Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pleasure Gardens and Tea Gardens

On July 9th, my blogging friend, Angela, at Tea With Friends wrote about the vintage picture postcards she recently acquired of U.S. Tea Gardens.

My interest was piqued, so I did some research. Jan Whitaker, author of the blog Restaurant-ing Through History, wrote about 'Pleasure Gardens' and 'Tea Gardens' in 2010.  

One of the first pleasure gardens to open in the United States was in New York City in 1767 - Vauxhall Gardens, copied after London's most fashionable pleasure garden.  For 18th and 19th century city residents, these gardens were recreational spaces open day and night featuring landscaped grounds with splashing fountains and sculptures, lights, music, theater, and sometimes firework displays. They are considered by some to be the forerunner's of today's amusement parks.

They were a cross between a botanical garden and country club.  Unlike the male-only coffeehouses, pleasure and tea gardens offered a co-ed social scene, where ladies and gentlemen could drink tea, and stroll together outdoors without ladies facing social criticism. 

A smaller version of a pleasure garden is a tea garden.  Visitors in the early twentieth century often bought picture postcards to commemorate their visit, as well as sending them to close friends and relatives.

The humblest tea gardens situated in inns and taverns vied for customers by offering special attractions such as games, arbors, or a pond.   And seasonal tea rooms offered afternoon tea, lunch, and dinner on porches, lawns and patios.

Many U.S. hotels and resorts with tea gardens were located in eastern states, as well as Florida, Texas and California [famous for their Japanese Tea Gardens].  I was pleased that the Grand Hotel, built in 1887, on Mackinac Island in Michigan's upper peninsula designed a tea garden, and although it has changed over the years, it still exists. Today croquet and bocce ball are played in the tea garden when weddings or other special events aren't scheduled.

The fountain below is currently a part of the Grand Hotel's tea garden.

As well as these topiaries.

[Photos courtesy of Trip Advisor]

Have you ever visited a tea garden at a hotel or resort area?   Thanks for motivating me to research these fascinating places of social history, Angela!


  1. No, I've never visited a Tea Garden or a Pleasure Garden, but now I want to do just that! :-)

  2. I have been to a tea garden and really every garden is a pleasure garden.

  3. You are quite welcome, Phyllis! Since that post I have gotten more vintage postcards of tea gardens, and I can't wait to do some more research with them all. May just have another book in my future ...


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