Germantown, Pennsylvania

Built in 1852, for Henry Pratt McKean (1810-1894) and his wife, Phebe Elizabeth Warren (1819-1894). Their Italianate summer home was designed by John Notman (1810-1865), influenced by Richard Upjohn's "double-tower plan". But it was the gardens for which the estate was most noted, showcasing McKean's collection of rare trees, shrubs, and flowers. In a typically Victorian gesture of philanthropy and goodwill, McKean opened his grounds to the public to enjoy on Sundays and Public Holidays. Though used less as the 20th Century - and industry - progressed, Fernhill remained in the McKean family until the mansion was demolished in the 1950s. But, McKean himself would be gratified to know that the grounds were recently opened as a public park....

This house is best associated with...

Henry Pratt McKean

Henry Pratt McKean, of Philadelphia & "Fernhill" Germantown, Pennsylvania


Phebe Elizabeth Warren

Mrs Phebe Elizabeth (Warren) McKean


Thomas McKean

Thomas McKean, of Philadelphia & "Fernhill" Germantown, Pennsylvania


Elizabeth (Wharton) McKean

Mrs Elizabeth (Wharton) McKean


In 1849, McKean purchased the land that would become the Fernhill estate from Louis Clapier. Back then, it lay four miles northwest of the city limits, "beautifully situated on the first ridge of ground of that long succession of ridges, which, mounting constantly higher, run parallel with each other with short undulating intervals through Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, some five miles distant on the west and north, where the ground then falls away to the beautiful White Marsh Valley".

McKean demolished the house built there by Mr Clapier and replaced it with the stone, towered mansion seen in the pictures. However, he retained Clapier's barn which, "from its size and unique character, and great ship which acts as a vane above it (was) one of the best known features of the country round about". The view from the house took in all of Philadelphia, the Delaware River, and the faraway country in New Jersey.

During the winter, McKean and his son, Thomas, occupied the twin McKean houses at the corner of 20th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. By 1890, the Fernhill estate not only remained in tact but had been increased in size. But, industry grew ever closer and in the early 1900s Henry's grandson, H. Pratt McKean, moved from Fernhill to in Horsham. He also demolished his grandfather's old home in Philadelphia (one of the twin houses) to build the Stotesbury Mansion. Having been left unoccupied, the mansion at Fernhill was eventually demolished in the late 1950s but the the grounds were recently opened as a public park under the Fairmount Park Commission and continue to be enjoyed today.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 05/04/2021 and last updated on 27/06/2022.


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