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Dream Drives: A Hidden Hideaway At Bartram’s Garden

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Bartram’s Garden could fool you into thinking you’re in the country, but you’re close enough to Center City to almost touch the Philly skyline.

Aseel Rasheed, welcome center manager at Bartram’s Garden, said, “It’s a historic botanic garden that started here in 1728 by John Bartram.”

The Bartram family lived on the land for 150 years, back when it was just farmland. Bartram was fascinated by botany and collected plants from across the country, some of which wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for him.

Tom Reber, director of landscapes and facilities, showed us a flowering bush called Franklinia alatamaha. “It’s in the Camellia family, so it’s actually related to tea,” Tom said.

When Bartram collected it, he named it after his friend, Benjamin Franklin. “Without the Bartrams going on these plant explorations, finding merit in this tree, we wouldn’t have that today,” Tom said.

Bartram’s Garden is a National Historic Landmark run by the Philadelphia park system, a place to play that also preserves pieces of the past, like Philadelphia’s oldest standing barn, built in 1775.

John Bartram built the main house himself. “All of the stone that’s used to build this house is local stone,” Aseel said. “It’s called Wissahickon Schist, and you can see it has this beautiful sparkle inside of it called mica.”

“I noticed that right away,” Meisha said. “Anything with glitter, your eye goes to!”

At the park’s edge, right on the western bank of the Schuylkill River, you’ll find “an original piece of bedrock that John Bartram actually carved a cider press out of,” Tom said. “You’ve got this donut shape with the hole in the center where there actually would have been a big wooden wheel.”

A new section is dedicated one of John’s descendants. “This garden was here in the late 1800s,” Aseel said. “It was started by John’s granddaughter Anne Bartram Carr, who ran a nursery here. And if you had come to visit us a year and a half ago, this was absolutely not here at all. This has been brought back to life.”

In a few years, Bartram’s Mile Trail will be connected to the Schuylkill River Trail, linking Philly’s past and present.

Bartram’s Garden is an oasis tucked within the busy city that grew up around it.

“You wouldn’t really know,” Meisha said. “It’s almost one of those things you could drive right by.”

“When you’re standing in this garden, you’re standing in the middle of the city of Philadelphia,” Aseel said.

Bartram’s Garden is at 5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19143. It is open year-round except on city holidays. The Welcome Center has snacks, drinks, and tickets for guided tours, which are held Thursday through Sunday.

You can find you more at https://bartramsgarden.org/

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