Lazaretto Station will become a living history museum that tells the story of immigration, naturalization, quarantine, and public health from 1799 to 1897. Employing interactive displays, material culture and first person interpretation, Lazaretto Station will trace the tales of the immigrant-passengers, cargo, vessels and their crews, and the resident physicians, stewards, and staff who cared for them. Lazaretto Station will employ multiple viewpoints to present a full, and rich picture, of the Philadelphia Quarantine Station from the early days of sail, until the age of the steamboat.
Additional programs involving 18th and 19th century building and restoration techniques, material cultural craft skills, genealogy, the slave trade, marine culture, boat building and sailing techniques will also be presented. Multiple opportunities for archeology exist, as the site may also yield information about the 1643 Swedish Settlement, the first in Pennsylvania, and Native America life in the area.
The 10- acre site will also be home to a 21st century cultural arts center, museum shop and restaurant, and hold an pivotal position in the 20 -mile Fort Mifflin - Tinicum bike and walking trail. A public access marina is also planned.
Located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Lazaretto Station is situated on the Delaware River, Just outside of Philadelphia, and is near the Philadelphia International Airport. Other key attractions in the area are Historic Fort Mifflin on the Delaware, and the John Heinz Environmental Center.
Owned by Tinicum Township, and managed by The Friends of Lazaretto Station, the site will be opened to the public from Thursday to Sunday during the months of April to November. School groups, and other organized tours will be accommodated on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, of the same months. These were the usual months of operation for the quarantine station. Traditional craft workshops and demonstrations, and arts programming will run April to December. The genealogy resource center will be open year round through Internet access. The public access marina will be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Restoration and marine programs will continue throughout the year. The restaurant, snack bar, public restrooms, and museum shop, and will operate all year. The site will also be available to private parties throughout the year.
The mission of Lazaretto Station is to provide informal and formal education on public health, quarantine, and immigration, historic preservation research, maritime education, sailing and related nautical skills, publications, art, public performance, and videos.
The Marine Hospital, the first quarantine station for the Port and City of Philadelphia was established by a group of interested citizens, including Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and Dr. Benjamin Rush in the mid-18th century at a site near Fort Mifflin. After the devastating Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, it was felt that this site was too close to the City. A new site was selected, and Lazaretto Station was opened in June of 1799. It was designed, in the words of Dr. Brusster, Resident Physician at The Lazaretto in 1883, "to protect the City and Port not only from infectious disease, but from the fear of disease." Operating out of the sight and minds of the average citizen, the significance of this time capsule of public health policy and late 18th century architecture lay relatively unknown until fall of 2000.
The unexcavated site is adjacent to the earliest Swedish settlement in Pennsylvania, and in proximity to early Native American villages. Lazaretto Station was authorized and built by The Philadelphia Department of Health in the late 1790's and opened for use in June of 1799. For almost one hundred years, it protected the City and Port of Philadelphia from contagious disease, and infected cargo. During that time, it was a port of entry into this country for foreign passengers. The site also contained an early infectious disease hospital, serving the general population. A cemetery, currently unmarked, existed from the earliest days. Later uses of the site include a private resort, a seaplane base, and a marina.
Lazaretto Station is comprised of a thirty-room brick structure ordered by the Philadelphia Department of Health in the late 1790's, for use as a quarantine station. Additional structures are a carriage house, outdoor kitchen, and guard house - all erected in the same time period. As original room-by-room inventories exist for 1803, 1893, and many of the years in between, it is anticipated that the main rooms will be furnished with items reported in the 1803 inventory, and the hospital rooms will interpret the state of health care throughout the history of the station.
An interactive computer system will allow visitors to trace ancestors who were among the over 200,000 immigrants received at Lazaretto Station.
The museum will house traditional gallery exhibits, and use interpreters and role-players to demonstrate the operation of the quarantine station, and life in the late 18th century and 19th century. The historic demonstrations will include medicine, apothecary, cooking, marine lore, immigration, traditional crafts, and preservation techniques for buildings. Classes in marine skills will also be offered. Static outdoor displays will demonstrate the uses of the site, and its operations for the casual visitor.
Experiences at Lazaretto Station will be many for visitors. The major facilitated experiences for visitors will be intellectual and emotional in nature. The interpretation for casual visitors will be meant to lead to discovery and learning. The emotional experiences center around fun for visitors. The maritime, quarantine, and immigration aspects will have many built-in romantic qualities, and therefore, will lead to inspirational/spiritual experiences for many visitors. This is a by-product, not a planned experience for people.
Maritime museums are among the most costly endeavors to undertake. The maintenance costs for any historic resource associated with the water will be high. It is therefore imperative that the hosts and the resources benefit from the visitor's experience in addition to the visitors. Through entrance fees, museum shop sales, restaurant and marina revenue, and special events programming, workshop fees, and private rentals, the site will generate needed revenue to sustain the operations. In addition, part of the site is available for rent as offices, art studios, and a set for filmmakers, or for exhibit space for another organization. The site will also depend on volunteers for its ongoing and special event programming to help defray costs. Funds will also be sought from a variety of private and corporate sponsors to support restoration, artifact acquisition, education, archeology and special events.
This site will transform a neighborhood that has been bisected by I-95 and the Philadelphia International Airport, into a historic, cultural, recreational, and educational resource of national importance. It will bring increased tourism to the area, and provide many short-term restoration jobs, and create employment of a long-term nature for those who will staff the site, and supply the goods and services to provide for the special events. In addition, local businesses, including hotels and restaurants, the Delaware River Port Authority, tour boats, and parking facilities in current operation at Penn's Landing, will benefit from the increased visitors to the area.
The many aspects of Lazaretto Station have been learned from careful study of other historic sites, and communities: in particular, Mystic Seaport - Ct., Pottsgrove Manor in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and Historic Fort Mifflin on the Delaware. From special programming, to customizing experiences for visitors based on their interests and the time they have available to them, Lazaretto Station hopes to do many things well. They range from outdoor displays and weatherproof posters describing the history and operation of the site to the casual user of the marina or bike path, to interacting with costumed interpreters who will describe the arrival and quarantine of immigrant ancestors of the destination visitor. There is something magical about looking at the same river that brought long-ago immigrants to these shores, and being on the same soil that one's great-grandparent first stood upon arrival in this new, and strange land. Hearing the words the resident physicians wrote as they inspected the ships, days before they, too, succumbed to the yellow fever epidemic will be a chilling experience. These stories will make Lazaretto Station come alive.
Lazaretto Station, Bartrum Gardens, and Historic Fort Mifflin on the Delaware have forged early and strong alliances. As historic and cultural partners, they will cooperate to provide a fuller experience for the student on a field trip, or a destination visitor to the region. By telling different pieces of a large story, a fuller understanding of the role of the Delaware River and its importance to the settlement of the area, development of the culture, protection of the City of Philadelphia, and commerce on the river, emerges.
Lazaretto Station and the John Heinz Environmental Center are also natural allies, as their proximity allows students to see the role the water plays in supporting the ecosystem, and how people have always needed protection from contaminants.
The Philadelphia College of Physicians and The Mutter Museum will cooperate in telling the story of the development of public health policy in this country.
The Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies, The African American Cultural Museum, The Swedish Historic Museum, The Folklife Center at International House, Philadelphia Folklore Project, The Tinicum Township Historical Society, and Lazaretto Station, will jointly tell a fuller story of early immigration, and celebrate the differences and similarities that have created this county, and region.
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Lazaretto Station will cooperate to present techniques for restoration of historic properties.
The Philadelphia Folksong society will cooperate with the public performance aspect of this project.
The unique proximity to the river, and the beauty and size of the building and site, make it a valuable resource for the Philadelphia Film Office, and as a site for fundraisers for organizations associated with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
In cooperation with the Delaware County Planning Commission, and the Delaware County Historical Society, Lazaretto Station will showcase the treasures of Delaware County.
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