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Lemon Hill

Founding father Robert Morris’ hilltop estate


The rolling, hilltop grounds of Lemon Hill — a historic mansion with views of the Center City skyline to the south and the Schuylkill River to the west — make it a popular spot for picnickers and barbecues during the warmer months. Basketball courts are open to the public and trails that snake back into Fairmount Park make it a favorite for walkers, hikers, and bikers.

The present house, built in 1799, earned its name when owner Henry Pratt planted the first lemon trees in America here. It was designed in the neoclassical style and noted for its graceful, oval rooms with curved doors and fireplaces on each of its three floors. It is open for tours via the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Robert Morris, merchant, entrepreneur and signer of the Declaration of Independence, first owned this property and built upon it in 1770, naming his house “The Hills”. But Morris, a financier of the Revolution and close friend of George Washington, overextended his empire and was sent to debtors’ prison in 1798, after which Pratt, a Philadelphia merchant, bought the property at a sheriff’s sale.

When construction on Lemon Hill was finished in 1800, the fashionable set vied for invitations to the neoclassical mansion. Today, with its museum-quality collections, it is still a showcase.

Pratt died in 1838, and the city purchased the house and 45 acres in 1844, the first such acquisition for the formation of Fairmount Park.

Fairmount Park was officially founded in 1855 when the Lemon Hill estate was dedicated as a public park. Support came from 2,400 citizens who signed a petition urging the purchase of Lemon Hill. During the 1840s and 1850s, the City rented the house to various tenants, including a concessionaire who operated a beer garden.

The park was created to protect the city’s water supply from the growing industry along the river. In addition to clean water, park supporters were interested in establishing public park grounds because they believed it was vital to both the physical and psychological health of Philadelphians.

Come Prepared

Picnickers are welcome, but permits are required. The house is open for tours Wednesday through Saturday, April – December.

Outsider’s Tip

Great spot to catch the July 4th fireworks, with a clear view of the Center City skyline

Support the Friends of Lemon Hill

The Friends of Lemon Hill formed in 1987 to raise funds and carry out projects to preserve, promote and protect Lemon Hill Mansion and its grounds. The Friends continue to seek new members and donors.

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