As promised in my last Barnes blog http://activerain.com/blogsview/2378677/the-barnes-has-left-the-building, I am featuring the Barnes Arboretum in Merion, Pennsylvania today. Not much has been said lately about the grounds of the Barnes Museum since the move to the Parkway in Philadelphia was announced. When I was there last week, some volunteers working in the garden said that the grounds would be closed for at least a year while the museum contents were being moved, but they didn't know any details.
The history of the garden goes back to the original owner of the land on which it stands, Captain Joseph Lapsley Wilson (1844-1928). Captain Wilson was a veteran of the Civil War, and worked for the Little Schuylkill Navigation Railroad and Coal Company for thirty-eight years. In 1880, Captain Wilson moved from Philadelphia to a property in Merion, and established an arboretum with over two hundred specimens of trees, a number of which are still extant.
Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951), who had built his own house, "Lauraston," just down the road, purchased Captain Wilson's property in 1922 for the purpose of erecting buildings to house his art collection and educational programs. The sale included the stipulation that a house would be constructed on one side of the property, which Wilson and his wife would be allowed to rent for the remainder of their lives (this house is now called the "Arboretum House"). Captain Wilson served on the Board of Trustees of the Barnes Foundation, and as its first Director of the Arboretum, until his death on April 12, 1928, at age 83. Dr. Barnes's wife, Laura Leggett Barnes (1875-1966), succeeded Wilson as Director of the Arboretum. More on the history of the arboretum at http://www.barnesfoundation.org/arboretumhistory.html
I know that the first time I visited the Barnes in the 1970's as an art history student (of course I had to go anonymously since the Barnes would not knowingly permit those of us who didn't believe in the Barnes method of teaching), we were not allowed to walk on the grass. Last week, there were no guards and walk on the grass I did!
The lilies and hydrangeas were in fine form, and the pond in front of the tea house was (almost) neat, with one of the plants fallen off it's perch, and the tea house itself surrounded by yellow tape. There are many fine trees on the grounds including a grove of Stewartia and a Monkey Puzzle tree, seen below.
The last day of the Merion property being open to the public is documented at http://www.philly.com/philly/video/BC1036657142001.html