Doylestown PA and the Mercer Museum

A couple of months ago I visited the George Nakashima studio in New Hope PA and blogged about it http://wp.me/p1OiAd-1r .  While in the area I also visited Doylestown and the incredible Mercer Museum.  Harry Mercer, a gentleman anthropologist, had the foresight to collect pre-industrial tools and other human-made cultural objects with the anticipation that industry would bring sweeping change and render these charming artifacts obsolete.  Completed in 1916, Mercer designed the building himself in poured-in-place concrete, with the hope of it being completely fireproof. Mercer Museum, Doylestown PA The museum is sited in the center of town, at the top of a charming dell. Mercer completed two other buildings in the area; Fonthill, his home and the Moravian Tile Works.  Sadly I did not have time to seek these buildings as well. The interior is almost cathedral-like.  Lacking heat, winter visits carry a certain charm which is appropriate to the exhibits on show.  This collection of photos – taken in the dying light of a late November afternoon – do not capture the true magic of this space.  The center hall is covered top-to-bottom with large objects including small boats, carriages, sleds, plows… Center Hall of the Mercer Museum As one walks up the small stairs on each end and crosses the central hall, your eyes are split from these main, larger exhibits on hanging in the middle, and the small galleries on the outside walls.

The vitrines are carefully composed, each with a theme such as woodworking shop, or domestic kitchen.

The vitrine display wall alternates between a glass divider and a curious, prison-like set of bars.Tool Display in Mercer Museum

Woodworking tools above, hats and other woven products below:

Handmade Amish hats from the Mercer Museum

American locksmith’s display.  Also shown was the tooling (molds, presses, dies) which the locksmith used to make the products.

Locksmith at Mercer Museum

One room was laid out as an old country store, including counters, shelves and all the product tins in a realistic manner.  Looking at the “Tiger” chewing tobacco can, I wonder if that was really made by hand?

American Country Store at the Mercer Museum

Below – detail of a horse-drawn carriage:

Carriage Detail.

The main, cathedral-like ceiling is covered with chairs and other pieces of mobile furniture.  There are thousands and thousands of objects on display and not all are close enough for inspection.

Main Ceiling of the Mercer Museum

The upper stories become intertwined, vertically and horizontally.  Odd galleries and structural anomalies abound, with odd staircases and small nooks waiting for you to explore.

Attic Stairs at the Mercer Museum

Stove and boiler decorative bodies in the attic galleries.

Upper Galleries in the Mercer Museum

Here are some examples of the tile work done at the nearby Moravian Tile Works, designed into the upper fireplaces and chimneys.

Boiler and Stove Bodies at the Mercer Museum

When you get to the top of the tower (on the side I ascended), you have the option of walking over the main hall’s ceiling and crossing over to the other side.  There is no wasted exhibit space at the Mercer!

The attic of the Mercer Museum

There is an incredible collection of old iron stoves in the main attic.  This gothic cathedral was my favorite:

Old Iron Stove at the Mercer Museum

After turning the corner at a real hangman’s derrick, I descended the other stairs to go back out and meet a long-lost friend for a coffee.  One last view of the main interior:

Another view of the main hall at the Mercer Museum

Doylestown itself is very charming.  This is the well-known, restored County Theater marquee.

County Theater in Doylestown, PA

A charming carriage house:

Doylestown, PA

And a final look back at the Mercer as the sun went down.

Mercer Museum Exterior

At the end of this trip I went through Trenton, NJ, specifically for a pizza pilgrimage to the old Italian neighborhood, Chambersburg.  I promise a future post showing my adventures up the “pizza belt” between Philly and New England as I seek out the finest, most authentic pizza in America.

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