February 23, 2012… Philadelphia. 60° We are stardust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the to the Garden.
Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia from 1838-44. He wrote his finest work here.
He lived a just a couple of blocks from ViaductGreene’s East End, Spring Garden/Green Street location. The area was changing. It was well before the P&R leased (in 1870) Philly’s railroad pioneer (1832) Philadelphia, Germantown & Northern Railroad, but not so long after Matthias Baldwin’s ‘Old Ironsides’ replaced the horses on the trains between 9th & Green Street Depot and Germantown. By 1835, PG&N had extended another ten miles to Norristown and locomotives named Black Hawk, Fort Erie and Samson, among others did the pulling.
It’s something to think of Poe walking west along Spring Garden Street, past the PG&N terminal, past the growing locomotive builders at Broad Street and west. When Poe lived here Spring Garden St. west of Broad to the Fairmount Reservoir was called Morris Street.
It’s something to think of Poe crossing over ViaductGreene’s West End, busy Pennsylvania Ave with the other pioneering railroad, the 1834 Philadelphia & Columbia / Philadelphia & Reading / City Railroad. It’s something to think of Poe watching the P&R trains and their named locomotives- Dragon, Firefly, Comet, Helca, Gem, Rocket, Romulus, Hichens & Harrison, Winans, Ontario, Planet, Spitfire, Philadelphia (that was the 1844 post boiler explosion rebuild of the Richmond). He may have seen Shamokin, a 1842 product of nearby Eastwick & Harrison. Or Gowan & Marx (Gowan as in the British banking house, not our later Franklin Gowen) Amazing enough- you can see Shamokin & Rocket at the Franklin Institute today! Poe missed seeing 1848′s Novelty, the first locomotive with an iron cab.
It’s something to think of Poe lingering along the resort-like atmosphere of the Fairmount Water Works. ”The Water Works’ South Garden was considered one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful places and formed the basis for what would be become the Fairmount Park system. The original Cliffside Paths, carved into the stone face of “Faire Mount,” ascended from the Water Works to an elevated reservoir, offering visitors breathtaking views of the Schuylkill River and the surrounding area.”
Maybe Poe was with Charles Dickens when he visited in 1840, then wrote: “Philadelphia is most bountifully provided with fresh water, which is showered and jerked about, and turned on, and poured off, everywhere. The Waterworks, which are on a height near the city, are no less ornamental than useful, being tastefully laid out as a public garden and kept in the best and neatest order. The river is dammed at this point and forced by its own power into certain high tanks or reservoirs whence the whole city, to the top stories of the houses, is supplied at a very trifling expense.”
“Eighteen-year-old Mark Twain visited Philadelphia’s Fairmount Waterworks in 1853. He wrote his brother Orion about its lovely park, its marble cupids and fountains, and the reservoir on the hill. By then this remarkable engineering feat was forty years old. It was the first large-scale big-city water-supply system.”
A shame Poe was a little too late for John Haviland’s Pagoda & Labyrinth Gardens, and little too early Engle & Wolf’s Brewery Gardens and Vaults, or seeing the Bergner and Engel reefer fleet being iced and loaded. It’s something to ponder this place in time. It’s something to to be getting ourselves back to the Garden.
It’s something to think of Poe having his look at the Machine in the Garden, contemplating and conjuring accordingly.
First published in 1847, in the Columbian Magazine, under the title The Landscape Garden, and republished later in revised form under the new title.
“There are, properly,” he writes, “but two styles of landscape-gardening, the natural and the artificial. One seeks to recall the original beauty of the country, by adapting its means to the surrounding scenery; cultivating trees in harmony with the hills or plain of the neighboring land; detecting and bringing into practice those nice relations of size, proportion and color which, hid from the common observer, are revealed everywhere to the experienced student of nature. The result of the natural style of gardening, is seen rather in the absence of all defects and incongruities–in the prevalence of a beautiful harmony and order, than in the creation of any special wonders or miracles. The artificial style has as many varieties as there are different tastes to gratify. It has a certain general relation to the various styles of building. There are the stately avenues and retirements of Versailles; Italian terraces; and a various mixed old English style, which bears some relation to the domestic Gothic or English Elizabethan architecture. Whatever may be said against the abuses of the artificial landscape-gardening, a mixture of pure art in a garden scene, adds to it a great beauty. This is partly pleasing to the eye, by the show of order and design, and partly moral. A terrace, with an old moss-covered balustrade, calls up at once to the eye, the fair forms that have passed there in other days. The slightest exhibition of art is an evidence of care and human interest.”
The link to The Chimera of the Perfectionists is pretty fabulous. ”From his cradle to his grave a gale of prosperity bore my friend Ellison along. Nor do I use the word prosperity in its mere worldly sense. I mean it as synonymous with happiness. The person of whom I speak seemed born for the purpose … of exemplifying by individual instance what has been deemed the chimera of the perfectionists.” — Edgar Allan Poe, “The Domain of Arnheim”
VISIT Poe’s Philadelphia home; just a couple blocks from VIADUCTgreene.