Andrew Jackson Downing Farmhouse
LOCATION. Iowa State University Campus
TO OUR FRIENDS ~ The plan of the Farmhouse is herewith spread before you, for such judgement as may seem to you most just and proper.This design for a front yard of a modest italianate country house is inspired by the Downing landscape style. It aims to elevate horticultural practices to the front stage as herald of the future site of a certain agricultural College.
CONCEPT. Upon doing research on the history of the Farmhouse Museum, I stumbled upon this sheet you see before you—the original proposed layout for the ISU Farmhouse Garden! This small Italianate style cottage was designed complete with a Masterplan done in the Andrew Jackson Downing landscape style. Although I was only able to track down the design for the front yard, the downing style is evident in the celebration of the lawn, the placement of trees—which frame views out of the home’s windows—and the enclosure of service areas, such as the orchard and flower garden by fence and hedge.
Unlike a typical Downing design, this layout stands out in that it places both the orchard and flower garden in the front, rather than back of the house. It would seem the original designer’s intent was to celebrate horticultural practices by having them at center stage as carriages would drive around the front of the house. Although the flower garden is not meant to be enjoyed over the winter months due to Iowa’s harsh climate, the horticultural innovations are evident in the plant selections, which extends interest from Spring through Fall. The ‘sampler’ orchard contained varieties of Mr. Welch’s favorite apple variety—Astracan Red. It is said that Mr. Welch would love to walk out his front porch and grab apples from this orchard before breakfast. A more extensive orchard and vegetable garden is thought to have been built in the back of the house. This layout plan and planting plan give some insight into the reason why this site was selected as the origin of the Iowa State College, one of the best agricultural colleges in the Union.
An alphabetized legend on the left side of the sheet enumerates rustic wood site amenities such as square and round pedestals, a woven wood fence, triangular tuteurs, and a drying shed.
The area across the front porch (b.) of the property features a fashionable lawn, flanked by an Apple Orchard with a hay understory (e.) and Kitchen Gardens (d.). Wooden pedestals (2.) signal both entry and exit through the curved gravel drive (c.).
Kitchen Garden - Planting Detail