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Evoking the candy-decorated gingerbread house that Hansel and Gretel found in the woods, Victorian architecture had its basis in more practical matters. New building techniques and advances in industrialization enabled builders to design fanciful, highly adorned homes that were limited only by the imagination.
James Buchanan, at the urging of his niece and White House hostess Harriet Lane, added a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room. One could enter a private world of plants and flowers grown for decorating the house.
Owners of Victorian houses find that nothing makes the cheerlessness of the average winter more bearable than a quaint well-stocked little conservatory that is easily accessible from one of the principal rooms of the residence, say the library or dining room. Like everything else, the modern greenhouse is a product of evolution.