The Philadelphia Story
Landscape architects attending the 2008 ASLA Annual Meeting
will have plenty to see.
By Linda McIntyre
If you think this year’s annual meeting in Philadelphia
October 3–7 will be something of a letdown after last year’s record-breaking
shindig in San Francisco, Philadelphia might well agree with you. Lacking both
the glitz of its neighbor to the north (New York) and the self-importance of
the one to the south (Washington, D.C.), the city is self-effacing almost to a
fault. Despite bestowing on our country the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution as well as our first hospital, university, zoo, and newspaper,
among many other “firsts,” it’s not a striving metropolis, and no chip sits on
its (not notably broad) shoulder.
But don’t let its lack of braggadocio fool you. Philadelphia
is a wonderful place to explore, both on and off the beaten path. As you walk
its streets it draws you in deeper and deeper: You turn a corner and see a
mural, or a mosaic, or some fine brickwork, or a church cemetery with
gravestones so weathered they appear to be melting.
History, of course, is the main attraction for many visitors
drawn almost out of duty to the country’s first capital. But Philadelphia wears
its history lightly—you won’t see men wandering the streets in tricornered hats
à la Williamsburg. And the city offers, in addition to a well-preserved window
on the early days of the nation, insights into the evolution of the American
urban landscape, from the downtown squares of William Penn’s plan to the City
Beautiful splendor of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Edmund Bacon’s urban
renewal, the Olin Partnership’s refashioning of Independence Mall in the
post-9/11 era, and the ambitious plans now on the boards to reclaim the city’s
waterfronts along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.
Philadelphia grapples with variations on the same problems
as other cities—crime, the decline of the manufacturing sector, economic
competition with its suburbs, and the consequences of bad planning decisions
such as dividing the historic area and the waterfront with I-95, to name a few.
But business leaders, a city government led by the energetic new mayor Michael
Nutter, and an unusually strong and cooperative array of civic groups including
the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), an energetic downtown business
improvement district known as Center City District, and the city’s many strong
university design programs—at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple
University, and Philadelphia University—have made a lot of headway in their
ongoing efforts to make the downtown area attractive and, especially, clean and
safe. And while gritty neighborhoods still exist in the city, they exhibit some
of the quirky charm found in more upscale enclaves.
Philadelphia is huge—135 square miles—but its downtown core,
known as Center City, is its heart and the focus of most visitors’ attention.
Center City is framed by the Delaware River on the east, the Schuylkill
(pronounced “SKOO-kul”) River on the west, South Street on the south, and Vine
Street on the north. This compact, flat area comprises the city’s most
important historical sites and many of its most inviting residential
neighborhoods and best restaurants and shops.
You can easily, over the course of a few days, explore the
whole of Center City on foot—the distance between the rivers is only about two
miles, drivers were not aggressive during our reporting visits, and wayfinding
signs are plentiful and well designed. It’s a rewarding trek, especially for
history buffs and connoisseurs of the urban fabric. A stroll of even a few
blocks is likely to turn up a landmark of some kind, and Center City’s many
Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival buildings, weathered to a handsome patina,
are an attraction in themselves, as are the tiny, narrow streets, some barely
wide enough to accommodate a sedan, that survive in some neighborhoods.
A Plan for All Seasons
At its founding, Center City was Philadelphia. William Penn,
who was granted a charter for 45,000 square miles in the new world by King
Charles II as settlement for a debt owed to his father, envisaged a “greene
Countrie towne,” distinct from the crowded and dirty London of his home
country. The plan drawn up by Penn and his surveyor Thomas Holme in 1683 is
largely intact in Center City today: a grid with major north–south (Broad
Street) and east–west (Market Street, originally known as High Street) streets
defining four quadrants, each with a green square (now known as Logan,
Franklin, Washington, and Rittenhouse squares). A larger square sits at its
The four smaller squares are still public parks today, and
they’re a good way to orient yourself while walking Center City. Two of them
have been spiffed up recently: In and around Logan Square to the northwest
(sometimes called Logan Circle since the building of a traffic circle within
the square as part of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway), lighting, signage, and
pedestrian access have been improved, and Olin Partnership, working with the
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Fairmount Park Commission, and the Pew
Charitable Trust, has greened up much of the space, giving walkers incentive to
stay awhile. At the north side of the square opposite the Franklin Institute,
Center City District, working with the landscape architects at Lager Raabe
Skafte and others, has transformed Aviator Park, adding green space that also
showcases sculptures from students of the Moore College of Art, on the west
side of the square. Logan Square is also home to the whimsical Swann Fountain.
Franklin Square on the northeast was for many years the
least used and least inviting—Jane Jacobs described it in 1961 as a “skid row
park.” But a renovation set in motion by the tercentenary of Benjamin Franklin
cleaned up the park and added family-friendly attractions such as a carousel
and a miniature golf course with replicas of iconic city sites. The project’s
lead designers, Pennoni Associates, also restored the park’s marble fountain,
installed in 1838. It hadn’t run since the mid-1970s.
Washington Square on the southeast, home of the Tomb of the
Unknown Revolutionary Soldier, is a quieter, more reflective space. But
Rittenhouse Square, on the southwest, is the apotheosis of an urban square.
Like Washington Square, it’s a simple green open space, lacking the bells and
whistles of Franklin Square and the stately cultural institutions (including
the Franklin Institute, the Moore College of Art, and the Academy of Natural
Sciences) surrounding Logan Square. But there’s always something going on. The
surrounding neighborhood is posh, but democracy reigns in this elegant yet
consistently lively patch of urban green space, clearly beloved by
Philadelphians of all ages as well as visitors drawn to the bustling scene.
Keep walking west and you’ll end up at Schuylkill River Park, with trails, open
green spaces, and an attractive community garden.
Penn planned for the larger center square to be the site of
important public buildings such as a Quaker meeting house, schools, and
government offices, but the city’s earliest residents insisted on staying close
to the eastern waterfront. Eventually, however, City Hall was built on this
site; construction began in 1871 and continued for 30 years. The exuberant
Second Empire confection, topped with a 37-foot bronze statue of William Penn,
was in its earliest days the tallest building in the world and is still the
world’s tallest masonry building. The flamboyant edifice has at times been an
embarrassment to the city and several proposals to tear it down have been
floated, including in the high-profile 1963 Center City Plan, but they never
came to fruition owing to the high costs of demolishing the thick masonry
Recently cleaned and bedecked in bright lights at night, the
building is a gorgeous centerpiece. Public tours are available, and you can
take in sweeping views of the city from the tower. The public spaces outside,
however, have some catching up to do if the center square is to fulfill its
historical mission. Work is under way on a rehab, designed by Olin Partnership,
of the harsh and unwelcoming 1960s-style Dilworth Plaza on the west side of the
site. Instead of a bleak and underpopulated stretch of hardscape, it will
feature a glassy transparent entrance to the subway system, a lawn and shade
trees, and a fountain that can be used for ice skating in the winter.
If you’ve never been to Philadelphia before, you will want
at least a cursory stroll past historical sites such as Independence Hall,
Congress Hall, Carpenters’ Hall, and Franklin Court, all part of the
Independence National Historical Park between 3rd and 6th streets northeast of
Washington Square, close to the Delaware riverfront (see www.nps.gov/inde). Even the most jaded visitor will be moved by the
sight of these dignified and classically beautiful buildings and sites and, if
you go inside, totems such as the chair George Washington sat on while
presiding over the Constitutional Convention.
But there’s a neat piece of landscape architectural history
here, too. Independence Mall, north of Independence Hall and host to the
Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center, is not historical (see
“Slouching Toward Independence,” Landscape
Architecture, June 2006). Plans for a mall to enhance Independence Hall first
appeared in 1942, but the proposed mall lay dormant until the 1963 Center City
Plan developed by Bacon, and that effort resulted in a hodgepodge of three
blocks with no aesthetic continuity. A heavily planted Dan Kiley landscape on
the northernmost block, built in 1963, provided shade and respite, but
ultimately attracted more homeless people and drug users than tourists. Laurie
Olin, FASLA, designed a new master plan for the mall in 1997, and the Kiley
landscape was demolished as part of that long-running project; now, after a
series of setbacks including a renewed focus on security following the 2001
terrorist attacks, Independence Mall is almost complete.
Need an infusion of hipness after all of that sobering
history? Head to Old City, east of Independence Mall. Trendy bars, restaurants,
art galleries, and clubs line Second Street between Market and Chestnut
streets. As the name suggests, though, you’ll also find sights such as Christ
Church, where many of our founding fathers worshiped and were buried, and
Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the country,
dating back to 1702.
Back on the south side of the historical district is Society
Hill, named not for upper-class inhabitants but for the short-lived Free
Society of Traders, early investors in the new city. Its boundaries are not
precisely defined, but it’s loosely delineated by Walnut Street on the north,
Front Street on the east, 8th Street on the west, and South Street on the
south. Some effort was made to preserve history in the renewal of this
then-derelict neighborhood that began in the 1950s and accelerated with Bacon’s
1963 plan—buildings from the 18th and early 19th centuries were identified and
spared from the wrecking ball. But plenty of good buildings from the 19th
century, including many designed by prominent architect Frank Furness, were
destroyed, and no effort was made to revive retail outlets.
Still, Society Hill, where old and new Philadelphia sit
comfortably side by side, is thriving today. The renovation created pedestrian
walkways through rose and magnolia gardens and the popular Three Bears Park for
young neighbors. Small neighborhood streets, the size of alleys in other cities
and some still paved in cobbles, remain. New construction during the urban renewal
era was architecturally distinguished here and, to some degree at least,
sensitive to context: I. M. Pei’s award-winning Society Hill Towers still loom
large over the neighborhood and remain a popular condominium community. Pei’s
nearby Bingham Court, a cluster of modern town houses built after the towers,
is clad in Flemish-bond brick and blends in more with the neighborhood. It has
an attractive courtyard designed by John F. Collins, FASLA, the prominent
modernist landscape architect. Keep walking west, past Washington Square, and
you’ll find a tribute to another modernist at Louis Kahn Park at Pine and 11th
The grid established by Penn and Holme guided the
development of the city for its first couple of centuries, but Philadelphia was
not immune to the charms of the City Beautiful movement. Here a characteristic
diagonal boulevard was seen as a way to link Fairmount Park, the huge park that
had grown up along both sides of the Schuylkill, with Broad Street and the center
square. While the idea of such a connection had been kicking around since the
early 1870s, its development was strongly influenced by the 1893 Columbian
World’s Exposition in Chicago, and progress was spurred by the decision to
build a new art museum at Faire Mount, the city’s highest point and the site of
waterworks that could no longer adequately serve the growing metropolis.
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway runs just over a mile between
the Philadelphia Museum of Art and City Hall, slicing through Logan Square. To
take in the parkway from City Hall, cross kitty-corner to the northwest to JFK
Plaza, popularly known as LOVE Park for the iconic red Robert Indiana sculpture
there. This was a nationally known mecca for skateboarders until, after a 2002
renovation, then-Mayor John Street established a ban. While the city pledged to
establish other skateparks, skateboarders are still smarting over the loss, and
some residents feel the ban has significantly deactivated the park.
When one walks up the parkway toward Logan Square, the
sidewalk has an urban feel similar to the rest of Center City—the buildings are
close to the street—though the many sculptures on display, including a piece at
the northeast intersection of the parkway and 17th Street by Henry Moore,
enhance the experience. Between Logan Square and the art museum, however, the
streetscape is more open. At rush hour, it can feel like walking along a
freeway—Logan Square and the Eakins Oval in front of the museum carry high
volumes of high-speed traffic at rush hour. At other times it can lack
animation—attractions here, such as the Rodin Museum, are set back from the
sidewalk, and the 86 surface parking spaces in the Eakins Oval further detract
from the pedestrian experience.
But some changes made to and in store for the parkway hold
promise. Center City District has improved lighting of walkways and the many
sculptures along the parkway. Between Logan Square and the museum, ambitious
plans are on the boards for an addition to the Free Library and a new home for
the Barnes Foundation art museum, now in the suburbs.
The parkway is part of Fairmount Park, and in 1916 the
Fairmount Park Commission adopted design controls, establishing setbacks and
limiting building heights, for sites within 200 feet of the road. Still in
effect today, the guidelines have helped to preserve the spectacular view of
the city and its skyline looking down the parkway from the steps of the museum
even as the city has grown, both literally and figuratively. An informal pact known
as the “gentlemen’s agreement” kept the City Hall tower on which rests the Penn
statue—known affectionately to locals as “Billy Penn”—the highest built spot in
the city at 491 feet.
But in the mid-1980s, developer Willard Rouse proposed a
960-foot office tower, and after an emotional public debate the plan was
approved by the city council. One Liberty Place opened in 1987; while other
skyscrapers taller than City Hall were subsequently built, it remained the
city’s tallest building for 20 years, until the construction of the recently
completed Comcast Center, a slim glass tower that some local design mavens are
calling “the memory stick” owing to its shape.
Looking down the parkway from the front entry to the art
museum, the tower and Penn stand placidly at the center, unobstructed
by—indeed, to the eyes of many, framed handsomely by—the skyline including the
taller skyscrapers clustered on the west side.
Art and the Park
Once you’re at the Museum of Art, take some time to look
around the 25-acre landscape that surrounds the warm Kosota stone building. The
once-scruffy grounds were renovated in the late 1990s by the Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society working with city agencies and the landscape architects
of WRT. More recently the museum has undertaken building a large underground
parking facility near its west entrance that will be topped with a sculpture
garden designed by Olin Partnership.
Now you’re in Fairmount Park (the appellation covers both
the park proper and the name of the city’s whole public park system). The park
itself is huge, extending far up both sides of the Schuylkill, and it comprises
more than 200 miles of trails, historic houses from estates that were gradually
absorbed into the park, and the Philadelphia Zoo. You might not have time to
explore the whole thing, but you can enjoy the Azalea Garden north of the
museum’s back entrance at Kelly Drive and Aquarium Drive, near the old Water
Works. The garden was a gift to the city from PHS in honor of its 125th
anniversary in 1952. More than just azaleas are on view here; other plants were
added in an early 1990s renovation to provide interest in all seasons.
Boathouse Row to the west of the museum along the Schuylkill
is a collection of Victorian boathouses used by Philadelphia’s many amateur
rowers, known as “the Schuylkill Navy.” Many regattas are held here, but the
inviting paths along the river are also very popular with walkers, joggers,
cyclists, and fishermen. You can also get a glimpse of Boathouse Row by
whizzing down the Schuylkill Expressway on the other (west) side of the river.
Modern Philadelphia is in many ways the brainchild of Edmund
Bacon, head of the city’s planning commission from 1949 until 1970, and the era
of “urban renewal” in which he worked. Most unusual for a city planner, Bacon
in his heyday had the kind of star power now enjoyed by his actor son Kevin. He
was an irascible and outspoken presence in the city until his death at 95 in
2005, railing against the fall of the gentlemen’s agreement that limited the
height of buildings downtown and taking to a skateboard in LOVE Park to protest
the restrictions. A Philadelphia native, Bacon, with fellow architects Louis
Kahn and Oscar Stonorov, designed the well-received 1947 Better Philadelphia
Exhibition, headlined by a room-sized model of Center City, parts of which
could be flipped to show “before” and “after” views. More than 350,000
residents trooped over to Gimbel’s department store to see this and the other
models, photos, dioramas, and other multimedia displays.
Bacon’s tenure coincided with federal legislation (the
Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954) that enabled land acquisition and condemnation
as well as local political leadership that was focused on comprehensive
planning and improving Center City, much of which had descended into slum
conditions. These circumstances begat the 1963 Center City Plan, which gathered
together existing and new ideas, some of which were already under construction,
under a unified umbrella. The ambition of the plan—its major components
included an expressway loop around Center City, a park along the Delaware
River, rehabilitation of decrepit neighborhoods, shopping to compete with
suburban malls, a park surrounding Independence Hall, and an arts district
along South Broad Street—and Bacon’s effectiveness at communicating its
possibilities brought it nationwide attention and landed Bacon on the cover of Time magazine in November 1964. Later he
wrote a well-received book, Design of
Cities, that is still read today (see Resources).
Elements of the 1963 plan, some more successful than others,
are visible all over the city. On Market Street east of City Hall in the area
near the convention center is the Gallery at Market East, one of the first
urban shopping malls, completed in two phases in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s far
less appealing than the street-front shops farther west on Walnut and other
Many older buildings were demolished as new projects were
built; again here at Market East the demolition of a significant historic building,
in this case the Reading Terminal, was part of the original plan but unrealized
owing to prohibitive costs. Today, the revived Reading Terminal Market,
preserved and restored as part of the convention center complex, is extremely
popular with locals and visitors (consider stopping in for lunch or a snack
between education sessions). The historic tan brick-covered market building is
a bright spot in a part of the city that can be dull or even a little bit grim,
owing to some persistently undeveloped spots (on Market at 8th and 13th
streets), pedestrian-unfriendly stretches of wall, and lifeless plazas—the
unintended consequences of the 1963 plan’s shifting of focus from the street
itself to below grade (at the nearby Penn Center transit link and office
complex) and self-contained shopping (at Market East).
Some of Philadelphia’s best days might yet be ahead. While
the real estate boom brought some development pressure, its peaks didn’t grow
as high as in many other cities, and the current downturn could help new mayor
Nutter build support for an ambitious planning and economic development agenda.
Plans, driven by the design community, other advocacy groups, and the
universities, are afoot to revive the waterfronts, extending the Penn campus
east to the western banks of the Schuylkill, and to reinvent the central
Delaware riverfront, where Penn’s Landing has never lived up to its potential,
in large part because of the freeway running between it and the rest of Center
Philadelphia has been down before, but like one of its
favorite fictional characters, Rocky, it will go on fighting. It will just be
fighting in a low-key manner.
- The Planning of
Center City Philadelphia, by John Andrew Gallery; Philadelphia: The Center
for Architecture Inc., 2007.
- Design of Cities,
by Edmund Bacon; New York: Penguin Books, 1974.
- Good Guidebooks
- Off the Beaten Path
Philadelphia (Insiders’ Guide series), by Karen Ivory; Guilford,
Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press, 2007 (third edition).
- The Philadelphia
Inquirer’s Walking Tours of Historic Philadelphia, by Edward Colimore;
Philadelphia: Camino Books, 2007.
- A Guide to the Great
Gardens of the Philadelphia Region, by Adam Levine; Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 2007.
- Find general tourist information about the city at www.gophila.com.
Paradise of Public Art
According to an inventory of outdoor sculpture by the
Smithsonian Institution, there is more public art in Philadelphia than anywhere
else in the United States. Art is indeed everywhere in Philadelphia, in all
forms, from Rodin’s The Thinker on
the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Rocky
statue, moved from the Museum of Art to a South Philadelphia sports arena and
back again. Pop sculptures such as Claes Oldenburg’s giant clothespin liven up
the streetscape near City Hall, and elaborate mosaics by local artist Isaiah
Zagar make South Street sparkle.
As with other characteristics of the city, history is at
work here. Monuments sprang up in Philadelphia’s early years to commemorate the
nation’s founding and founders. The Fairmount Park Art Association was
established in 1872 to beautify the park with sculpture, but its ambit quickly
expanded beyond the park’s boundaries. And in 1959, the city’s pioneering “One
Percent for Art” ordinance came into effect, requiring developers to allocate 1
percent of their construction costs for the purchase of public art. The program
was the brainchild of Michael von Moschzisker, then head of the city’s
redevelopment authority, who argued that “true functionalism in man-made
edifices must include artistic expression.... [S]terility and her handmaiden,
monotony, must be banished.”
They certainly have been. In addition to Billy Penn, City
Hall is bedecked with more than 200 other statues by Alexander Milne Calder
(grandfather to a contemporary sculptor), and its grounds are home to a slew of
likenesses of Philadelphia’s great and good from (of course) Benjamin Franklin
to Mayor Frank Rizzo. Sculptures line the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Logan
Square features several striking memorials, the whimsical Swann fountain
designed by Alexander Stirling Calder (son of the City Hall sculptor), and
works by students of the Moore College of Art across 20th Street.
One of the most visible manifestations of the city’s
commitment to public art is the Mural Arts Program, which was established in
1984 as an antigraffiti initiative and which has generated about 2,700 mural
projects throughout the city. The idea for a mural starts in the neighborhood,
and after support reaches a critical mass and an artist (usually local) is
chosen, the program subsidizes the creation and holds a dedication ceremony.
Neighbors maintain and preserve the finished works. “Unofficial” murals have
come on the heels of the program’s official ones, and some even grace
hardscrabble businesses and boarded-up buildings in the city’s toughest
The Village of Arts and Humanities goes even further, making
a desolate North Philadelphia urban landscape an artwork in itself. It started
when Chinese-born artist Lily Yeh won a small grant to improve an abandoned
lot. Now the village comprises parks, community gardens, and educational
facilities over a 260-square-block area and runs workshops and programs that
serve more than 10,000 low-income neighbors, most of them African American,
The village’s aesthetic is bright and vibrant, with lots of
tile and mirror mosaics. Colorful stalagmite-like concrete “trees” kitted out
in mosaic stood in for the real thing until soil improvements could be made and
actual trees planted with the help of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s
Philadelphia Green program, and mosaic furniture is available for climbing or
resting. It’s off the beaten path—this is still a rough neighborhood, it’s best
explored by car, and it’s so spread out it’s extremely helpful to have a guide
to get the full effect—but if you make one side trip during the annual meeting,
Top Ten Landscape
Sights in Philadelphia
Most of these are in Center City and will be easy for annual
meeting visitors to see, but it’s worth venturing off the beaten path if you
Mall/Independence National Park: This is an obvious choice, but one not to
Society Hill: Old
and modern Philadelphia peacefully coexist here.
This is perhaps the perfect urban square.
Immortalized by the Philadelphia group the Orlons in 1963 as the place where
“all the hippies” (or, according to some, “all the hippest”) met, this lower
boundary of Center City is still a magnet for those in search of interesting
shops, cafés, and clubs.
Ben Franklin Parkway:
Enjoy the view from the steps of the art museum, looking toward the Center City
skyline framing the “Billy Penn” statue on City Hall, or relax by the Swann
Fountain in Logan Square.
If you can’t take it all in, at least check out the park areas near the art
museum, including the PHS Azalea Garden, planted for interest in all seasons,
and Boathouse Row, a magnet for rowers and nonrowers alike.
Art: This is a
condition rather than a destination. Wherever you are, keep your head
up—chances are good there is a mural or statue.
Terminal Market is adjacent to the Convention Center, but other markets worth
visiting include the Headhouse Market on 2nd and Lombard streets, dating back
to 1745 (Sundays 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM), and the Italian Market on 9th Street in
South Philadelphia (closed Mondays).
Chestnut Park: A
shady and inviting vest-pocket park designed by John F. Collins, FASLA, in the
1970s, this haven on Chestnut Street west of 17th Street features native plants
and metal gates by sculptor Christopher Ray that pay tribute to the regional
Philadelphia is home to more than 500 community gardens. There’s a nice one in
Center City at Schuylkill River Park. The Spring Gardens in the Fairmount
neighborhood north of Center City are set off with a beautiful iron fence, and
Liberty Lands in the trendy Northern Liberties neighborhood is a gathering
place for all ages.
Public Gardens in and Around Philadelphia
Annual meeting attendees who, like this writer, are plant
nerds will find much to engage them in the Philadelphia area, where the gardens
of many fine old estates are now open to the public. Most of these will be
covered in guided tours available to meeting participants, but if you can’t
make the tours and have some time to spare (access to a car would be helpful),
excellent candidates for horticultural side trips include:
Once the home of brother and sister John and Lydia Morris, this beautiful
92-acre garden in the grand Chestnut Hill neighborhood is now the arboretum of
the University of Pennsylvania. It’s home to a collection of large stately
trees, many dating back to John Morris’s collecting days, including a
magnificent katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum
japonicum) that is possibly the largest specimen in North America. The
arboretum is one of the attractions in store on an annual meeting tour of the
Wissahickon Valley. Address: 100 East Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, www.morrisarboretum.org.
Self-taught botanist John Bartram bought this land for his house and garden in
1728, and it’s the oldest surviving botanical garden in North America. Bartram
is perhaps best known for discovering and saving the Franklinia tree (Franklinia alatamaha), now extinct in
the wild but still available owing to Bartram’s propagation. A tour is
available. Address: 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, www.bartramsgarden.org.
Wealthy industrialist Pierre DuPont saved this land from clear-cutting early in
the 20th century and then proceeded to build a series of gardens influenced by
his travels in Europe. Anchoring them all is an enormous glass conservatory,
where floral displays change with the seasons. An all-day tour is available for
annual meeting participants. Address: U.S. 1, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, www.longwoodgardens.org.
estate garden that has been preserved without aesthetic or horticultural
restrictions, this exuberant “pleasure garden” is a treat for plant people.
Staff are happy to discuss plant culture and designs. A tour of Chanticleer is
available as part of the annual meeting. Address: 786 Church Road, Wayne,
Wildflower Preserve: An oasis of open space in fast-growing Bucks County is
a natural preserve, not a designed garden. It features almost 1,000 species of
plants native to the Delaware Valley, including rare and endangered varieties.
Bowman’s Hill has developed a plant stewardship index to assess the native
character of sites in New Jersey and the Pennsylvania Piedmont. Address: 1635
River Road (U.S. 32), New Hope, Pennsylvania, www.bhwp.org.
Mt. Cuba Center:
This site began as another botanical wonderland made possible by the spoils of
industry, but it evolved into a guardian and promoter of native plants of the
Piedmont region. Wildflower gardens and a series of ponds are big draws here,
though formal gardens from the site’s period as a residence remain. Tours can
be booked by appointment, and the center will be included on a tour of
distinctive estate gardens in northern Delaware. Address: Barley Mill Road,
Greenville, Delaware, www.mtcubacenter.org.
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