11. The Evergreens: The Carriage Drive, Austin and Landscape Gardening

A black and white, historic photograph of a two-story Italianate house with a central tower. The house is surrounded by snowy evergreen trees. To the right is one story carriage houses with a sloped roof.
The Evergreens in the 1870s. The roof of the carriage house can be seen to the right.

From this location near The Evergreens, you can see the fenced area on your right. It outlines the location of the carriage house. Picture Emily Dickinson’s brother Austin seated in his carriage, driving off to town.


A lawyer by profession, Austin Dickinson was an accomplished amateur landscape designer. Around Amherst he planted trees and took on projects: the college campus, the town common and Wildwood Cemetery on the north side of town. He invited landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, to consult. 

 

More than any other single American, Frederick Law Olmsted shaped the landscape of the 19th century. He is best known for Central Park, the large rectangular green space of pastoral meadows, craggy vistas and promenades that makes up the heart of Manhattan. His hundreds of commissions ranged from parks in Boston, Chicago and Montreal;campuses at Stanford and Johns Hopkins;the grounds for the Capitol in Washington D.C.; and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. 


When Austin Dickinson engaged Olmsted and Vaux on Amherst projects, it was natural that he and his wife would entertain them. Susan was famous in town for her sophisticated dinner parties. Their daughter, Martha, remembered her father discussing the merits of various plants with the two gentlemen over coffee at The Evergreens. 

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Although perhaps best known for the public spaces he designed, Frederick Law Olmsted was also concerned about the relationship between private dwellings and the landscape:


“Probably the advantages of civilization can be found illustrated and demonstrated under no other circumstances so completely as in some suburban neighborhoods where each family abode stands fifty or a hundred feet or more apart from all others, and at some distance from the public road.”

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