Philadelphia Insectarium evicted: ‘Every window and every mirror was shattered’

The museum's managers had not paid the mortgage for years, leading to a debt of close to $1 million.

Shattered glass is everywhere on the floor of a large room.

Every display case and aquarium at the Philadelphia Insectarium was smashed by vandals. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A Philadelphia science museum has permanently closed its doors, and now the building it occupied is in shambles.

The Philadelphia Insectarium was evicted from its location at 8046 Frankford Ave. in the northeast this week. For more than 30 years, it had attracted visitors with its collection of butterflies, insects, and spiders.

But its managers had not paid the mortgage for years, which led to a debt of close to a million dollars. A court ruled against the museum, and the Philadelphia sheriff evicted them on May 30.

The museum was open for one last day on May 27, the previous Saturday. That evening, current and former staff had a party.

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The next Tuesday, the sheriff arrived with Gary Lightman, a lawyer representing the Rubin estate, to which the insectarium owed mortgage payments. Lightman said the inside had been destroyed when they got there.

Gary Lightman poses for a photo.
Attorney Gary Lightman represents the mortgage-holder who foreclosed on the Philadelphia Insectarium. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“They broke every urinal in the … place. They busted every toilet in the place. It smelled of feces and urine. Every window and every mirror was shattered, there was trash everywhere,” he said. “They decided to basically say, ‘screw you’ when they moved out.”

He said it was outrageous for the previous managers to leave the property like this, and that he would be filing a complaint against Robert Cambridge, the lawyer representing the insectarium.

Graffiti written on the ground outside a building reads "R.I.P. Insectarium."
Grafitti was spraypainted in an outer courtyard of the Philadelphia Insectarium. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The most recent CEO of the insectarium, John Cambridge (Robert Cambridge’s son), forced out the original owner a few years ago, and stopped making payments on the mortgage to the Rubin estate from 1989. WHYY News could not reach John Cambridge for comment on this story despite repeated calls and emails.

The lawyer Gary Lightman says his client will clean up the property and charge John Cambridge for the cost. Then the sheriff will sell it.

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The Cambridges continue to insist they do not owe the Rubin estate any mortgage payments, and they have filed an appeal in court. Lightman said that appeal will not stop the sheriff from selling the place.

The Insectarium’s animals have been taken in by Wild Things Preserve, a private conservation organization that is not open to the public.

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