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Five Cool Art and Architecture Sites in the Philadelphia Area

Long before I began making mosaics I was drawn to visual wonders, places where art was made, and historic buildings.  Moving to the Philadelphia Suburbs, I found some places that delighted me with their creativity.  I would absorb the beauty through my pores, breathing it in.  Here are 5 to put on your list.


Esherick's Silo
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Wharton Esherick’s Silo in Paoli, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

1)Wharton Esherick House and Museum

Outside Paoli, just west of Valley Forge Park, in the woods, Wharton Esherick’s house sits like a secret waiting to be discovered.  The carved wood spiral staircase, the custom made furniture, the peek inside a sculptor’s mind–it’s all good.  Guided tours of the Wharton Esherick Studio are available by reservation only.

fonthill by paladinsf
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fonthill by paladinsf

2) Fonthill

James Mercer, founder of the Moravian Tileworks in Doylestown PA, built himself a mansion entirely out of concrete.  It rises up from the grounds like a fairytale crossed with science fiction.  The inside is covered in samples of Moravian Tiles, and Mercer’s collection of tiles and artifacts.  There are concrete reading tables at strategic windows so he could follow the sun as it rose and set.

fire place
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Fire Place by Vilseskogan

3)Moravian Tileworks

This is where Mercer’s tiles were made Doylestown, and it is open for tours, a tile festival in May(which is a tile lover’s dream), a gift shop full of tile goodness, and classes if you are interested in making ceramic tiles.

bryn athyn door hardware
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bryn athyn door hardware by shadysidelantern

4)Glencairn Museum
and Bryn Athyn Cathedral

All I knew about Swedenborgians was that Helen Keller was one, but then I moved within driving distance of Bryn Athyn, and discovered the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and the adjacent Pitcairn museum of religious art.  The Cathedral was constructed in a mini reconstruction of the craft guild past with workshops for stone, wood, metal, and stained glass that were built on site by experienced craftsmen.

Stained Glass Light at the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue
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Stained Glass “Basket of Light” at the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

5)Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park, PA

The only Synagogue built by Frank Lloyd Wright!  Just knowing Beth Sholom is nearby makes me happy.

I’d love to hear about more art places in the Philadelphia area!


Related Posts from my Column at Handmade in PA:

A Gathering Together: Collecting Pennsylvania Craft and the Legacy of Henry Chapman Mercer.

Wharton Esherick and the Pennsylvania Legacy of Wordworking.

Over at Stratoz:

The Ambler Theater



  1. Janie Coffey says:

    I love stained glass, esp. that of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The most amazing piece I have seen was in a church in DC which actually changed before your eyes as the sun went down. The way he had put the glass in, when the sun hit it just right at dusk, an entire different image of Jesus appeared. Absolutely stunning! What an amazing vocation you have with your mosaics!

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