Lemon Hill in 1995
Lemon Hill (1800–01) is a Federal-style mansion in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, built by the merchant Henry Pratt. Originally part of Robert Morris's 300-acre (120 ha) estate, The Hills, Pratt purchased 43 acres (17 ha) at a sheriff's sale for $14,654 in 1799. According to Pratt's letterbooks, recently discovered by Philadelphia Museum of Art assistant curator Martha C. Halpern, he designed the mansion himself and served as his own general contractor. Named for the many lemon trees in Morris's greenhouse, which was part of his new property, Pratt lived here until his death in 1838.
To protect its water supply, the City of Philadelphia began purchasing properties along the Schuylkill River, beginning with Lemon Hill in 1844. This formed the basis for what is now Fairmount Park.
Lemon Hill is located on a bluff overlooking the Schuylkill River and Boathouse Row. Exceptional architectural features include its three oval parlors, stacked one on top of the other, with curved fireplace mantles and doors.
The mansion was restored by the architectural historian Fiske Kimball, 1925–26, who lived here while president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1925–55. He conjectured that Robert Morris had built the mansion, but this was disproven by Martha C. Halpern in 2005. In the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, she discovered Henry Pratt's letterbooks, and established through tax records that the mansion did not exist at the time he purchased the land.
Owned by the City of Philadelphia, it is operated as a house museum by the Colonial Dames of America and the Friends of Lemon Hill. Long hidden by dense trees on the sides of the hill, a restoration of the "historic viewscape" is underway which will recreate the original vistas of and from the mansion.
- Lemon Hill Mansion History
- Historic Photographs of Lemon Hill, PhillyHistory.org
- 34 photographs of Lemon Hill from Historic American Buildings Survey
- Data pages from Historic American Buildings Survey
- Images of Lemon Hill in the David J. Kennedy Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Moss, Roger W., and Tom Crane. Historic Houses of Philadelphia: A Tour of the Region's Museum Homes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.
- Richard Webster, Philadelphia Preserved (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976).