Designed in 1953 by Junzo Yoshimura, the house was built in Nagoya, Japan, using traditional materials and techniques. The house was conceived as part of “The House in the Museum Garden” series and was moved to Philadelphia at the exhibition’s conclusion. It was reassembled at the current site in 1957-58.
From 1905 until a fire in 1955, Shofuso’s site was occupied by a 14th century gate from a Japanese Buddhist temple. Popularly known as the “Japanese Pagoda”, it had originally been brought to the United States for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, MO. In 1958, the garden was redesigned by Japanese landscape designer Tansai Sano to compliment the new structure, in the style of a 17th century viewing garden.
Although the house continued to be owned by the City of Philadelphia, a private nonprofit organization called the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden organized to care and preserve this unique site in 1982. In 1999, the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG) raised $1.2 million to replace the hinoki bark roof, the only one of its kind outside of Japan, and in 2007, internationally renowned artist Hiroshi Senju, inspired by Shofuso’s waterfall, donated 20 murals to replace original murals destroyed by vandals in the 1970s.
Today, a viewing garden with koi pond and island, a tea garden, and a courtyard garden comprise the 17th century-style Japanese walled and fenced garden of this historic site and museum. The newly-restored, historic 1876 Sakura Pavilion is year-round space for programming, classes, meetings, events, and exhibitions. Shofuso was again named the third-ranked Japanese garden in North America by the Journal of Japanese Gardening in 2013, was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2013, and is a contributing structure to the Fairmount Park National Historic District since 1972.
Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa), also known as Japanese House and Garden, is a traditional 17th century-style Japanese house and garden now located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park on the site of the Centennial Exposition of 1876.1 Shofuso is a nonprofit historic site with over 18,000 visitors each year and is open to the public for visitation, group tours, and event rentals.
Shofuso was built in 1953 as a gift from Japan to American citizens, to symbolize post-war peace and friendship between the two countries. The building was constructed using traditional Japanese techniques and materials imported from Japan, and was originally exhibited in the courtyard of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. After two years, it was relocated to Philadelphia and reconstructed in 1958.2 In 1976, a major restoration was conducted by a cadre of Japanese artisans in preparation for the American Bicentennial celebration. In 2007, the internationally acclaimed artist Hiroshi Senju created and donated an interior installation of twenty waterfall murals, creating an elegant combination of contemporary Japanese painting in traditional architecture with sixty years of patina.
Shofuso is owned by the city of Philadelphia and has been administered, maintained, preserved, and operated by the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, since 1982.
1 Fischer, Felice, “Japan and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition” – Historic Guide to Philadelphia & Japan,p23-25
2 McCarty, Yukiko Yanagida, Shoin-zukuri in Philadelphia, The East, Vol 42 No.1 P15-21