What is an Orangery in Architecture?

The Orangery at Dumbarton Oaks


I was working at a home in the Denver Polo Club and saw a beautiful conservatory on the 2nd floor. It was ornate and gaudy but it was also perfect.  I had to research what inspired the design.  I found out some interesting information.

An orangery or orangerie was a building in the grounds of fashionable residences from the 17th to the 19th centuries and given a classicising architectural form. The orangery was similar to a greenhouse or conservatory. The name reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees[1] were often wintered in tubs under cover, surviving through harsh frosts. The orangery provided a luxurious extension of the normal range and season of woody plants, extending the protection which had long been afforded by the warmth offered from a masonry fruit wall.[2]

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Orangery, otherwise known as a conservatory or greenhouse

The orangery, however, was not just a greenhouse but a symbol of prestige and wealth and a feature of gardens, in the same way as a summerhouse, folly or “Grecian temple”. Owners would conduct their guests there on tours of the garden to admire not only the fruits within but the architecture without. Often the orangery would contain fountains, grottos, and an area in which to entertain in inclement weather.

In the United States, the earliest partially intact surviving orangery is at the Tayloe house, Mount Airy, Virginia, but today it is an overgrown ruin, consisting only of one major wall and portions of the others’ foundations. A ruined orangery can also be seen at the gardens of Eyre Hall in Northampton County, Virginia.

An 18th-century style orangery was built in the 1980s at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. Another early 19th century example can also be seen at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. It was built in 1810, and is now used to house gardenias, oleander and citrus plants during the winter.

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Chatsworth Orangery

You don’t see them all over the U.S. or at every home but when you do it is nice to know a little of the story behind them.


More reading:
Denver Botanic Gardens
Dumbaron Oaks