Art & Design

Enter the Skeleton Garden, 5th And Chestnut

October 11, 2011 | by Nathaniel Popkin

photo: Lauren Drapala

In what is clearly a nod to Charles Willson and Rembrandt Peale’s 1801 mastodon skeleton, once displayed across the street in the Peale Museum, architect Jenny Sabin and the APS Museum have given us “Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils,” a 52 foot glassless greenhouse for 110 translucent colored mini-greenhouses, urban farming of the future.

The Peale mastodon, dug up in Newburgh, NY, was reassembled in the museum, and offered as a symbol of the greatness of Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic Pary. One night, a dinner was served for 13 guests inside the skeleton, a gesture the Federalist Port Folio mocked:

photo: Lauren Drapala

In the far famed Museum of Mr. Peale,
Behemoth, biggest born of earth
Upheaves his vastness
And thirteen democratic Virtuosi have decided that
even the dry bones of the Mammoth afford very
little picking.

C.W. Peale, incidentally, was the prototype urban farmer, working at Belfield, in Germantown, where he built his greenhouses himself.


About the Author

Nathaniel Popkin Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."

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