With Symmetrical outbuildings, classical details, unusual brick quoins, and intricate interior woodwork, Mount Pleasant made a bold architectural statement in the years leading up to the American Revolution.
About Mount Pleasant
A colorful Scottish sea captain and American patriot, John Macpherson (1726–1792) and his first wife Margaret built this grand country estate and productive farm in the mid 1760’s to the delight of many from Philadelphia society, including statesman John Adams, prior to his Presidency.
This home is built high atop cliffs overlooking the Schuylkill River and the Macphersons employed as their builder-architect Thomas Nevell, an apprentice of Edmund Woolley, the builder of Independence Hall. Both Macpherson and Nevell intended to make a bold statement with this house. Macpherson announced his ambition to join established Philadelphia society by commissioning a house which rivaled the greatest city homes, and Nevell hoped to demonstrate his considerable craft and architectural knowledge. Together, they built one of the grandest homes along the Schuylkill, one that John Adams on a visit to the residence in 1775, declared "the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania."
By the mid-1770s, Macpherson decided to give up farming and returned to Philadelphia city life, renting Mount Pleasant to a series of tenants. Benedict Arnold bought the estate in 1779, though he never lived in the house, then the home passed through a series of owners in the tumultuous 1780s. Finally, in 1792, Jonathan Williams, the first superintendent of West Point and grand-nephew of Ben Franklin, purchased Mount Pleasant and lived there intermittently for two decades. His children ultimately sold the estate to Fairmount Park. Prior to restoration in 1926 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s first director, Fiske Kimbell, Mount Pleasant served various public purposes, functioning once a beer garden and later as a dairy farm providing milk and ice cream to local residents.
Considered representative of the Georgian style reflecting English design books and the influence of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, Mount Pleasant presents a grand exterior. Macpherson also provided a traditional Scottish interpretation, based on his own heritage. This elegant and balanced home includes a pair of outbuildings flanking the main house, presenting an impressive stance when one approaches.
The house includes three-part Venetian windows and rusticated entrances with a stucco exterior scored to resemble stone. Visitors will notice the unusual brick corner quoins, rarely seen, and a brick belt course.
Macpherson employed builder/architect Thomas Nevell, who studied with Edmund Woolley (builder of Independence Hall), to design and build his country retreat. The home is considered one of the greatest American houses of its type.
Interior and Furnishings
The rooms in this colonial masterpiece feature the craftsmanship of some of the leading Philadelphia artisans, such as carver Martin Jugiez. His work represent some of the finest surviving examples of Philadelphia architectural carving. Though Jugiez’s birth date and country of origin are unknown, it is clear that he rose to prominence while in Philadelphia. His style is distinct and easily recognizable, often featuring C-scrolls, flowers, leaves and buds. Visitors are treated to an entrance hall and staircase with classic motifs derived from Doric and Ionic architectural column designs, interpreted into decorative elements.
Look for naturalistic Rococo designs, such as floral C-scrolls and acanthus foliage adorning the parlor and main upper chamber as well. Excellent Rococo and Rococo-inspired furniture pieces from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are on display to compliment this home’s heritage and architectural details.
Mount Pleasant sits high atop raised cliffs over the Schuylkill
River, now a part of the vast Fairmount Park.
The original plantation included 150 acres of hay fields, pastures for
sheep and cattle, orchards and a large kitchen garden. At one point the grounds served as a working dairy farm.
The Charm Symbol
Each of the Charms houses is represented individually in the logo. These key icons are based on the unique qualities of each home --- here the key represents the curvaceous C scrolls which decorate Mount Pleasant.
For information regarding Mount Pleasant on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's website click here.