Located within the walls of a Victorian prison, the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown houses a museum dedicated to the art and artists of Bucks County. Its permanent collection includes a room of works from the New Hope School of Pennsylvania Impressionists, including my favorite: Walter Schofield.
This monumental work by Daniel Garber was painted for Pennsylvania’s building at the 1926 Philadelphia Sesquicentennial. For nearly 70 years after the fair’s closing, A Wooded Watershed hung neglected and forgotten at Penn State’s Mont Alto campus until a university librarian read a newspaper article about James Michener’s “Art Endowment Challenge.” Michener had agreed to contribute a half million dollars to the museum if it could secure at least forty museum-quality works for its permanent collection. The librarian told museum officials about the mural by Garber, one of the artists whose work was being sought. They hurried to the campus and found the mural dirty but, miraculously, intact, and ownership of the mural was transferring to the museum in return for a scholarship endowment.
There are also more contemporary works, plus short term exhibits.
Local writer and Pulitzer Prize winner, James Michener, and his wife were major contributors to the museum, and the museum now houses a recreation of the writer’s Bucks County office, including his writing desk and typewriter.
There is also a reading room (bring your own reading material), designed by George Nakashima’s daughter as a memorial to the woodworker’s legacy.
The prison, which closed in 1985, was modeled after Philly’s Eastern State Penitentiary (Solitary Confinement, Al Capone and Flush Toilets: Exploring Philly’s Cutting Edge (for 1821) Eastern State Penitentiary). The original walls now enclose the museum and its sculpture garden.
The museum is directly across the street from the Mercer Museum (Philadelphia + Architecture = Arts & Crafts (Henry Mercer’s Tiles, Castle and Museum)).