The Victorians of Philadelphia are much more substantial than the painted ladies of San Francisco, but no less ornate. Frank Furness, one of Philly’s most prominent Victorian architects, left some of these over-the-top beauties:
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania
Peck Alumni Center, Drexel University
Undine Barge Club, Boathouse Row
In addition to his buildings, Furness also designed furniture, such as this amazing desk on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art:
What better way to experience the Victorian’s fascination with death than to tour Laurel Hill Cemetery at night?
Built in 1836 (and still active), Laurel Hill was the second landscape garden cemetery built in the United States. Filled with interesting funerary architecture and fascinating stories, the cemetery offers themed tours, theater, hearse shows, photography walks, ghost tours AND evening explorations. Although there are fees to attend events, visiting the cemetery is free.
We explored a new part of town this week – the University of Pennsylvania campus area. U-Penn was established by Ben Franklin in 1751. The current campus dates to the Victorian era, and has a great example of Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness’s work – the Fisher Memorial Library:
In addition to the gorgeous library, the building also houses a (free) art museum, where we saw “A View of One’s Own” – photos of Rome by 3 women photographers from the 1910’s, 1950’s and 2000’s:
Walking campus, we saw the cutest little dog:
And my mom’s old dormitory – the fortress-like Hill College House, designed by Finnish-born modernist architect Eero Saarinen (who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis):
Lunch was at Dana Mandi, one of local food critic Craig LaBan’s Best Philly Values – and an experience in itself: walk to the back of the Indian grocery store, go behind a curtain to the seating area, write your order on a scrap of paper and leave it on the counter. Like magic, delicious, cheap (the parathas were amazing) Indian food comes out on styrofoam trays, served in to-go containers.
No adventure is complete without dessert, so our final stop was the Sugar food truck (38th St. between Walnut & Sansom St.) for Tobey’s favorite – macrons:
I enjoy the gizmos of modern science museums, but I really love good, old fashioned natural history museums, and Philly has two terrific examples.
The Academy of Natural Sciences:
Founded in 1812, The Academy is the oldest natural science institution in the western hemisphere. It houses Thomas Jefferson’s fossils, Lewis and Clark’s plants, and many of the birds collected by John James Audubon (plus a copy of one of the large books of Audubon prints – they have a page turning each day at 3:15). But, the best part are the dioramas, many of which were constructed in the 1920s and 30s. They have an exhibit and video showing how the dioramas were created.
The Wagner Free Institute:
The museum building was completed in 1865 and houses a huge collection of specimens including: mounted birds and mammals, fossils, rocks and minerals, insects, shells, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger. The collections are still displayed in the cherry-wood and glass cabinets built in the 1880s. They are displayed in their original “systematic” scheme, providing a rare view of a Victorian science museum. Plus, it’s FREE!