Reconstructing the Frame Yard

August 6, 2012

by Siobhan Aitchison

Since my last post describing the excavation of the pit house in the Kitchen Garden‘s frame yard, I have worked on constructing a 3d digital model of what I think the structure looked like. To supplement limited field measurements, I referenced a 1932 survey showing the footprints of the three frames to site my model, and a 1927 plan for a pit house constructed behind the greenhouse for construction detail specifications.

1932 survey showing the footprints of the three frames. We were excavating the one furthest to the north (at the top of this drawing).

Plan and section for a single-span pit house constructed behind the service court greenhouse.

I modeled the pit house using Rhino 3D. My plan is to insert this model with models of the adjacent frames into Google Earth. My fellow interns, Alex and Robin, have had great success georeferencing maps and historic photographs in Google Earth and creating virtual tours, and I hope to follow in their footsteps.

An oblique view of the pit house. The bottom 4-5 feet of the structure was underground. A retaining wall at the front of the house created a 4′ grade change.

An aerial oblique view of the pit house and adjacent cold frames set in the terrain. We are sure that the pithouse and the middle frame had double-span roofs, but the frame on the left might have supported a single-span roof.

A diagram of the pit house construction.

It is still not clear exactly when the pit house was buried and what its primary use was. Aerial photographs and correspondence suggest that it was deconstructed and buried some time between 1950 and 1955. It may have been used for vegetables originally, but it was most likely used for flowers and other landscape plants when the quantity of vegetables being grown at DO was restricted after 1940.

One of several rose plant tags found during the excavation. The pit house could have been used as a forcing house for roses.

I have also been working on an online exhibit of drawings and historical photographs pertaining to the Kitchen Garden’s design, construction, and evolution. This exhibit is still in progress, but the bulk of the copy and images have been posted to the Omeka website organized by Alexis DelVecchio and Paul Cote. The website is not yet public, but we will post the link here when it is! Some of the exhibits, including an exhibit about what kinds of frame yards Beatrix Farrand might have visited and used for reference, are still under construction. In the meantime, below is a sample screenshot from one of the exhibit pages.

The summer has been far too short and I was sad to leave DO on Friday. I will miss my fellow Garden and Landscape Studies interns and the entire staff at DO. I look forward to visiting the gardens soon–I can’t wait to see what the garden staff decides to do in the frame yard!

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