It all started with a farmer's generosity. In 1924, a civic-minded citizen handed over 16 acres of lush farmland and a small group of critters to the Borough of Norristown. Today, the Elmwood Park Zoo and the Norristown Zoological Society welcomes guests in hopes of creating a future stock of wildlife lovers and conservation advocates. A menagerie of around 300 beasts indigenous to the Americas—including jaguars, howler monkeys, timberwolves, and bald and gold eagles—peer back at visitors. Even though they're from Africa, giraffes get in on the fun too during certain seasons, grazing on foliage and the toupees of particularly tall patrons. Guests can also spy on more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered. All the while, smaller animals mosey around at the petting barn, tots climb aboard gentle ponies, and winged beauties sail through the air at the butterfly preserve.
When the car industry was just blossoming, many vehicles were manufactured in Pennsylvania. The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles preserves that legacy, with exhibits stretching back through the 19th and 20th centuries. Established in 1965 by Paul Hafer?a 57-year industry vet?and his wife Erminie, the museum exclusively features vehicles produced in Pennsylvania and none that simply had "Pennsylvania or bust" scribbled on their rear views.
Since its founding in 1893, the Chester County Historical Society has painstakingly cataloged nearly every facet of local life?from government records to fashionable dresses of the day. It's no wonder, then, that its 300-year-old collection of artifacts, photographs, and reference volumes takes up an entire 56,000-square-foot downtown History Center. Inside, visitors can find rotating exhibits on topics such as Civil War history and historic paper and textile crafts. Additionally, the permanent galleries are home to handcrafted grandfather clocks and furniture and fashion from the early 1700s to the 20th century. When museum staff aren't organizing the collections or leading educational workshops, they can help unearth a person's family history in the library and photo archives, which feature more than 80,000 historical and modern prints.
The winner of seven consecutive Best Custom Framing awards from CityVoter users, Masterpieces Fine Art & Custom Framing stocks more than 2,300 frames, including work by industry mainstay Larson-Juhl. Its skilled framers meld function and aesthetic form to secure works of art in everything from American hardwood to 22-karat-gold-leafing frames to metal handcuffs. Aside from framing, the staff also restores faded or creased photos to their original vivid states and brings photos to life by converting them into imitation oil paintings or watercolors that look like they were born from hours of meticulous brushstrokes.
At the turn of the 19th century, it became all too clear to historian and archaeologist Henry Mercer that handmade objects were being cast aside for machine-made things. He wanted to help preserve the pre-industrial way of life, and so he built a museum for his artifacts adjacent to his own home, Fonthill Castle. Today, Fonthill Castle is a National Historic Landmark and a museum in its own right, displaying handcrafted art both made by Mercer and collected by him during his world travels.
High on a hill in Bryn Athyn, a vision of old Europe towers over the surrounding greenery. Built as a private residence between 1928 and 1939, the 20th-century castle was constructed in the medieval style, using symbolism that reflects the faith of the community's earliest inhabitants. The building now serves as a museum that houses religious art and relics dating from Babylonian times up to the present. The museum's permanent and temporary exhibits range from a medieval collection of stained glass that spans the years 1100?1300 to an Egyptian collection that includes an ornate granite libation bowl, which Egyptian priests are said to have used to dump Gatorade on their football coach.