Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Finding the Patio: Landscape Discoveries at Clermont

Sometimes historic discoveryjust depends on getting the right people there at the right time.  This was the way with the patio just recently discovered hiding under a few inches of dirt next to the mansion.

Our gardener (who is notoriously camera shy so I can't include a picture of her) was admiring a photograph on one of our interpretive signs one day (see above).  The photo featured Honoria, reclining glamorously in front of the Long View on Clermont's south side.  Jean, the gardener, was looking to see if she could catch a glimpse of the garden beyond, but a series of flat paving stones in the foreground caught her eye.

Since I have been at Clermont, this has always been a grassy, slightly uneven terrace, perched in front of the blue-green doors of the milk shed and below the second oldest black walnut tree in New York State.  It's been sadly unloved, considering the notable charm it exudes.  It's also right beside our most popular wedding ceremony location (as seen at right).

Well out of curiosity, Jean poked a garden trowel down into the grass and--voila!  It was stopped unmistakably by stone.  She began flicking off about 2-5 inches of soil, and bit by bit she revealed extant stones hiding under the grass.

Since this exciting little discovery, I've been much more conscious of its presence in photograph after photograph.  I keep kicking myself, and I can't believe I've never noticed it before!  I noticed it just this afternoon in this image of Honoria and Rex McVitty around the time of their 1931 marriage.

I liked this image in particular because it shows a small patio table and chair, along with whatever single chair the two young lovers have squeezed themselves onto.  This gives us an idea of how Alice Livingston and her family viewed this patio and what it was to them. 

So there we are: a fun new discovery at Clermont.  History always has more clues to investigate.  I wonder what other things are hiding just beneath the surface?

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