The History of Gazebos
The gazebo, or pagoda, has been popular in China and Japan for many centuries.
Gazebos have been a popular garden structure for many centuries, providing shade from the sun and shelter from rain and snow, and offering a quiet place for meditation or quiet conversation.
Gazebos were commonly found as long as 5,000 years ago in Egyptian gardens. Pharoahs and other members of royalty were, naturally, the earliest owners of private gazebos. Gazebos began life as towers on house roofs, where they were used to provide a view of the surrounding area, but eventually they came to be built on the ground in gardens. Many considered their gardens as an earthly paradise and believed their garden would accompany them to the afterlife. Egyptian tombs often included a mural depicting the occupant's garden, complete with gazebo, and these murals have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1400 B.C.
In ancient Rome and Greece, gazebos were often built of marble and were designed to complement and reflect the structural form of the larger temples. When affluent Romans and Greeks built large summer homes on the Mediterranean coast, they usually included a gazebo in the garden.
During the Renaissance, many monasteries incorporated gazebos in their gardens, where they served as quiet places for the monks to engage in meditation, prayer, and reflection.
In 10th-century Persia, gazebos were often ornate buildings, sometimes with two stories, and were frequently built across streams or ponds.
Gazebos in the Far East
In China and Japan, elaborate gazebos were constructed to be used for spiritual meditation. In Japan, gazebo-style structures were usually called teahouses — these were used for the Japanese tea ceremony.
Gazebos During the Middle Ages
Gazebos became almost a fad during the late 1700s, when many in Europe, particularly in England, became enamored of Chinese-style summerhouses. It is believed that the word "gazebo" was coined around this time, when it appears in a book. It is unknown how the word gazebo first came to be used, but etymologists speculate that William Halfpenny, author of a book published in 1752, New Designs for Chinese Temples," coined the word by adding "ebo" to the word "gaze" — as gazebos were initially used as observation points.
Gazebos in America
Gazebos became popular in the United States in the mid-1800s, with the rise of the American middle class. Gazebos became status symbols for the middle class, while the upper classes constructed ever more elaborate gazebos to show off their wealth.
Around the turn of the century, gazebos lost some of their popularity, when houses were designed with large porches, and they lost favor again during and after WWII, when tract houses with patios were built in large numbers across the country. But during the late 1900s, gazebos became popular again, and today they're found across the country from Maine to California and Florida to Oregon.