The Solitude Mansion

Coordinates: 39°58′21″N 75°11′44″W / 39.9726°N 75.1955°W / 39.9726; -75.1955
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The Solitude Mansion
Location3400 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia
Coordinates39°58′21″N 75°11′44″W / 39.9726°N 75.1955°W / 39.9726; -75.1955
ArchitectJohn Penn[4]
Architectural style(s)Federal
Governing bodyPhiladelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia Zoo
OwnerCity of Philadelphia
Official nameThe Solitude
DesignatedJune 26, 1956[1]
DesignatedFebruary 7, 1972
Reference no.72001151[5][6]
The Solitude Mansion is located in Philadelphia
The Solitude Mansion
Location of The Solitude Mansion in Philadelphia
The Solitude Mansion is located in Pennsylvania
The Solitude Mansion
The Solitude Mansion (Pennsylvania)
The Solitude Mansion is located in the United States
The Solitude Mansion
The Solitude Mansion (the United States)

The Solitude Mansion is an historic, American, two-and-a-half story Federal-style mansion at is located in west Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is situated above the banks of the Schuylkill River on the grounds of the Philadelphia Zoo.

History and notable features[edit]

This house was built sometime between 1784 and 1785,[1][2][3] and historical records suggest that it was designed by its owner John Penn,[4] grandson of William Penn, the founder of the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. The mansion is also referred to as The Solitude and The Solitude House,[2][3] as well as the John Penn House and simply Solitude without the definite article.[1] The name of the house was inspired by the Duke of Württemberg's much larger Castle Solitude outside Stuttgart, Germany. The Solitude is the only extant home of a Penn family member in the United States.[4]

Located in the countryside several miles to the northwest of colonial-era Philadelphia, Penn's house served as his refuge from an older cousin's city home, where he had been lodging, as well as from an anti-Penn political faction in town. Penn lived in his new home for about three years until he left the country permanently in 1788 and sailed to England. Joseph Bonaparte lived here as a retreat from his home in Society Hill, and after Penn died in 1834, the house was inherited in succession by three other family members—Penn's brother and then two nephews separately.[4]

At some time after the final Penn owner died in 1869, the city bought the property and leased it to the Zoological Society of Philadelphia in 1874. The land and house then became part of the Philadelphia Zoo, which in turn is a part of Fairmount Park.[4] The house is not open to general admission visitors, but rather only for special events. Rental information is available from the zoo.[7]

The zoo's staff along with the Philadelphia Museum of Art performed restoration work on the house in 1975–76 to prepare it for the Bicentennial celebration. A preservation group called Friends of The Solitude was formed in 1991 which has researched the house's history and continues to perform additional restoration work.[8]

The Solitude is registered on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places[1] and is an inventoried structure within the Fairmount Park Historic District entry on the National Register of Historic Places.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Solitude data from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings (PAB) project of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia
  2. ^ a b c "The Solitude House" (archive). Philadelphia Zoo. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Bissell, E. P. (April 14, 1934). "The Solitude (Supplemental Information)" (PDF). Historic American Buildings Survey. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e "John Penn" (archive). Philadelphia Zoo. Retrieved December 14, 2017. "John may have been his own architect; preliminary plans for the house were sketched in his hand."
  5. ^ a b "National Register Information System – Fairmount Park (#72001151)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013. Retrieved November 14, 2017. (archive)
  6. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form". (archive) by George B. Tatum of the Philadelphia Historical Commission. National Park Service document via the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Cultural Resources Geographic Information System, the Department of Transportation website and the records of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. January 11, 1972. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  7. ^ "Zoo map" (archive). Philadelphia Zoo. Retrieved December 14, 2017. "Additional venues: The Solitude ‡ For special events only. Call ... for rental information."
  8. ^ "The Solitude Today" (archive). Philadelphia Zoo. Retrieved December 14, 2017.

External links[edit]