While others rail on with fundraising for some Rail Park “Phase 1 Maintenance Fund,” one day they disingenuously claim is “slated for construction in July 2014″ then on a following day they describe merely as a “proposed park,” VIADUCTgreene remains steady as founded, genuine, grounded- in the Garden, not on some Fantastically Phased Parkpie in the Sky. VIADUCTgreene remains steady as founded, honing directed goals, doable actions.
Truth in advertising. Steady. Genuine. Grounded. VIADUCTgreene!
Truth; the past portends the future.
The Gardened Railway. It’s almost commonplace. Late Autumn and the crisp announcement of the holidays with the whirr and whistles of the garden railways. Locally, there’s Longwood Gardens and the Morris Arboretum. A quick internet search brings up dozens, where buildings are made of twigs, pebbles, pods, and sheets of shag bark hickory. At Morris you’ll see a five-foot-high Independence Hall and versions of Frank Furness’ Mount Airy and Bycot train stations footsteps apart. Most share bamboo train trestles and lots of plants. At Longwood you’ll see a version of Pierre Dupont’s great glasshouse. Head up to the New York Botanical Garden, how about for Bar Car Night -they always sell out) and see Hudson River Valley Mansions, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Radio City Music Hall, and the original Yankee Stadium. This year, head to the US Botanic Garden in D.C. to see the usual Washington suspects plus “World’s Fair” icons such as the “1878 Paris Exposition Universelle, 1884 New Orleans Universal exposition, the Mexican Alhambra, 1893 Chicago World Columbian Exposition famed FERRIS wheel, 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo, Seattle WA (Japanese Theatre buildings), 1919 Panama Pacific Expo, San Francisco CA (Palace of Fine Arts), 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair (famous Space Needle) and much more.” ”Gardens are beautiful but I think trains bring the sense of imagination and bring it alive,” says Paul Busse, a landscape architect who’s Applied Imagination has made many of the “layouts.”
The Gardened Railway is essential vocabulary of the VIADUCTgreene work at hand. As we work to create a “garden of intersecting culture and wildness,” bringing to the city a preeminent, world-class, post-industrial Place, what inspires us is our places’ rich, rich, heritage of the garden and the gardened railway. Take, for instance Edward Bok and Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist. Perhaps most obviously remembered in Philadelphia is Mary Louise’s father, Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, his publishing empire , his Frederick Law Olmsted designed estate he called Lyndon (Wyncote P.O., Jenkintown Station), and a lot of generous philanthropy. Less remembered is Edward and Mary Louise, but we remember. While Cyrus lived along the P&R, Edward and Mary Louise moved over along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Main Line.” The Main Line.
Since the introduction of the electric light the place seems transformed into perpetual day. Today the passenger for the west, when the signal is given, if he has taken passage on board the New York and Chicago limited, bounds out of the station like a flash, and in a moment is flying over the elevated to West Philadelphia. Very soon he crosses the historical Schuylkill River, famous in the revolutionary days of 1776. On his left is seen the depot erected to accommodate the great centennial travel of 1876. To the right are the roundhouses, machine, carpenter, and paint shops of the company. Soon, on the other side of the river, is seen the old Fairmount water works. At this point you have a view of the handsome club houses of the Schuylkill navy, which of themselves form a very pretty picture as they gracefully adorn the east bank of the river at the foot of Lemon Hill in East Fairmount Park. At the same time, you catch a glimpse of the monument erected to the memory of our martyred president, the illustrious Lincoln. Then comes Memorial Hall, erected to perpetuate the never to be forgotten centennial. At Fifty-second street we have a nice view of George’s Hill and the Total Abstinence Fountain built by the Roman Catholic societies during the centennial celebration, as an evidence of their patriotism for the future welfare of the nation. The park now fades from view and the iron horse snorts as it climbs the grade of forty-three to the mile. Fifty-ninth street is reached and we cross to the fourth or west bound passenger track. Presently, the eye of the traveler lights upon the beautiful station of Overbrook, nestled in a bed of flowers and a beautiful lawn. Adjoining is the residence of Mr Charles E Pugh. the popular and far famed general manager of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This place is known as Sunny Side. It is an old homestead and two rows of trees planted years ago form a very pretty glade. Merion, the next station is adorned with superb flower beds. To the right, on an eminence is the residence of Mr Frank Thompson, second vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
This place is elegantly located and surrounded entirely by a forest of trees which almost hide the view of the mansion. The grounds are exquisitely laid out and beautifully adorned with flowers of all descriptions. To the left is the palatial residence, just about finished, for the widow of the late Mathew Baird, the famous locomotive builder. An attempt to give any correct idea of this house would be folly. it must be seen to be appreciated. The cost is nearly $100,000. On our left we catch a glimpse of the Roman Catholic college near Merion station The second station from Philadelphia is Wynewood Here on our left can be seen the house of Mr N.P. Shortridge, the generous director of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In this connection let me say that all who know him have a kind word for Mr Shortridge. To the right is the splendid residence of the celebrated manufacturer Mr Gibson whose costly place is equal to a small Fainnount Park, with everything to make it beautiful that the wealth of a millionaire can afford.
As we pass on, we see on our left the new and costly home of Mr Clothier, of the great dry goods firm of Strawbridge & Clothier. On the right is the well known Jones estate, which with its old style mansion with stately pillars extending from porch to roof makes us think of the old manor house we read of in the days of 76. Ardmore, another nice station is passed and we reach Haverford. To the left are seen the buildings of the well known Haverford College. Just north of this station you catch a faint view of the residence of A.J. Cassatt, famous as a railway manager, who is also a director of the Pennsylvania System. In a few moments we reach Bryn Mawr, at the head of the grade about ten miles west of Philadelphia. Here is located a large and elegant hotel with all the appointments and surroundings that could be desired. Splendid lawns, beautiful flowers, lovely scenery, best of water, good roads, romantic drives and all the luxuries that money can buy.
We are soon whirled past the lovely little village of Rosemont, and as our train gracefully rounds the curve; looking north a pretty landscape presents itself to the view. Five miles in the distance we see the hills skirting the east bank of the Schuylkill, interspersed with bunches of woodland and green meadows between beautiful cottages, scattered here and there with the Bryn Mawr College buildings on our right form a picture not soon to be forgotten. We pass in quick succession, Villa Nova, Radnor, and St Davids, and read the name of Wayne on the next station. This is a very popular place. The land around it belongs principally to George W Childs, the proprietor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger and the eminent banker A.J. Drexel. They own about 600 acres here which is laid out in lots and sold at reasonable rates. This station is surrounded with homes of all descriptions. The first building of note is that of Henry Askin, at one time president of the Fourth National bank of Philadelphia, noted for his kindness to railroad men who are sorry to know that he has lost his eye sight. The town is illuminated with electric light which is extended to some of the residences in the adjoining country. The next station of note is Devon. Here is an immense hotel situated a short distance south of the railroad. This is a very fashionable summer retreat. Although it is quite new, yet it bids fair in time to be a very handsome place. Elegant residences are going up and macadamized roads are also being constructed. Berwyn is passed and we reach Paoli, named after a celebrated Corsican general. At Green Tree, looking north we catch a bird’s eye view of the great Chester valley. A short distance southwest of Malcolm, twenty-one miles from Philadelphia occurred what is known in history as the Paoli massacre -September 20, 1777. All this time the traveler seated in his luxurious Pullman has been riding through a sort of fairyland. Were it not for the rumble of the car wheels he would scarcely realize that he was on a railroad so smooth is the motion and so attractive are the surroundings. All around him is one continual scene of beauty. The train glides through a paradise of flowers which adorn every station and send their sweet fragrance into the cars. Sodded banks look like private lawns. The ivy and honeysuckle cling to the rocks and abutments of bridges, and handsome residences go to make a scene which the traveler will not soon forget.
“Edward Bok (1863-1930) came as a boy from the Netherlands to Brooklyn, New York and steadily advanced without much more than a primary education, to become smart, rich, generous, bossy, famous and most importantly for our purpose, a resident of Lower Merion.”
Edward and Mary Louise Bok built their home in Merion. “Selected by Cyrus Curtis to edit his popular Ladies’ Home Journal in Philadelphia, Edward wooed, and later won, 15-year old Mary Louise Curtis, built her a house in Merion” called Swastika (at the suggestion of Rudyard Kipling, long before Nazis appropriated the ancient symbol). Edward and Louise must have known Joseph Lapsley Wilson‘s great arboretum at “Red Slates.” In 1905 Albert and Laura Barnes were building a house next door. Later the Barnes’ purchased “Red Slates” and made it the home of their Barnes Foundation.
The Boks built right across the street from the Merion PRR station and mighty PRR President (and friend of Buffalo Bill Cody and Frank Furness) Frank Thompson‘s place, Corkerhill, where “he hosted scores of distinguished European and American visitors at his hunting cabin,” and died (in 1899), like all he great PRR presidents, in office, Thompson after being raced home during an inspection trip. Must have been a hell of a place. Trains whizzing by like PRR’s flagship, Pennsylvania Limited, in 1898 nicknamed the “Yellow Kid,” and colorfully illiustaretd by Mark Markovitz PRR tracks make a big sexy curve between Overbrook, Merion Station and Narberth. Numerous pics were taken.
In 1913 Edward Bok organized The Merion Civic Association with the motto “To be Nation and State right, we must first be Community right.” Earlier in 1911, Bok went garden railway crazy and “planted 3,000 rose bushes, pink and yellow at a single Pennsylvania Railroad cut with a resultant 100,000 roses in bloom. From the standpoint of beauty the work is even more remarkable Where the Pennsylvania Railroad passes through Merion the sides of the cuts and fills have been planted thick with clambering roses and in the season they are worth going hundreds of miles to see.” -1913. the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society.
In 1911, The Outlook magazine wrote: ROSES AND RAILWAYS…”the roads could be greatly helped in the matter of making their local approaches and for that matter their entire track lines more attractive for travelers by the cooperation of their neighbors. Recently at a station in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad a gang of men began to dig two thousand holes on two large banks between which the railway passes. In these holes later were planted two thousand trailing Japanese roses presented to the road by Mr Edward Bok. These plants were selected on account of their extraordinary productivity one carrying very nearly two hundred blooms. In the future passengers instead of looking out at black masses of earth or if they are more fortunate scantily growing grass will pass between hundreds of thousands of roses. This private contribution by a commuter to the beauty of the road which carries him to and from his home to his business is an example which ought to be contagious. If the public is to hold the railways to a high sense of their responsibility it ought also to co-operate with them in the endeavor not only to secure courtesy, attention and thorough service, but also to make the railway, so to speak, a delight to the eye. The planting of roses may be one way of ridding the landscape of the hideous invitations to drink particular brands of whisky and to wear particular kinds of underclothing which now irritate the passenger and make him wish he lived under an absolute monarchy and were a friend of the king.”
The editor of the American Rose Annual, Volume 3 reported: ”Coming west from Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Railroad in June of 1917 I saw from the car window a wonderful flash of color just as the train was getting into its speed beyond the Philadelphia city line. A quick glance showed that the color was that of climbing roses and that the sloping embankment facing the railroad tracks was ablaze with a wonderful show of either Lady Gay or Dorothy Perkins. A little inquiry showed that this beautiful display was the result of the public spirit of the Editor of The Ladies Home Journal, Mr Edward Bok, who lives in the vicinity. He writes that the roses were planted on the two banks of the Pennsylvania Railroad near the Merion station some four years ago. There were about three thousand plants used and the cost of the whole operation mounted up to several thousand dollars. From Mr Bok’s letter about this notable action in the public interest, I quote the following paragraph: I made the planting with a view of introducing the idea of having large numbers of blooming plants in a public position where the people could enjoy them and yet not pick them, in other words educating the public to a love of flowers without the desire of possession. Then too, I wanted the people on through trains to the west to stop talking dollars and cents for a few moments and fasten their minds on flowers. Mr Bok has not mentioned the very important and notable utility side of his planting. The climbing roses hold the bank quite perfectly and completely and contrast favorably and economically with the sod covering of the same embankment on either side of this planting. The sod must constantly be mown but the roses need practically no attention whatever. Here then, is a delightful advantageous and economical use of climbing or trailing roses for covering embankments.”
It must have been made quite an impression. People were watching. In June 1913, the New York times reported Bok in New York denying that PRR was removing red roses between Overbrook and Merion from the “two beds, one of which is 800 feet long and the other 1,000 feet long. According to the report, the railroad found that the red roses misled engineers by their resemblance to danger signals.” Bok explained that “when they bloomed there were ten or twelve red rose bushes, which were out of place in a color scheme of yellow and white. I ordered these roses taken out..and their removal gave rise to the story.” Hahahahahaha! Any garden designer will relate to that!
In 1938 the Civic Association reports that: “Through the cooperation of the officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the rose bushes on the railroad banks are trimmed, and leaves and dead twigs removed.”
The station area looked sharp and planterly…
In 1910 Bok bossily railed about Pullman cars: “There is a man somewhere in the employ of the Pullman Palace Car company who has much to answer for,” writes Edward Bok in the October Ladies’ Home Journal. “He is the official’ who selects or decides the furnishings and hangings of the company’s cars. Probably no single man in this country has the opportunity for so direct and helpful an influence in the extension of good taste in furnishings. Instead, he perpetrates upon the public furnishing schemes which even rival those which who see in the homes of the most unintelligent of the new-rich. The chief injury which the furnishing of the modern Pullman car works is the wrong standard which is set for those who are not conversant with what is artistic. The new-rich come into these cars and accept the hideous effect as the standard of people of taste. I have been told by furnishing firms that they are often asked by those who have suddenly come into the possession of money that certain effects which they have seen in Pullman drawing room cars shall be duplicated in their homes. These people, knowing no better, accept what they see In the cars which are supposed to be patronized by people of means, as reflective of a prevailing standard. Color combinations, about as inharmonious as it is possible for the mind of man to concoct, have thus been transferred to the homes of the people, and here the injury is done.”
“He editorialized, “in those days, twenty years ago, the decoration of the Pullman parlor-car was atrocious. Colors were in riotous discord; every foot of wood-panelling was carved and ornamented, nothing being left of the grain of even the most beautiful woods; gilt was recklessly laid on everywhere regardless of its fitness or relation. The hangings in the cars were not only in bad taste, but distinctly unsanitary; the heaviest velvets and showiest plushes were used; mirrors with bronzed and red-plushed frames were the order of the day; cord portières, lambrequins, and tasselled fringes were still in vogue in these cars. It was a veritable riot of the worst conceivable ideas; and it was this standard that these women of the new-money class were accepting and introducing into their homes!” “The Pullman Company paid no attention to it, but the railroad journals did. With one accord they seized the cudgel which Bok had raised, and a series of hammerings began. The Pullman conductors began to report to their division chiefs that the passengers were criticising the cars, and the company at last woke up. It issued a cynical rejoinder; whereupon Bok wrote another editorial, and the railroad journals once more joined in the chorus.”
Bt 1914 Bauhaus pioneer Walter Gropius worked with Mitropa on the design of sleeping compartments recalling “the character of the purposeful and luxurious Louis Vuitton wardrobe trunks of the period, their compact interiors purely functional, ingenious, and immediately seductive due to the fine craftsmanship and excellent materials.” No doubt the Boks kenew the work. The legend goes on.
“The president of a large Western railroad wrote to Bok that he agreed absolutely with his position, and asked whether he had any definite suggestions to offer for the improvement of some new cars which they were about to order. Bok engaged two of the best architects and decorators in the country, and submitted the results to the officials of the railroad company, who approved of them heartily. The Pullman Company did not take very kindly, however, to suggestions thus brought to them. But a current had been started; the attention of the travelling public had been drawn for the first time to the wretched decoration of the cars; and public sentiment was beginning to be vocal.
The first change came when a new dining-car on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad suddenly appeared. It was an artistically treated Flemish-oak-panelled car with longitudinal beams and cross-beams, giving the impression of a ceiling-beamed room. Between the “beams” was a quiet tone of deep yellow. The sides of the car were wainscoting of plain surface done in a Flemish stain rubbed down to a dull finish. The grain of the wood was allowed to serve as decoration; there was no carving. The whole tone of the car was that of the rich color of the sunflower. The effect upon the travelling public was instantaneous. Every passenger commented favorably on the car.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad now followed suit by introducing a new Pullman chair-car. The hideous and germ-laden plush or velvet curtains were gone, and leather hangings of a rich tone took their place. All the grill-work of a bygone age was missing; likewise the rope curtains. The woods were left to show the grain; no carving was visible anywhere. The car was a relief to the eye, beautiful and simple, and easy to keep clean. Again the public observed, and expressed its pleasure.
The Pullman people now saw the drift, and wisely reorganized their decorative department. Only those who remember the Pullman parlor-car of twenty years ago can realize how long a step it is from the atrociously decorated, unsanitary vehicle of that day to the simple car of to-day.
It was only a step from the Pullman car to the landscape outside, and Bok next decided to see what he could do toward eliminating the hideous bill-board advertisements which defaced the landscape along the lines of the principal roads. He found a willing ally in this idea in Mr. J. Horace McFarland, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, one of the most skilful photographers in the country, and the president of The American Civic Association. McFarland and Bok worked together; they took innumerable photographs, and began to publish them, calling public attention to the intrusion upon the public eye.
Page after page appeared in the magazine, and after a few months these roused public discussion as to legal control of this class of advertising. Bok meanwhile called the attention of women’s clubs and other civic organizations to the question, and urged that they clean their towns of the obnoxious bill-boards. Legislative measures regulating the size, character, and location of bill-boards were introduced in various States, a tax on each bill-board was suggested in other States, and the agitation began to bear fruit.”
Earlier, Horace McFaralnd was instrumental in the creation of the National Park Service. He “focused public opinion upon the need for a Government bureau to take charge of national parks. The act creating the Service was largely the result of consultation between officials of the Department of the Interior and Dr. McFarland, Frederick Law Olmsted (Jr.), and the late Henry A. Barker, representing the American Civic Association.
In 1921 the Boks (with Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. -listen here for Laurie Olin on FLO Jr) made one of our favorite places, virtually the ‘Dream Garden’ made real, the extraordinary Bok Tower and Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. The ”‘Crown Jewel of the Scenic Highlands,’” is nestled among rolling hills and sparkling lakes in the geographic center of Florida. Before the 1900s, this area of the Lake Wales Ridge was considered spectacularly beautiful but uninhabitable because the virgin forests did not have road or railroad access. Only Native Americans and a few white hunters had camped there. G. V. Tillman explored the untamed area in 1902 and fell in love with the beauty. He knew that the land was ideal for citrus, the old-growth pines could provide profits from turpentine, and the natural beauty would attract quality settlers to build a quality town. He shared his vision with three other businessmen, and together they formed the Lake Wales Land Company in 1911. Their timing was perfect. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad reached Lake Wales that year and brought on the boom time.” Edward Bok was buried by the tower in when he died in 1930.
In 1943, she married the director of the Curtis Institute, violinist Efrem Zimbalist, becoming Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist. Together with one of her sons, Cary Bok, she controlled 32 percent of Curtis Publishing Company through its final turbulent years. She held a seat on the board of directors but reportedly “rarely attended board meetings during these declining years – refusing either to sell the stocks they had held all their lives or to exercise the authority that those stocks gave them.” Mrs. Zimbalist finally resigned her seat on the board of directors in 1967, a few years before the final dissolution of Curtis Publishing and her death.”
Small world? yes indeed, it is. We’re not sure what happened with the thousands of roses, but today the Boks’ Swastika House remains, without a name and sadly, the property subdivided…
By the 1930′s any evidence of Boks’ and Kipling’s “Swastika” had been removed from the garden gates. Though most all of the Boks’ extraordinary garden walls survive.
Merion Station holds up well, the gardened railway less so…
Joseph Lapsley Wilson’s great arboretum via Laura and Albert Barnes survives as the wonderful Barnes Foundation’s Merion Campus. The Barnes’ 1934 commissioned formal garden plan from landscape architect Frank Andrew Schrepfer remains. In an article written for the journal Landscape Architecture, Schrepfer wrote that “in addition to the education value of the [living] collection, the planting is being arranged to achieve the finest possible landscape and garden effects. Thus, most plants have a dual purpose to serve: as a part of the general collection and as parts of the general esthetic scheme.” With the impressionist art collection now on show between the ‘greene and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the great Merion Place that Wilson and the Barnes created is only ”currently opened for Horticulture classes,” making admission a mere $1,500.00? We’d love to see a garden railway, main line style about that amazing collection! Artful indeed.
13.5 acres of Frank Thompson’s land south (or railroad East) of the PRR station is today the Merion Botanical Park. “The Lower Merion Botanical Society was founded in 1944 to rescue sixteen weedy, rat-infested acres from developers. With the help of the township, the civic association, and Dr. and Mrs. Albert C. Barnes, the Merion Botanical Park was planted between Merion Road and the railroad south of the station” and currently undergoing a revival. One wonders about the hunting cabin.
Read here about Frank Thompson, Buffalo Bill and Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov.
So it goes round on the Gardened Railway Railway.