text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Mount Pleasant

image54 image58 image59

Mount Pleasant stands at the foot of an avenue lined with trees. This 18th-century Georgian home, symmetrical in every detail, is balanced, harmonious and elegant. It was built by Captain John Macpherson in 1761-62. Macpherson, a privateer who had had "an arm twice shot off" according to John Adams, lived well as did many privateers, noted for their taste in fine houses, excellent wines, superb furnishings and fine clothes. The pirate called the house "Clunie" after the seat of his family's ancient clan in Scotland.

In 1779 Benedict Arnold became the next owner, and gave Mount Pleasant to his bride, Peggy Shippen, as a wedding present. Because of the charge of treason against him they never lived at Mount Pleasant, and eventually fled to England. A later owner was Jonathan Williams, a great-nephew of Benjamin Franklin and first superintendent of West Point. Fairmount Park incorporated Mount Pleasant into its holdings in 1868.

The woodwork alone is worth a visit and intense scrutiny — for Macpherson employed the finest craftsmen available in Philadelphia at the time. The gray woodwork in the hallway is the same design as in the center hall of the State House and there are the acanthus and the Greek key designs in other rooms. Some of the furnishings are especially noteworthy: the Nanking china in the dining room; a portrait of Macpherson's son, Major John Macpherson, who was the first Philadelphian of note killed in the Revolution; a charming portrait by Benjamin West of Mary Keen holding an orange; a magnificent breakfront by John Folwell, the man who carved the "rising not a setting sun" chair in Independence Hall; a portrait of the second Mrs. Macpherson by Charles Willson Peale; and an embroidered terrestrial globe, a rarity not seen elsewhere in Philadelphia.

Head back to Kelly drive and proceed southeast, past the statues of Grant and the playing angels. Continue for close to a quarter mile where, situated high against the rock is Frederic Remington's Cowboy.

Fairmount Park