Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Top 10 Fairmount Park Holiday Houses Tour Inside and Out

Woodford House built in 1756-1758 by William Coleman a close friend of Benjamin Franklin. On the outside it is a stately looking building that initially served as a summer home and the first one on our tour.  We opted for the self guided tour since the trolley tour was sold out. Other notable residents were David Franks and the Wharton Family.

Woodford House inside furnishing all came from the estate collection of Ms. Naomi Wood.  I was amazed at many of the pieces of furniture designs that could be opened up to serve a group and easily folded back up into a compact piece. Space savers were everywhere, I loved it. She also contributed an extensive deft collection found in the dining room.

Laurel Hill was built in 1764 and is owned by the city but maintained by the Women for a Greater Philadelphia. The outside property was originally purchased by Francis Rawle who died in a hunting accident less then a year later. His widow married Shoemaker and built this home.  The home today was built in three stages, the original (1767) sits in the center. During the Revolutionary War, the house was taken over and sold at auction because the Shoemakers were British loyalists. They went to England and after the war, Rebecca purchased the home again. Tyson Gardner has written two booklets about Laurel Hill, Under My Roof and Laurel Hill's Abolitionist.

The volunteers at Laurel Hill (Women for a Greater Philadelphia) dress in period clothing which gives it all the more charm and appeal. During the months of June and July candlelight musical performances are offered. Keep checking the website for the upcoming 2013 season and reservation.

Orriston Mansion was built in 1798 by Edward Burd and the trim around the walls towards the ceiling had a ledge that we were told hung paintings and this residence was one of the first art museums in Philadelphia.

There were so many highlights in this home but it would simply not be proper to mention our tea and cookies with the Queen in this 2nd floor room in this Scottish home using the good china.

Mount Pleasant was built by Macpherson a young Scottish man who went to sea at 19 years old, became a sea captain and ended up in America a very rich man.

Warm (non-alcoholic) wassail was served inside and I came home with the recipe, four recipes actually were handed out by different homes.

Lemon Hill is a Pratt family rags to riches story. Henry Pratt was a merchant who traveled to China to acquire his wares and would invite the elite into his home to entertain them and sell a piece sitting right on his table or offer take special orders for items.

 I would have wanted to order his winding staircase.  It was beautiful.  Luckily, I was not part of the elite of Philadelphia and would not be placing an order to complete my final Christmas shopping list, but the temptation was there. The staircase is beautiful.

The oval room resembled the most famous oval room in the United States at the White House but we were told this one was better because it had oval doors and an oval fireplace and it did!! It also has a stunning view out the windows of the Philadelphia Art Museum and down the Lemon Hill is the famed Boat House Row.

The oval room on the inside

The oval room from the outside
Some of these mansions are open year round with select hours.  You can always view them from the outside driving through Fairmount Park but check the individual website for the special operating hours. This year Cedar Grove and Strawberry Mansion were being restored and plan to be part of the holiday tour next year.  I highly recommend this tour for the history and the sheer beauty of going back in time into the homes of some of the biggest movers and shakers in the city of Philadelphia.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

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