The greenhouse at the Wye House Plantation is known for being the only standing greenhouse from the 18th century in North America. When Archaeology in Annapolis began its excavations at Wye, particular attention was paid to this structure, at the request of the owners. My dissertation research has been focused on the greenhouse and gardens, and the various ways in which they can be interpreted or understood. You can read here about the pollen analysis from this greenhouse and its attached slave quarter.
Landscapes never stand still, and though the Wye Greenhouse appears today on its own in the garden, directly behind the mansion with an unhindered view, the scene in the 18th century would have differed. According to the 1798 federal direct tax record, which contains a description of each building on the Wye Plantation, there were two greenhouses and one hothouse that were used simultaneously. The hothouse is recorded as being “16 x16 feet, 1 Story Brick with 4 wind.” A ledger entry from 1785-1787 additionally notes the employment of the workers to build a hothouse in those years.
It wasn’t until the tax records were pointed out to us by historian Amy Speckart that we were able to make sense of the anomalies detected in a ground penetrating radar (GPR) analysis conducted by Bryan Haley in 2009. Haley’s report showed what looked to be the foundations of a 16×16 foot structure to the southeast of the present-day greenhouse, matching the description of the hothouse in the historical records.
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