Dr. Henry G. Fischer’s home: corner of Bloomingdale and Lenoir Avenues, Thomas Eakins, Phila. Academy of Fine Arts, Wayne Art Center


The extensive rose gardens shown in the top picture grew from a small planting of bushes already on the old Eldredge property, on the north-west corner of Bloomingdale and Lenoir avenues, when the Fischers purchased it from the Charles T. Mathers more than 30 years ago. The gardens grew, bit-by-bit, under the thoughtful planning of the late Dr. Fischer, of whom his wife says, “He always beautified everything he touched.”

From the small beginning which was their heritage from former owners, the Fischers developed two long rows of bushes which extend almost the complete length of their deep lot on the north side of the house. Just visible in this first picture is the wall which is shown in more detail in the second picture published today.

Made of stone and framed with old brick, grown mossy with the passing of years, the wall has in its upper center a satyr’s hand, carved by Dr. Fischer from a design of his own. Gifted in art in its various forms, he studied painting under Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. His skill in sculpturing was self-taught, however, and his work in various art media became “a wonderful hobby for him when the garden was asleep in winter,” Mrs. Fischer tells us.

As Mrs. Fischer and the writer stood in the midst of the lovely roses late in May, our voices did not in the least disturb the birds who came to the fountains and bird baths. Here can be seen woodpeckers, cardinals, thrushes, robins and many others, in addition to the ever-present sparrows and starlings. In winter small chickadees join the ranks of feathered visitors.

27_image02Although the adjoining picture suggests the luxurious mass of bloom as it appears in late May and early June, it can only leave to the imagination the glorious coloring. There is the red of “Crimson Glory” and “Etoile de Hollande,” the pure yellow of “Golden Dawn” and “Eclipse,” the pinks of “The Doctor” (named for Dr. Horace McFarland) and of “Pink Dawn,” and the varying tints of “Condessa de Sastago,” “Angelo Mateo” and “Madame Henri Guillot,” to name but a few of the varieties with their infinite shadings.

Leaving the rose garden on this afternoon in May, Mrs. Fischer took your columnist to other parts of the grounds. Behind the stone wall is a picnic spot with small wooded paths, fireplaces, rustic tables and benches, all in cool shade for, while Dr. Fischer has removed some trees, there are still many left, and there are always birds in the large pool, in what Mrs. Fischer calls the “spring garden.”

Here the “Duchess of Wellington” rose bush, a rare species of yellow bloom, may well be called her particular pride; there are also yellow pansies and blue forget-me-nots, although white flowers predominate. On this particular May afternoon, a gentle wind made a lovely blending of color against the glossy green of rhododendron and laurel.

Dr. Fischer was much concerned in the growth and development of both the Wayne Art Center and the Garden Club; in the annual exhibition of the latter his flowers were always prominently shown. In looking back over the story of the Art Center as written several years ago in these columns, it is interesting to read that “in June 1933, came the first garden party of the many that were to be sponsored by the Wayne Art Center. It was held in the garden of Dr. Fischer and of Mrs. Fischer… the party featured an outdoor exhibition of the work of students in addition to its many novel features of entertainment… these affairs came to be big summer events for children as well as adults… they were always held on a Saturday afternoon in June.” And, while more than 20 years have elapsed since that first party, there are many who still remember that it was held in the Fischers’ gardens.

Photo of 1880’s George Corrie homestead corner of Bloomingdale and Lenoir Avenues, later in 1920 Dr. Henry G. Fischer home, photo of house in 1955

25_image01Each summer for the past 30 years or more, the rose gardens of Dr. and Mrs. Henry G. Fischer have been among Wayne’s summertime beauty spots. Started in 1920, when the Fischers bought the house on Bloomingdale and Lenoir avenues from the Mather family, their roses were one of Dr. Fischer’s hobbies. Since his death two years ago, Mrs. Fischer has maintained the gardens as a living memorial to her husband, who loved beauty and color in all things.

Mrs. Fischer’s neighbors and friends in the community know that they are always welcome to visit the gardens. This year the roses blossomed earlier than usual, so it was on the last Saturday in May that the writer received an urgent call from Mrs. Fischer to stop by while the roses were at the height of their bloom.

Because there were few other guests on this busy Saturday afternoon, the two of us had an hour or so of leisurely walking around the grounds, surrounding the house, carefully landscaped by Dr. Fischer more than 30 years ago. After that there was still time left for an inspection of the downstairs of the 75-year-old home, so large that it is only this first floor that the Fischers retained for themselves after they remodelled the structure ten years ago.

At the request of the writer for any interesting pictures or documents, Mrs. Fischer had on hand a deed executed in 1881 “between George W. Childs of the City of Philadelphia, Publisher, and Emma Bouvier, his wife, of the first part, and Harry E. Corrie, of the Township of Radnor in the County of Delaware, in the state of Pennsylvania, Book-keeper of the second part.” The pictures included three fairly recent ones, among them one of the Fischer house after a snow storm, as shown in today’s column. The other two are of the garden and of the brick wall with its fountain, which will be shown in a later column.

25_image02As the writer walked from Bloomingdale avenue that Saturday afternoon, she remembered that Mr. and Mrs. George Corrie had been the grandparents of Mrs. Malcolm G. Sausser and her two sisters, Mrs. Frederick H. Jiggens and Mrs. William Scott, all of whom still live in Wayne. They are the daughters of the late Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hughs, who lived in the old Cleaver house, located on the site of the present Caley Nursing Manor. So it was to Mrs. Sausser, who has been of help to this column in the past, that we turned for a picture of the Fischer house as it originally looked.

Although the old picture at the top of the column is faded with time, it shows the front of the house as it was before additions had been made at the back, and to the south and north. The harmony of the architecture was maintained, after the additions, by retaining the mansard roof line, popular when the house was built.

Mrs. Sausser has identified the people sitting in front of the Corrie house as her grandfather and grandmother (both seated) with a cousin, Mrs. Kate Oakford Brooks, standing. The small girl seated on the ground is another cousin.

(To Be Continued)

1913 Labor Day: parade; Society Circus; 2nd City Troop members Penman, Robert and Thomas Wood, sons of late John P. Wood

24_image01Several weeks ago this columnist commented on the time and patience required to bring stories and pictures together in connection with the series on the big Labor Day Festival, held on the School Field in Wayne, in 1912.

This week’s column is the result of five years of research, however it has required five years to locate the picture shown above, which relates to a story written in “Your Town and My Town” in September 1950. This story described Labor Day, 1913, in Wayne, when several thousand people gathered on Radnor School field to witness a “Society Circus,” the like of which was never seen before, nor has ever been seen since – not in Wayne, at any rate. And because five years is a long time, the highlights of that story will be repeated in today’s column.

Today’s picture, discovered in an album of old pictures belonging to “Ted” Brooks, was as familiar to the writer as if she had seen it before – surely it must be a picture of that “parade” that swung around Radnor High School grounds, making itself heard above the merry-go-round, the animals and the crowd on Labor Day, 1913. And sure enough, when the picture was loosened from the paper, there was the notation on the back, “Dress Parade, Labor Day, 1913.” For even further proof, it was possible to identify one of the central figures, for the story of five years ago had described A.J.D. Peterson as “the bearded lady, very lady-like indeed, in a high waisted silk dress and kid gloves, reaching above the elbow.” Surely, this lady in the picture is “She,” taking great strides at the side of a handsome escort in the parade!

Some of the highlights of the event were the three Wood brothers, Penman, Robert and Thomas, members of the Second City Troop, sons of the late John P. Wood. The three did “horseback stunts on two beautiful horses.” And then there was Theodore J. Grayson, in “a polka dot clown suit” and B.L. Van Schaick, chairman of the circus committee, who performed in a most elegant riding costume. Wallace C. Dickson was a snake charmer with a large snake around “her” waist. Frances Leonard, queen of the gypsy caravan, had three fortune telling companions, Mona Whitlock, Margaret Riley and Mrs. B.L. Van Schaick.

Another entertainer was Dr. Norman Sinclair, “for two years the rage in Paris and Strafford,” who performed in a comedy riding act. Tom Walton was master of wild beasts, while Ralph Weadle was the wild man who escaped from a side show at an inopportune moment, much to the consternation of the audience!

Osgood Sayen was “Moke,” the monkey who stepped on the tail of the lion, George Luigi. William Lynch, the tiger, joined in their merry fracas.

In the side shows, Professor George C. Allen, “P.D.Q.R.S.V.P.,” exhibited his human curiosities. Among them were Crutze, the strong man, known around Wayne as Thomas Hearne, and Lady Winnie, the snake charmer, well-known locally as Wallace Dickson.

The old newspapers from which this story was originally taken were lent the writer by T. Griffith Roberts, who had treasured copies of the now defunct Philadelphia Press and Public Ledger.

Perhaps among other residents of this bygone era there may be some who have pictures of this famous “Society Circus” which they may be willing to lend for use in this column.