Woodford Mansion: Colonial Philadelphia Preserved in Fairmount Park

Within the immense acreage of Fairmount Park, there lies an astute residence on 3400 West Dauphin Street: The Woodford Mansion. This home is a prime example of architecture representing America's heritage of becoming an independent country.

Woodford Mansion was built between the years 1756 – 1758 by William Coleman, a merchant by trade, and who was also a great friend of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. It was at this house where Coleman resided in the summer months, along with his wife, Hannah, and their nephew, George Clymer, who was an orphan. (George Clymer would eventually sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776 on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with Ben Franklin.)

One unique trait of the Woodford Mansion is that the property was owned at different times by both American patriots and British loyalists during the Revolutionary period. The years subsequent to the war, and into the late 1800s, the mansion served as a summer residence for the famous Philadelphia Wharton family, and then the mansion served other different roles, including as the headquarters for the Fairmount Park House Guard, as well as hosting the Naomi Wood art collection.

Charms of Fairmount Park describes the architectural design of the mansion as follows: “…one-story brick home laid in Flemish bond in the Georgian style, the later addition of a second story and rear wing allowed Federal influences to be seen as well. Like many country mansions of this time, Woodford presents a balanced elegance, which was highly valued [at the time]. The home features a three-part Venetian window, a hipped roof, pediment entrance, and dentiled cornice. Soapstone steps lead to faux mahogany grained double doors and a pair of Tuscan columns. There is a handsome formal center entry hall, distinguished by a Doric order frieze, wainscoting and an unusual coved ceiling.”

Also, this summer Woodford will be restoring its back porch (the Piazza Project) to its original 18th century appearance, replacing a 20th century porch built at the time the mansion first became a museum. Jeff Duncan, a Woodford representative, describes the project: “Following the Naomi Wood Trust’s 1927 agreement with the City to move the collection into the Woodford Mansion, a new rear porch was built to link the front and stair halls to the exterior of the house. However, this porch did not replicate the original 18th century piazza. For many years, the Naomi Wood Trust has wanted to construct a new rear porch (piazza) which would faithfully replicate the 18th-century porch.

The project is appealing, not only from a historical perspective, but also because it would enhance the Trust’s public programming and also provide the opportunity to eventually install an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant mechanical lift for use by visitors with mobility challenges.

Preliminary studies, architectural drawings, and cost estimating for the project have been completed. Archaeological work done at the site has positively identified the location of the foundations for the brick piers that upheld the piazza, so we know its’ dimensions. The Trust has been promised grant funding to enable construction of the porch, and work is scheduled to begin in July 2019 and completed by the fall.

In the upcoming months, the Woodford Mansion has special event tours, including the following:

  • June 19th – June 23rd: The Founding Fathers Tour will be highlighting Woodford's founding fathers and the impact they had on the founding of our nation.
  • July 17th – July 21st: The Colonial Politics, Patriot & Loyalist Tour will discuss that Woodford was the home of both Patriots and Loyalists.  

Woodford will also be participating — along with the other Park Houses — in the Fairmount Park’s annual Cider Fest.  This event features local hard cider producers, food, and tours of the mansion. Cider Fest takes place on September 21st.

For more information on the mansion and to check out upcoming events at the mansion, follow the lniks below:



Article written by Kyle Purchase on behalf of the Global Philadelphia Association

Photo credit: Mark B. Thompson Associates LLC; Woodford – Restoration of the 1770s Era Piazza