Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

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Philadelphia, PA
United States
Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Occupying an enclosed courtyard of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia building in the heart of Center City, this formal garden was created to educate about medicinal plants. The building, designed by Cope & Stewardson, was completed in 1914 . That same year,  dedicated to former vice president of the college Wharton Sinkler, a garden was planted, with a sundial on a brick and limestone pedestal at its center. In 1937, to celebrate the college’s 150th anniversary, part of that garden was transformed into a medicinal herb garden, designed and planted by the College of Physicians Women’s Committee. The garden was originally envisioned in the eighteenth century by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the College, as a place where students could learn about medicinal plants. Set into a patio paved with brick laid in a herringbone pattern, four symmetrical, slightly raised beds were organized around the sundial. The beds were densely planted with medicinal herbs, including thyme, sage, chamomile, agrimony, wooly betony, and santolina silver—each labeled with its scientific and common names and uses.

In 1953, the garden was enlarged to more fully fill the courtyard, which was enclosed by a wrought-iron fence with brick and limestone piers. To its east, a magnolia shaded a less formal garden that included Girl with Basin, a bronze sculpture by Philadelphia artist Edward Fenno Hoffman III, installed in 1964. In 2008, the building and gardens were listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2010, a stone and brick patio was installed and, in 2014, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society refreshed the garden’s plantings.