NYC City Gardens, 1920-1922 : The Photographs of Frances Benjamin Johnston (Pt 1 of 2)

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16676  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16676

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16676 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16676

Frances Benjamin Johnston started her life in 1864 and continued it for 88 years. For about 60 of those, she had a camera in her hand. And in the 1920s, she used it to photograph gardens in New York City

Before turning her lens on landscapes, Frances grew up in one : wild and wonderful West Virginia. After a childhood move to DC, she studied art in Paris, returning to the US to open a portraiture studio and photograph Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, and (T.) Roosevelt as well as prominent figures of the day like Booker T. Washington and Elizabeth Stanton. This is how she saw herself, on December 31, 1895 at age 31:

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of herself, seated in her Washington, D.C. studio 1896. Library of Congress.  cph 3b11893  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b11893     gelatin silver print on paper

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of herself, seated in her Washington, D.C. studio 1896. Library of Congress. cph 3b11893 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b11893 gelatin silver print on paper

Not a wallflower, apparently. (No horticultural pun intended).

Frances was an enormously prolific photographer of many subjects. In 1945 she became an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects for her architecture photography. She traveled widely and left a tremendous record of portraits, architecture and garden photography, which is held by various museums and also in the Library of Congress's archives. 

Have a look at the New York City gardens she saw and preserved for us on hand-colored lantern slides.

1. Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th Street and 228-246 East 49th Street (common gardens) and the Sorchan residence and gardens, 228 East 49th Street, NYC. 1920.

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-247 East 48th Street and 228-246 East 49th St., NYC. View east to common garden. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16118  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16118

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-247 East 48th Street and 228-246 East 49th St., NYC. View east to common garden. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16118 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16118

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 East 49th Street, New York, New York. Loggia. Library of Congress.  ppmsca 16101  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.1610

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 East 49th Street, New York, New York. Loggia. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16101 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.1610

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 E 49th St, NYC. Dining room at garden level. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16650  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16650

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan house, Turtle Bay Gardens, 228 E 49th St, NYC. Dining room at garden level. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16650 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16650

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th and 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16675  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16675

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th and 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16675 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16675

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th and 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16661  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16661

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th and 228 East 49th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16661 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16661

2. Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. 1922.

 Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. View from terrace to sandbox. Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16663  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16663

Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. View from terrace to sandbox. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16663 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16663

 Closeup of that sandbox. My apologies for cropping the photographer's photo, but it's interesting to see the details of this play area, and also to note that it was included. (Many designers and homeowners are leery of sandboxes in the city these days, because of cats mistaking them for enormous kitty litters.)

Closeup of that sandbox. My apologies for cropping the photographer's photo, but it's interesting to see the details of this play area, and also to note that it was included. (Many designers and homeowners are leery of sandboxes in the city these days, because of cats mistaking them for enormous kitty litters.)

 Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. View to terrace. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16660  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16660

Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. View to terrace. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16660 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16660

3. Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, New York, New York. Tea house/sleeping porch. 1921-1922.

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16135  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16135

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16135 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16135

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, NYC.   Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16138  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16138

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16138 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16138

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 W. 55th Street, NYC. Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16659  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16659

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 W. 55th Street, NYC. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16659 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16659

4. “Jones Wood” townhouses, East 65th and East 66th Streets, between Lexington and Third Avenues, New York, New York. 1921.

 Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of   "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. Reflecting pool on south terrace.  Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16183  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16183

Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. Reflecting pool on south terrace. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16183 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16183

 Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of   "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. North terrace fountain.  Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16195  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16195

Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. North terrace fountain. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16195 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16195

 Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of   "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. Reflecting pool on south terrace. Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16184  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16184

Photography by Frances Benjamin Johnston of "Jones Wood" townhouses, E. 65th and E. 66th Streets between Lexington and Third Aves, NYC. Reflecting pool on south terrace. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16184 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16184

5. Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, NYC.1922.

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, New York City, 1922. Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16684  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16684

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, New York City, 1922. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16684 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16684

 Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, New York City, 1922. Library of Congress.   ppmsca 16684  http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16684

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston of Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, New York City, 1922. Library of Congress. ppmsca 16684 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.16684

In our next post on this photographer, we'll take a look at some of her American country and seaside garden photos. [Note : This is a repost of our April 2016 blog entry].

To see more city garden photographs and for more information about Frances, follow this link : https://www.loc.gov/collections/frances-benjamin-johnston/about-this-collection/