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The Historic Houses of Fairmount Park
The Philadelphia Museum of Art stands at the entrance to Fairmount Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the world. This park also contains one of the finest groups of early American houses in the nation, most of them on their original sites. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has furnished and currently administers two of these colonial houses, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, which are owned by the City of Philadelphia.
Built between 1762 and 1765 as a country estate for Scottish ship captain John Macpherson (1726–1792) and his first wife, Margaret, Mount Pleasant is now celebrated as one of the most elegant surviving examples of eighteenth-century Georgian architecture in the United States. The Macphersons employed as their builder-architect Thomas Nevell (1721–1797), an apprentice of Edmund Woolley, the builder of Independence Hall. Exceptional achievements of Philadelphia master craftsmen can be seen in the house, from the original paneling with its ornamental carving to the Chippendale-style furniture drawn from the Museum's extensive collections. Mount Pleasant is flanked by two small pavilions, one used as an office by the original owners and the other as a summer kitchen. Both structures were empty and closed to the public for some fifty years, but grants from the Women's Committee of the Museum and the Park House Guides in 1993 allowed the kitchen to be fully restored and installed with period implements and furniture from the Museum's collections.
Cedar Grove, which was moved from its original site in the Frankford section of Philadelphia to Fairmount Park in 1926–28, served as a summer residence for five generations of the Coates, Paschall, and Morris families of Philadelphia. In 1746 Elizabeth Coates Paschall, a widow with three children, purchased the property and within a few years began construction on a small summer house of gray native stone consisting of the present dining room, upper bed chamber, and back rooms. Cedar Grove began to evolve as the result of numerous additions made to it by succeeding generations of the family. The house is furnished with exceptional examples of early Pennsylvania furniture, which have descended through the Morris family. The mixture of fine Baroque, Rococo, and Federal styles seen in its interior rooms reflects the evolution of the family's taste and their continued occupancy of the house through the mid-nineteenth century. Through the generosity of Lydia Thompson Morris, the last of the family to possess Cedar Grove, the house and its surviving original furnishings were presented to the city of Philadelphia in 1928.
Other houses in the park, maintained by various civic organizations and open to the public for tours, include Laurel Hill, Woodford, Lemon Hill, Strawberry Mansion, and Sweetbriar.