Bartram's Garden is the oldest surviving botanic garden in the United States. John Bartram (1699 1777), the well-known early American botanist, explorer, and plant collector founded the garden in September 1728 when he purchased a 102-acre farm in Kingsessing Township, Philadelphia County. John Bartram's garden began as a personal landscape, but with a lifelong devotion to plants grew to become a systematic collection as he devoted more time to exploration and the discovery of new North American species and examples. Its evolution over time both reflected and fostered Bartram's vital scientific achievements and important intellectual exchange. Although not the first botanic collection in North America, by the middle of the eighteenth century Bartram's Garden contained the most varied collection of North American plants in the world, and placed John Bartram at the center of a lucrative business centered on the transatlantic transfer of plants.Following the American Revolution, Bartram's sons John Bartram, Jr. (1743-1812) and William Bartram (1739-1823), continued the international trade in plants and expanded the family's botanic garden and nursery business. Following his father's lead, William became an important naturalist, artist, and author in his own right, and under his influence the garden became an educational center that aided in training a new generation of natural scientists and explorers. William's Travels, published in 1791, chronicled his own exploration efforts and remains a milestone in American literature. After 1812, Ann Bartram Carr (1779 1858), a daughter of John Bartram, Jr., maintained the family garden and business with her husband Colonel Robert Carr (1778 1866) and his son John Bartram Carr (1804 1839). Their commercial activities remained focused on international trade in native North American plants, although domestic demand also grew under their management.In 1850, financial difficulties led to the historic garden's sale outside the family to Andrew M. Eastwick (1811-1879), who preserved it as a private park for his estate. Upon Eastwick's 1879 death, a campaign to preserve the garden was organized by Thomas Meehan (1826-1901), in Philadelphia, with national assistance from Charles S. Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1891, control of the site was turned over to the City of Philadelphia and it remains protected as a city park. Since that time, the John Bartram Association, formally organized in 1893, has overseen preservation efforts and historical comprehension of the garden, the John Bartram House, and a number of surviving outbuildings.Presently, the garden's plant collection includes only a few extant examples dating from the Bartram family occupancy; however, documentation for what was once in cultivation is rich. More importantly, despite wanting care and interpretation during the first century of public ownership and the disappearance of a number of subsidiary physical elements in the landscape, the garden's rectilinear framework designed and laid out by Bartram during the second quarter of the eighteenth century is still recognizable. Bartram's Garden's physical endurance and resonant associative meanings make the site an unparalleled location for comprehending an array of historical facets related to John Bartram, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century botanic studies, the North American plant and seed business, and period domestic life in Philadelphia.
-- Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS PA-1)