The Landscape

Apr 15, 2013 in News

(Excerpt from Historical Structures Reports; The Henry Homestead, Boulton, PA.  Prepared for the Jacobsburg Historical Society by Reed Laurence Engle, October 20, 1978; the office of John Dickey, ALA, Media, PA.)  This article was originally printed in the Sept/Oct JHS Newsletter.

(William) Henry and his wife apparently desired more than strictly utilitarian self-sufficiency at the Homestead.  Much evidence exists that Henry not only attempted to create a useful farmstead and complex, but also intended it to be beautiful and to some extent, an unusual landscape.

Henry’s intuitions are clearly seen in his planting plans for the more functional areas of the factory complex.  He twice placed orders for Lombardy poplars, a species introduced into the country approximately thirty years earlier by William Hamilton of Philadelphia, to be planted along the head-race of the mill.  Fifty Lombardys would certainly have lent a rather unique and European aspect to the factory complex.  It is not known if the poplars were ever planted; however, six Yellow Willows ordered for the creek banks and the four Weeping Willows for the Homestead were planted, as several remained when the first photographs of Boulton were taken.

Henry showed an interest in both beauty and utility in the slate fence posts used on some areas of the farm. The records indicate that the garden and the Homestead property as a whole were fenced.  Although many of the farm fences appear to have been of conventional wood post and rail design, Henry installed the rather elegant slate post fence along Henry Road.  They may have been as asales exhibit.  At this point, Henry was trying to exploit all of his resources, and must have known of the slate outcrop, which later became a small, but successful quarry.

Certainly the most surprising of Henry’s designs, however, is his plan for the new garden for the Homestead proposed on August 24, 1820.  It is not known if the design was ever installed, although it is possible that later buildings, the drive, and the septic tank installed in the 1890s caused it’s removal.

The garden was of a large size, by modern standards, and was of the formal parterre arrangement, similar to those in early Nazareth.  The four large beds were probably meant for vegetables, perhaps bordered or cornered with herbs and flowers.  The two small oval beds and large half-circle on the north could have served as display areas for specimen plants.  In all probability vine crops grew on the fences that surrounded the garden.

The inclusion of a pond within the garden was perhaps as much for appearance as for a nearby source of water during the dry months.

In summary, the years before William Henry’s departure from Boulton saw the expansion of agricultural activities to create a self-sufficient farmstead.  That expansion was unusual because of Henry’s obvious concern to create a more useful landscape both at the factory and on the farm.