Wyck to Me
By Kate Illes
I have had the pleasure of working at Wyck for this past season, watching its landscape shift from early spring to now, early fall. Days spent pulling centuries-established weeds allow for plenty of time to think, and my thoughts often linger on the beauty and significance of the space around me. Perhaps it is in the nature of my position, split evenly between caring for the historic rose garden and working on the helical free farm, that has influenced my understanding of the project and purpose of Wyck. I have come to understand the space as representing the dichotomies of public and private, past and present.This 2.5 acre green urban sanctuary exhibits the domestic and often intimate histories of its many residents, while having space to also provide for the needs and desires of its contemporary community. It is a beautiful representation of a particular and significant part of Philadelphia history, and an active influence on the cities current residents. Wyck’s story is deeply personal; it’s relics give insight into centuries of practiced domesticity, self-sustainability and dedication to family and community. And the aesthetic and historic significance of the rose garden can’t be lost on any visitor to the property. It’s beauty and its continued vitality further transport the viewer to a time and place distant from the bustling city that’s grown up around its fenced perimeter.
Wyck has proven itself a space able to preserve the stories, personalities and values of its many residents while simultaneously providing additional crucial resources to the community. Shifting from my work in the rose garden to my work on the farm gave new perspective on these very different but equally valuable projects. This small farm, with its ethical and sustainable practices and rubric of accessibility and education, allows the Wyck project to keep a foot Germantown of today. It breaches the perimeter of the space, and initiates curiosity and involvement of the public. The produce grown with Kripa’s great care, and sometimes I think some kind of magic, goes beyond Wyck’s well known fence into the homes of families throughout the community. Similarly, the lessons learned by school groups and campers as they experience living history and the natural world.
At Wyck, I’ve come to witness the successes of complex programming and commitment to experiential learning. A visitor leaves with a new understanding of life centuries ago, and an armful of produce to make life today a little tastier.