The site of a dwelling should be an important study with every country builder; for on this depends much of its utility, and in addition to that, a large share of the enjoyment which its occupation will afford. Custom, in many parts of the United States, in the location of the farm buildings, gives advantages which are denied in others. In the south, and in the slave states generally, the planter builds, regardless of roads, on the most convenient site his plantation presents; the farmer of German descent, in Pennsylvania and some other states, does the same: while the Yankee, be he settled where he will, either in the east, north, or west, inexorably huddles himself immediately upon the highway, whether his possessions embrace both sides of it or not, disregarding the facilities of access to his fields, the convenience of tilling his crops, or the character of the ground which his buildings may occupy, seeming to have no other object than proximity to the road—as if his chief business was upon that, instead of its being simply a convenience to his occupation. To the last, but little choice is left; and so long as a close connection with the thoroughfare is to control, he is obliged 30 to conform to accident in what should be a matter of deliberate choice and judgment. Still, there are right and wrong positions for a house, which it is necessary to discuss, regardless of conventional rules, and they should be considered in the light of propriety alone.
A fitness to the purposes for which the dwelling is constructed should, unquestionably, be the governing point in determining its position. The site should be dry, and slightly declining, if possible, on every side; but if the surface be level, or where water occasionally flows from contiguous grounds, or on a soil naturally damp, it should be thoroughly drained of all superfluous moisture. That is indispensable to the preservation of the house itself, and the health of its inmates. The house should so stand as to present an agreeable aspect from the main points at which it is seen, or the thoroughfares by which it is approached. It should be so arranged as to afford protection from wind and storm, to that part most usually occupied, as well as be easy of access to the out-buildings appended to it. It should have an unmistakable front, sides, and rear; and the uses to which its various parts are applied, should distinctly appear in its outward character. It should combine all the advantages of soil, cultivation, water, shade, and shelter, which the most liberal gratification, consistent with the circumstances of the owner, may demand. If a site on the estate command a prospect of singular beauty, other things equal, the dwelling should embrace it; if the luxury of a stream, or a sheet of water in repose, present itself, it should, if possible, be enjoyed; if the shade and protection of a 31 grove be near, its benefits should be included; in fine, any object in itself desirable, and not embarrassing to the main purposes of the dwelling and its appendages, should be turned to the best account, and appropriated in such manner as to combine all that is desirable both in beauty and effect, as well as in utility, to make up a perfect whole in the family residence.
Attached to the building site should be considered the quality of the soil, as affording cultivation and growth to shrubbery and trees,—at once the ornament most effective to all domestic buildings, grateful to the eye always, as objects of admiration and beauty—delightful in the repose they offer in hours of lassitude or weariness; and to them, that indispensable feature in a perfect arrangement, the garden, both fruit and vegetable, should be added. Happily for the American, our soils are so universally adapted to the growth of vegetation in all its varieties, that hardly a farm of considerable size can be found which does not afford tolerable facilities for the exercise of all the taste which one may indulge in the cultivation of the garden as well as in the planting and growth of trees and shrubbery; and a due appropriation of these to an agreeable residence is equal in importance to the style and arrangement of the house itself.
The site selected for the dwelling, and the character of the scenery and objects immediately surrounding it, should have a controlling influence upon the style in which the house is to be constructed. A fitness and harmony in all these is indispensable to both expression and effect. And in their determination, a single 32 object should not control, but the entire picture, as completed, should be embraced in the view; and that style of building constituting the most agreeable whole, as filling the eye with the most grateful sensations, should be the one selected with which to fill up and complete the design.
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