by Paula M. Riley
“Gardens, in the broadest sense of the word, are an expression of man’s quest for beauty in his environment and for unity with the natural world around him. They have always been created by man for his comfort, use, spiritual rejuvenation and aesthetic stimulation.”
These words of Frederick W. G. Peck, one of Chestnut Hill’s most prominent landscape architects, illustrate his lifelong passion for gardens. Peck’s passion and amazing skills touched all areas of this community.
Peck designed more than 100 private gardens throughout Chestnut Hill and surrounding communities. His career spanned five decades and the hallmark of this was, perhaps, his design of Fairmont Park’s Azalea Garden. Awarded the Gold Medal of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Bulkey Medal of the Garden Club of America for his design of the 1964 Philadelphia Flower Show, Peck’s practice was based in Chestnut Hill throughout his career.
All corners of the community, including Pastorius Park and public spaces at the Chestnut Hill Hospital, Top of the Hill Plaza and a memorial garden at Springside School, are the result of Peck’s meticulous designs. Sponsored by Burke Brothers Contracting Inc., the Chestnut Hill Historical Society is hosting “Frederick Peck: Fifty Years of Landscape History,” a celebration of the life and work of this local legend. Peck died in 1998.
On Sunday, June 5, Peck fans, Hillers and anyone who enjoys lush, romantic gardens or simple, round, brick patios are invited to “The Chestnut Hill Gardens of Frederick Peck.” The self-guided tour, held from 1-4 p.m., showcases Peck’s work from the 1940s through the late 1970s in Chestnut Hill. Included on the tour of seven properties are the grounds of Louis Kahn’s Esherick House and Peck’s own garden at Boxly, which was created in the 1950s after a severe winter killed the boxwood plantation that gave the property its name.
Check-in is at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, 8708 Germantown Ave., where tour guests will receive their “garden pass,” a detailed tour guide. Representatives of the historical society will be on-site at each location, and light refreshments will be available at the ending site. Garden tour tickets are $15 a person and free to historical society members. Group discounts are also available.
On exhibit at the historical society, and free to all, is “Frederick Peck and the Landscape of Chestnut Hill.” This display features Peck’s original drawings of Pastorius Park as well as his watercolors, prints, photographs and pen-and-ink drawings.
For reservations or more information visit www.chhist.org or contact Audrey Simpson at 215-247-0417, ext. 103. Tickets are also available at the door.