A Layered Landscape
The fertile plain of the King's Garden was once the floor of a prehistoric sea that receded to create Lake Champlain. When the French built Fort Carillon, known to the English as Ticonderoga, these rich lowlands supported a large garden to supplement the limited rations issued to the soldiers. As the fort changed hands during the conflicts of the 18th century the gardens nourished each army that held the peninsula - French, British and American. The ground went fallow following the Revolution, as the military value of the site diminished.
Soon after the war the ruins of the fort and the natural landscape attracted the attention of merchant William Ferris Pell who purchased the land in 1820. In the same soil that had nurtured the garrison gardens Pell planted an extensive arboretum. The Pell family eventually rented the Pavilion and its surrounding land to a series of tenants who ran it as a hotel, welcoming guests from coaches and from an adjacent steamboat dock. The hotel operated for the rest of the 19th century.
While the hotel ceased operation around the turn of the 20th century a tenant farm worked much of the land until the restoration of the fort’s ruins in 1909 brought more attention to the area. Stephen H.P. Pell and his wife Sarah G.T. Pell, responsible for the restoration, made the Pavilion their summer home and planted extensive private gardens.
The King’s Garden represents both the richness of the land and Ticonderoga’s enduring draw. Whether providing nutrients to soldiers from around the world, bringing joy to the Pells and their guests, or captivating generations of visitors, this legacy is a testament to the power of this place.
The Colonial Revival Garden
Inspired by the 18th-century military gardens Sarah G. T. Pell established the first ornamental garden on this site as the fort was being reconstructed. In 1912 Alfred Bossom, who designed the reconstruction, enclosed the flower garden with a rustic wall. Using flawed bricks and randomly incorporating stones he created the impression of a romantic, antique structure.
The space within these walls became known as the “King’s Garden,” a reference to the jardin du Roi planted by the French defenders of Carillon. Around 1920 Sarah hired Marian Cruger Coffin to design a new garden plan. Coffin was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the first practicing female landscape architects in the United States.
Coffin’s carefully planned garden became a place of quiet retreat for the Pell family, removed from the activity of the reconstructed fort. It was also a place of entertainment for distinguished visitors and guests. Guided tours of the garden were offered to the public for the first time in 1967. In the late 1990s the garden was restored to follow Coffin’s original plan from the 1920s.
The restored King’s Garden opened daily to the public for the first time in 2001. Today the garden is maintained according to Coffin’s design, a living reminder of yet another era of Ticonderoga’s rich history.