Emlen Physick Estate
A visit to the Physick Estate today offers a look back at our Victorian past as evidenced by its architecture, decorative arts, customs, and the lives of one particular Cape May family, the Physicks. Emlen Physick Jr., his widowed mother, Frances Ralston, and his maiden aunt Emilie Parmentier moved into their home when it was completed in 1879.
Emlen, who never married, was descended from a famous and wealthy Philadelphia family. His grandfather, Dr. Philip Syng Physick, was considered the father of American surgery and invented numerous surgical procedures and medical instruments that are still in use today.
While he did graduate from medical school, Emlen never practiced medicine. In Cape May, he led the life of a gentleman farmer, owning two tenant farms and keeping livestock on his estate on Washington Street. He bought and sold a great deal of real estate in Cape May, and took an active interest in local doings by voicing his opinions at city council meetings.
The Physicks' distinctive home illustrates their changing tastes as well as the particulars of the Victorian lifestyle in Cape May.