When Philadelphians think of historic houses they might think about the Besty Ross house or the home of Edgar Allan Poe. But there are many other great historic homes in the city of Philadelphia. Some are mansions. These mansions have played a role in defining architectural style, social structure and commercial and political practices.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, these mansions in philly served as town and country housing for leading families, providing summer retreats away from the densely built-up area of Philadelphia. They were located in the green and shady hills above the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, where residents could escape the heat and disease of the city’s urban core and enjoy the countryside.
They also provided a way to recreate English genteel life for colonial American elites. For example, shipping merchant John Craig built a mansion in 1795 at Andalusia in Lower Bucks County, named after the region in southern Spain, to remind him of his homeland and to provide a healthy respite from the dense and unhealthy city.
From Historic Charm to Modern Grandeur: Exploring Mansions in Philly
These mansions often had expansive grounds with room for gardens, water features, a pool and tennis courts. They also often featured grand entertaining spaces to accommodate the social activities of a leading family.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Philadelphia’s affluent professionals and industrialists sought to replicate the country estates of their wealthy ancestors with urban mansions located close to the clubs, institutions and services they patronized. The result was a style that has been labeled McMansions.