Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 1

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18 Today, Germantown Friends School is well-known for its strong arts and theater programs.  Yet there was a time not too long ago when the school could not acquire fiction for its library.  The restriction lay was written into a type of ancient trust so common […]
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Apothecary Roses of Germantown

The Wyck mansion, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, is not just one of the oldest structures in the city, but is also home to the oldest surviving rose garden in the nation. The first section of the dwelling dates to 1690, when Germantown was a satellite of the new city of Phialdelphia. For […]
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The Autocrat and the Engineer (Part II)

As the capital of Imperial Russia, St. Petersburg was a city of many palaces.  Some belonged to the Romanov family, such as Peterhof, the Winter Palace, the Pavlovsk Palace, the Anichkov Palace, and Tsarskoe Selo.  Others belonged to wealthy Russian nobles, such as the Yusapov, Beloselskiy, and Stroganov clans. Many had been constructed in the 18th century, […]
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Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 2

Part I of “Creating Community at the Powelton C0-op” A few years ago, Gwendolyn Bye, daughter of Friendship Co-op founders Jerry and Lois Bye, was thumbing through some old photos from her 1950s West Philadelphia childhood. When she came across a class picture from the Charles Drew Elementary School, which once stood on the 3700 […]
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Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 1

There were some kids who were mixed. There was some kids who were Jewish, and there were some white kids, too. But it never dawned on me as a child. I never knew the difference. I went to an all-black school for the first three years of my life, which was a block away. -Gwendolyn […]
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Andrew Eastwick: Savior of Bartram’s Garden

  Famed Bartram’s Garden, homestead of Philadelphia’s 18th century botanist kids bounce house John Bartram, is going through a renaissance today. The gardens are lushly planted and the main buildings restored.  The parking lot is full on warm summer Saturdays. New bike trails connect this pastoral sanctuary to Center City and University City.  The renovated […]
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The Derham Body Company: Dignified Simplicity on Four Wheels

The so-called annual model change (also known as “planned obsolesce”) dates back to the 1920s, when General Motors transformed automobile styling from an afterthought into high fashion.   Dazzling new body styles, vibrant colors, and powerful engines enticed the aspiring American middle class, who began going into debt to buy a lifestyle accessory rather than a […]
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Dr. Kirkbride’s Country Cure

Before it became a fashionable streetcar suburb, West Philadelphia was infamous as as place where the city’s indigent, and mentally ill were warehoused out of sight and mind. As historian Robert Morris Skaler wrote, “if one was incurable, insane, consumptive, blind, orphaned, crippled, destitute, or senile, one would most likely end up in a faith-based charitable […]
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Coleman Sellers, Powelton Village, and The Gilded Age” (Part I)

While ‘The Gilded Age’ commercial obstacle course touches on many themes as it shifts uncomfortably between melodrama and satire, occasionally verging into burlesque, it always projects a powerful message about the futility and self-destructiveness of chasing after riches. -R. Kent Rasmussen Now divided into apartments, 3301 Baring Street is an imposing Italianate style mansion completed […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part IV)

When the Penn AC Olympians came back to Depression-era Philadelphia, they got jobs as builders and beer salesmen. Beer gave them their wages and also their strength.   “These were Depression kids bounce house era guys,” Joe Sweeney said of the men who would become his coaches and had grown up hauling kegs around. “They used […]
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