Trellis and the Fauchere

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:31

    To the editor: When Beth Kelly and the ARB turned down the proposal to hide the infamous vent at the Fauchere with vine covered trellis or lattice work because they “could find no evidence of lattice being used for this purpose in reference materials on mid 19th century architecture,” did they think that saying so made it fact or did they assume that no one in Milford had any knowledge of architectural history? I feel compelled to set the record straight. Around 2,000 B.C. the Egyptians trained grape vines onto carefully arranged sticks which are thought to be the original development of trellis work. Subsequently the Egyptians used their invention to train and crop vines to create welcome areas of shade. Thus the practical evolution of the trellis took the form of pergolas and arbors. Jump forward to the 19th century, the era that Ms Kelly purports to be an expert in, and one finds that lattice work pergolas and arbors have become the icon of the Victorian Garden. They were used as romantic meeting places and to create spaces that contained and blocked from view gardening tools, mulch piles etc. The pavilion with lattice-work sides in the Fruticetum of the Missouri Botanical Gardens (Frederic Law Olmsted,1890) is a fine example. At the Newport Casino, designed in 1880 by McKim, Mead and White, lattice work detail is the architectural detail of the exterior porches and Stanford White, at the time a junior partner, subsequently became a famous figure in American architecture. His fondness for lattice work has set the tone for much of the popular use of trellis today. To say that there is no historical evidence of lattice work being used for the purpose of growing vines to shape a visual experience of landscape, albeit hiding a 21st century (code enforced) eyesore, is like saying that there is no historical evidence that Dick Cheney was a draft dodger. Obviously there is no example of the offensive vent in reference materials on mid 19th century architecture but the ARB ought not be too narrow in its evaluations and permit the aesthetics of Victorian times to curb the excecution of environmental and health requirements of the 21st century. The vent is a welcome improvement on Victorian times in many ways. For the ARB to have any credibility in its future historic assessments it should brush up on its architectural history and correct the erroneous and misleading statement: that an appropriately designed lattice structure is out of character for mid 19th century architecture. The laid stone wall structure Ms. Kelly suggested is a matter of personal taste and historically less appropriate in relationship to the site in question. I suggest that the ARB, the Fauchere owners and their architect get together with some Stanford White and other architectural reference books and re-design an appropriate lattice structure. It is high time that these relatively inconsequential differences are set aside so that we and the rest of the world can once again enjoy the Milford Fauchere in its full and handsome glory. Barbara de Vries Milford