Sunday, September 1, 2013

All Aboard for Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia

Ever been to Bartram's Garden? Neither had I until I boarded the USS Patriot last weekend, but let me back up to explain what a boat has to do with a colonial-era garden.

You probably have an expectation of what the city of Philadelphia looks like:

Philadelphia from Walnut Street at the Schuylkill River

But if I move my camera just a bit, look what the banks of the Schuylkill River look like.
Schuylkill Banks "beach" and trail
In warm weather folks are sunning themselves as if this were a beach, and other folks are jogging and biking along that trail. (We learned later that the trail will be lengthened by the Schuylkill Banks organization with a boardwalk jutting out over the river!) But anyway, right near that Schuylkill scene is the Walnut Street Dock, and this is where we went aboard the Patriot.

Walnut Street Dock
 We went under a variety of bridges (and I like bridges!),

Those aren't green eyes on the blue bridge--that is the Schuylkill Banks logo.

And after 25 minutes or so arrived at a dock by a meadow. A trail through the meadow took us to Bartram's Garden. John Bartram, botanist, bought this land in 1728 from Swedish settlers and established a thinking man's garden. He actually sold his seeds and plants. Bartram was a Quaker intellectual who ran with a pack of the country's leaders who also visited his home and garden here: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. John Bartram and his son William who took over the garden, traveled around the country gathering unusual plants to grow on their property on the Schuylkill River. They found the Franklinia alatamaha growing in Georgia and named it after their friend Benjamin Franklin. This tree is now extinct in the wild, and only survives as a cultivated tree. It is generally used as an ornamental tree, and here is what it looks like.

Franklinia alatamaha
After wandering around the garden for a bit, we were treated to a tour of Bartram's house.
Heading over to Bartram's House

 It is your typical restored colonial home, but one of the features making it unique is its stone carving. The Bartrams liked carved stone, and it was all over the place.

This window has carved stone all around it...

...and a Bartram quote above it.

Fred making the wheels go 'round
Speaking of carved stone, the property includes an orchard and used to have a working cider mill. We saw this big bumpy rock by the river with people chillaxing on it and wondered why it was labelled the cider press until I remembered a model in the orientation area (called the Green Room).

There is a circle carved into the bumpy rock which used to have wheels running around it powered by horses. Ah ha! So this is where they made the cider, a two-step process of squashing the apples and then extracting the juice.

You can kind of see the circle behind the man where the cider press wheels went.

After our tour of the Bartram house and garden, we walked through the meadow and back to the USS Patriot and cruised back to Walnut Street for a relaxing lounge at Schuylkill Banks "beach" followed by a Thai dinner. I came back from the beach a day early for this excursion, and it was definitely worth it!

The path through the meadow to the boat that would take us back to those buildings

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