Fairmount Park

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Fairmount Park
Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park..JPG
The Schuylkill River runs through the center of Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is located in Philadelphia
Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is located in Pennsylvania
Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is located in the US
Fairmount Park
Location Both banks of Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek, from Spring Garden St. to Northwestern Ave. in Philadelphia[2]
Coordinates 40°1′15″N 75°12′46″W / 40.02083°N 75.21278°W / 40.02083; -75.21278Coordinates: 40°1′15″N 75°12′46″W / 40.02083°N 75.21278°W / 40.02083; -75.21278
Area Schuylkill River 2,052 acres (830 ha),
Wissahickon Creek 2,042 acres (826 ha)[3] (8.26 squared kilometers)
Built 1812
Architect Robert Morris Copeland; Olmsted & Vaux et al.
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Georgian, Federal
NRHP reference # 72001151[1]
Added to NRHP February 7, 1972

Fairmount Park is the largest municipal park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the historic name for a group of parks located throughout the city.[4][5] Fairmount Park consists of two park sections named East Park and West Park, divided by the Schuylkill River, with the two sections together totalling 2,052 acres (830 ha).[3] Management of Fairmount Park and the entire citywide park system is overseen by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, a city department created in 2010 from the merger of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation.[6][7]

Many other city parks had also been historically included in the Fairmount Park system prior to 2010, including Wissahickon Valley Park in Northwest Philadelphia, Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia, Cobbs Creek Park in West Philadelphia, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia and 58 additional parks, parkways, plazas, squares and public golf courses spread throughout the city.[4][8] Since the 2010 merger, however, the term "Fairmount Park system" is no longer used by the Parks & Recreation department, and the adjacent Wissahickon Valley Park and all other park areas are considered completely separate entities.[5]


Sculpture of General Ulysses S. Grant by Daniel Chester French

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia's first park, occupies 2,052 acres (830 ha) adjacent to the banks of the Schuylkill River.[3] Since 2010, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation divides the original park into East and West Fairmount parks. The original domain of Fairmount Park consisted of three areas: "South Park" or the South Garden immediately below the Fairmount Water Works extending to the Callowhill Street Bridge; "Old Park," which encompassed the former estates of Lemon Hill and Sedgeley; and West Park, the area including the Philadelphia Zoo and the Centennial Exposition grounds. The South Garden predated the establishment of the Park Commission in 1867, while Lemon Hill and Sedgeley were added in 1855–56, after the Civil War, work progressed on acquiring and laying out West Park. In the 1870s, the Fairmount Park Commission expropriated properties along the Wissahickon Creek to extend Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River Trail is a modern paved multi-use trail by Kelly Drive in the East Park.


East Fairmount Park, ca. 1900

The park grew out of the Lemon Hill estate of Henry Pratt, whose land was originally owned by Robert Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Purchased by the city in 1844, the estate was dedicated to the public by city council's ordinance on September 15, 1855. A series of state and local legislative acts over the next three years increased the holdings of the city; in 1858, the city held a design competition to re-landscape Lemon Hill and Sedgeley for public use as the best way to better protect the city's water supply.[9]

As the site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition and the first zoo in the United States, the Philadelphia Zoo, Fairmount Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on February 7, 1972. The adjacent Wissahickon Valley Park, located to the immediate northwest, was also included in the Fairmount Park NRHP registration document.[2]


Park properties include the Centennial Arboretum, a Horticulture Center, Fairmount Water Works, Memorial Hall (home of the Please Touch Museum), Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Boathouse Row, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, recreation centers, reservoirs, statues and other pieces of art.[5][7]

Public art[edit]

One of the Florentine lions

Fairmount Park is home to a large collection of public art, largely due to the efforts of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), a non-profit organization founded in 1872 to embellish Fairmount Park with outdoor sculpture,[10] including the Florentine Lions installed in 1887.[11] The Art Association continues to commission and care for a large number of sculptures, in coordination with the park and city; in 2007, the Art Association installed Iroquois by Mark di Suvero near the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.[12]

Historic houses[edit]

Cedar Grove Mansion

Mount Pleasant, built in 1761 in what was then the countryside outside of the city by a privateer,[13] is administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Fairmount Park.[14] The Art Museum also administers Cedar Grove, a house completed in 1750 in the Frankford neighborhood of the city and relocated to the park in 1926–1928.[15][16]

Other houses in the park[17] include Belmont Mansion (1745), Randolph House (1750), The Cliffs (1753; ruins since a fire in 1986), Woodford (1756), Hatfield House (1760), Laurel Hill Mansion (1767),[18] Strawberry Mansion (1789), Sweetbriar (1797), Ormiston Mansion (1798),[19] Lemon Hill (1800), and Chamounix Mansion (1802).[20] Sedgeley, a house built in 1799 on Lemon Hill, was abandoned and later demolished after being acquired through eminent domain by the city in 1857.[21][22][23] The Sedgeley property also included a tenant's cottage (Porter House) constructed of stone which still exists.[24]

See also[edit]

Libertybell alone small.jpg Philadelphia portal


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places - Fairmount Park - #72001151". focus.nps.gov. National Park Service. February 7, 1972. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016. Locations: Philadelphia ; Both banks of Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek, from Spring Garden St. to Northwestern Ave. 
  3. ^ a b c "The City of Philadelphia, Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan" (PDF). dcnr.state.pa.us. The City of Philadelphia. 2012. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 19, 2016. Retrieved December 19, 2016. The City contains approximately 6,781 acres of watershed parks including East/West Fairmount Parks (2052 ac.), Wissahickon Valley Park (2042 ac.), Pennypack Creek Park (1343 ac.), Cobbs Creek Park (851 ac.), Tacony Creek Park (304 ac.), and Poquessing Creek Park (189 ac.) 
  4. ^ a b "Centennial Exhibition and Expansion of Fairmount Park System". phila.gov. The City of Philadelphia. n.d. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016. Fairmount Park System...expanded from the initial parks under the management of the Fairmount Park Commission (Fairmount Park, Wissahickon Valley Park and Hunting Park), to include several large watershed parks located throughout the city. 
  5. ^ a b c Milroy, Elizabeth (2016). "The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia - Fairmount Park". philadelphiaencyclopedia.org. Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers-Camden, NJ. Archived from the original on January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Department History". phila.gov. The City of Philadelphia. n.d. Archived from the original on December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016. the Fairmount Park Commission, created in 1867, and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, created in 1951...officially merged on July 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Pathport to Philadelphia Parks & Recreation" (PDF). phila.gov. The City of Philadelphia. December 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 1, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  8. ^ "63 Neighborhood and Regional Parks". fairmountpark.org. Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. n.d. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  9. ^ Moss 1998, p. 9
  10. ^ Richman, M: “Sculpture of a City”, page 54. Walker Publishing Co., 1974.
  11. ^ si.edu
  12. ^ Salisbury.S: “Can’t miss this art” a 17½-ton sculpture is installed on the Parkway”, The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 23, 2007.
  13. ^ "Mount Pleasant.". Independence Hall Association. It was built in 1761–62 by Captain John Macpherson, a privateer who had had "an arm twice shot off" according to John Adams. The pirate called the house "Clunie" after the seat of his family's ancient clan in Scotland. 
  14. ^ Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Fairmount Park Houses: Mount Pleasant.". Scottish ship captain John Macpherson (1726–1792) and his first wife, Margaret, built their grand country estate on this site—high atop cliffs overlooking the Schuylkill River—between 1762 and 1765. They employed as their builder-architect Thomas Nevell (1721–1797), an apprentice of Edmund Woolley, the builder of Independence Hall. 
  15. ^ Philadelphia Museum of Art - Visiting : Plan Your Visit : Historic Houses
  16. ^ Historic Details - Cedar Grove farmhouse 1750
  17. ^ Historic houses in Fairmount Park
  18. ^ Laurel Hill Mansion – History Highlights
  19. ^ Ormiston House, Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia
  20. ^ A brief history of Chamounix Mansion
  21. ^ Scharf 1884, p. 1885
  22. ^ Moss 1998, p. 9
  23. ^ Westcott 1877, pp. 452–453
  24. ^ Fazio 2006, p. 267


  • Fazio, Michael W. (2006), The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Johns Hopkins University Press 
  • Moss, Roger W.; Crane, Tom (1998), Historic Houses of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press 
  • Scharf, John Thomas; Westcott, Thompson (1884), History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, L. H. Everts 
  • Westcott, Thompson (1877), The Historic Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia, Porter & Coates 

External links[edit]