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Gazebos: Then and Now

For thousands of years, gazebos have provided shade and shelter for those of us who enjoy the peace and solitude nature has to offer. We see them in town squares, in beautiful gardens, and on the banks of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Gazebos serve as a private getaway to sit and relax while enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors.

A History of Gazebos

Five thousand years ago the Egyptians built the first garden gazebos to support grapevines for wine and raisins. They believed that gazebos and gardens were their earthly paradises and would follow them to heaven. Later, the Romans used gazebos as private sanctuaries; the Greeks, as shrines to honor gods and goddesses.

In the 14th century, the French government built four open-air structures for people to sit and enjoy the beautifully manicured gardens at the Louvre. This French style of sitting outdoors was recreated in other countries.  By the 15th century this design and lifestyle had become enormously popular in England, where they were constructed with the intention of allowing their owners to admire their colorful Elizabethan gardens. Most often, they were designed much like the main house and used for entertaining guests. 

Historic Spanish Gazebo

During the late 1700s in England and other parts of Europe, these structures, now styled after Chinese summerhouses, were popping up in gardens everywhere. It was this type of architecture that eventually led to the word gazebo. It is speculated that the word was created by William Halfpenny, a prolific architectural writer, when he playfully added the Latin word ebo, which means “to look,” to the word gaze.

In America, gazebos became popular in the mid-1800s with the prosperity of the new middle class. They declined in popularity around the turn of the century when houses with grand porches replaced the need for a separate open-air setting. Gazebos became popular again in the 1930s, likely due to their rising reputation as a quiet retreat from the anxieties and chaos surrounding the Great Depression. Eventually, gazebos became status symbols in the home. 

In the 1940s, porches again took over the lead in outdoor seating, causing a decrease in gazebo popularity. In the 1980s, the trend flipped and a huge market formed for fashionable gazebos, which continues today.

Form & Function

Gazebos add a personal touch to any landscape and can be customized to any preference and style. They can be round, square, octagonal, or rectangular; small or large; ornate or plain; elegant or even rustic. Vinyl gazebos are among the most popular because they are constructed of durable plastic and are virtually maintenance-free. Metal gazebos are the most stable type and difficult to vandalize, making them well-suited for public settings such as golf courses, outdoor concert arenas, and parks. Wood and cedar gazebos fit in well with natural surroundings and can be customized with flower boxes, benches, and decorative trim.

Kurt Jordan, owner of mosquitocurtains.com and an expert in working with outdoor structures, tells his customers that the best way to choose a well-built gazebo is to simply lean on it. If the support gives way at all or feels flimsy, it is probably not going to be a good choice. A sturdy gazebo is critical to ensure durability and potential for enhancement, such as protecting its occupants from bugs. One of Kurt’s favorite applications of the mosquito netting he sells is helping his customers find that protection without losing the ambience and tranquility of nature’s view.

“Dark mosquito netting on gazebos is like having tinted windows and still you can breathe in the freshness and natural scents of the air,” says Kurt. “One of our customers built a gazebo on her property in the piney woods of East Texas. She has created a beautiful space near a small creek where she goes to read and takes in the smell of the fresh pine trees and oaks.”

No-see-um netting used for a wedding

The finely woven, white “no see-um netting” is especially popular in the South, particularly on homes that have big porches and gazebos. Kurt says, “I always ask our customers to send in photos of their gazebos and porches after they have hung our mosquito and no-see-um netting. Some of them are very creative and have turned out really, really nice.” One customer even used the netting for a wedding, decorating it with white ribbon and flowers!

Conclusion

Gazebos, much like their storied history, are used not only for peace and relaxation, but also for outdoor entertainment and events. Lately, there are many options to enhance your experience of it. Consider installing mosquito netting to decorate your gazebo and avoid those unwanted bugs who seem to always show up to crash a good time. 

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