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Fairmount Park - Woodford parlor, Landscape painting is from the school of Richard Wilson, 1750. <br>
Woodford parlor, Landscape painting is from the school of Richard Wilson, 1750.
Our first stop
was Woodford Mansion. Woodford Mansion is an elegant one and one-half story late Georgian architectural style home built by William Coleman in 1756-1758 on 12 acres of land. The nearby woods and the ford along the Schuylkill River gave the summer home its name. The Georgian architecture is identified by a pedimented front, Chippendale roof balustrade and symmetrical facade using brick construction with a Flemish bond pattern.

Fairmount Park Picture
WIlliam Coleman was an important Patriot and a close friend with Benjamin Franklin who said of Coleman, "He has the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals of almost any man I ever met." He was also a member of Franklin's Junto and also a founder of the College of Philadelphia, now known as the University of Pennsylvania. His wife Hannah raised George Clymer, their orphaned nephew who later became a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Coleman completed his career by becoming a justice of the provincial Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Fairmount Park - Woodford kitchen, 1772 addition
Woodford kitchen, 1772 addition
The country estate was owned briefly after Coleman's death in 1769 by Alexander Barclay, a Quaker and Hist Majesty's Customs Comptroller for the Port of Philadelphia. Upon Barclay's death in 1771, Woodford was purchased by his brother-in-law David Franks. It was Franks who enlarged Wooford to its present size by adding a second floor with the Palladian window, a stairwell, and a kitchen wing with a paneled room above. Woodford then received its grain painting features. David and Margaret Franks were Loyalists. During the American Revolution, Franks was the Crown Agent for the British Army in North America. Congress directed Benedict Arnold to arrest Franks for treason in 1778. The house was then transferred to Thomas Paschall who rented out the property. Franks was again imprisoned in 1780 and eventually moved back to England.

Isaac Wharton took ownership of Woodford in 1793. Isaac married Margaret Rawle Wharton, daughter of Francis Rawle, from the family who summered next door at Laurel Hill, our next stop on the tour. It was during their ownership that substantial interior changes were made by turning two first floor bedrooms into a large dining room. Woodford stayed in the Wharton family until it was purchased by Fairmount Park in 1869. It was used as a police station and lock-up until 1927.

Fairmount Park - Woodford fireplace in the kitchen
Woodford fireplace in the kitchen
What sets Woodford apart from the other mansions in Fairmount Park is the "household gear during Colonial years" of the Naomi Woods Trust. A visionary ahead of her time, Naomi Wood began to collect antiques in 1905 She understood the importance of colonial objects and wanted her collection to be displayed in an important historic house upon her death. With the help of her good friend, Daniel Huntoon, Woodford was chosen for that collection. Naomi Wood died in 1927, and Woodford was open to the public in 1930.

The theme being displayed for the Holiday House Tour at Woodford was "Twelfth Night" with the front hall decorated with a tree with hand made ornaments completed by children from the Clymer's Elementary School. The decorations were done by the Moorestown Garden Club.

Source: Text and Photos by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

Laurel Hill Mansion
Lemon Hill
Philadelphia Museum of Art Fairmount Park Houses
Sweetbriar Mansion
Woodford Mansion

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