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Difference between revisions of "Belmont (Philadelphia, PA)"

[http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/casva/research-projects.html A Project of the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts ]
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'''Belmont Mansion''', a country estate on the Schuylkill River outside of Philadelphia, was the home of the English expatriate lawyer and judge [[William Peters]].
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'''Belmont Mansion''', a country estate on the [[Schuylkill River]] outside of Philadelphia, was the home of the English lawyer and jurist [[William Peters]] and of his son, the judge and agriculturalist [[Richard Peters]]. It is one of the earliest instances of English Palladian style adapted to the architecture and landscaping of an American villa.
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==Overview==
 
==Overview==
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'''Site Owner(s):'''  
 
'''Site Owner(s):'''  
  
'''Site Designer(s):'''  
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'''Site Designer(s):''' [[William Peters]]
  
 
'''Location:''' [https://www.google.com/maps/place/Fairmount+Park/@39.987774,-75.195498,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c6b903670f2153:0xd9f3bb51b044a47d View on Google Maps]
 
'''Location:''' [https://www.google.com/maps/place/Fairmount+Park/@39.987774,-75.195498,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c6b903670f2153:0xd9f3bb51b044a47d View on Google Maps]
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==History==
 
==History==
  
Built between 1743 and 1751 (with subsequent alterations), Belmont is one of the earliest American interpretations of the distinctive suburban villa style associated with the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. As with 17th- and 18th-century English interpretations of Palladianism, Belmont was symmetrical in design with a central hall flanked by small side chambers. Motifs represented in the molded plaster ceiling of the central hall derive from English examples, such as those illustrated in William Jones’s ''The Gentlemen’s or Builder’s Companion'' (1739). Peters planted large formal gardens and started expanding the four-room house shortly after the birth of his son, Richard, in 1744. A two-story brick structure was added in 1745, and the 2 1/2-story main building in 1755. For a while, these sections of the house were connected by a covered walk.
 
  
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In July 1742 [[William Peters]] purchased a 220-acre parcel of farm land on the west side of the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkill]], which he named Belmont in honor of its lofty situation on a height commanding panoramic views of the river below and rolling countryside beyond. His purchase included a small island of about two acres, still known as Peters Island. <ref> Richard Peters, Jr., “Belmont Mansion,” ''Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia'', 30 (1925): 78-79, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/NFTXIF6S view on Zotero]. </ref> Belmont’s location would remain one of the most admired on the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkil]] for many decades. An English gentleman who visited Philadelphia in the 1780s, when “the beautiful banks of the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkill]] [were] everywhere covered with elegant country houses,” still singled out Belmont as “the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish.” <ref> Translator's note in François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, ''Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782'', 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), 1: 301, [https://www.Zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemkey/itd638fb view on Zotero].  </ref> [[William Peters|Peters]]  refurbished and expanded an existing small stone cottage on the property and at the same time began building a mansion which his patron, Thomas Penn, referred to in a letter of 1743 as “your Country Retirement.” <ref> Mark Reinberger, “Belmont: The Bourgeois Villa in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia,”, Arris: Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, 9 (1998): 17, [ https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]. </ref> The only local precedent for the kind of suburban villa and [[pleasure garden]] envisioned by [[William Peters|Peters]] was Penn’s [[Springettsbury]] estate on the opposite side of the [[Schuylkill River]]. [[William Peters|Peters]] designed Belmont along far more ambitious lines, however. It was among the first in America to adopt the distinctive suburban villa style that flourished in England early in the 18th century in imitation of the refined classicism of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). In addition to drawing on examples he had seen in England, [[William Peters|Peters]] also appears to have derived ideas for the overall design of the house as well as its interior detailing from English pattern books, such as [[James Gibbs]]’s ''Book of Architecture'' (1728), [[William Kent]]’s ''Designs of Inigo Jones'' (1727), and [[Batty Langley]]’s ''The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs'' (1740). <ref> Reinberger, 1998, 22-23, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]; Fiske Kimball, “Belmont, Fairmount Park,” ''The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin'', 22 (1927): 338-39, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/H32TJPUE view on Zotero]. </ref> As originally executed, Belmont featured a symmetrical design with a central hall flanked by small side chambers. Elaborate decorative plasterwork ornamented many of the walls and ceilings &mdash; among the earliest examples in the colonies. Musical motifs in the central hall alluded to [[William Peters|Peters’s]] love of music, and presumably to the performance of music in that space. <ref> Amy Cole Ives, “Belmont Mansion, A Conditions Survey of the Ornamental Plaster Ceilings of Rooms 101 and 205,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1996, 13-14, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4DEVP3HC view on Zotero]. </ref> In 1742 he had requested that Thomas Penn send him a servant from England who could  play violin and harpsichord. <Reinberger, 1998, 25, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero].</ref> As further evidence of his taste for the polite arts, [[William Peters|Peters]] displayed a collection of paintings and bronze sculptures at Belmont. <ref> George Vaux, "Extracts from the Diary of Hannah Callender," ''Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography'', 12 (1888): 454-55, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/STWXKSK3 view on Zotero]. </ref>
  
  
Elaborate formal gardens were laid out by William Peters in 1745. Highly attuned to recent English practice in architecture and landscaping. His decision to combine such naturalistic elements as the [[wood/woods|wood]] with more reflects the influence of English aesthetic concepts that would not affect most other Philadelphia-area gardens for another few decades. traditional, formal design features [[avenue]]s and [[alley]]s.  
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Completed around 1745, the mansion was precious in size as well as décor, and  [[William Peters|Peters]] was soon building again, attaching wings on the north and south sides and adding outbuildings which he connected to the central mansion by means of covered [[piazza]]s. <ref> Reinberger, 1998: 31, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]; see also  Fiske Kimball, “Belmont, Fairmount Park,” ''The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin'', 22 (1927): 333, 335, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/H32TJPUE view on Zotero]. </ref> As Hannah Callendar recounted following a visit in 1762, the visitor entered the house through a side wing, passed through the connecting piazza, and then entered the lavishly decorated hall which provided a climactic view of the landscape beyond. From that position, <span id="Callender_cite"></span> Callender recounted, “You have a prospect bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge," <ref> Quoted in Vaux, 1888: 455, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/STWXKSK3 view on Zotero]. </ref> For this interpretation of the visitor’s experience at Belmont, see Reinberger, 1998, 32, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]. </ref> ([[#Callender|view text]]).
  
" An obelisk about twenty five feet high with the pedestal and base at least eight feet in height was constructed entirely of common building stone... gave the name to Monument Road." Richard Peters, Jr., “Belmont Mansion,” Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, 30 (1925): 79, 81 [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/NFTXIF6S view on Zotero].
 
  
Following William Peters’s return to England, Belmont became the property of his eldest son, Richard, who welcomed many notable visitors. Among them was the French military officer François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis De Chastellux, who observed that “the beautiful banks of the Schuylkill are everywhere covered with elegant country houses” and that Belmont was situated “on the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish.” Marquis De Chastellux, Travels in North America, 1780-1781-1782 , ed. Basil Hall, 141
 
http://archive.org/stream/marquistravels00chasrich/marquistravels00chasrich_djvu.tx
 
  
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The original parcel of land purchased by [[William Peters|Peters]] began at the edge of the [[Schuylkill River]] and extended one mile north, up a steep ascent, to a point that he marked with a monumental [[obelisk]] rising about 33 feet from the ground. <ref>  Peters, 1925: 79, 81 [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/NFTXIF6S view on Zotero]. </ref> He sited his mansion near the middle of this expanse, with a direct view of the [[obelisk]] at one end, and Peters Island at the other. <ref> Reinberger, 1998, 25, and fig. 36, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]. </ref>  Like Penn, he conceived of the  property as a [[pleasure garden]] rather than a strictly practical farm, and laid it out accordingly. Contemporary accounts by visitors such as [[Deborah Norris Logan]] and [[Hannah Callender]] indicate that he utilized some of the same garden features that Penn employed at [[Springettsbury]], combining old-fashioned elements  &mdash; such as the long, straight [[avenue]] lined with hemlocks leading up to the house; the [[labyrinth]] of cedar and spruce, the [[parterres]], and axial [[alleys]] &mdash; with more naturalistic elements &mdash; such as a [[wilderness]] with serpentine [[walks]] &mdash; and fashionable ornaments such as an [[obelisk]] and [[Chinese manner|Chinese]] [[temple]]. This varied landscape emulated the transitional style adopted at many Palladian houses in England, featuring a mixture of rigid formality and picturesque informality. <ref> Reinberger, 1998, 27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero]. </ref> [[William Peters|Peters]] continued to add acreage to Belmont through subsequent land purchases made from 1743 to 1761. During that time, his conception of the estate evolved from the “retirement” (or, suburban villa and [[pleasure garden]]) that he had initially contemplated to the “[[plantation]]” (or working farm) that he increasingly referred to in his correspondence. <ref> Reinberger, 1998: 31, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero].</ref>
  
Of all the gardens and plantations described by Hannah Callender and Deborah Logan, the only remains at present are of the enclosure to the west, a great rectangle centering on the octagonal bay of the stone house, bordered by an evergreen hedge (clearly show on a map of 1870), of which several hemlocks, now grown tall, still remain on the north, while great oaks mark the line on the south. The remains of the great avenue of hemlocks on the center line of the mansion house, which Downing, the landscape gardener, described in the middle of the century as the grandest in the country, likewise appear on the map of 1870. The western terminus of the vista was at the New Ford Road, the successor of which takes its name, Monument Avenue, from the obelisk, already built in 1762. Like the summerhouse and the Chinese temple, in the height of the then reigning taste, it was one of the ornamental features prescribed by the prevailing style of English landscape gardening. Both from the straightness of the avenue, however, and from the character of the gardens near the house, with their straight paths and clipped evergreen labyrinth, we see that Peters?as D s Deborah Logan realized ? preferred the formality of an earlier day
 
Subsequently, the estate was utilized by the railroad, an oil refinery, and a country resort. As part of a project to preserve the quality of Philadelphia's water supply, the city purchased Belmont in 1869 for inclusion in [[Fairmount Park]].
 
 
"After the death of Judge Peters in 1828 Belmont remained in the possession of his family but four years later the tranquillity of its environment was destroyed by the advance of the steam railway as the building of the newly projected Columbia Railroad had brought its rails across a bridge to the west bank of the Schuylkill where it was necessary to climb the steep ascent by means of an inclined plane This undertaking was a feat of engineering of the day but the stationary engine boiler house and sheds and many tracks were laid scarcely one hundred feet from the old mansion.... For a short time the old mansion was used as a boarding house but remained in the possession of the Peters family until March 22 1853 when it was sold to Joseph S Lovering as trustee and afterward with the enlargement of Fairmount Park the estate together with the adjoining ones at Lansdowne ... " Richard Peters, Jr., “Belmont Mansion,” Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, 30 (1925): 81, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/NFTXIF6S view on Zotero].
 
  
 +
Following [[William Peters]]’s return to England, Belmont became the property of his eldest son, Richard, who welcomed many notable visitors.
  
 
==Texts==
 
==Texts==
  
* June 4, 1762, [[Hannah Callendar]], diary entry, (quoted in Vaux, 1888: 454-55)  <ref> George Vaux, "Extracts from the Diary of Hannah Callender," ''Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography'', 12 (1888), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/STWXKSK3 view on Zotero]. </ref>
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* <div id="Callender"><div> June 4, 1762, [[Hannah Callendar]], diary entry, (quoted in Vaux, 1888: 454-55)  <ref> George Vaux, "Extracts from the Diary of Hannah Callender," ''Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography'', 12 (1888), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/STWXKSK3 view on Zotero]. </ref>[[#Callender_cite|back up to discussion]]
: "...went to [[William Peters]]'s house having some acquaintance with his wife. She was at home and with her daughter Polly received us kindly in one wing of the house. After a while passed through a covered passage to the large hall, well furnished, the top adorned with instruments of music, coats of arms, crests and other ornaments in stucco, its sides by paintings and [[statue]]s in bronze. From the front of this hall you have a [[prospect]] bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge. A broad [[walk]] of English Cherry trees leads down to the river. The doors of the house opening opposite admit a [[prospect]] of the length of the garden over a broad gravel [[walk]] to a large handsome [[summer house]] on a [[green]]. From the windows a [[view/vista|vista]] is terminated by an [[obelisk]]. On the right you enter a [[labyrinth]] of [[hedge]] of low cedar and spruce. In the middle stands a [[statue]] of Apollo. In the garden are [[statue]]s of Diana, Fame and Mercury with [[vase/urn|urns]]. We left the garden for a [[wood]] cut into [[vista]]s. In the midst is a Chinese [[temple]] for a [[summerhouse|summer house]]. One [[avenue]] gives a fine [[prospect]] of the City. With a spy glass you discern the houses and hospital distinctly. Another [[avenue]] looks to the [[obelisk]]."
+
: "...went to [[William Peters]]'s house having some acquaintance with his wife. She was at home and with her daughter Polly received us kindly in one wing of the house. After a while passed through a covered passage to the large hall, well furnished, the top adorned with instruments of music, coats of arms, crests and other ornaments in stucco, its sides by paintings and [[statue]]s in bronze. From the front of this hall you have a [[prospect]] bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge. A broad [[walk]] of English Cherry trees leads down to the river. The doors of the house opening opposite admit a [[prospect]] of the length of the garden over a broad gravel [[walk]] to a large handsome [[summer house]] on a [[green]]. From the windows a [[view/vista|vista]] is terminated by an [[obelisk]]. On the right you enter a [[labyrinth]] of [[hedge]] of low cedar and spruce. In the middle stands a [[statue]] of Apollo. In the garden are [[statue]]s of Diana, Fame and Mercury with [[vase/urn|urns]]. We left the garden for a [[wood]] cut into [[vista]]s. In the midst is a [[Chinese manner|Chinese]] [[temple]] for a [[summerhouse|summer house]]. One [[avenue]] gives a fine [[prospect]] of the City. With a spy glass you discern the houses and hospital distinctly. Another [[avenue]] looks to the [[obelisk]]."
  
  
 
* c. 1781, [[François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux|Chastellux, François Jean, Marquis de]] (1787: 1: 304) <ref> François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, ''Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782'', 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/ITD6E8FB view on Zotero]. </ref>
 
* c. 1781, [[François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux|Chastellux, François Jean, Marquis de]] (1787: 1: 304) <ref> François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, ''Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782'', 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/ITD6E8FB view on Zotero]. </ref>
: "Nothing can equal the beauties of the coup d'oeil which the banks of the Schuylkill present, in descending towards the south to return to Philadelphia.  
+
: "Nothing can equal the beauties of the coup d'oeil which the banks of the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkill]] present, in descending towards the south to return to Philadelphia.  
: "I found a pretty numerous company assembled at dinner at the Chevalier de la Luzerne's, which was augmented by the arrival of the Comte de Custine and the M. de Laval. In the evening we took them to see the President of the Congress, who was not at home, and then to Mr. Peters, the Secretary to the Board of War, to whom it was my first visit. His house is not large, nor his office of great importance."
+
: "I found a pretty numerous company assembled at dinner at the Chevalier de la Luzerne's, which was augmented by the arrival of the Comte de Custine and the M. de Laval. In the evening we took them to see the President of the Congress, who was not at home, and then to [[William Peters|Mr. Peters]], the Secretary to the Board of War, to whom it was my first visit. His house is not large, nor his office of great importance."
  
  
 
* 1787, Anonymous English translator of Marquis De Chastellux, ''Travels in North America, 1780-81-82'' (1787: 1: 301) <ref> François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, ''Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782'', 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/ITD6E8FB view on Zotero]. </ref>
 
* 1787, Anonymous English translator of Marquis De Chastellux, ''Travels in North America, 1780-81-82'' (1787: 1: 301) <ref> François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, ''Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782'', 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/ITD6E8FB view on Zotero]. </ref>
: "The beautiful banks of the Schuylkill are every where covered with elegant country houses; among others, those of [[Springettsbury|Mr. Penn]], the late proprietor, [[Alexander Hamilton|Mr. Hamilton]], and Mr. [[William Peters|Peters]], late Secretary to the Board of War, are on the most delightful situations. The tasty little box of the last gentleman is on the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish, and besides the variegated beauties of the rural banks of the Schuylkill, commands the Delaware, and the shipping mounting and descending it, where it is joined at right angles by the former. From hence is the most romantic ride up the river to the Falls, in which the opposite bank is likewise seen beautifully interspersed with the country houses of the opulent citizens of the capital. On your arrival at the Falls, every little knoll or [[eminence]] is occupied by one of these charming retreats."
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: "The beautiful banks of the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkill]] are every where covered with elegant country houses; among others, those of [[Springettsbury|Mr. Penn]], the late proprietor, [[Alexander Hamilton|Mr. Hamilton]], and Mr. [[William Peters|Peters]], late Secretary to the Board of War, are on the most delightful situations. The tasty little box of the last gentleman is on the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish, and besides the variegated beauties of the rural banks of the [[Schuylkill River|Schuylkill]], commands the Delaware, and the shipping mounting and descending it, where it is joined at right angles by the former. From hence is the most romantic ride up the river to the Falls, in which the opposite bank is likewise seen beautifully interspersed with the country houses of the opulent citizens of the capital. On your arrival at the Falls, every little knoll or [[eminence]] is occupied by one of these charming retreats."
  
 
==Images==
 
==Images==
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[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belmont_Mansion_(Philadelphia) Wikipedia]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belmont_Mansion_(Philadelphia)
 
  
 
http://www.belmontmansion.org/history_belmont_mansion.html
 
http://www.belmontmansion.org/history_belmont_mansion.html
  
 
http://www.historic-details.com/places/pa/phila/fairmount-park-houses/belmont-mansion-fairmount-park/
 
http://www.historic-details.com/places/pa/phila/fairmount-park-houses/belmont-mansion-fairmount-park/
 
Fiske Kimball, “Belmont. Fairmont Park,” The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin, vol. 22 (March 1927), 333-45: stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3794510
 
  
 
Philadelphia Architects and Buildings: http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display.cfm/12321
 
Philadelphia Architects and Buildings: http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display.cfm/12321
  
Richard Peters, His Ancestors and Descendants: 1810-1889, edited by Nellie Peters Black:
 
http://books.google.com/books?id=hYRJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=judge+peters+belmont&source=bl&ots=6y0kYQw_B5&sig=341rqFGDmQyBTp4qrlqJORyi74E&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4IACU6XJNcK2yAGqooCYAQ&ved=0CHEQ6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=judge%20peters%20belmont&f=false
 
 
Howard Malcolm Jenkins and George Overcash Seilhamer, eds., Memorial History of the City of Philadelphia from Its First Settlement to the Year 1895, 2 vols. (New York: New York History Company, 1898), vol. 2, 92; https://archive.org/details/memorialhistory00unkngoog
 
  
  

Revision as of 15:03, March 19, 2015

Belmont Mansion, a country estate on the Schuylkill River outside of Philadelphia, was the home of the English lawyer and jurist William Peters and of his son, the judge and agriculturalist Richard Peters. It is one of the earliest instances of English Palladian style adapted to the architecture and landscaping of an American villa.


Overview

Alternate Names:

Site Dates: 1743-1751

Site Owner(s):

Site Designer(s): William Peters

Location: View on Google Maps

History

In July 1742 William Peters purchased a 220-acre parcel of farm land on the west side of the Schuylkill, which he named Belmont in honor of its lofty situation on a height commanding panoramic views of the river below and rolling countryside beyond. His purchase included a small island of about two acres, still known as Peters Island. [1] Belmont’s location would remain one of the most admired on the Schuylkil for many decades. An English gentleman who visited Philadelphia in the 1780s, when “the beautiful banks of the Schuylkill [were] everywhere covered with elegant country houses,” still singled out Belmont as “the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish.” [2] Peters refurbished and expanded an existing small stone cottage on the property and at the same time began building a mansion which his patron, Thomas Penn, referred to in a letter of 1743 as “your Country Retirement.” [3] The only local precedent for the kind of suburban villa and pleasure garden envisioned by Peters was Penn’s Springettsbury estate on the opposite side of the Schuylkill River. Peters designed Belmont along far more ambitious lines, however. It was among the first in America to adopt the distinctive suburban villa style that flourished in England early in the 18th century in imitation of the refined classicism of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). In addition to drawing on examples he had seen in England, Peters also appears to have derived ideas for the overall design of the house as well as its interior detailing from English pattern books, such as James Gibbs’s Book of Architecture (1728), William Kent’s Designs of Inigo Jones (1727), and Batty Langley’s The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs (1740). [4] As originally executed, Belmont featured a symmetrical design with a central hall flanked by small side chambers. Elaborate decorative plasterwork ornamented many of the walls and ceilings — among the earliest examples in the colonies. Musical motifs in the central hall alluded to Peters’s love of music, and presumably to the performance of music in that space. [5] In 1742 he had requested that Thomas Penn send him a servant from England who could play violin and harpsichord. <Reinberger, 1998, 25, view on Zotero.</ref> As further evidence of his taste for the polite arts, Peters displayed a collection of paintings and bronze sculptures at Belmont. [6]


Completed around 1745, the mansion was precious in size as well as décor, and Peters was soon building again, attaching wings on the north and south sides and adding outbuildings which he connected to the central mansion by means of covered piazzas. [7] As Hannah Callendar recounted following a visit in 1762, the visitor entered the house through a side wing, passed through the connecting piazza, and then entered the lavishly decorated hall which provided a climactic view of the landscape beyond. From that position, Callender recounted, “You have a prospect bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge," [8] For this interpretation of the visitor’s experience at Belmont, see Reinberger, 1998, 32, view on Zotero. </ref> (view text).


The original parcel of land purchased by Peters began at the edge of the Schuylkill River and extended one mile north, up a steep ascent, to a point that he marked with a monumental obelisk rising about 33 feet from the ground. [9] He sited his mansion near the middle of this expanse, with a direct view of the obelisk at one end, and Peters Island at the other. [10] Like Penn, he conceived of the property as a pleasure garden rather than a strictly practical farm, and laid it out accordingly. Contemporary accounts by visitors such as Deborah Norris Logan and Hannah Callender indicate that he utilized some of the same garden features that Penn employed at Springettsbury, combining old-fashioned elements — such as the long, straight avenue lined with hemlocks leading up to the house; the labyrinth of cedar and spruce, the parterres, and axial alleys — with more naturalistic elements — such as a wilderness with serpentine walks — and fashionable ornaments such as an obelisk and Chinese temple. This varied landscape emulated the transitional style adopted at many Palladian houses in England, featuring a mixture of rigid formality and picturesque informality. [11] Peters continued to add acreage to Belmont through subsequent land purchases made from 1743 to 1761. During that time, his conception of the estate evolved from the “retirement” (or, suburban villa and pleasure garden) that he had initially contemplated to the “plantation” (or working farm) that he increasingly referred to in his correspondence. [12]


Following William Peters’s return to England, Belmont became the property of his eldest son, Richard, who welcomed many notable visitors.

Texts

"...went to William Peters's house having some acquaintance with his wife. She was at home and with her daughter Polly received us kindly in one wing of the house. After a while passed through a covered passage to the large hall, well furnished, the top adorned with instruments of music, coats of arms, crests and other ornaments in stucco, its sides by paintings and statues in bronze. From the front of this hall you have a prospect bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge. A broad walk of English Cherry trees leads down to the river. The doors of the house opening opposite admit a prospect of the length of the garden over a broad gravel walk to a large handsome summer house on a green. From the windows a vista is terminated by an obelisk. On the right you enter a labyrinth of hedge of low cedar and spruce. In the middle stands a statue of Apollo. In the garden are statues of Diana, Fame and Mercury with urns. We left the garden for a wood cut into vistas. In the midst is a Chinese temple for a summer house. One avenue gives a fine prospect of the City. With a spy glass you discern the houses and hospital distinctly. Another avenue looks to the obelisk."


"Nothing can equal the beauties of the coup d'oeil which the banks of the Schuylkill present, in descending towards the south to return to Philadelphia.
"I found a pretty numerous company assembled at dinner at the Chevalier de la Luzerne's, which was augmented by the arrival of the Comte de Custine and the M. de Laval. In the evening we took them to see the President of the Congress, who was not at home, and then to Mr. Peters, the Secretary to the Board of War, to whom it was my first visit. His house is not large, nor his office of great importance."


  • 1787, Anonymous English translator of Marquis De Chastellux, Travels in North America, 1780-81-82 (1787: 1: 301) [15]
"The beautiful banks of the Schuylkill are every where covered with elegant country houses; among others, those of Mr. Penn, the late proprietor, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Peters, late Secretary to the Board of War, are on the most delightful situations. The tasty little box of the last gentleman is on the most enchanting spot that nature can embellish, and besides the variegated beauties of the rural banks of the Schuylkill, commands the Delaware, and the shipping mounting and descending it, where it is joined at right angles by the former. From hence is the most romantic ride up the river to the Falls, in which the opposite bank is likewise seen beautifully interspersed with the country houses of the opulent citizens of the capital. On your arrival at the Falls, every little knoll or eminence is occupied by one of these charming retreats."

Images


References

Wikipedia

http://www.belmontmansion.org/history_belmont_mansion.html

http://www.historic-details.com/places/pa/phila/fairmount-park-houses/belmont-mansion-fairmount-park/

Philadelphia Architects and Buildings: http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display.cfm/12321


Notes

  1. Richard Peters, Jr., “Belmont Mansion,” Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, 30 (1925): 78-79, view on Zotero.
  2. Translator's note in François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), 1: 301, view on Zotero.
  3. Mark Reinberger, “Belmont: The Bourgeois Villa in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia,”, Arris: Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, 9 (1998): 17, [ https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/UWBTRV23 view on Zotero].
  4. Reinberger, 1998, 22-23, view on Zotero; Fiske Kimball, “Belmont, Fairmount Park,” The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin, 22 (1927): 338-39, view on Zotero.
  5. Amy Cole Ives, “Belmont Mansion, A Conditions Survey of the Ornamental Plaster Ceilings of Rooms 101 and 205,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1996, 13-14, view on Zotero.
  6. George Vaux, "Extracts from the Diary of Hannah Callender," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 12 (1888): 454-55, view on Zotero.
  7. Reinberger, 1998: 31, view on Zotero; see also Fiske Kimball, “Belmont, Fairmount Park,” The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin, 22 (1927): 333, 335, view on Zotero.
  8. Quoted in Vaux, 1888: 455, view on Zotero.
  9. Peters, 1925: 79, 81 view on Zotero.
  10. Reinberger, 1998, 25, and fig. 36, view on Zotero.
  11. Reinberger, 1998, 27, view on Zotero.
  12. Reinberger, 1998: 31, view on Zotero.
  13. George Vaux, "Extracts from the Diary of Hannah Callender," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 12 (1888), view on Zotero.
  14. François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), view on Zotero.
  15. François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), view on Zotero.

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