Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.
I always wanted to see more into Loch Aerie when inhabited by the Lockwoods. My friend author Thom Nickels was someone who as a boy got to interview the aged Lockwood sisters and has told me stories of kids trying to sneak through the then woods around Loch Aerie (now Home Depot). In his book Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls, Thom brings the Lockwood family and the era in which they lived to light.
One thing Thom speaks of on page 177-178 of his book was a painting which apparently now hangs in the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel called Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.
And guess what? Thanks to my new friend Mr. Pyle, I can see how the painting hung in Loch Aerie!
Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr. – Large painting is Washington after the Battle of Trenton by Christian Schussele.
My friend Thom in his book , speaks of Miss Edith Lockwood and I think I would have liked her. In Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls he has a photograph of Edith with her dogs on the back porch. She had terriers, and they look to have been Scotties. She was also a gardener, and Miss Edith was an integral part of the Church Farm School’s floriculture program and had quite a hand in the running of the greenhouses, “and a large peony field from which 60,000 to 70,000 flowers were cut and sold annually.”
Now the gardener in me of course wonders if Church Farm School has any of Miss Edith’s peonies left?
Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.
According to Thom Nickels’ research the things in the house were auctioned off. Makes you wonder where everything ended up.
It is so cool to have access to these photos. It is so interesting to see what it was like inside when lived in!
Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission put up a marker to Colonial Financier Stephen Girard in 1993. It is in Girard Park in Philadelphia on West Shunk Street.
I remember him from history classes of long ago, but never knew about his wife Mary Lum Girard. She was someone who suffered from mental illness and was committed to the mental ward of Pennsylvania Hospital around 1790, and there she stayed until she died in 1815.
Well, technically she is still there. She is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital.
As I was reading, I was astounded that this woman still lies in an unmarked grave at Pennsylvania Hospital. The stigma of mental illness of essentially 200 years ago is so strong, that The University of Pennsylvania Health System (“Penn Medecine”) can continue to grow their empire but can’t mark her grave. I am astounded.
Here are a couple of things I found on Ancestry.com:
I am NOT sure what biography or whose writings these are from as the were posted but not correctly attributed. On ancestry I also found something compiled by a woman named Barbara Samans.
Here is what Barbara Samans published on Ancestry: Mary Lum and husband Stephen. Here are some excerpts (And I think it was from US History.org originally by the way- they had published something byMike DiMeo, Girard College graduate (1939) and author of “The Stone Cocoon,” about the college):
In early 1785, the world around Stephen Girard began to crumble. With a suddenness that was alarming, his wife exhibited prolonged periods of uncontrolled emotional outbursts. Mental instability accompanied by violent rage over time led to a conclusion that Mary Girard was insane. They had been married but eight years.
Girard was devastated. For two years, he tried without success to have the medical community help her. But in 1787, Girard finally recognized that his marriage was ended. He took a mistress, Sally Bickham, into his home to replace the lost affections of his wife. At that time, there was no stigma associated with the practice of acquiring a mistress. Girard no longer had a wife with whom he could continue a peaceful and compatible relationship. Sally Bickham would fill the void….His concerns in those troubled times were compounded by the increasingly deteriorating condition of his wife, Mary. She had been insane for five years, and there appeared to be no hope for recovery. In August of 1790, Girard had his wife committed to Pennsylvania Hospital as an incurable lunatic. This was not done without total awareness of the enormity of his actions. Girard, sparing no expense, made certain that there be effort made to ease his wife’s discomfort; she was afforded every luxury possible. While confined, Mary Girard gave birth to a baby girl that died in infancy. There has never been conclusive proof that Stephen Girard fathered that child nor any proof to the contrary.
Thom Nickels also wrote about Mary Lum Girard for the Philadelphia Free Press:
While the City of Philadelphia may honor Stephen Girard, the founder of Girard College, and the primary financier of the War of 1812, not much is known about his wife, Mary Lum Girard.
Who was Mary Lum, and why has her name been undersold in a City that purports to honor its historic figures?
A clue can be found on the first floor of Pennsylvania Hospital. A large plaque honoring Stephen Girard’s contributions to the hospital also mentions that his wife, Mary Lum, lies buried somewhere near this spot.
Plaques of this size and stature don’t usually tell lies, and if Mary Lum is buried somewhere on the grounds of the hospital, where is she, and why isn’t her grave noted?
he question has irked Federal Government Signal Corps retiree Joe Vendetti for almost 25-years. Mr. Vendetti traces his interest to Mary Lum to his friendship with Girard College grads Charlie Roseman and Col. Bob Ross, two World War II-era pals, who spent a lot of time talking about their college days.
“When these two guys and I would get together they talked about their college days. When I retired in 1973, I took up research about Stephen Girard and I thought, ‘Oh my God, Stephen Girard’s wife has been forgotten and ignored.’”
Biographies of Stephen Girard indicate that during their marriage, Mary was committed to a mental ward in Pennsylvania Hospital (in 1790) until her death in 1825. Because of her special status as the wife of Stephen Girard, she was permitted to have a series of rooms and a parlor on the hospital’s first floor. Other mental patients had a much harder time of it, as they lived in what Dr. Benjamin Rush (who was responsible for committing Mary Lum) in rooms that were “cold and damp in the winter, hot in the summer, lacking ventilation, stuffy and malodorous…” Mary Lum’s status as a mental patient no doubt had everything to do with the fact that she is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on hospital grounds. But for Charlie Roseman’s 1939 classmates, an unmarked grave was hardly acceptable, so they purchased a tombstone for Mary Lum and donated it to the hospital.
Mr. Vendetti says that the first gift of a tombstone, which occurred some twenty years ago, was not accepted by the hospital. He notes that Girard College wasn’t all that eager to help with the tombstone project, either. A shadow of embarrassment and shame seemed to cover Mary Lum’s legacy, proving that the stigma of mental illness, while far worse in the in the 19th century, still carried considerable weight in modern times.
It makes a body wonder what happened to Mary Lum Girard while in-patient in the late 18th to early 19th centuries , doesn’t it? And why can’t she be remembered with a simple plaque on hospital grounds since she spent a fair portion of her life there? And died there?
….Few know the extent of Girard’s accomplishments. Still fewer know the story of his marriage to Mary Lum,the early years of their life together, the slow decline of Mary’s mental health, and the final difficult decision that necessitated her commitment to Pennsylvania Hospital.
We have learned the facts about the Girards’ early life together primarily through the correspondence between Stephen and his family. It began with a letter to his father stating, “I have taken a wife and with whom I live happily.”1 The naming of his first, solely owned, schooner Mary was the highest tribute the merchant/mariner could pay his wife. Over the years, those early, happy, and productive days, have been forgotten, minimized, speculated about, and/or distorted. Those who failed to investigate evidence provided by Girard himself, led to and perpetuated misconceptions about the man and his marriage.
Even as Mary’s mental health deteriorated, one thing remained consistent – Girard’s effort to seek out and obtain the best treatment known at that time. That this gradual process took place over a period of five years is a testimony of his desire to restore Mary’s mental health and return to the happy days of their earlier life together. It also demonstrates the character and compassion of the man as he struggled with the complexities that accompanied the impact of mental illness on his life. Yet, in his own words, he is able to show us his very human response to a situation that no one could have anticipated and few are prepared to address: “the illness of this virtuous woman has so so unsettledmy life…”
But back to Mary Lum Girard. She is is a fascinating and ghostly figure of American history and Philadelphia history. Compare to other mental patients of early America, she lived out her life somewhat luxuriously given the wealth of her husband, correct? She was thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia, right?
Are we historical figure shaming (Stephen Girard) if too much is known about Mary Lum Girard? Why won’t Penn talk about a 200 year old woman? How can they say with a straight face that they are protecting a patient information? She lived and died a couple of centuries ago and Penn Medicine did not even own Pennsylvania Hospital back then, did they?
So why is Penn Medicine being an obstructionist of history? What is it people would learn if they disclosed historical data about her? Why can’t they even mark her grave simply? She is buried on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital and there are no records of her remains being moved, are there? Is the stigma of mental illness still so strong a 200 year old woman can’t have her grave marked?
Post Script: Received the below response from Penn Medicine. I asked them to tell me more precisely where the plaque is, because I find it odd that they would put up a plaque on the hospital grounds and not just tell people because it has been a bit of a controversy and not just via my blog post. I also did not receive a photo of this plaque. And to be honest, a plaque is not the same as a headstone. She lived the remainder of her life and died there, she didn’t just visit on a special occasion.
I am so honored to have had this amazing book dedicated to myself and renown Philadelphia Artist (and family friend) Noel Miles by author (and friend) Thom Nickels.
This is such a treasure of a book because Thom tells the stories of these homes and their people.
Included in his book are many homes I find amazing and two in particular. La Ronda and Loch Aerie. I also provided photographs I took of those two incredible homes.
La Ronda. October, 2009
La Ronda, which once stood in Bryn Mawr in Lower Merion Township, stands no more. She was demolished in 2009.
Loch Aerie under restoration. 2018.in the fall of 2009.
One of the darkest weeks in historic preservation was watching La Ronda (Addison Mizner, architect) come down stone by stone, floor by floor not because she had to be torn down, but because someone could just destroy her.
Others will note the wonderful chapter on Frazer’s Grande Dame, Loch Aerie (Addison Hutton, architect), who is being saved and restored to new life and a new use. Loch Aerie will live to see more stories happen between her walls.
There are many stories and many homes in this book.
Hear about historic Strawberry Mansion’s rise and fall and the sad life of architect Thomas Nevell who designed one of Philadelphia’s greatest mansions, Mount Pleasant.
Hear about Germantown’s mysterious Ebenezer Maxwell and his famous house that became the inspiration for theexterior of the popular Addams Family house.
You can buy the book on Amazon and support Thom’s hard work and his beautiful gift of storytelling. Yu can also purchase directly from the publisher.
Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls (Landmarks) by Thom Nickels