The house, Garden, and farm that make up Wyck are designated National Historic Landmarks. Wyck is located in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. For nine generations, one Philadelphia family called Wyck their ancestral home. In this place, the traditional culture of the Friends combines with an enthusiasm for progress. The residents and employees of Wyck embodied these principles via their dedication to the fields of education, horticulture, natural history, and historic preservation. Through programs centered on history, horticulture, and urban agriculture, the Wyck Association fosters a connection between their community and this family and the extensive history they offer. These programs take cues for their content from the past. Buildings, the surrounding landscape, and collections on their 2.5-acre, centuries-old property provide educational, cultural, and nutritional resources for the community members and visitors to their urban neighborhoods in the 21st century. This property is crucial to the local community’s existence.
Between the years 1690 and 1973, Wyck was used by one family as their ancestral home. The names of the Wistar and Haines generations are most often linked with Wyck. Today, Wyck engages over 7,000 people yearly with programs that include homes, barns, landscapes, and artifacts conserved for over 300 years. These programs illustrate the lasting relevance of Philadelphia’s historical significance in current life. 1973 saw the establishment of Wyck as a 2.5-acre historic site, and the Wyck Association has been in charge of the park’s administration since 1978. Wyck is an exceptional example of ancient Philadelphia life that has survived in such a densely populated area that it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1991. The property includes a colonial home with unique additions made in 1824 by the architect William Strickland, the oldest rose garden in America still laid out by its original design, and a collection of over 10,000 family heirlooms, historical artifacts, and 100,000 family papers.
A variety of structures from the late 18th century to the early 20th century may also be found on their property, in addition to colossal vegetable and herb gardens, woodlots, fruit trees, perennial gardens, and extensive vegetable and herb gardens (a carriage house, greenhouse, ice house, and smokehouse). The values of innovation, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability are the legacies left behind by the Quakers, who were the previous owners of Wyck. These Quakers represented the city’s leadership in business, natural history and science, and education reform during their time in the city. The Wyck Association continues to uphold these principles through the many programs it offers.
The Wyck Association started restoring the fruit and vegetable gardens on the Wyck property for hundreds of years in 2007. The Home Farm serves several purposes, including the production of food for the on-site Home Farm Club, the operation of an interactive outdoor school for children and adults in the surrounding community, and the maintenance of old agricultural practices. Their farm programming bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary approaches to agriculture, horticulture, historic preservation, and community engagement.
Wyck’s audience includes history and urban agriculture enthusiasts and Germantown children who need safe outdoor space and hands-on learning.
Germantown and Mount Airy residents want affordable, locally grown, chemical-free produce and quality adult programming to learn about history, farming, nutrition, and environmental science. The Board of Directors decided to move forward with a new strategic plan in 2015, which charted a course for increased organizational efficiency, identified new programmatic goals, and presented a vision for Wyck that places a strong emphasis on the principles of creativity, accountability, and environmental sustainability. They aim to provide engaging programs that utilize history to inspire people to better their lives and the world they share, to act as a catalyst in the rebirth of Germantown, and protect the site so that it may be enjoyed while also being adequately maintained.
The Wyck Rose
The Garden, which dates back to the 1820s and is still in use today, is one of the most cherished and well-liked aspects of the property’s environment. The Wyck Papers include drawings, plant lists, and letters that shed light on the history of the rose garden. Today, it serves as a simple example of a rose garden from the early colonial period in the United States. It is generally acknowledged as the oldest rose garden in America that has been maintained according to its original design. It has more than fifty different antique rose varieties, making it a unique survival from its era.
Along with the original rose bushes that were planted when the Garden was built in the 19th century, plants from the Garden’s previous life as a kitchen garden in the 18th century have also been included in the present arrangement. A few types of roses are being cultivated today that were assumed to be extinct until they were found growing at Wyck. All examples of these varieties available in the market are descended from Wyck’s collection.
Wyck’s historic roses are renowned not only for their beauty but also for the aroma that permeates the Garden. These roses bloom at various times throughout the year, beginning with Rosa spinosissima in early May and finishing with Rosa moschata in late October. Those who love to plant might consider Wyck to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it is also an essential repository of plants that have been lost from other ancient gardens. Other parts of the property have vegetation, not for adornment or aesthetic delight but for the sake of functionality. The early and late 17th and 18th centuries saw the property run to what is now known as Wissahickon Avenue. However, in the 1850s, as Germantown evolved into a fashionable suburb, the land was parceled up and sold.
The Oldest Roses
Wyck’s live collection is a repository for numerous roses of considerable antiquity, and its age predates the two centuries during which they have been a part of Wyck’s Garden. It is believed that the Rosa alba semi-plena stand in the Garden is one of the oldest roses. It was initially planted as a medical plant in the late 1700s (positioned to the right of the summerhouse-style sitting area). It is believed that this particular variety, which goes back to before 1629, was the rose that represented the House of York in England during the War of the Roses. This rose was often used in various therapeutic applications throughout the Colonial Period due to its powerful fragrance and propensity to produce vast numbers of rose hips towards the end of the growing season.
Another rose of great antiquity seen in Wyck’s Garden is called “Pink Leda,” a Damask rose. This rose was introduced to the New World by the earliest European immigrants. By 1750, the “Celsiana” rose had already established itself as a local favorite in Germantown. It went by the local name Germantown Damask; it was also known as the Tobacco Rose because its aromatic petals they’re used medicinally for tobacco. Rosa gallica officinalis, known as the dowager of all old European roses, may grow in Wyck’s Garden, along with the striped sport variety known as “Rosa Mondi.’ R. gallica officinalis has been growing since the Crusades. Also called the Apothecary Rose, it was highly esteemed for its therapeutic powers previously.
The Mystery Roses
There are a few unknown roses scattered across the area. One of them is the “Elegant Gallica,” a variety that would have gone entirely extinct if it hadn’t been able to thrive at Wyck and subsequently be cultivated for sale on the market. Even more challenging to get is the rose known as “Lafayette,” which is a mix of damask and gallica and is sold only by Wyck. It is thought to have been planted in commemoration of the visit made by the Marquis de Lafayette to Wyck in 1825 as he was on his way back to Philadelphia from Wyck.
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