When the pineapple was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1493 it was a huge success. It was a horticultural curiosity and with its sweet taste and unique appearance became a much-coveted epicurean treasure. But pineapples were very hard to acquire. And, for the next 200 years they had to be brought across the ocean.
This gave the pineapple its status. Only rich hosts could afford to offer it to their guests. This gave the pineapple the prestige of being a symbol of generosity, hospitality and, of course, wealth.
The Europeans took significant pains to use greenhouse methods to propagate the fruit outside of its native tropical climate with limited success. As demand increased, the absence of a local supply made the pineapple ever the more popular.
Its status eventually turned the pineapple from a mere fruit into a symbol that was reflected in 18th century European and American architecture. It started in seaports that were part of the West Indian trade route.
Pineapples were sculpted and carved in stone and wood into places of prominence like mansions, churches and government buildings.
Because of ties to West Indian trade routes, examples of this detail can be seen in many historic homes and estates in the Southern part of the United States and areas along the Eastern Seaboard. The image is usually displayed around main entrances where guests would be most likely to pass.
Often the preferred locations were the triangular upper part of the front of a building (the pediment) or transom over the front door or on the front gate.
Pineapples have been cleverly carved into the main foyer, fireplace mantles and staircases. You could see them on door knockers, quilts, China, ornaments and linens.
Colonial America fell in love with the pineapple, and over time, its symbolic message of hospitality remained with us. Today the pineapple still represents warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality. A simple fresh pineapple as a centerpiece makes a unique, inviting and natural way to welcome your guests – wherever you may live.