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15 Beautiful Homes of Fairmount Park's Past

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PBS recently dubbed Fairmount Park as one of the 10 parks that changed America. And rightly so: It was formerly established in 1867 and today is a massive 4,100-acre park in Philly. That makes it five times larger than New York's Central Park.

But before Fairmount Park became the green goliath it is today, much of its land was privately owned and served as a summer oasis for well-to-do Philadelphians who built country villas all along the Schuylkill River. Here are 15 historical photos of the beautiful homes that still stand within the park today.

Know of another home that should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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1. The Monastery

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Kitchens Lane
Philadelphia, PA

This home was built circa 1747, but it's a bit unclear as to how it got its name. Most likely it's because the owner Joseph Gorgas apparently allowed members of the Baptists in Ephrata to stay with him. Today, the stables on the grounds are still used. The Monastery Stables' website reads: "Joseph then built a three story mansion, a barn and a paper mill on it. Because of his connection with the Baptists in Ephrata Joseph Gorgas allowed the brothers and sisters from Ephrata to stay with him. This is probably why it's referred to as a monastery."

2. Ridgeland Mansion

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4200 Chamounix Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1719, the Federal-style Ridgeland Mansion mostly served as a residence for park directors. Now, it's the five-acre headquarters of the Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia, a non-profit that supports cancer patients and their families.

3. David Rittenhouse Home

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6034 Wissahickon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

The well-respected astronomer and friend of Ben Franklin was born in this house. It's one of the remaining buildings of Rittenhouse Town, a preserved village that was built in 1690 by David's ancestors and is known as the birthplace of paper in America.

4. Belmont Mansion

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2000 Belmont Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Today, this storied mansion serves as the Underground Railroad Museum. But back in its heyday (it was built in 1745), the mansion hosted multiple founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

5. Letitia Street House

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3401 Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104

This structure, built in 1715, is also commonly called the Letitia House, after Penn's daughter who is thought to have lived in it. Its origins remain highly contested though, and it wasn't originally located in Fairmount Park, either. The home was moved from Second and Chestnut streets in 1876 to Fairmount for the Centennial's World Fair.

6. Mount Pleasant Mansion

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3800 Mount Pleasant Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19121
(215) 763-8100

After it was built in the 1760s—via pirate money, no less!— John Adams called this estate, "The most elegant seat in Pennsylvania." The Georgian-style buildings were later owned by war hero and later traitor Benedict Arnold, though he never officially lived here.

7. Sweetbriar Mansion

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1 Sweetbriar Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1787, the neoclassical Sweetbriar Mansion was the home of Samuel Breck, a wealthy merchant who purchased 33 acres of land along the Schuylkill. Today, the three-story structure at 1 Sweetbriar Road is currently closed and in need of some repair.

8. Historic Strawberry Mansion

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2450 Strawberry Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19132
(215) 228-8364
Visit Website

This is the Big Kahuna of the Fairmount Park homes. Built in 1789 by a local judge as a summer home, later owners then added multiple Greek Revival wings to the property. It now stands as the biggest mansion in Fairmount. It celebrated its grand re-opening in 2013 and is now open for tours.

9. Lemon Hill

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Sedgeley and Lemon Hill Drives
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 232-4337
Visit Website

Still standing today, the Federal-style Lemon Hill House was built in 1800 by Philly architect Henry Pratt and served as his country home from 1799 to 1836. On the grounds, Pratt cultivated nearly 3,000 plants for his many gardens. He ultimately sold the home for a mere $225,000 in 1836.

10. Cedar Grove

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1 Cedar Grove Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

This stunner served as yet another summer retreat for the wealthy. It was built between 1748 and 1750 and originally started out as a small Wissahickon schist stone home. Over the years a number of additions were added, including the porch, a parlor, a kitchen, and a third floor. It was actually moved to Fairmount Park from Frankford neighborhood in the 1920s.

11. Woodford Mansion

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N 33rd St & Dauphin Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19132

Built between 1756-58 by William Coleman, a Philadelphia merchant and close friend of Benjamin Franklin, this served as another summer home along the Schuylkill. There have only been five owners in the property's history, including the Wharton family. Now it displays 18th- and 19th-century antiques owned by prominent collector Noami Wood.

12. Ormiston Mansion

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Reservoir Drive
Philadelphia, PA

This stunning Georgian-style, two-story home was built in 1798 by Edward Burd. Much of the original architectural details remain intact, including its marble fireplaces, a Scottish bake oven, and moldings. The back of the home looks out to the Schuylkill River. Burd wrote of his plans to build the home to his sister, "I have built myself a good house at Schuylkill which I expect to raise in a few days, and call it Ormiston, after the name of our Grandfather's Seat near Edinburgh." Today, it serves the Royal Heritage Society.

13. Chamounix Mansion

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3250 Chamounix Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1802 by George Plumsted, this Federal-style home sits on a bluff on the Schuylkill River is considered one of the more "modest" country villas of its time. It's a 2.5-story home; it nearly doubled in size from its original build. While it was once poised for demolition after a fire, it has been preserved and now serves as a hostel.

14. Rockland Mansion

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3810 Mt Pleasant Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19121

Don't be fooled by the photo: This mansion was built in 1810 and has been restored and preserved. Today it houses the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, but back then it was another summer villa for owner and dry goods merchant George Thomson. The first floor features a ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the Schuylkill River, and there's a grand staircase in the foyer.

15. Laurel Hill Mansion

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Randolph Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19121

As the story goes, Rebecca Rawle had this home two-story Georgian home built on a land left to her by her widow. The center of the house was built around 1767, and multiple additions followed over the years. The Rawles lost their home when it was seized during the American Revolutionary War, but Rebecca was able to buy it back after.

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1. The Monastery

Kitchens Lane, Philadelphia, PA

This home was built circa 1747, but it's a bit unclear as to how it got its name. Most likely it's because the owner Joseph Gorgas apparently allowed members of the Baptists in Ephrata to stay with him. Today, the stables on the grounds are still used. The Monastery Stables' website reads: "Joseph then built a three story mansion, a barn and a paper mill on it. Because of his connection with the Baptists in Ephrata Joseph Gorgas allowed the brothers and sisters from Ephrata to stay with him. This is probably why it's referred to as a monastery."

Kitchens Lane
Philadelphia, PA

2. Ridgeland Mansion

4200 Chamounix Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1719, the Federal-style Ridgeland Mansion mostly served as a residence for park directors. Now, it's the five-acre headquarters of the Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia, a non-profit that supports cancer patients and their families.

4200 Chamounix Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19131

3. David Rittenhouse Home

6034 Wissahickon Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144

The well-respected astronomer and friend of Ben Franklin was born in this house. It's one of the remaining buildings of Rittenhouse Town, a preserved village that was built in 1690 by David's ancestors and is known as the birthplace of paper in America.

6034 Wissahickon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

4. Belmont Mansion

2000 Belmont Mansion Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Today, this storied mansion serves as the Underground Railroad Museum. But back in its heyday (it was built in 1745), the mansion hosted multiple founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

2000 Belmont Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

5. Letitia Street House

3401 Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104

This structure, built in 1715, is also commonly called the Letitia House, after Penn's daughter who is thought to have lived in it. Its origins remain highly contested though, and it wasn't originally located in Fairmount Park, either. The home was moved from Second and Chestnut streets in 1876 to Fairmount for the Centennial's World Fair.

3401 Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104

6. Mount Pleasant Mansion

3800 Mount Pleasant Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19121

After it was built in the 1760s—via pirate money, no less!— John Adams called this estate, "The most elegant seat in Pennsylvania." The Georgian-style buildings were later owned by war hero and later traitor Benedict Arnold, though he never officially lived here.

3800 Mount Pleasant Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19121

7. Sweetbriar Mansion

1 Sweetbriar Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1787, the neoclassical Sweetbriar Mansion was the home of Samuel Breck, a wealthy merchant who purchased 33 acres of land along the Schuylkill. Today, the three-story structure at 1 Sweetbriar Road is currently closed and in need of some repair.

1 Sweetbriar Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

8. Historic Strawberry Mansion

2450 Strawberry Mansion Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19132

This is the Big Kahuna of the Fairmount Park homes. Built in 1789 by a local judge as a summer home, later owners then added multiple Greek Revival wings to the property. It now stands as the biggest mansion in Fairmount. It celebrated its grand re-opening in 2013 and is now open for tours.

2450 Strawberry Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19132

9. Lemon Hill

Sedgeley and Lemon Hill Drives, Philadelphia, PA 19130

Still standing today, the Federal-style Lemon Hill House was built in 1800 by Philly architect Henry Pratt and served as his country home from 1799 to 1836. On the grounds, Pratt cultivated nearly 3,000 plants for his many gardens. He ultimately sold the home for a mere $225,000 in 1836.

Sedgeley and Lemon Hill Drives
Philadelphia, PA 19130

10. Cedar Grove

1 Cedar Grove Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

This stunner served as yet another summer retreat for the wealthy. It was built between 1748 and 1750 and originally started out as a small Wissahickon schist stone home. Over the years a number of additions were added, including the porch, a parlor, a kitchen, and a third floor. It was actually moved to Fairmount Park from Frankford neighborhood in the 1920s.

1 Cedar Grove Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

11. Woodford Mansion

N 33rd St & Dauphin Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19132

Built between 1756-58 by William Coleman, a Philadelphia merchant and close friend of Benjamin Franklin, this served as another summer home along the Schuylkill. There have only been five owners in the property's history, including the Wharton family. Now it displays 18th- and 19th-century antiques owned by prominent collector Noami Wood.

N 33rd St & Dauphin Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19132

12. Ormiston Mansion

Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia, PA

This stunning Georgian-style, two-story home was built in 1798 by Edward Burd. Much of the original architectural details remain intact, including its marble fireplaces, a Scottish bake oven, and moldings. The back of the home looks out to the Schuylkill River. Burd wrote of his plans to build the home to his sister, "I have built myself a good house at Schuylkill which I expect to raise in a few days, and call it Ormiston, after the name of our Grandfather's Seat near Edinburgh." Today, it serves the Royal Heritage Society.

Reservoir Drive
Philadelphia, PA

13. Chamounix Mansion

3250 Chamounix Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Built in 1802 by George Plumsted, this Federal-style home sits on a bluff on the Schuylkill River is considered one of the more "modest" country villas of its time. It's a 2.5-story home; it nearly doubled in size from its original build. While it was once poised for demolition after a fire, it has been preserved and now serves as a hostel.

3250 Chamounix Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

14. Rockland Mansion

3810 Mt Pleasant Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19121

Don't be fooled by the photo: This mansion was built in 1810 and has been restored and preserved. Today it houses the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, but back then it was another summer villa for owner and dry goods merchant George Thomson. The first floor features a ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the Schuylkill River, and there's a grand staircase in the foyer.

3810 Mt Pleasant Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19121

15. Laurel Hill Mansion

Randolph Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19121

As the story goes, Rebecca Rawle had this home two-story Georgian home built on a land left to her by her widow. The center of the house was built around 1767, and multiple additions followed over the years. The Rawles lost their home when it was seized during the American Revolutionary War, but Rebecca was able to buy it back after.

Randolph Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19121