A New View

Ken Finkel’s post on the “Rise and Fall of PhillyPalladian” on the PhillyHistoryBlog along with the upcoming Beer Mansion Mash at Mount Pleasant this Saturday encouraged a visit to the house this week to check on recent developments. There is a cleaned up and restored path on the back/river side of the house but most striking – the two tall trees which have obscured the view of the west façade since at least the early twentieth-century are gone!


Photographing the west side of the house that faces the Schuylkill River has been a challenge if you didn’t want two large trees masking the view.  You could work around them with wide-angle lens but couldn’t escape them in long views.

View of Mount Pleasant house from garden through railing of pagoda

View of Mount Pleasant through railing of a reproduction pagoda c. 1930.

leaves off

Even with the leaves off the trees the view of the Schuylkill River side of the house was marred.


Mark Reinberger in his recent book, “The Philadelphia Country House” was challenged photographing the less formal side of Mount Pleasant.


The setting sun lights up the west side of Mount Pleasant but the out of place trees distract.


Until at least the middle of the nineteenth-century the bluff leading down to the river was clear of trees. Even in the summer the river could be seen from the second story. It can still be viewed in the winter from the Venetian window as seen here in an image from five years ago, but today the river is completely obscured in summer.

During the eighteenth-century trees would never have been allowed to grow immediately behind the house as the views towards the house and to the river from inside the house would have been of fundamental importance to the owners and those they wished to impress.  Mount Pleasant’s Palladian or Venetian windows, constructed 10 years after the Venetian window on the State House stair tower which Thomas Nevell also worked on, are central to the history of domestic architecture in Philadelphia if not the American colonies. They are the earliest Venetian windows in Philadelphia for a private residence – and there are not one but two – designed using three Classical Orders –  creating the extraordinary architectural experience in second story hall.

I’m thrilled that I can now make the images I’ve always seen in my mind’s eye. Here are some of the first from this Wednesday.



3 quarters

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