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!
A common practice in the Victorian era was to put display objects under a glass dome which was usually found in the parlor. For that reason, these objects were also known as “parlor shades.” Parlor shades were both nature and art. The contents of the parlor shades could be made from wool, paper, wax, feathers, shells, human hair, and even animals. They were a way for Victorians to have nature neatly contained under glass.
This parlor shade features a bird with grasses and flowers. You will not find this bird in nature because it is made up of two different types of birds. This bird has the head of a Black-and-White Warbler and the body of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. The Victorians frequently indulged in what was termed “rogue taxidermy.”
This object will be featured in our 2015 tour theme entitled “At Home with Nature” which begins April 24. To learn more about this and other objects, please join a tour of the Emlen Physick Estate.