The Fairmount Park Horticultural Center is a beautiful spot to visit if you enjoy botanical gardens and arboretums. It’s a great place for a weekend visit and a picnic and worth checking out just to relax and take in the scenery.
The Horticultural Center was built on the grounds of the former Horticulture Hall, which was torn down in 1955. It’s hard not to feel a sense of loss when looking at the photos of Horticulture Hall – it was built for the America’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876, but in the early 20th century Victorian buildings were viewed with distaste and Horticulture Hall was in need of renovations even in 1910 to address rust and leaks. By the 1950s the president of the Fairmount Commission warned that the building was dangerous because of the risk of the heavy glass panes falling and felt it would be better the tear it down rather than repair it. When Hurricane Hazel damaged Horticulture Hall in 1954 it was the perfect excuse to level it.
Nothing remains of Horticulture Hall except the 27-acre Centennial Arboretum on the grounds and some sepia-colored photographs of it that will make you wistful for the days of more extravagant architecture. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the current Horticulture Center, as it was built with much less grandiose budget two decades later – and it’s a wonderful resource that is open to the public free of charge which offers a welcome respite from the city. Currently it consists of the arboretum, an exhibition hall that serves as an event space for weddings, a 31,000 square-foot greenhouse, and the Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens. There’s a gazebo, butterfly gardens, a reflecting pool, and demonstration gardens that showcase different garden styles. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, although my visit was in winter so the flora in the greenhouse were more exciting.
The Fairmount Park Horticulture Center is one of Philadelphia’s hidden gems, a fun discovery when you need to reconnect with nature or find a fun new spot to spend an afternoon. It’s open daily from 8am to 6pm from April 1 – October 31, and 8am to 5pm from November 1 – March 31.
Matthew Christopher PA Philadelphia Oct 24, 2022 Nature Parks Places to Visit