An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

August 19, 2010

Quirky PA

While on vacation we ventured to two places in Pennsylvania that were a bit on the odd side, which of course means I enjoyed them. The first place was the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, which was was founded by glazed tile baron, Henry Chapman Mercer to house his collection of pre-industrial artifacts. To do so he built his own six story castle out of cast concrete to protect his efforts from fire. I am sure Mercer intended us to look at his collections, which included all kinds of tools, lamps, furniture, wagons, and many other things, as long as they were made by hand. However, I was as equally intrigued by the building, which was very odd with stairs going this way and that, odd little windows, narrow passageways and items were stuffed everywhere. In the center is a great hall that is open to the roof, but is chocked full of suspended whaling vessels, carriages, wagons and furniture hanging from the ceiling. It was delightfully disorienting as if the laws of gravity did not apply here and reminded me of MC Escher's Relativity.


This photo was from the Mercer's web site and shows the building under construction in 1915.

The Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum (8)

Mercer Museum (9)

Mercer Museum (10)

Mercer Museum (3)

The other quirky place we went was Ringing Rocks Park in northern Bucks County. The centerpiece of this park is a 5 acre field of boulders in the middle of the woods where one out of three boulders ring like a bell when struck with a hammer or another rock. The whole place is very mysterious and several web sources say that no plant will grow in the boulder field (though I did see a dead sapling), birds will not fly over it and animals will not cross it. The average depth of the boulder field is about 14' which makes the fact that nothing grows there not so mysterious and without plants you would not expect to see any animals. I do wonder though what forces brought these boulders here and concentrated them. As to the ringing, no one is exactly sure, but most believe it has to do with their composition and geological stress. Whatever, it was cheap fun.

Ringing Rocks 1

Ringing Rocks 3

Ringing Rocks 4

Addendum: I thank my firiend Chris who found the following explanation of Ringing Rocks.

"The boulders are made of a substance called diabase which is basically volcanic basalt. This is one of the largest diabase boulder fields in the Eastern United States. The boulders have a high content of iron and aluminum and were thought to have broken apart during the Pleistocene Epoch probably about 12,000 years ago. The boulders were created through many years of freeze-thaw cycles that broke up the diabase into individual pieces, a process known as "frost wedging". The rocks may then have accumulated in this one area as the water saturated soil provided lubrication for the stones to "creep" downhill to their present location, a process known as "solifluction". This could have happened during the prior ace ages when overlying most soil literally slid over the frozen permafrost below, carrying the boulders with it."


  1. I got a bit disoriented just looking at the photos of Mercer's house. Very freaky indeed.

    The sound the rocks make is beautiful. I'm glad you included that video. Maybe the glacier deposited the rocks there?

  2. What a fun post Les! I can see your point about Escher and I love the video with the youngster playing around with the hammer on the ringing rocks... He could start a rock band there... I enjoyed his experimenting as much as the mysterious sounds. Surely water/ice in one form or another had to bring all those rocks there once upon a time. Quite odd.

  3. so interesting, the home would give me a headache , but nice and unusual.The rocks-boulders look like an avalanche deposited them at one time . thanks for this post, Gina

  4. That's one freaky building. I love the sound of those rocks in your video. Bet your son got a kick out of that huh? ;)

  5. I would probably fall over from being dizzy in that building! What a neat and fun place to visit with all sorts of interesting things.

    The boulder park is fascinating and does make one wonder how all those boulders were placed there. Hum, this one freaks me out a bit but would be fun to visit, just not at night...

  6. This is my kind of road trip, Les!

  7. Fascinating places, both of them. But then, I'm into quirky as long as it's family friendly. It looks like you found the perfect FFQ destinations. I'll have to ask my husband the geologist if he's ever heard of that park. He has never said anything about it, but that doesn't mean anything. I've only recently shared some of my youthful exploits--gardening-wise, of course:)

  8. Tina,
    I hope your head has stopped spinning.

    That youngster would be my son.

    I don't think it was an avalanche because there is no mountain nearby.

    Yes, my increasingly hard to impress son had a good time.

    If you fell over you would not get hurt, there was plenty of things to break your fall.

    I had no expectations of either place, so they were indeed good finds.

    I am glad you enjoyed the trip.


  9. I love Escher and you are right about the resemblance to the Mercer Museum. I want to visit it after seeing your photos.

    The boulder field looks fun for kids. Interesting that the animals avoid it and that it's natural. I'm not too fond of boulder fields after passing through one backpacking in Wyoming. The locals called it "Pain in the Ass Pass."

  10. Sarah,
    I couldn't imagine having to hike over a pass of this with a back pack on, especially if it was bigger than this place, but I love the name.

  11. Am loving these adventures - I would have been drawn to the same spots in PA and NY!

  12. Tracy,
    There are still a few more to come.