Jackson's Garden


Jackson's Garden


The garden on the northern side of campus was begun in the 1830s by Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Isaac Jackson at the encouragement of Eliphalet Nott, who suggested its cultivation as a means of improving Jackson’s health. The placement of a garden in this area had also been suggested by Joseph Jacques Ramée in his original designs for the College. Moving an existing vegetable patch, Jackson set up graveled paths, lilac hedges, shrubs, and geometric beds of lilies and roses in the area where Yulman Theater now stands. In the lower region (the area still occupied by the garden today), he planted seeds from around the world, although Mrs. Perkins once noted that it was hard to keep anything valuable down there. His garden was admired by John James Audubon among many others and was the site of the College’s Class Day exercises.

After Jackson’s death, his daughter Julia Jackson Benedict faithfully maintained the garden for forty-eight years. Considering it her personal property, she often chased students out, once even firing a shotgun from the balcony of her house overlooking the garden. In 1900, her own gardener shot his “mean” wife and, interestingly, Mrs. Perkins sympathized with him. She also sympathized with Julia Benedict on gardening matters, although they frequently disagreed about other matters. Mrs. Perkins also found the garden somewhat wild and wrote that she was concerned about her grandson going through the garden alone: “The bridges are high and shaky and the garden lonely and full of ambushes!” (May 16, 1899).

Pollution was often a problem in the garden, with the sewer on Nott Street overflowing and running into its brook. When Mrs. Benedict grew too old, the College took over responsibility for the garden, with help from students, faculty, and community members. Jackson’s Garden remains a popular campus attraction today.


One of these images is from the Union College Postcard collection. You can view both front and back of this postcards and more information in our digital collections database on New York Heritage below.


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