Posted on

Under The Dome With A View

On October 8th at the Frankford Historical Society an event was held on Victorian Glass Domes with birds. These works of art date back to 1837-1901. Not only did this time period preserve birds, Victorian domes were homes to flowers, plants, wax works, and memorial scenes. The middle class people were the desired target for these Victorian Glass Domes. The cost was around $5.00 which was an expensive piece of art in that time period.

The construction of the display used some bizarre things: stones from Bohemia for the eyes, human hair, and arsenic laced cotton over the wire to hold birds and things in place. During this time period, enormous numbers of birds were killed to satisfy the desire to obtain these magnificent pieces of artwork. Thankfully the times have changed and our feathered friends are safe from the hunt to encase them in glass. Well, they must have known what they were doing when they constructed these domes, because the Victorian Glass Dome bird displays that I observed were vibrant in color, perfectly arranged, and they looked alive like they could fly away, if I took the dome off the base of the structure.

victorian domeThe featured speaker was an avid birder named Tony Croasdale. Tony started his adventures in bird watching when he was 9 years old. He spoke of a story of when his father took him out one day to try and find a Kingfisher bird. It turned out to be a successful bird quest. This was his first glimmer that birds were going to be one of his passions in life.

Along with that, Tony was in a Punk rock band, R.A.M.B.O., that was a successful, world touring group. The group was formed by then singer Tony Croasdale, also known as Tony Pointless, and the group traveled the United States, Australia, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

He mentioned a story of being out on a bird tour in another country, and he was supposed to go to a concert. Well, his bird tour was successful, but he was late and missed his concert. This was when he realized that his love for bird watching and the sounds from these feathered creatures were more captivating to him than the electric lights and rock and roll life. So, he set aside his music and went back to attend school for a Horticultural/Biology degree and is currently pursuing a masters degree in Biology.

Frankford Historical Society asked Tony to identify the birds that were encased inside the Victorian Glass Domes. Funny story, Tony has just come back from Brazil where he was on an exploration and leader of a bird tour. He realized at the Frankford Historical Society that the birds he was looking at were birds that he just identified out in Brazil. He concluded that most of the birds in the domes had been imported from Salvador, the Atlantic Rainforest (Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina), and a few other places high up in the mountains for birds such as the Pluma Crest. A couple other places mentioned were Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. About 180 species of birds live in these places. Over half of the birds in the domes were from the Brazilian rainforest. This was the exact place Tony just recently visited. How funny and coincidental is that!

At the end of Tony Croasdale’s presentation, a list of places to bird watch was announced: Fisher Lane Bridge, Lardner’s Point/Palmyra Cove on the New Jersey side (Peregrine Falcons nest in Palmyra), Pennypack Park, Heinz Park in Southwest Philly, Norheast (Bald Eagles nest), Cobbs Creek Park, Bridesburg Sewage Treatment Plant, Benjamin Rush State Park, Glen Foerd, and this is just naming a few places where you can spot your fine feathered friends.

The room was filled with people all with a passion for art and birds. Chatter filled the air as the people mingled with each other. Front and center were glass domes with beautiful birds inside perfectly arranged and undeniably beautiful. This is when I met the keepers of the gate (Frankford Historical Society): Jim Young (President of the Historical Society), Patricia G. Coyne (Chair of Program Committee), Debbie Klak (former President of the Historical Society & current Chairperson of Historical Property Committee), Susan Couvreur (bird collection/library committee), and John V. Buffington (Chair of the History Committee & Board member), and other names mentioned Diane Sadler (Vice President of Historical Society), Robert Penn, Bruce McKensey (bird treasurer), Sara Brower, Jerry Klankowitz, Dolores & Cliff, Rick Thomas, and June Fryfecder.

During the evening, Patricia G. Coyne was so gracious to the crowd offering membership sales which she directed to Jim Young, books for sale like the Frankford Yellowjackets, and delicious treats and coffee. Any football fan would love to purchase this iconic original Philadelphia’s team football book. Patricia also announced that the Frankford Historical Society had been mentioned in the Philadelphia Food Lovers Magazine. She gave special thanks to Bob and Pat Smiley of the Frankford Gazette for all the help in promoting the Frankford Historical Society over the years.

Another speaker that night, John V. Buffington of the Frankford Historical Society is CALLING ALL WORLD WAR II VETERANS to please contact John at the Historical Society. John V. Buffington is in the process of collecting information for documentation on history of WWII in Northeast Philadelphia. World War II vets are asked to come forward and share your stories with the Frankford Historical Society. On behalf of the Frankford Historical Society and the Frankford Gazette we would like to thank the World War II veterans for your service to the United States of America keeping us Americans safe and free. Thank You!

To Conclude, this was my first time to the Frankford Historical Society. Wow, a must see! The people were terrific, the sights were amazing, and the homemade baked apple cake was YUMMY! Hats off to the chef!


BY MAIL: 1507 Orthodox Street
P.O. Box 4888
Phila., PA 19124
BY PHONE: (215) 743-6030