Porte Cochere & Courtyard


The Porte Cochere is a sheltered entrance to the home that was especially convenient during inclement weather. Porte Cochere is a French term that literally means “coach door.” Architecturally, it is a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through and that, historically, enters into a courtyard. Note the large carriage step at the bottom of the stairs. As family and guests arrived, the horse and carriage or automobile would stop beside the carriage step so that passengers could easily disembark onto it. It is the same height as mounting steps on carriages or running boards on early twentieth-century autos. The home’s north terrace extends under the covered portion, creating a shady porch that features a small fountain (no longer functional) and wicker furniture for enjoying the fresh air in warm weather. Also note the beautiful cast-stone columns and vaulted ceiling.

Courtyard between the Porte Cochere and the bathhouse served as a parking area for family guests when Hills & Dales was a private residence. In conjunction with opening the estate to the public in 2004, this area was given a modest facelift: a circular bed was added in the center and concrete with exposed aggregate replaced the original asphalt. At this time, the multitrunked ‘Natchez’ crape myrtle was added in the circular bed to soften the courtyard and provide shade and seating for what is now a plaza for pedestrian traffic only. During the Callaway family years and for guests today, the courtyard provides a lovely connection to the bathhouse, garage, and the rolling “hills and dales” terrain of the estate. 

Horticultural Specimens

  • Umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) across from the north door steps. Blooms white in the spring. Planted by Alice Hand Callaway.
  • American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) on the column by the above magnolia. Blooms purple in the spring. Planted by Alice Hand Callaway.
  • Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrant) in the courtyard next to the porte cochere. Blooms fall through spring.
  • ‘Natchez’ Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’) in the circular bed. Blooms white in the summer.
  • On the walkway from the East Portico to the Porte Cochere, you can see examples of some of the different species of trees that Alice planted in the garden, including a sawtooth oak and cork tree. The cork tree is an unusual tree to grow this far south, but Alice loved to try planting different things in her garden to see if she could get them happy here.

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