American Pleasure Gardens

My fascination with American pleasure gardens began after reading Mary Henderson’s The City and the Theatre. In it, she refers to “Vauxhall” as though it were a landmark. Hailing from England, I immediately tied this name to the British original and was plagued thereafter with a number of questions: what was this site like? Was it a replica of the London site? Was it really a pleasure garden? How popular was it? The more I looked, the more I came to learn that there were scores of pleasure gardens in New York — many operating under the name of Vauxhall. As I expanded my search, I learned that there were literally hundreds of these sites across America. However, I could find very little written on the subject.

This website, which accompanies my forthcoming book, Cultivating National Identity Through Performance: American Pleasure Gardens and Entertainment, presents some of the information I have uncovered in examining these gardens. The page titled “List of Gardens” forms the beginning of an attempt to document the numerous sites in America. Naturally this site is incomplete — to a degree, it always will be as so many of these sites were not documented. Still others operated in cities I have not yet investigated. With that in mind, I invite readers of this site to submit details of any sites they have come across so that they might be added to this ongoing list.