Fairmount Park named Pa. treasure

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park has been named Commonwealth Treasure for 2001. Ceremonies marking the 2001 designation will take place Oct. 9-10 at Fairmount Park.

“Fairmount Park is unique,” Pa. Historical and Museum Commission executive director Brent Glass said. “Its wealth of man-made and natural sites – some of surpassing beauty – create a rich legacy of architecture, history, culture and ecology.”

Park’s history. Founded in 1855, with roots going back to 1812, Fairmount Park represents one of the earliest endeavors in the American park movement.

Beginning with a reservoir at the site of the present Philadelphia Museum of Art, the area soon became available for public leisure and recreation.

Over the years, the park incorporated English garden theory, transcendental thoughts on nature and conservation, and design innovations by American landscape pioneers Downing, Olmstead and Vaux.

The creation of the park coincidentally preserved a unique example of early suburban development by incorporating a number of Georgian and Federal-style mansions built by wealthy Philadelphians in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Other features. Among other important features of the park are the buildings of the Fairmount Water Works, Boathouse Row, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Japanese House and Garden, Memorial Hall of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and the Zoological Gardens, chartered in 1859 as the first zoo in America.

Fairmount Park is also home to more than 250 pieces of outdoor sculpture, making it one of the largest sculpture gardens in the world.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission established the Commonwealth Treasure designation to recognize an outstanding example of Pennsylvania’s history.

Award criteria. A Commonwealth Treasure may be an historic site, structure, artifact or record located within Pennsylvania having statewide or national significance associated with the state’s political, social or cultural heritage.

For information on the program, visit the Pa. Power Port at www.state.pa.us or directly at www.phmc.state.pa.us or phone 717-787-3820.

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