Early hand tinted photograph of Mary Baker Eddy’s Pleasant View barn and flower beds, P06473.
Springtime in New England is a season of change. It begins with icy cold, proceeds to rain and mud, and finally—blooms with greenery and flowers. A writer for the Daily Patriot, a Concord, N.H., newspaper, wrote about this final stage of spring when describing the grounds of Mary Baker Eddy’s home, Pleasant View. “Not all the people in Concord know what a paradise Mrs. Eddy has prepared for all lovers of the beautiful in nature, in her spacious grounds, which are very beautiful even in their natural state, but replete, especially at this time of year, with flowering beds and budding shrubbery.” He concluded, “All this wealth of color, set in the rich velvety green of the gently sloping, and evenly-trimmed lawn, makes a picture difficult to adequately describe, one that must be seen to be appreciated.”1
Fortunately, the collections of The Mary Baker Eddy Library contain photographs of the grounds of Pleasant View. This first photo has an added bonus: The flowers are in color! Color photography was still in experimental stages at the turn of the twentieth century, so the hand-tinting of black and white photographs was a popular alternative. Here, touches of color have been given to a black and white photo of the barn and flower beds, and they add a special spring like touch to the view.
John Salchow, who worked in Eddy’s household in several capacities, including gardening, remembered a florist in Concord “by the name of Benedict” was responsible for the planting of the decorative flower beds at Pleasant View.2 This was G.J. Benedict, whose letterhead proclaims: “Florist and Decorator … Palms, Ferns, Orchids, Bedding Plants, Fancy Bulbs in their season.” Benedict’s correspondence with Eddy, though not extensive, gives a fascinating glimpse into horticulture a century ago. His letters, a part of the Library’s Incoming Correspondence file, enthusiastically provide detailed information on the plants, flowers, and trees that he provided, as well as how he procured them and how he cared for them.
The second photo gives us a nice springtime view of the ornamental flower beds designed by Benedict. While this photo is not colored, and appears to have been taken after the flowers were in full bloom, we can get an idea of the beauty of the scene from the Daily Patriot newspaper:
But it is to the east of the entrance that the gardener has displayed his skill and ingenuity to the best advantage and the greatest delight of onlookers. There, by the beautiful, constantly playing fountain, with the pretty gold fish sporting in its basin, he placed, in the late autumn, the hundreds of bulbs which now are bursting forth in flowering beauty to repay his foresight and care, not speak of his artistic genius, which has been displayed with remarkably good taste. Among the beds now in bloom, the Patriot’s representative noticed a perfectly formed five-pointed star planted with golden yellow tulips; a cross of geometric accuracy, as to its lines and angles, easily six by ten feet, planted with white tulips, just coming into full flower; a perfectly formed crown, ten or twelve feet by about three and a half, planted in two colors, at present in full bloom, and a number of other figures, planted with a variety of different hued tulips, fringed with the fragrant hyacinth.3
To Eddy, the joy and promise of spring were about more than warm weather and flowers. She expressed this in a touching letter she wrote to her student Adeline T. Ricker in 1889. “The springtime is coming which favors the putting forth of buds and is the promise of the whole year. The season favorable to growth in Christian Science has come and I see its budding promise in your letter and the harvest will come.”4