Gazebos are small to large open-air, freestanding, usually round buildings that are largely ornamental. They provide shade, shelter and an ornamental flair to a landscaping situation. They can be pavilions, pergolas, and rotundas and can be small, holding a couple of people, to large in park settings where they can serve as a platform for a bandstand.
The origin of the word is lost in historical mystery, but there is clear evidence that their use goes back for centuries.
The popularity of their presence is evident throughout most of the ancient cultures of Rome where they were common in the gardens of Egyptian homes over 5,000 years ago. They were also very popular in Rome and in Pompeii as well, as the upper classes were able to afford them and have the leisure to enjoy them.
Gazebos and Culture
Gazebos are mentioned in the culture of ancient China and Persia and all throughout Mediterranean cultures as places to relax, have tea and enjoy pleasant conversation. The settings of such structures run the gamut of being placed in the middle of gardens, deep in forested enclaves, to being positioned on a spit of land out into the bay. During the middle ages and the Renaissance, gazebos became fashionable in the monasteries as places of prayer and meditation.
In the middle ages, the Louvre had four of the structures built, and the trend surged in England in the 15th century. In the gardens of the Elizabethan age, they were commonly placed on the grounds as places for entertainment. In the 17th century, the craze was to copy the Chinese type of summerhouses, which began appearing in gardens throughout England. The definition is said to have come from this era when an architectural writer used the term ‘gaze’, or to look and combined it with the suffix of ‘ebo’, or I shall see.
In America, the trend did not take hold until the mid 1800’s, as the new country had other things on its mind in its earlier days. It was largely a status symbol, and gradually became more of a retreat and place of entertainment. Around the turn of the century, with houses being constructed with large porches, they fell out of favor, only to be revived in the 1930’s. George Washington had a gazebo at Mount Vernon, a little eight-sided structure in his garden, and Thomas Jefferson called them summerhouses or pavilions.
The classical names and uses of gazebos have always been pretty much the same as current practice, and the use similar as well. They seem to have always been a retreat, a place of relaxation and momentary retreat. They are a place to entertain a special guest, while enjoying an outdoor setting among the fragrance of a garden, or amidst a forested setting on a sunny spring morning.
In today’s ideas of home construction, they are prevalent all over the country and are adaptable to the tastes and whims of the owner. They can be of any shape or size, and contain a variety of tables, seating, equipment, and the lack thereof, solely designed for to fit the landscape and provide a pleasant space for entertaining.