The Quaker way of life preserved for 300 years in Germantown
Duck into the partially hidden garden along busy Germantown Avenue for a 2.5-acre oasis of color and scent at the historic Wyck House and gardens.
In dramatic contrast to its modern city neighborhood, Wyck’s quiet landscape prepares visitors for time travel as they tour the house and grounds. Experience three centuries of gardening on the property, established in the early rural Colonial layout of woodlot, vegetable and herb gardens and ornamental gardens.
The Garden and Grounds
Step into Wyck’s famous gardens, and you’ll be whisked back to the Colonial and Victorian eras as you walk through the rose garden, vegetable garden, lawns and other plantings, many of which are direct descendents of the original 19th-century plantings.
As you stroll past the flower borders and low boxwoods that accent Wyck’s gardens, feel free to talk roses with your guide. The ornamental rose garden blooms with more than 30 varieties of old roses, which, unlike today’s roses, were bred to be fragrant and unleash an incredible and unique smell when they bloom in late May and early June.
Because this landscape has been faithfully renewed and restored over the years, a stroll through the formal rose garden as you approach the house transports you to the 1820s. A walk to the other side of the house reveals an expanse of lawn with handsome trees that evokes the pastoral landscapes of the 19th Century.
Once there, don’t miss the 18th-century barnyard area where vegetable crops now grow, the chicken coop or Hans the turtle. Note: The vegetable garden and perennial border are at their best in mid to late summer.
The history of Wyck House is as colorful as its gardens. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Wyck, which was constructed using Wissahickon schist, was a peaceful 50-acre farmstead that was settled by Quakers. During the Battle of Germantown, Hessian troops seized the house and used it as a field hospital, an 18th-century MASH unit.
Over the next 300 years, the family made its mark on the Philadelphia community, including founding the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture of Ambler (now Temple University Ambler), along with numerous horticultural research projects and inventions including a patented device to press apples for a more natural tasting juice.
Wyck’s gardens were a significant part of the lives of the Wistar and Haines families, who lived here from 1690 to 1973. For more than nine generations they preserved the historic plantings and layout, with the period 1912 to 1935 being the most recent time of renewal. The house, remodeled in 1824 by the famous architect William Strickland, contains an extensive family library of early horticultural books, furnishings and possessions that illustrate Philadelphia Quaker life, and nearly 10,000 objects, a small portion of which are displayed in the house at any given time.
The Wyck house and gardens are open from April through December on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Tours can be scheduled outside of open hours with advanced notice.
Mark your calendars for the annual Revolutionary Germantown Festival, held the first Saturday in October. And don’t miss Wyck’s weekly farmers’ market, held every Friday in the summer and fall from 2-6 p.m. The grounds also play host to festivals, children’s programming, workshops, classes and summer camps.
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