Wyck House attempts to create new model for historic-site public programming

Walking through the gate outside Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm on the corner of Germantown Avenue and Walnut Lane is like stepping back in the neighborhood three centuries ago, when it was still a farming community.

On Saturday, when the Wyck Association hosted its first of four Second Saturday Festivals, it was like walking into a rainy day of old, too.

Rain or shine, the festivals represent an effort to provide a new model for historic-site public programming; it’s about providing an additional attraction to encourage visitors to congregate and experience diversity and a sense of community.

“The real concept behind the Second Saturday Festivals was to utilize all the various parts of Wyck at the same time and have it be open to the public,” said Kristin Hagar, the site’s development and communications coordinator.

The site’s history

The Wistar-Haines Family built Wyck in the 1690s, but after renovations by architect William Strickland in 1824, the house has remained unchanged.

The home now boasts an heirloom collection of more than 10,000 artifacts and 100,000 personal papers, which are open to the public.

The rose garden, the oldest in the country, has more than 65 different varieties of roses. The site maintains a working farm, which grows produce to sell at the on-site Farmers Market. The farm also offers an outdoor, interactive classroom for those interested.

“We’re trying to develop new ways to manage a historic site to make it more sustainable in the future,” Hagar said. “The way to do this is to demonstrate Wyck’s value to the immediate community.”

Treasured tomatoes

Each of the four festivals will offer a unique theme and offer free tours of the collections, educational workshops, live music, demonstrations and a variety of food vendors from various Northwest Philadelphia restaurants.

The one hosted this past Saturday was “Trinkets, Tales and Tomatoes: Things We Treasure.”

Jimmie Reed, owner of Little Jimmie’s Bakery Café on Germantown Avenue, was pleased with what he saw.

“I will definitely participate in the September Second Saturday Festival,” he said at the event. “I am very passionate about Germantown. It’s a great part of the city and has a lot of history. Events like this are really helping it to be revitalized.”

Participants were not too worried about light attendance at the inaugural event.

“I think it’s hard to judge the success of this first festival,” said Valerie Erwin, a Wyck board member who owns GeeChee Girl Rice Café. “We didn’t have the turnout expected because of the rain. When it’s sunny, I think this festival is going to be great.”

The Wyck Association’s three upcoming Second Saturdays include “Homegrown: Food Roots, Culture and Community” on Aug. 11, “Beyond the Buzz: Why Bees Matter” on Sept. 8 and “Expedition! Nature’s Curiosities” on Oct. 13.

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