Three new installations in Fairmount Park’s remarkable historic mansion, Mount Pleasant, are opening visitors’ eyes to little-known aspects of Philadelphia’s past. The newly furnished rooms focus on Lifestyle, Craftsmanship and Biography, providing useful contexts for the stunning house John Adams once described as “the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania.” Through 18 objects and nearby text panels, visitors to Mount Pleasant will gain a broad understanding of the mansion’s creators and early inhabitants, and of everyday life in Philadelphia during the second half of the 18th century.
In the mansion’s second-story drawing room, the Craftsmanship installation explores the work of Martin Jugiez, the master carver who is credited with the elaborate wood carving in Mount Pleasant’s dining room, second-story hall and drawing room. The room is a fitting tribute to Jugiez’s talent, featuring the most detailed and intricate of his decorative woodwork in Mount Pleasant, as well a high chest attributed to his hand. Though Jugiez’s birth date and country of origin are unknown, it is clear that he rose to prominence while in Philadelphia, frequently working with partner Nicholas Bernard. His style is distinct and easily recognizable, often featuring C-scrolls, flowers, leaves and buds. In addition to their appearance throughout the mansion, these touches are also apparent in Jugiez’s works on display in the Museum, including a side table (1765) and high chest (1765-75) he created with Bernard, both of which are on display in the Museum’s first floor Flammer Gallery (gallery 102). “It was a wonderful coincidence that the Museum administers a historic house containing the most opulent residential carving by Martin Jugiez as well as the piece of furniture that most directly reflects the design ideas of the drawing room chimneypiece in Mount Pleasant,” said Christopher Storb, Project Conservator for Furniture and Woodwork. “There are many parallels between the underlying design structure of the high chest and the chimneypiece in the drawing room that visitors can explore.”
Mount Pleasant’s Lifestyle installation presents an 18th- century bedroom, featuring a highchest, dressing table and cradle from the PMA’s collection. Additionally, a mahogany bed frame or “bedstead” on loan from The Dietrich Foundation has been dressed with new reproduction, hand-stitched bedhangings. Although these items did not necessarily belong to Mount Pleasant’s original inhabitants, they are typical of 18th-century upper-class homes around Philadelphia, and provide a valuable history lesson on 18th-century living.
The Biography installation is housed in what was likely the office or back parlor on the mansion’s main floor. The room is a tribute to the house’s original owner, Scottish ship captain John Macpherson, and his family. Historical documents reveal that Macpherson was a true product of the “Age of Reason” and “Age of Enlightenment,” and owned a telescope and two globes. These items, along with a science-oriented cabinet of curiosities, fall-front mahogany desk and portraits of Macpherson’s sons, Robert Hector and John Montgomery, and his second wife, Mary Ann Macneal, are all on view in the office.
Following a major, award-winning roof restoration project, Mount Pleasant reopened in 2006 completely unfurnished, allowing visitors unfettered access to the historic home’s rooms, breathtaking views and extraordinary woodwork. “The new installations include furniture and objects so that visitors can experience the social and artistic context of Mount Pleasant’s construction, but still have the opportunity to walk freely through the space,” said Justina Barrett, the Museum Educator for American Art who worked with a team of the Museum’s educators, conservators and American Art curators to organize the new installations.
About Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant is one of two historic houses administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and owned by Fairmount Park. It was constructed between 1762 and 1765 by Scottish ship captain John Macpherson and his first wife, Margaret, who employed Thomas Nevell as their builder-architect. The National Historic Landmark building is located on Mount Pleasant Drive in Fairmount Park East. The historic house’s interpretive programs are supported by The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.; The Getty Foundation; Heritage Philadelphia Program, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the University of the Arts; the Americana Foundation; and PKG Foundation.
Mount Pleasant is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for drop-in visits as well as scheduled group and school tours. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children ages 6-12.
About Yuletide Tours
Mount Pleasant participates in Fairmount Park’s annual Yuletide Tours, which run from Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2. This year, Mount Pleasant presents A Season For Feasting, showcasing the feasts of roast pigs, oysters, candied fruits and other decadent items some colonial homes enjoyed during the holiday season. For more information, please contact the Coordinator of Park House Guides by phone at (215) 684-7926.