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 dried & salted rations issued to soldiers with greens, cabbage, and more. As Ticonderoga changed hands during the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War, the gardens nourished each army that held the peninsula - French, British and American. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Garrison grounds of Ticonderoga became one of America’s first historic attractions, with burgeoning commercial and tourist traffic on Lake Champlain and Lake George.
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. By the time of William Ferris Pell’s death in 1840, the Pavilion had shifted to serving as a hotel. It served guests visiting the 1758 Battlefield and ruins of Fort Ticonderoga, travelling along the popular Grand Northern Tour. The Pavilion continued to greet guests arriving from stage coaches or landing by steamboat through the 19th century under a series of renters. In 1908, Stephen Pell and Sarah Pell took up the challenge of rebuilding Fort Ticonderoga to serve as a museum to its legacy. By 1909, Sarah Pell restored the Pavilion to serve as a summer residence. She and Stephen also began a new private garden behind the restored Pavilion. This became the King’s Garden of a new generation, restoring and reimagining the soldiers’ gardens of the 18th Century. The King’s Garden represents both the richness of the land and Ticonderoga’s enduring draw. Whether providing nutrients to soldiers from around the Atlantic world, bringing joy to the Pell family 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 Pell established the first ornamental garden on this site as the fort was being reconstructed. In 1912 Alfred Bossom, who designed the reconstructed barracks of the fort, 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. In1920 Sarah Pell hired Marian Cruger Coffin to design a new garden plan. Marian Coffin was one of the first female graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving her degree in landscape architecture. She was one of the first practicing female landscape architects in the United States, with designs for many of the elite families of the east coast.
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 1997 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.