Tuesday, December 6, 2016

CHARMS IN THE PARK


If any of you plan to be in the Philadelphia area this month or live in the area, love architecture, history and Christmas, then do I have the event for you. This past weekend I was thrilled to head down to the beautiful Fairmount Park neighborhood which runs along the riverfront. This years holiday tour of the historic mansions didn't disappoint. Talk about getting in the holiday spirit while discovering gems of Philadelphia’s past, as the Historic Houses of Fairmount Park opened their doors all month long. During the holidays, Fairmount Park’s historic mansions get all dressed up and merrily decked out for the season during the annual Historic Houses of Fairmount Park Holiday Tours. Decorated by local interior designers and garden clubs, six of the seven historic houses — Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion — welcome visitors with festive adornments trimming the well-preserved historic interiors. Each mansion promised a different theme and varied holiday.

Lemon Hill
Robert Morris, merchant, entrepreneur and financier, accumulated land along the East bank of the Schuylkill River circa 1770.  Morris was a major financier of the Revolution, signer of both the Declaration of Independence and, later, the Constitution. The estate was known as “The Hills” and included an elegant greenhouse in addition to barns and outbuildings making up this working farm.

Strawberry Mansion

The featured stories of this Federal style house span over three centuries and incorporate the life of the acclaimed colonial Judge William Lewis (1752-1819) to the national celebration of the Sesquicentennial of 1926 (celebrating America’s 150th anniversary.)  Of course the story involves tales of lavish parties and strawberries.

Mount Pleasant
A colorful Scottish sea captain and American patriot, John Macpherson (1726–1792) and his first wife Margaret built this grand country estate and productive farm in the mid 1760’s to the delight of many from Philadelphia society, including statesman John Adams, prior to his Presidency. This home is built high atop cliffs overlooking the Schuylkill River and the Macphersons employed as their builder-architect Thomas Nevell, an apprentice of Edmund Woolley, the builder of Independence Hall.

Laurel Hill
Rebecca Rawle, a wealthy widow with three young children,  built this small country house around 1767. Her second marriage was to the British Loyalist and former Mayor of Philadelphia Samuel Shoemaker.   Her home was seized during the Revolution, and the years that followed were difficult for Rebecca and her family.  Rebecca spent several years trying to reclaim her house, which was sold in 1782 to Major James Parr. She was able to buy back Laurel Hill and pay off some debts in part by using some of the profits on the produce raised at the home.

Woodford
A trusted confidant to Philadelphia’s beloved Ben Franklin, William Coleman was a highly educated, successful merchant when he built this summer house in 1756. Legend says the woods and nearby ford in the Schuylkill River gave the estate its name. A  patriot, Coleman enjoyed this summer home, with servant’s house and stable, on 12 acres of land. William Coleman and his wife Hannah raised their orphaned nephew George Clymer, who later became a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Cedar Grove

This farmhouse served as the summer residence for five generations of the Coates, Paschall and Morris families of Philadelphia.  Built in 1748-50 by the wealthy widow Elizabeth Coates Paschall, the original small home of grey native stone received numerous additions over the years, with rooms which illustrate the evolving styles of the family as seen through their furnishings.  They enjoyed this lovely summer home until 1888.

It was a gorgeous tour, and a great opportunity for a chance to see in these very historic homes. My only suggestion is to take along a flask with a hot toddy in it...it can get nippy in between houses. Afterwards, our evening ended at Dillsworth Plaza at City Hall for a few cock-a-tails and watched the ice-skaters....a great people watching place. And it finally put me in the mood for the holidays.

22 comments:

  1. those wonderful houses are beautifully preserved!

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  2. I can see why you never sit still, your area is rich with culture and things to constantly see and do. I would most certainly love to see that tour. I may have to see if any of my girlfriends might like to come to Philly.

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  3. Loverly tour. Always enjoy them. xoxoxo

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  4. I tell ya, no where does history and Christmas like the Northeast. The homes still look great. The last shot at City Hall is incredible. They really transform the outside of it.

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  5. Love the beautiful round settee (if that's the right word) of the Strawberry Mansion and those gorgeous old wooden floors of Woodford (they look hand hewed)!

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    1. Or should that be "hand hewn"? Hmmm. Too lazy to look it up.

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  6. We have been to Fairmount Park once on a visit to Philly. It is quite a stunning area. The tour looks amazing and the background on each house is interesting. That is so cool the city does a skating rink too....beautiful

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  7. What a very nice read and tour Mistress. This makes me miss Philly, after the short time I live there. I used to love running through Fairmount and remember these homes well. Philly was the best city to live in...I miss it.

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  8. Philly should hire you for a travel and events site, I swear. I plan to do the tour so this was a great preview. Laurel Hill is my favorite house in these parts.

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  9. What a charming tour indeed....and so much history to boot. I love the feel of Cedar Grove...I could most certainly have breakfast in that kitchen.

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  10. Beautiful post! I love living in one of the most charming cities around. Funny, we have played concerts in four of these homes. I too love hanging at city hall watching the skaters.

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  11. I always loved Christmas house tours in New England. This looks incredible. And I can't believe I never once made it to Philadelphia. (Maybe because I have family there!)

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  12. A lovely tour, thank you. However, those mansions' Christmas decorations are not a patch on your own!

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  13. What charms indeed. It's wonderful there so well preserved. I also like they didn't go overboard with the decoration., but kept it simple like in that period.

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  14. when I first saw this, why did I think it was going to be about you in a park with men?

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  15. House tours are fun, and I wanna move into Woodford!

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  16. I swear, the northeast is hands down my favorite part of the country as far as holidays, charm, culture and the arts. And I have lived just about all sectors of the land. What a beautiful house tour. I think Woodford is my favorite.

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  17. Lovely post! We have tickets to go next weekend. I love the Fairmount Park area. We're really lucky to live here where we are. With the once in an occasion snow storm, we have perfect weather, arts, culture and a wonderful social scene don't we?

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  18. So pretty, always enjoy your tasteful holiday travelogues.

    BTW did you know that YOU were featured over on Apartment Therapy?

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!

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