A visit to the Physick Estate today offers a look back at our Victorian past as evidenced by its architecture, decorative arts, customs, and the lives of one particular Cape May family, the Physicks. Emlen Physick Jr., his widowed mother, Frances Ralston, and his maiden aunt Emilie Parmentier moved into their home when it was completed in 1879.
Emlen, who never married, was descended from a famous and wealthy Philadelphia family. His grandfather, Dr. Philip Syng Physick, was considered the father of American surgery and invented numerous surgical procedures and medical instruments that are still in use today.
While he did graduate from medical school, Emlen never practiced medicine. In Cape May, he led the life of a gentleman farmer, owning two tenant farms and keeping livestock on his estate on Washington Street. He bought and sold a great deal of real estate in Cape May, and took an active interest in local doings by voicing his opinions at city council meetings.
The Physicks' distinctive home illustrates their changing tastes as well as the particulars of the Victorian lifestyle in Cape May.
The first floor of the Physick House Museum is fully accessible.
The Victorians’ love of nature included a strong desire to dominate it. See how they demonstrated this fascinating paradox in the ways they sought to study, master, and display the wonders of nature in their own homes.
Join the Friends of the Physick Estate
For years, the Emlen Physick Estate has been a “must see” destination for visitors to Cape May, as well as an outstanding educational experience for local schoolchildren. Help us to enhance this jewel of Victoriana and expand its outreach by joining the Friends of the Physick Estate, an affinity group of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC).
CLICK HERE to join the Friends of the Physick Estate
CLICK HERE for information on events sponsored by the Friends of the Physick Estate
Check out Dr. Physick's family tree!
The Physick House in Philadelphia was the 19th century home of our Dr. Physick's grandfather, Dr. Philip Syng Physick, who became known as the Father of American Surgery, and also created the first carbonated soft drink in America!
Majolica wares have a porous earthenware body painted with colored glazes and finished with a thick layer of shiny clear glaze. The term “Majolica” refers to the island of Majorca in Spain, where colorful, yet unrelated, ceramic wares were produced in the 14th and 15th centuries.
This Majolica bowl belonged to the Physick family. According to oral histories, this piece was a housewarming gift when they moved into the house in 1879. It was originally in the formal parlor, where it is on display today.
Notice the nature theme on the bowl. The Physick’s large Majolica bowl is unusual for the wealth of three-dimensional figures on it. The bowl renders marsh life both above and below the waterline. The birds and flowers are obvious at first glance; however there are also the roots of the marsh grass and lily pads and sea shells, all below the waterline.
To learn more about this and other objects, please join a tour of the Emlen Physick Estate.
This year's theme for Physick House tours, "At Home With Nature," explores the ways in which the Physick Family brought nature into their home in Cape May.