The Glorious Evolution of Messeur Elisaeus von Seutter’s Pleasure Grounds at Ivy Cottage, Jackson, Mississippi

The Glorious Evolution of Messeur Elisaeus von Seutter’s Pleasure Grounds at Ivy Cottage, Jackson, Mississippi
Elisaeus von Seutter, Photographer (1869-1909), Ivy Cottage and Pleasure Grounds, Jackson, Mississippi
Historic Landscape Architecture, Pleasure Grounds, Old Plants, Historic Gardens, Period Gardens, Elisaeus von Seutter, Architectural History, Landscape Architecture, Mississippi Architecture, Southern Gardens, Curator of Shit, Historic Preservation

Turn of the 20th Century View of Ivy Cottage from the Street. Elisaeus von Seutter stands at the fence in front of his residence and has, no doubt, set the camera for a self portrait. Note: von Seutter was obviously a very prosperous and house proud individual.

Prior to the construction of Ivy Cottage, Elisaeus von Seutter (1827-1909) had made his way from Lindau, an island of Lake Constance in Germany.  Born into an aristocratic family, he was an “educated” man, after which he took a position in Seutter & Company, located in Prague. With a certain spirit of unrest, von Seutter left his position in 1848, emigrating to the United States through New Orleans.

Historic Landscape Architecture, Pleasure Grounds, Old Plants, Historic Gardens, Period Gardens, Elisaeus von Seutter, Architectural History, Landscape Architecture, Mississippi Architecture, Southern Gardens, Curator of Shit, Historic Preservation

This is one of the earlier images of von Seutter's garden at Ivy Cottage, depicting a very crude vista of what is in an early stage of cultivation.

With hopes of exploring the West von Seutter lived for a while in St. Louis, Missouri, where his “letters of introduction” from home got him no place.  After surviving malaria, he accepted the invitation of Max Kuner, a friend and native of Germany, to join him as a jeweler of Downing, Moody and Kuner in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After mastering jewelry crafting, watchmaking, and engraving, he ventured on his own to open a business in Raymond, Mississippi.  During this time he returned to Germany, marrying his long time sweetheart, Julia Hoch. He and Julia would have eight children, only 3 of home lived passed the age of 11–Armin in 1854, Edward in 1860, and Carl in 1866.  While his business was a lucrative one until 1860, the American Civil War caused him to lose much of his property and led to the failure of his business in Raymond.

Probably taken by von Seutter between 1880 and 1890, this earlier view of the house shows his initial landscaping pursuits. Note, within the formal side yard, the three level cast iron fountain encircled by a paved walk with axial paths. Next to Julia von Seutter is a cast iron vase (urn), reflecting the fountain.

By 1870, however, he had reestablished himself in the capitol city–Jackson, Mississippi, where he built a shop at the corner of State and East Capitol Street, a two story brick building.  Eventually, the building would house both his jewelry/watchmaking business on the first floor and a photography studio on the second floor.  While watchmaking restored von Seutter’s business and wealth, his own family income, along with his wife’s much larger income, allowed the family to begin again with no real problems.  By 1870, they had built a wood-frame, center hall house, featuring with a prominent front gallery with both Greek and Gothic Revival in stylistic details. Perhaps von Seutter and his wife were always interested in plants; however, by this time they had established the beginnings of what was to become a highly unusual pleasure ground for an upper middle class house.  One gets the idea that the von Seutters, themselves, were responsible for much of the labor involved in their evolving creation.  Remember, this was something created without running water as we know it today.

Also taken between 1880 and 1890, this depicts the 19th century craze for glass houses, commonly known as green houses today. Note the tropical plants on the benches, kept there, most likely, being wintered over.

While many towns and state capitols have prominent families, few had residents who cultivated yards of this sort, and even fewer took such an extensive chronology of photography.  This is a rare example of a true passion for gardening.

This is another view in the chronology of the gardens at the von Seutter house, Ivy Cottage. Note the same fountain, exhibiting a jetted'eau (the spray of the fountain), is now among a more matured yard. The same brick curbs are still present, but have become obscured by mature plant life and continued additions to the garden. There is also a sundial, probably bronze on a stone base.

While Von Seutter’s garden is a rare specimen of an upper middle class house, interests in horticulture and plant life in Mississippi pre-date his by many years.  For example, fruit growing was obviously always a concern given the climate and conditions that make growing some fruits optimal—the Horticulturist: Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste published articles almost in its first year on “the state of fruits…,” etc. in Mississippi or in “…the South” or even near the Mississippi River.

Probably taken in the late 1880s, this view shows Mrs. von Seutter strolling along the grounds in their ever growing pleasure garden. Note, carefully trimmed ivy has been allowed to climb a deciduous tree; pyramidal evergreens add a sculptural element to the vista.

In general, an interest in plants in American life probably can be attributed to the early “plant hunters” and gardeners such as one of our first—John Bartram, who, in roughly 1730, rather awkwardly assembled the first botanical garden in what is not part of Philadelphia.   Bartram collected innumerable un-described plants—bring to light many specimens not written upon before in horticulture.  Later, in 1773, the second botanical garden was established by Humphrey Marshall—publishing “Arbustum Americanum,” perhaps the first “botanical” written work in America.  Bartram followed up in 1791, publishing a book on his travels, “plant hunting” in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.  Men named Michaux and Kin were early horticulturists in America—Kin, an eccentric German native, collected a vast assortment of southern Azalias, which he used to decorate the old Landreth Nurseries.  Another, more of a botanist, was Pursh, an “educated and observant” German, who, in 1814 published “Flora Americae Septentrionalis”—in London, which proved to be on of the most extensive and comprehensive book on American plants.  Many of the early “plant hunters” in America were foreign, simply traveling the New World to seek knowledge and/or specimens for duplication.  John Lyon, a scotchman, once a peasant, was another of the early horticulturists, who actually worked in the American South.  Another Philadelphian who published an early work, “Genera of American Plants,” was Thomas Nuttall, who once a Chair at Cambridge eventually returned to England where his life work was the Rhododenrons.  Within the realm of foreign writers on America was also the Abbe Correa De Serra, the Porteguese Ambassador and Perpetual Secretary to the Acadamy of Natural Sciences in Lisbon—he published “Travels in Arkansas” in 1821, another result of plant hunting in America.

By the late 1880s the pleasure grounds or gardens of von Seutter are flourishing. Note the simpler porch supports at the rear elevation and an unusual update or change in the curb, appearing to be made of either stone or wood.

When von Seutter came to America, much of horticulture and taste for the gardening of Pleasure Grounds had been established.  By the time von Seutter settled permanently in Jackson, Mississippi to create his masterpiece garden, there would have been far more resources for plants and gardeners than had be available before the Civil War.  Yet, his interests would have exceeded just what could be found in America, but would have also included more exotic species, which suited the his “unrest” and vast array of interests. For example, by 1869, the Agave Americana had become known as “The Century Plant,” which was officially recognized in the Horticulturist.  At this time, the plant was supposed to be roughly 70 years of age.  We late see a variety of this plant in von Seutters garden.  Von Seutter probably read the Horticulturist, as his garden trends and patterns mirror that of the articles published in his day.  Among many examples, “The Flower Garden. Bedding Plants,” featured in June 1874, was an article that discussed various layouts and compositions for gardens like von Seutters.  Publications such as the Horticulturist, among others would have offered new ideas and plant types—as well as fashionable trends and products—that may not have been readily available in a small town like Jackson, Mississippi without outside influence. Von Seutter took all of these possibilities to the emph degree.

By 1897, the gardens had truly developed into a wonderful pleasure ground.  Mr. and Mrs. von Seutter are shown here...

By 1897, the gardens had truly developed into a wonderful pleasure ground. Mr. and Mrs. von Seutter are shown here and to the right is a beautifully orchestrated stand of banana trees. A cast iron curbing or boarder has replaced the earlier versions that by this time had gone out of fashion. Shrub form crap mytrels are in the circle.

Locally, in Jackson, von Seutter would have found some amenities for his garden.  However, many of his plants were no doubt “ordered,” as The Clarion advertised for several companies regularly.  For example, Peter Henderson & Co. offered “Half A Million Gardens,” and “…the NEWEST, BEST, and RAREST SEEDS and PLANTS, will be mailed on receipt…,” located conveniently at 35 &37 Cortlandt Street, in New York City.  D.M. Ferry & Co. of Detroit Michigan offered similar services, but had a much smaller advertisement.  As you can see, even with some local resources, there would have been no quick trip to Home Depot or Lowes nor would there have been an immediate return if the plant happened to die due to misfortune or even the slightest neglect.  No, these pursuits were clearly taken far more seriously than would be required today.  There would have been less exotic availability in Jackson, even in the late 19th century.  Business owners such as A.A. Green, “Green’s Fertilizer Works!” of Jackson, Mississippi would have offered some products of interest to von Seutter, but a limited quantity and variety.  Seed packages were also available in most general stores among other venues that offered a variety of options.

Also taken in 1897, this particular day, June 24, was Elisaeus von Seutter’s 70th Birthday. Note that several agave plants are within cast iron urns and ceramic pots.  There is also cast iron lawn furniture, a dog, and the center bed at the bottom left is more clearly exhibiting its mixture of crape myrtle and rose bushes.   

 

All and all, one must also remember that the garden was only a component of his involvements.  Von Seutter’s primary endeavor was what he advertised in The Clarion as “E. v. Seutter,” “…immense supplies of DIAMONDS, WATCHES, Jewelry, SILVERWARE, CLOCKS, Spectacles, for XMAS PRESENTS…,” “…corner opposite capitol…”  His sons followed in the family business—one of which, Armine, became a photographer as well.  It was these business pursuits that afforded him the luxury of gardening to the degree that was accomplished.

Also taken on the patriarch’s birthday, this portrait shows not only the evolution of the family grouping, but, more to the point, the evolution of not only photography, in general, but also the von Seutter family pride–the garden. This image is taken from the same elevations of images 10 to 20 years earlier, shown earlier. Note the low maintained beds and the use of the dramatic agaves in comparison to the earlier views of the same elevation.  The house has also become slightly more victorian over the years.

The Glory of Elisaeus von Seutter as both a Gardner and as a Photographer. Ivy Cottage's Pleasure Grounds have been rehabbed to this point with same fountain an urns set in a more elaborate landscape. Looking into this view, one can seen numerous rooms within the larger pleasure ground. A structure of some sort, possibly a trellis, is located through the vista on right. The von Seutters stroll the grounds.

In terms of von Seutter’s interest in photography, this hobby-to-profession probably took root in the 1860s, as an early image captured was in 1869, showing panorama of the city of Jackson and the capital building.  He is reported to have been the first professional photographer in Jackson, Mississippi.

Although, regardless of this, it was even published his interest in gardening:

“So much for Mr. Seutter the jeweler.

There is nothing which more impresses the visitor to town or city with its refinement, property or happiness, than elegant suburban dwellings clad in flowers and verdure, and in that respect Mr. von Seutter’s Ivy Cottage, the artist’s home on North State street, presents a perfect little Eden, with its wealth of flowers and trees, its vines and waving banana trees and exotics, with its fresh, green lawn, its clean walks, and general artistic and picturesque arrangement, all of which is the result of his active mind and hands.  Here the genial Mr. von Seutter may be found, untiring in attending to and enjoying his home, after his indefatigable labors in his prosperous jewelry business…”

-Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, Part 2, by Firebird Press.

This pretty much sums it up.

Taken around 1900, the von Seutters have aged since the 70th birthday celebration, which is more gloriously true of their gardens. To the left, please note a highly unusual view of a turn of the 20th century lotus pond with lush foliage. This exotic feature is far less normative at this time than our lotus ponds today, stemming from the popularity of Japanese aesthetics of the 1880s. Julia von Seutter would die shortly after this photograph.

By 1910, von Seutter had died, his wife roughly ten years before.  Apparently, Ivy Cottage was sold, as Armine von Seutter had moved to his own house at No. 118 East Capitol Street in Jackson, as his father had died in 1909.  Even after his father’s death he continued to work as a photographer, a single man at roughly 50 years of age, he took in lodgers, as was his housemate, J.L. Britton–a traveling grocer, in 1910.

The entire place, Ivy Cottage and all, was later demolished.  The parcel at 935 North State Street, Jackson Mississippi is now a bank parking lot.

Comments
10 Responses to “The Glorious Evolution of Messeur Elisaeus von Seutter’s Pleasure Grounds at Ivy Cottage, Jackson, Mississippi”
  1. Mary Tahir says:

    I just loved it. Those good old days ………………
    My soul felt rested . Thank You very much

  2. admin says:

    Yes, it was truly a wonderful place…

  3. Armin von Seutter says:

    My great-great-grand parents, thanks for the article. The first pictures of his face that I have seen. All other pictures of him that I had seen were all side view only. I was told that my father, born 1915, spent his early years in this house. His dad died in the 1917 flu epidemic that was the precursor to the big one in 1918.

  4. admin says:

    That’s bazaar, there are many more photos available on these people, email me at curatorofshit@gmail.com.

  5. L.B. McDonald says:

    Elias von Seutter was a schoolchum of my ancestor, August Kuner (1826, Lindau – 1849, Germantown, TN).

    Elias von Seutter parents resided at the Patrizierhaus zum Kawatzen (built in the early 1700’s). Today the residence is the Lindau Museum.

    By the time Elias arrived to New Orleans from Europe (I think this was about 1850), his schoolchum, August, had died of typhoid in Germantown, TN.

    The story goes that he intended to travel to California overland, but contracted an illness somewhere north of Memphis and returned to Vicksburg where he shared living quarters with August’s older brother, Max Kuner (1824-1913). Max was employed with a Mr. Downing in the Vicksburg jewelry business and Elias hired on and remained there until about 1864 (after the Vicksburg surrender) and then established his own business…heavy into photography.

    After the end of the Civil War he returned to Lindau, married the love of his life and then quickly returned to Raymond, MS. HIs original home is still there in Raymond and the folks that currently reside there have original photos taken by Elias.

    Later in his life, he wrote a story of his adventures and heartaches (he and his wife lost several children). The manuscript was entitled “The Immigrant” and a serialized version appeared in a local Jackson, MS newspaper.

  6. admin says:

    Thank you very very much!!!

  7. Thanks again for the post.Thanks Again. Wonderful.

  8. debra phillips @ 5th and state says:

    fascinating!! you brought to life a family and american story. my first thought is “i wonder if this magical cottage is still standing?” thrilled to hear it is.
    this history, garden and architecture buff loved this story
    cheers
    debra

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