Stevenson Library Digital Collections

The Livingston/Donaldson Partnership

Sawkill Falls

Sawkill's lower falls

Robert Donaldson and the Livingstons subscribed to Romantic views of nature, and this translated to an early conservation effort. Between Blithewood and Montgomery Place was a tract of land still owned by John C. Cruger and, in 1841, it came to light that a mill was to be erected on the stream there. Donaldson suggested to Louise Livingston that they purchase it in order to preserve the beauty of the land, which would surely be ruined by industry. In a letter to her, he writes: “If we buy the stream, the mill may be removed – our pleasure grounds extended to the creek from the Cataract to the River – and a lake for fish formed, with ornamental waterfalls.” Both valued the beauty and tranquility of the land, and did come together to purchase this land. Donaldson did indeed end up constructing a lake and waterfalls on the creek, as well as planting flowers, adding to his extensive pleasure grounds. This effort reflects the changing attitude Americans had towards the land – it was now something to be valued and preserved for purely aesthetic reasons.