Archive for October, 2012

Wharton Esherick Museum: Homage to a Rebel Craftsman

October 23, 2012

“Be sure to touch the railing on the way down,” the guide at the Wharton Esherick Museum urged as we descended the hand-crafted red oak spiral staircase. “It isn’t every day that you get to feel the tusk of a mastodon.”

No. And a visit to this leafy Valley Forge property isn’t your typical house tour. This is the studio (and later home) of Esherick, a master craftsman whose motto was “if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.” The building pays homage to Pennsylvania’s stone barns, an artist’s fascination with the concave and convex, and the use of recycled materials long before it was trendy to do so. Esherick used branches from the property’s wild cherry tree to make the dining room’s wood paneling. Rejected walnut and applewood scraps make up the curvilinear floor. And the artist’s cantilevered chairs, desks, and tables can be found throughout the house, along with whimsical sculptures of horses, pheasants, and Winnie the Pooh.

Esherick, who studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, lived “hand to mouth” most of his life, according to the museum, bartering oak chairs for his children’s tuition and only gaining recognition as a pioneer of American Modern furniture after his death in 1970.

A visit to his home offers a glimpse into his creative, thoroughly rebellious mind.

Tours are $12 per person and available on weekdays by appointment for groups of 5 or more, and Saturday and Sunday for individuals or groups; the museum closes in January and February. Combine a trip here with a visit to Valley Forge National Park (5 minutes away) or an evening at Hedgerow Theatre, a repertory theater in Rose Valley that Esherick was heavily involved with, along with Edward Albee and Richard Basehart.

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Doughnuts and Creamed Beef at Oregon Dairy

October 8, 2012

Besides apples and gorgeous foliage, fall brings to mind big breakfasts. One of the best breakfasts my family and I ever had was at Oregon Dairy in Lititz, right off Rte. 222.

(Footnote: I don’t say that casually — Pennsylvania has lots of excellent breakfast spots.)

We loved that every breakfast platter came with a hockey puck-sized doughnut and glass of fresh milk, and that a huge plate of eggs, home fries, and toast costs less than a gallon of gas in California right now. The dairy-themed playground next door is a perfect way for the kids to burn off all those calories and for adults to rest and enjoy the Amish countryside while nursing their pecan-waffle food comas.

On weekdays, the dining room is often filled with retired Mennonite folks, bibles in hand; tour buses like the Friday and Saturday all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets ($8.25, kids half price). This month, there’s also a corn maze to add to the fun.