Fairmount Park

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This article is about the municipal park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. For other uses, see Fairmount Park (disambiguation).
Fairmount Park
Wissahickon near Cresheim Creek.jpg
Cresheim Creek in 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., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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 4,100 acres (1,700 ha)
Built 1812
Architect Robert Morris Copeland; Olmsted & Vaux et al.
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Georgian, Federal
NRHP Reference # 72001151[1]
Added to NRHP February 07, 1972

Fairmount Park is a municipal park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It consists of East and West Park, divided by the Schuylkill River, both totaling 2,054 acres (831 ha), all overseen by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, successor to the Fairmount Park Commission in 2010. It is the largest landscaped urban park in the world.


Fairmount Park, Philadelphia's first park, occupies 2,054 acres (831 ha). Today, 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 now comprising the Philadelphia Zoo and the Centennial Exposition grounds. The South Garden predated the establishment of the Park Commission in 1867, and 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 proper. The Schuylkill River Trail is a modern addition, not included in 19th-century acquisitions.


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 relandscape Lemon Hill and Sedgeley for public use as the best way to “protect and improve the purity of the Schuylkill water supply."

Cresheim Creek, Wissahickon.jpg

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 on February 7, 1972.


Today, the park includes the Centennial Arboretum, Philadelphia's Horticulture Center, Fairmount Water Works, Memorial Hall, home to the Please Touch Museum, the Belmont Plateau, Japanese House and Garden, Boathouse Row, recreation centers, reservoirs, and countless statues (as well as other pieces of art) as determined by the park.

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,[2] including the Florentine Lions installed in 1887.[3] 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.[4]

Historic houses[edit]

Mount Pleasant, built in what was then the countryside outside of the city by a privateer,[5] is administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Fairmount Park.[6]

Other houses in the park include William Peters's Belmont Mansion (1745), Hatfield House, Randolph House, Joshua Fisher's The Cliffs (1753), Historic Strawberry Mansion, The Monastery, and the Woodford mansion.

Belmont Plateau, with Center City in the distance

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Richman, M: “Sculpture of a City”, page 54. Walker Publishing Co., 1974.
  3. ^ si.edu
  4. ^ Salisbury.S: “Can’t miss this art” a 17½-ton sculpture is installed on the Parkway”, The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 23, 2007.
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]