Oatlands’ greenhouse was built in 1810 using state of the art technology. It was built with a glass roof and partial glass wall on the south-facing side to capture the heat of the sun. The north side is brick and was built into a slight rise in the hill so is well protected from the cold winter winds. It is the second oldest standing greenhouse in the United States and looks very much like the oldest, which is on the Theodore Lyman estate in Waltham, Massachusetts.
The walls have pipes running through them to carry heated air from the fireplace in the basement to the plants in the greenhouse area. A compost pit in the center of the hothouse area would have provided steady warmth for plants growing around it. The greenhouse was intended to provide fresh produce throughout the winter and it served that function well. It is said that George Carter had a banana tree in there!
The greenhouse has been restored and looks much as it did when it was built. It is open to the public, and visitors can walk through the north section and see how the building is constructed. In the summer heat, the greenhouse is like a sauna, so spring or fall are the best seasons to take a closer look. It is a preservation success and was restored with donations from many generous people. Oatlands is grateful to supporters of the preservation efforts here. Without them, this greenhouse would no longer exist.