Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Walled Garden
In the early 1800s, George Carter designed a walled garden. Enslaved people carved terraces out of the hillside and built masonry walls, some of which served as decoration and others as protection from harsh winds. Additionally, enslaved people constructed wooden and brick structures along these walls for housing and storage. An 1819 newspaper article from the Journal of the Times described the garden as "producing all kinds of vegetables, vines, fruits and flowers." George's wife, Elizabeth O. Carter, identified in her diary 21 specific fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, cauliflower, and radishes.
By the time Edith and William Corcoran Eustis purchased Oatlands in 1903, the garden and buildings had fallen into disrepair. Edith Eustis, an avid gardener, hired numerous local workers to restore 4 ˝ acres of terraced space with colorful plantings, garden statuary, and an ornate balustrade fence. She reinvigorated the allee of boxwoods and built a charming teahouse. Today, the garden is primarily ornamental but honors its agricultural past with plantings of vegetables and herbs. The
The Garden Plan of Oatlands, c. 1903.
This plan, c. 1903, reveals a rare combination of Carter and Eustis-era designs. The Garden House, now missing, appears on this plan, and the teahouse is not yet constructed. However, the smokehouse is already noted as a studio with a new chimney. Image courtesy of Architect's Emergency Committee, Great Georgian Houses of America, Vol. 1, Dover Publications, 1970.
Edith Eustis, late 1930s.
Of her garden, Edith Eustis once stated, "It was a thankful task to restore the old beauty, although the thoughts and conceptions were new, they fitted it. And every stone vase or bench, every box-hedge planted, seemed to fall into its rightful place and become a part of the whole."
Garden Steps, c. 1930s.
It took many hardworking people, both enslaved and free, to make this garden a place of beauty and charm. A visitor to Oatlands in 1860, Amanda Edmonds, wrote, "It is a perfect Eden on earth…The gardens were laid off beautifully and studded with every variety of shrubbery and evergreen." Lee Lawrence, Society of Rebels: The Diary of Amanda Edmonds, Northern Virginia 1857-1867, Piedmont Press, 2016. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Oatlands' Garden, 1904.
Taken about a year after the Eustis family purchased Oatlands, this wide shot of the garden shows significant progress in their restoration plans. The balustrade fence is installed, the dilapidated garden buildings are gone, and cold frames protect delicate plantings until they are ready to go into the ground.
Erected by Oatlands Historic House & Gardens, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Agriculture • Architecture • Horticulture & Forestry. A significant historical year for this entry is 1819.
Location. 39° 2.456′ N, 77° 37.018′ W. Marker is in Leesburg, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker can be reached from Oatlands Plantation Lane, 0.4 miles south of James Monroe Highway (U.S. 15), on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20850 Oatlands Plantation Ln, Leesburg VA 20175, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Smokehouse (here, next to this marker); The Garden Dependency (a few steps from this marker); Reclaim Your Story (a few steps from this marker); The Mansion (within shouting distance of this marker); The Enslaved Community (within shouting distance of this marker); The Bachelor's Cottage (within shouting distance of this marker); The Greenhouse (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Carriage House (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Leesburg.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 9, 2022. It was originally submitted on April 9, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 48 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on April 9, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.