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Richard Rothe photographs and diaries


Held at: Old York Road Historical Society [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Old York Road Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

An internationally-known horticulturalist, Richard Herman Rothe developed what he called the "American rock garden." "Born in Prussia, Mr. Rothe began his career as an assistant gardener at Schloss Belvedere, near Weimar. He immigrated to the United States in 1893 and settled in Southeast Montgomery County, an area where some of Philadelphia's wealthiest businessmen were building lavish country residences. Mr. Rothe worked as a gardener and florist there [primarily working for the Elkins and Kemble families] and began to publish articles in a number of German and American horticultural journals. He became an accomplished photographer and used his own photographs as illustrations."

Rothe moved to Maine with his family and managed the Mount Desert Nurseries in Northeast Harbor from 1906 and 1912. ""The scenic landscape surrounding Mount Desert inspired him to develop what he later called the 'American rock garden' -- an artistic arrangement of boulders, rocks or stones, set amid an assortment of native plants characteristic of mountainous regions. Mr. Rothe later wrote that Mount Desert Island was 'the most interesting and instructive of Nature's own rock gardens in this country.'""

Rothe returned with his family to Glenside, Pennsylvania and operated his own business, Glenside Hardy Flower Gardens, which created rock gardens for many area estates.


Quoted text from Fenceviewer: The Community News and Information Website for Hancock County, Maine. "Rock Gardens Come Into Focus." July 21, 2011. Accessed May 9, 2013. option=com_k2&view=item&id=67367:rock-gardens-come-into-focus&Itemid=941

This collection, which dates from 1895 to 1930, consists of 250 lantern slides and color prints of garden views of Pennsylvania estates in eastern Montgomery County, Philadelphia, and the western Main Line as well as family scenes and views of Mount Desert Island, Maine. The collection also contains Rothe's diaries, including an original diary, 1929, and two photocopied diaries, 1896 and 1905. The diaries tell about the daily life of a gardener and horticulturalist, and include many details about his work, in particular the plants with which he worked. Also included are photocopies of articles Rothe published as well as research materials on him.

All of the images have been cataloged in an on-site database.

Gifts of Ernie E. Becker, 2004.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Old York Road Historical Society directly for more information.

Old York Road Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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