County botanist Marshall’s legacy remembered in West Chester

dln logoCounty botanist Marshall’s legacy remembered in West Chester

By JEREMY GERRARD
jgerrard@dailylocal.com
Posted: 06/25/12 07:41 am
Updated: 06/25/12 01:46 pm

Staff photos by Jeremy Gerrard. In the Marshall Square Park Gazebo, former Mayor Dick Yoder greets West Chester residents gathered to celebrate the sixth annual Humphry Marshall Day.

WEST CHESTER — To remember the legacy of famed botanist Humphry Marshall, borough residents gathered Sunday at the gazebo in his namesake park.

“Humphry was one of the earliest and most distinguished horticulturalists and botanists of our country, having established the second botanic garden in this country and I am delighted that we are here to honor him today,” said West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who read a proclamation from the borough on the sixth annual event.

Opened in 1848, Marshall Square Park is the borough’s oldest. The 5½-acre park at the borough’s highest elevated point is bordered by North Matlack and North Franklin streets on the east and west and East Marshall and East Biddle streets on the north and south.

A cousin of botanist John Bartram, Marshall was a Quaker born in Marshallton in 1722. He had a limited education, though he took an interest in botany, astronomy and natural history. He built the first conservatory in Chester County and created the second botanical garden in the United States at Marshallton.

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Marshall was also a treasurer for Chester County and a founder of the Westtown Friends Boarding School.

Guest speaker Joel Fry, curator of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, spoke about Marshall and Bartram from a genealogical perspective, highlighting the relationships the men shared with each other and their communities.

“In many ways, even historically, they are interconnected. If it weren’t for Humphry Marshall, John Bartram might have been almost forgotten; and if it weren’t for John Bartram, Humphry Marshall might have been forgotten,” Fry said.

At the ceremony, former West Chester Mayor Dick Yoder recalled the park’s recent history and thanked the people who dedicated their time to restore the park and place its historical placard.

“The key to the future is people who care about the past, learn from it, preserve the most special things we have from the past, and take us forward to a beautiful, meaningful and healthy future. And that is what this group is about,” Comitta said.

In recent years, the group Friends of Marshall Square Park has enhanced the park. Among its projects, the group has overseen the restoration of a Swiss cottage and gazebo. And last month, after a long-lost, three-tiered fountain was found and returned to the park, the group began developing plans for its re-installation.

“There’s a lot of energy in this group and a lot of talented people who are willing to spend their time and efforts to make this park the best it can be and to restore it to its original splendor,” said Ann Walters, vice president of the friends group.

As the park developed through the late 19th century, the park was recognized for containing 160 different species of trees and shrubs.

Last November, the park’s trees were labeled. The park has more than 130 trees, including about 90 different species.

This project was completed with the help of West Chester University student Eunice Alexander, who took on the task of identifying and locating the trees in the park as part of her graduate work.

“I think Humphry Marshall would be proud to know we took the time to label all the trees that would have been here in his time and that now young people, people of all ages can appreciate the fact that Humphry Marshall had his hand in this park and now we’ve made it open and available to the public at large,” Walters said.

Follow Daily Local News staff writer Jeremy Gerrard on Twitter @JeremyGerrard.

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