Sunday, March 9, 2014
340. Chinese Architectural Design in the Early United States
The Chinese influence on architecture remained conspicuous after the founding of the United States. In the 1790s a member of the American Philosophical Society, Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801)- built a home near Philadelphia known as China's Retreat. The building adopted a Chinese-style cupola on the roof. The windows, similar to screens in Chinese homes, were double leaves that slid into pockets in the walls. The buildings that used Chinese "touches" added “decorative embellishments to an otherwise Occidental plan and structure."
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (1758-1841), a Polish visitor, wrote a vivid description of the house and its contents. The house was "immense, surmounted with a cupola and decorated with golden serpents in the Chinese manner. Six tabourets of porcelain were arranged in a circle in the peristyle." Thomas Jefferson showed interest in Chinese garden styles while designing a garden on his property. For Jefferson, gardening was "the complement to building, in the activity of a country gentleman." In his eyes, gardens were "peculiarly worth the attention of an American, because it is the country of all others where the noblest gardens may be made without expense." He used his free time to draw up plans for his garden, and finally decided to ornament his garden with a Chinese style.