The “grand dame” of Fairmount Park houses is one America’s great architectural gems
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Schuylkill River, Mount Pleasant was built in the 1760s by Scottish sea captain John McPherson. In 1775, John Adams described it as “the most elegant Seat in Pennsylvania,” and some still say it’s the finest colonial house north of the Mason-Dixon line.
But it’s not just history and architecture that’s on offer here. The grounds of this house are now an active part of the Fairmount Park system and often used by local picnickers, walkers, joggers, bikers and dog walkers.
Mount Pleasant is the most important of a number of distinctive homes in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Its somewhat pretentious character recalls the atmosphere of wealth and station enjoyed by the men who helped to make Philadelphia the leading city of the Colonies.
Built in the Georgian style, emphasizing balance and symmetry, the includes a pair of pavilions that flank the main house. Carved woodwork interiors are among the finest surviving examples of Philadelphia architectural carving.
Mt. Pleasant was purchased by the city of Philadelphia in 1869. Later, Park Commissioners created a Dairy here which provided fresh milk and ice cream to city children. The building was restored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1962.
Benedict Arnold bought the house in 1779, little more than a year before his attempted betrayal of West Point. The house was later confiscated and Arnold’s possessions sold publicly.