Welcome to Our New Dumpster Diver House Tour: Isaiah & Juia Zagar

It’s spring house tour time!

If you follow our Unexpected Philadelphia blog and website,  you know we’ve visited  nine inspiring, art-filled homes belonging to members of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that warm and wacky band of artists and collectors who exhibit,  socialize and produce witty,  up-cycled art together.

Today we’re heading to South Street to visit the home, gallery and visionary art environment of the couple who initiated us into the Divers’ magic circle:   famed mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julia Zagar,  owner of South Street’s iconic Eye’s Gallery.

16_04_25 1  Julia & Isaiah Zagar DC_1778_(And,  yes,  if you guessed that Isaiah and Julia have a few mosaic walls in their home then,  well,  you guessed right….)


They met in New York in 1963,  following a gallery show of Julia’s work.   Three months later they were married and planning a life-altering adventure:  a three-year Peace Corps stint as art advisors in the Andes mountains of Peru.

16_04_25 2 Julia & Isaiah Zagar Peru 1965(That’s Isaiah and Julia at right during their 1964-1967 Peace Corps service,  where they helped Peruvian craftspeople develop their work for the world market.)

16_04_25 3 Julia & Isaiah Zagar DC_4668(And here they are a half-century later, still plotting adventures.)


Returning with trunkloads of Peruvian crafts,  they bought a former clothing store on Philadelphia’s bohemian South Street,  when the once bustling garment district was declining and artists and musicians were moving in.

In 1968,  they opened the Eye’s Gallery to sell their handcrafted treasures.

16_04_25 4 Eye's Gallery CM_1484(A first floor corner of the Eye’s Gallery today.  The Zagars’ original kitchen was located here,  where they could see incoming customers.)

The Zagars originally lived behind and above the shop,  but it soon expanded to fill three floors as Julia travelled the world,  forming lifelong bonds with craftspeople in Mexico,  Guatemala,  India,  Peru,  and more.

16_04_25 5 Eye's Gallery DC_4634(Just a few of the hand-selected objects you’ll find on the second floor.   The Eye’s Gallery,  402 South Street,  also specializes in handcrafted jewelry and clothing.)


After the couple’s two sons were born,  they moved into another fixer-upper on South Street and began filling it with treasures from their travels – and with Isaiah’s signature mosaics.

 16_04_25 6 Julia & Isaiah Zagar DC_1720(A view of Julia and Isaiah’s art-filled living room….)

16_04_25 7 Julia & Isaiah Zagar DC_1764(….and their mosaic-filled guest bedroom.)


But Isaiah didn’t confine his mosaic artistry to their gallery and home:  Over 200 South Philadelphia walls now sparkle with his unmistakable combination of mirror,  tile and found objects.

16_04_25 8 Philadelphia's Magic Gardens CM_1231(Isaiah’s fanciful people greet you around every corner of his Magic Gardens.)

And nowhere is that artistry more evident than at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens,  Isaiah’s visionary art environment  at 1020 South Street,  where you can also attend exhibits,  take workshops (including mosaic classes with Isaiah),  and even celebrate your wedding.

16_04_25 9 Philadelphia's Magic Gardens CM_1285(From bottles and bike wheels to broken pottery and hand-painted tiles:   Nothing goes to waste in the Magic Gardens.)


So click here to tour Julia and Isaiah’s home,  gallery and Magic Gardens on our Unexpected Philadelphia website.

And,  as always when you arrive there,  be sure to click on any thumbnail image to see a much larger photo.   (You can scroll through the large photos using the arrows at the bottom of the screen.)   Each large photo also comes with an individual caption that shows on non-mobile devices like laptops and desktop computers.

16_04_25 10 Julia & Isaiah Zagar CM_8039(Julia and Isaiah greet you from their kitchen chairs.   They were carved by Mexican artisans using drawings provided by Isaiah.)

And check back in May when we’ll show you images from “Dear Julia”,  a new exhibit of art by Julia and Isaiah Zagar,  opening Friday,  April 29 at the Magic Gardens.   Visit the Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens website for more information.

16_04_25 11 Julia & Isaiah Zagar CM_7985(A joint Isaiah-Julia portrait on the front window of their home.)


Interested in keeping up with our blog?   Just click on the black “Follow” button at right,   near the top of the blog,   and you’ll receive an email whenever we post an entry.   (And, no – we never accept or send ads.)

16_04_25 12 Julia & Isaiah Zagar DC_4703

Enjoy the tour….!

Kate & Dave