Bellaire Manor, Fairmount Park

Early Georgian-style mansion located in Philadelphia's FDR Park, completed sometime between 1714 and 1735. Flemish-bond with glazed header bricks, simple window frames and narrow, double-leaf entry doors. Good example of a half-dome door hood and second floor balustrade, both reconstructed from archival evidence. Main rooms are furnished with wood-panelled walls and built-in furniture.
bellaire mansion facade
Bellaire Mansion (1715) FDR Park
Now called Bellaire Mansion, the building was known by all variations of Bell Air, and from the names of a long history of owners who called it the Singley House, Lasse Cock's Manor House, and by the name of the first documented owner of this property, Samuel Preston (1665–1743). He was alderman in the Quaker community, William Penn's executor, and eventually served as Philadelphia's mayor from 1711–1712 and treasurer of the province. It's likely that the house was completed at that time of his career.
Wall panels cover the first and second floor, made from local maple with a high degree of craftsmanship. Elegant finials on the newel posts and drops below, carved with heart-shaped symbols. It's unclear exactly when the woodwork was installed but the best guess is that it's original to the building. The hood over the balcony and other features would have been keyed-into the brickwork for support.1

Penn's Philadelphia and Early signs of Extra-urban Development

After receiving an enormous land grant from the King of England in 1681, William Penn promptly began to establish the layout of his new colony, Pennsylvania. He located Philadelphia between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, ensuring that ships would have easy access to the colonial capital. While this piece of planning reflected much foresight, the boundaries that Penn initially envisioned for his city encompassed an unmanageably large quantity of land. In his revised plans, he excluded a large area from the northern and western parts of the city and designated this tract "the liberty land of free lots." He also decreed that 100 hundred acres of this land and two lots within city limits would be granted to anyone who bought 5,000 acres in the colony. Not until 1854 did the "Liberties" (as they came to be known) become part of Philadelphia proper.

Officially founded in 1682, Philadelphia experienced prosperity and rapid population growth over the next few decades. The city's geographic location facilitated trade, and Penn's commitment to religious tolerance within his colony proved equally attractive. By 1720, roughly 10,000 people could call themselves Philadelphians. Like Penn himself, most of the early settlers were Quakers, and while their numbers included merchants, far more were artisans. At the start of the eighteenth century they were joined by immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Scotland.2

  1. Bellaire Manor Desai, Neeta Jitendra. MS. Thesis in Historic Preservation, University of Pennsylvania, 1997
  2. Schuylkill River Villas HABS PA-6184

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