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.
For Victorians like Dr. Physick, throwing a party served two purposes. Not only was it one of the most popular forms of entertainment, but it also gave the host a chance to show off his refinement, wealth and possessions. Tour Dr. Physick’s mansion and enter the world of a fashionable, elegant dinner party of the late 19th century.
Theme for 2015:At Home with Nature
(Beginning April 24) 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
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!
The term “Morris chair” today is applied to a large chair that has an adjustable back. The style of chair is named after its creator, the British designer William Morris (1834-1896). In 1861, Morris started a business entitled Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (later it was changed to Morris & Co.) and amongst other items, began to produce chairs. Morris style chairs became very popular in the Victorian Era.
This chair has a special brass bar attached to the back so it can recline. The brass bar can fit into a series of notches to control the angle in which the person sitting can recline. According to a 1916 probate inventory done at the Emlen Physick Estate, this chair was in the Library. It was donated back to MAC by a member of the Brooks family.