodge echoes the Claudian horizontality of Vaux's larger bridges (for example, the Trefoil Arch). And also like the works of Vaux in Central Park, the gate lodge, despite its massive walls, evokes the playful spirit of pleasure-ground architecture. The American Archilea and Building News caught this lighthearted mood when it described the gate lodge as an "amusing" piece of architecture.

"The Illustrations," 304.

The gate lodge's comradeship with the rustic stone bridges of Central Park is underscored in photographs taken several years after the dwelling was completed and Olmsted's plantings had had time to mature. As in the instance of Central Park's rustic architecture, a cloak of verdure draped the rocky walls of the house and arch. Enveloped in a luxuriant growth of clinging vines, the gate lodge recalled even more forcefully than it does today (with the vines removed) the rustic architecture in Olmsted and Vaux's parks. The thick vegetation, boulder construction, and low arch spanning the roadway distinguished the gate lodge as a work of architecture striving to assimilate itself with nature. Richardson had understood and appreciated the lessons in the picturesque that his good friend Olmsted had first taught at Central Park — a model romantic landscape — twenty years before the gate lodge was designed.

Ames Gate Lodge

Ames Gate Lodge

Ames Gate Lodge

Ames Gate Lodge

The author wishes to acknowledge the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Program and Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars, and the State University of New York College at Buffalo, faculty Scholarship Grants program, in the preparation of this article.

- Francis R. Kowsky (Home Page)

Text 1991 Francis R. Kowsky
2013 Chuck LaChiusa
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