John Bartram House
John Bartram's house and upper garden at Bartram's Garden, Philadelphia.
|Location||54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|NRHP Reference #||66000676|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
Bartram's Garden is the oldest surviving botanic garden in North America. Located on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, it covers 46 acres (18.6 ha) and includes an historic botanical garden and arboretum (8 acres (3.2 ha), established circa 1728). The garden is near the intersection of 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Special events at the Garden include an annual spring plant sale, Mother's Day festivities, and a holiday gifts & greens sale. The John Bowman Bartram Special Collections Library contains a vast collection of documents and materials related to the history of the Garden, as well the history of Philadelphia and the development of the field of botany. The non-profit John Bartram Association operates the Garden in cooperation with the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation.
The garden is on the site of noted American botanist John Bartram's (a Quaker farmer) stone house and farm on the Schuylkill River. He built the original house between 1728–1731; then greatly expanded it, adding a kitchen ca. 1740, and a Palladian-inspired, carved facade between 1758-1770. The house still stands, as does his original garden (circa 1728) and greenhouse (1760). Three generations of the Bartram family continued the garden as the premier collection of North American plant species in the world.
The current collection contains a wide variety of native and exotic species of herbaceous and woody plants. Most were listed in the Bartrams' 1783 broadside Catalogue of American Trees, Shrubs and Herbacious Plants and subsequent editions.
The garden also contains three notable trees:
- Franklinia alatamaha - John and William Bartram discovered a small grove of this tree in October 1765 by Georgia's Altamaha River. At that time John and William—after an overnight of camping proximate to the tree (then with reddish leaves) were unsuccessful in locating any flowers or seeds. William subsequently brought seeds to the garden for planting (which he did in 1777 with John shortly before his death in September of that year). The tree was named in honor of John Bartram's friend, Benjamin Franklin. Franklinia was last seen in the wild in 1803. All Franklinia growing today are descended from those propagated and distributed by the Bartrams, and they are credited with saving it from extinction.
- Cladrastis kentukea - A notably old tree, possibly collected by French plant explorer André Michaux in Tennessee and sent to William Bartram in the 1790s.
- Ginkgo biloba - This male ginkgo is believed to be the last of three original ginkgoes introduced to the United States from China, via London, in 1785.
Bartram's Garden is the oldest surviving botanic garden in the United States. John Bartram (1699–1777), the well-known early American botanist, explorer, and plant collector, founded the garden in September 1728 when he purchased a 102-acre (0.413 km2) farm in Kingsessing Township, Philadelphia County. John Bartram's garden began as a personal landscape. With his lifelong devotion to plants, it grew to become a systematic collection as he devoted more time to exploration and the discovery of new North American species and examples. Its evolution over time both reflected and fostered Bartram's vital scientific achievements and important intellectual exchange. Although not the first botanic collection in North America, by the middle of the eighteenth century Bartram's Garden contained the most varied collection of North American plants in the world. John Bartram was at the center of a lucrative business centered on the transatlantic transfer of plants.
Following the American Revolution, Bartram's sons John Bartram, Jr. (1743–1812) and William Bartram (1739–1823), continued the international trade in plants. They expanded the family's botanic garden and nursery business. Following his father's lead, William became an important naturalist, artist, and author in his own right. Under his influence the garden became an educational center that aided in training a new generation of natural scientists and explorers. William's Travels, published in 1791, chronicled his explorations in the South and remains a milestone in American literature.
After 1812, Ann Bartram Carr (1779–1858), a daughter of John Bartram, Jr., maintained the family garden and business with her husband Colonel Robert Carr (1778–1866) and his son John Bartram Carr (1804–1839). Their commercial activities remained focused on international trade in native North American plants. Domestic demand also grew under their management.
In 1850, financial difficulties led to the historic garden's sale outside the family to Andrew M. Eastwick (1811–1879), who preserved it as a private park for his estate. Upon Eastwick's 1879 death, a campaign to preserve the garden was organized by Thomas Meehan (1826–1901), in Philadelphia. A national campaign for funds was aided by Charles S. Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1891, control of the site was turned over to the City of Philadelphia. It remains protected as a city park. Since that time, the John Bartram Association, formally organized in 1893, has overseen preservation efforts and historical interpretation of the garden, the John Bartram House, and a number of surviving outbuildings.
The garden's plant collection includes only a few extant examples dating from the Bartram family occupancy; however, documentation for what was once in cultivation is rich. The first century of public ownership left the garden wanting in terms of care and interpretation. Despite the disappearance of a number of subsidiary physical elements in the landscape, the garden's rectilinear framework designed and laid out by Bartram during the second quarter of the eighteenth century is still recognizable. Bartram's Garden's physical endurance and resonant associative meanings make the site an unparalleled location for comprehending an array of historical facets related to John Bartram, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century botanic studies, the North American plant and seed business, and period domestic life in Philadelphia.
Rambo's Rock was a large boulder on the edge of the Schuylkill River directly across from Bartram's Garden on the plantation of Peter and Brita Rambo just south of Grays Ferry. The rock no longer exists and has been replaced with a wharf.
- Joel T. Fry, "An International Catalogue of North American Trees and Shrubs: The Bartram Broadside, 1783," The Journal of Garden History, vol. 16, no. 1 (January–March 1996), p. 3–66.
- _____, "John Bartram and His Garden: Would John Bartram Recognize His Garden Today?" in Nancy E. Hoffmann and John C. Van Horne, eds. America's Curious Botanist: A Tercentennial Reappraisal of John Bartram 1699-1777. The American Philosophical Society, 2004, Philadelphia, p. 155-183.
- _____, "Historic American Landscapes Survey, John Bartram House and Garden (Bartram's Garden), HALS No. PA-1, History Report," MS report, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, HABS/HAER/HALS/CRGIS Division, Washington, D.C.., 2004.
- James A. Jacobs, "Historic American Landscapes Survey, John Bartram House and Garden, House, HALS No. PA-1, History Report," MS report, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, HABS/HAER/HALS/CRGIS Division, Washington, D.C.., 2001.
- Official website
- Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) documentation: