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Ridgeland Mansion

Posted on Friday, August 7, 2020

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Ridgeland Mansion

Acquired in 1869 like many of the other Fairmount mansions, Ridgeland Mansion, also known as Mount Prospect, is one of the oldest extant historical villas in the Fairmount Park. Initially built as a humble farmhouse, it was later expanded into the elegant mansion it is today.

In 1718, yeoman farmer William Couch purchased 25 acres of land, but the building now known as Ridgeland would not be erected on this land until sometime between 1752 and 1762. Ridgeland was originally composed of Wissahickon schist and was fitted with a gable roof.

Adjacent to the original building remains two barns and an icehouse. When Couch passed away, the property fell to his son, Daniel, who, like many other proprietors of Schuylkill River estates, fell deep into debt. Thus, Daniel Couch was unable to maintain Ridgeland for long, and the farmhouse was ultimately sold at a sheriff’s auction in 1766. Its new owner, Reese Meredith, was a successful Philadelphia merchant, real estate investor, and acquaintance of George Washington. His son, Samuel Meredith, was a delegate at the Continental Congress and was later appointed by George Washington as Treasurer of the United States.

When Reese Meredith died in 1784, Ridgeland did not go to his son, however. It went to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband George Clymer. Clymer, as a signer of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, is the basis for The Signer statue in Signers' Garden, a stop on The Constitutional Walking Tour. Outside of politics, Clymer, like his deceased father-in-law, was in the business of real estate investment, and as such sought to rent out the property rather than reside in it himself.

To that end, in 1794, Clymer sold Ridgeland to Francis Johnston, Receiver General for the Philadelphia Land Office. Johnston, like many of Fairmount’s elite, used this countryside estate as a summer retreat until the early 19th century. Ridgeland during this time was expanded from a humble farmhouse to a fashionable mansion, giving it many of the Federal-style features it maintains today, such as its mantlepieces and scenic porch held by Tuscan columns that overlooks the river. By 1814, another merchant by the name of Jacob S. Waln acquired the property and also used it as a summer getaway.

After his passing in 1850, his children gained possession of the home before selling it to the city in 1869. Under municipal control, the home underwent further changes as it was modernized to house high-ranking park officials and was later used as office space.

Ridgeland Mansion Entrance for Suzanne Morgan Center

Starting in 1997, it began to be used by the Suzanne Morgan Center, which assists cancer patients and their loved ones. Today, it is still used by the organization, as well as couples looking for a scenic venue for their wedding. The old farmhouse that was once used to maintain an agrarian lifestyle now has become a place to save lives and celebrate matrimony, a kind fate to a respectable monument to history.

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