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New book examines grand history of Fairmount Park
By George Tomezsko   - 07/14/2005

News Gleaner

More Info on This Book: Philadelphia's Fairmount Park

A brand new book titled Philadelphia's Fairmount Park offers a unique look back in time at that historic city landmark, and at the Philadelphia Zoo as well.
The book gives the reader numerous images of these institutions as depicted on postcards dating to the early years of the Twentieth Century.
Photos of historically and architecturally important buildings and other structures in Fairmount Park are also included, along with images of fountains, monuments, and sculptures found in the park.
The book contains images from both the East and West Parks, the shores of the Schuylkill River, and scenes from the Wissahickon Valley.
Assembled by James Ristine, a historian who was born in Philadelphia, it is one of the newest installments in the Postcard History series published by Arcadia Press. Ristine now resides in Adams County.
"There have not been many books on the park and I thought the postcard views would make a unique approach," he said. The book was also intended to give readers the opportunity to compare the way the park looked in the past and appears today.
"It's seen a lot of changes, that's for sure," he said. "It's always offered Philadelphians a unique experience."
The book contains more than 230 images, all of which were taken from postcards in Ristine's personal collection. He began collecting postcards about 11 years ago when his sister gave him a boxful that had belonged to his grandfather.
"I just liked them," he said. "It got me hooked when I saw the great variety of postcards."
He's been avidly collecting them ever since. His collection includes about 400 on Fairmount Park alone.
In the book, large informative captions explain the significance of the place depicted. One image shows the famous bronze sculpture titled Dying Lioness that has greeted visitors to the Philadelphia Zoo since 1876. The postcard view of the sculpture dates to 1914.
Another image shows the Children's Play House as it appeared in 1910. The Play House opened to the public in 1899. The caption states that the house and the surrounding six acres have since hosted more than 10 million children.
Still another view shows the main entrance to Memorial Hall in 1910. When the Hall opened in 1876 during the Centennial Exposition, it was said to be the largest such structure in the nation, and was capable of holding 8,000 people.
It took Ristine about three months to put the book together. He finds the research more enjoyable than the writing.
"I just love that," he said. "Part of the enjoyment of writing these books is learning so much about the subject."
In doing his research, Ristine unraveled the park's complex history
The book contains fascinating trivia about the city.
The name of Wissahickon Creek is derived from Lenni Lenapi names that mean "yellow-colored stream" and "catfish creek."
Ristine is a middle school science teacher. He grew up in Upper Darby, and holds a Masters degree in education from Millersville State University.
He is also a member of the York Postcard Club and lives just twenty miles from Gettysburg.
Ristine is the author of two other postcard history books, Gettysburg: Vintage Postcard Views of America's Greatest Battlefield and The Wildwoods in Vintage Postcards, both of which are also available from Arcadia Publishing.
Copies of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park are available at area bookstores, independent retailers, on-line bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.

Buy It Now: Philadelphia's Fairmount Park $21.99

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