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History of Early American Landscape Design

Lemon Hill

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See also: Springettsbury, The Hills

Lemon Hill was the Schuylkill River estate of the Philadelphia merchant Henry Pratt (1761–1838). Pratt purchased the property, which comprised the southern portion of Robert Morris’s (1734–1806) The Hills, in 1799. Under Pratt’s ownership, Lemon Hill was known for its geometric-style gardens and extensive greenhouse and hothouse complex. In 1855 Lemon Hill became part of the newly formed Fairmount Park, where the house still stands and operates as a historic site.


Alternate Names: Pratt’s Gardens (after 1847)
Site Dates: Established 1799
Site Owner(s): Henry Pratt (1761–1838)
Associated People: John McAran (landscape gardener); Robert Buist (1805–1880; gardener); Peter Mackenzie (1809–1865; head gardener)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
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On March 15, 1799, Henry Pratt (1761–1838), a wealthy shipping merchant and land speculator from Philadelphia, purchased the southern portion of Robert Morris’s Schuylkill River estate, The Hills, at a sheriff’s sale. He renamed the property Lemon Hill, supposedly after the citrus trees that grew in Morris’s gardens, and built a new Federal-style villa to replace Morris’s house.[1] Pratt maintained his primary residence within the city of Philadelphia, and Lemon Hill served mainly as a suburban retreat for entertaining friends and business associates.[2]

Fig. 1,William Groombridge, View of Lemon Hill, c. 1800.

Pratt also permitted members of the public to tour Lemon Hill. In 1830 a Committee of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society remarked upon the estate’s popularity, reporting that “[f]ew strangers omit paying it a visit” (view text). Situated on a bluff above the east bank of the Schuylkill River, Lemon Hill afforded an “elegant and extensive” prospect of the river view text) [Fig. 1].[3] In 1813 one commentator proclaimed that the grounds were “in the highest state of cultivation” and praised Pratt’s “picturesque and ornamental improvements” view text). The Committee of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society also commended Lemon Hill’s “picturesque effect,” with “water and wood . . . distributed in just proportions with hill and lawn and buildings of architectural beauty” (view text). Karl Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who visited the estate in 1825, was especially impressed by the “very handsome” chestnut and hickory trees as well as two very large tulip trees that ornamented the grounds ().[4]

Fig. 2, James Fuller Queen, Temple in Pratt’s garden on the Schuylkill, recto, 1840.

The gardens at Lemon Hill were elaborately designed, featuring a circular grotto and numerous summerhouses adorned with marble statues, goldfish ponds, fountains, cascades, and bowers (view text), as well as trellises, springhouses, and temples such as the one drawn by James Fuller Queen in 1840 (view text) [Fig. 2]. According to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, flower borders along the walks at Lemon Hill were interspersed with evergreens and flowering plants, including many exotic warm-weather varieties that were able to “bear the winter with a little straw covering” (view text). Writing in 1849, Andrew Jackson Downing claimed that Lemon Hill had been “the most perfect specimen of the geometric mode in America” during the 1820s, and that its gardens had exhibited “all the symmetry, uniformity, and high art of the old school” (view text). However, even decades before Downing penned these words, some already considered the geometric or French mode of landscape design to be old-fashioned; indeed, in 1816 the British naval officer Captain Joshua Rowley Watson complained that the grounds at Lemon Hill were “too much after the French manner of pleasure gardens” for his taste (view text).

Fig. 3, John Archibald Woodside, Lemon Hill, 1807.
Fig. 4, J. Allbright (illustrator), J. B. Longacre (engraver), J. & W. W. Warr (engraver), Title page, in D. & C. Landreth, The Floral Magazine and Botanical Repository (1832).

The greenhouse and hothouses at Lemon Hill were said to be the largest of their kind in the United States and often dominate 19th-century depictions of the estate (view text) [Figs. 3–4]. The greenhouse had been a major feature of The Hills as well, and Pratt built upon Morris’s already significant investment when he acquired the property. In August 1799, several months after purchasing Lemon Hill at the sheriff’s sale, Pratt paid Morris $750 for greenhouse plants.[5] Under Pratt’s ownership, the hothouses contained an enormous quantity and variety of plants, including many exotics. A June 1838 auction catalogue of the contents of Lemon Hill’s greenhouses and hothouses lists 2,701 individual plants for sale, including various roses, carnations, geraniums, camellias, citrus, aloes, cactuses, hydrangeas, and coffee trees, among many others kinds.[6] Pratt invited the public to view his rarest specimens. In June 1821, for example, Pratt exhibited a flowering aloe—one of the plants he had purchased from Morris’s greenhouse—alongside “a considerable number of rare and beautiful tropical plants” at the Philadelphia’s Orphan’s Asylum as part of a fundraiser for the institution (view text). Pratt’s collection also won awards from The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, including prizes for exhibiting the first mango as well as a particularly “splendid specimen” of poinsettia.[7] In order to water the extensive collection of plants at Lemon Hill, Pratt installed a hydraulic water-delivery system, which pumped water up from the Schuylkill River to a series basins that supplied the green and hothouses ().

Caring for the groves, flower and vegetable gardens, and greenhouse plants at Lemon Hill required a large team of gardeners. According to an 1830 report by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, “For many years the chief gardener [at Lemon Hill] was assisted by eleven or twelve labourers,” but by 1830 that number had been reduced by about half, “probably owing to the finished condition” of the grounds at that time (view text). Although many of the skilled gardeners’ names remain unknown, we can identify three important members of Philadelphia’s horticultural community who worked at Lemon Hill early in their careers.[8] It was to the “science and taste as a landscape gardener” of John McAran, who would later run a successful nursery and pleasure garden in Philadelphia, that the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society credited “the decorations of Lemon-Hill.”[9] Robert Buist (1805–1880), another prominent Philadelphia nurseryman, worked briefly as a gardener at Lemon Hill shortly after emigrating from Scotland in 1828.[10] Peter Mackenzie (1809–1865), a Scottish immigrant who had trained as a horticulturalist at London’s Kew Gardens, was the last head gardener employed by Pratt at Lemon Hill, working there after arriving to Philadelphia in 1827. While a gardener at Lemon Hill, Mackenzie earned the distinction, according to an article in The Magazine of Horticulture, of being “the first [in the United States] to flower the Poinsettia in superb condition.”[11]

Fig. 5, T. Mason Mitchell, Plan of the Fair Mount docks and the adjoining property belonging to Knowles Taylor, Matthew Newkirk, Sam’l Downer junr. & Isaac S. Loyd., c. 1840.

On February 29, 1836, Henry Pratt sold Lemon Hill to Knowles Taylor, a speculator and merchant, for $225,000.[12] In an effort to take advantage of Lemon Hill’s proximity to the Schuylkill River and to the Philadelphia Columbia Railroad, Taylor and his fellow speculator Isaac Loyd, who had purchased the neighboring estate Sedgeley, made plans to develop a system of canals and wharves along the river (in much the same way that Thomas Mitchell had planned to do at The Woodlands just a few years earlier) and to construct high-density housing on the grounds of the two properties [Fig. 5]. However, the business partners went bankrupt before the plan could be put into action.[13] When Lemon Hill went up for sale again in 1843, Thomas P. Cope (d. 1854), a prominent merchant and Select Councilman, proposed that the city should purchase the property and turn it into a public park in order to prevent future development along the Schuylkill River. Cope’s plan received the support of the College of Physicians, among other citizens’ groups concerned with the effects of pollution in the river, and the city of Philadelphia completed the purchase of Lemon Hill on July 24, 1844, for $75,000.[14] Soon after this purchase, the Pennsylvania Historical Society offered to establish a garden at Lemon Hill, but the city rejected the proposal. Instead, in 1847, the city signed a ten-year lease with William Kern, an ice dealer, who sublet the estate to a tavern-keeper to be operated as a beer garden and public pleasure garden.[15] In 1855, Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion described the boisterous atmosphere at the beer garden at Lemon Hill, characterizing the estate as “a favorite resort of the German population of Philadelphia . . . [who] assemble in large numbers to consume quantities of lager-bier, cheese, and other refreshments, and to amuse themselves with dancing . . .” [Fig. 6].[16]

Fig. 6, Benjamin R. Evans, Lemon Hill, 1852.

Within twenty years of Pratt selling Lemon Hill, the estate’s grounds—once described by A. J. Downing as “brilliant and striking”—had fallen into disrepair (view text). Charles S. Keyser, who advocated for a public park at Lemon Hill, lamented the condition of the grounds in 1856, describing the charred remains of the hothouses, the “decayed” grotto and summerhouses, and goldfish ponds now “loathsome with slime” (view text).[17] In 1861, Sidney George Fisher, who remembered Lemon Hill as “beautifully wooded,” decried the felling of its timber at the hands of speculators (view text).

Fig. 7, Frederick Graff, Plan of Lemon Hill and Sedgley Park, Fairmount and Adjoining Property, 1851.

Philadelphians renewed the push to transform Lemon Hill into a public park. Concerned about the deteriorating condition of the Schuylkill, Frederick Graff Jr. (1817–1890), Chief Engineer of Philadelphia’s Water Department and the nearby Fairmount Water Works, devised a landscaping plan for Lemon Hill and Sedgeley Park, which John Price Wetherill, chairman of the Watering Committee, presented to the city councils in 1851 [Fig. 7].[18] The plan laid out a system of winding, forty-foot-wide roads that would create a drive several miles long by which the public could navigate the estate, and also proposed preserving Pratt’s mansion.[19] However, according to Elizabeth Milroy, Graff “made no recommendations for new plantings or for the care of existing trees and shrubs.”[20] Graff’s plan was never implemented, but in September 1855, Philadelphia’s Committee on City Property passed a resolution to integrate the Lemon Hill estate into a new public park that was to be named Fairmount Park.[21]

Fig. 8, James C. Sidney and Andrew Adams, Plan of Fairmount-Park, in Description of Plan for the Improvement of Fairmount Park, 1859.

In 1859 the city selected a design for the new Fairmount Park by James C. Sidney (1819–1881) and Andrew Adams (ca. 1800–1860), which encompassed 110 acres extending from the Fairmount Water Works at the south to just north of the Spring Garden Water Works and from the Schuylkill River at the west and the Reading Railroad at the east [Fig. 8].[22] Like Graff’s earlier plan, the Sidney & Adams plan also called for a system of circuitous drives and walks throughout the grounds of the Lemon Hill estate and the restoration of Pratt’s house. Sidney and Adams recommended the creation of a sixteen-foot-wide piazza that would surround Pratt’s mansion on three sides and the restoration of terraces to the east of the house that would be planted with beds of roses and flowering shrubs.[23] Their plan also proposed the creation of a grand tree-lined avenue of American Lindens; the planting of various flowering, deciduous, and evergreen trees; and the construction of “summer houses, kiosks, rustic seats, fountains, ornamental bridges, boat houses, fish ponds &c.” In the view of a writer for The Gardener’s Monthly, such improvements would help return the grounds to some “vestige of its former splendor,” when, under Pratt’s ownership, Lemon Hill had been considered one of the finest gardens in America.[24] Although the execution of the Sidney & Adams plan for Fairmount Park was often delayed during the Civil War, as Michael J. Lewis has argued, the city moved decisively and, by 1866, “Sidney’s plan was in large measure realized,” with “its apparatus of drives and paths, its planting scheme, and landscaping” completed and available for public use.[25]

Lacey Baradel


Fig. 9, John G. Exilious, “A View of Lemon Hill the Seat of Henry Pratt Esqr.,” in Oliver Oldschool [Joseph Dennie], ed. The Port Folio (August 1813): opp. p. 166.
“Lemon Hill . . . is the seat of Henry Pratt, esq. of Philadelphia; it is situated on a beautiful part of the river Schuylkill, about two and a half miles from the city. The prospect from it is elegant and extensive; the grounds are in the highest state of cultivation; the hot-house is admirably stored, and the picturesque and ornamental improvements, are highly creditable to the taste of the present liberal proprietor.” [Fig. 9]

  • Watson, Joshua Rowley, July 7, 1816, describing Lemon Hill (quoted in Foster 1997: 298)[27] back up to history
“We drove over the Upper Bridge to Mr Pratts who has a large collection of plants and extensive Greenhouses & ca. His grounds are too much after the French manner of pleasure gardens. The view looking up the Schuylkill and over towards Eaglesfield is pretty.”

  • Anonymous, 1821, describing an exhibition of an aloe plant from Lemon Hill (The Plough Boy: 30)[28] back up to history
[June 6] “It is believed that, but two of those plants have come to perfection in the United States. One was at Springbury, the seat of William Penn, near Bush Hill. This plant flowered in 1777. From it the late Mr. William Hamilton got a sucker, which he was fortunate enough to rear, and it flowered at the Woodlands, in the year 1804. When Henry Pratt, Esq. bought Lemon Hill, from the late Robert Morris, there was an Aloe in the Green House. This plant has been cherished and tended for 70 years, with great care, and is now RAPIDLY advancing to an exhibition of all the fragrance and beauty, of which it is susceptible. We will here, perhaps a little out of place, embrace the occasion, to pay homage of our consideration and thankfulness to Mr. Pratt, for the distinguished liberality with which his gardens, green houses, &c. are, and long have been, thrown open to strangers and to citizens.
Mr. Pratt, with a liberality and benevolence which entitle him to great praise, has bestowed his plant on the Orphan Asylum, on Cherry-street, near Schuylkill Sixth-street: where it will be exhibited to the public for the benefit of that charitable institution. A building for the reception of the Aloe, being completed at the Asylum, the plant was yesterday moved thither from Lemon Hill. The greatest care was necessary and was taken in the removal. The Aloe was carried, the whole distance, on the shoulders of 24 men, and we have pleasure in saying that it did not sustain the slightest injury.
“On the 28th of May last, it was observed that this interesting plant had put forth and unerring evidence that it was about to flower. It put forth an upright shoot, like a strong asparagus. This stem, since that time, has grown 5 feet 8 inches; considerably more than the plant had grown in 60 years before. It will be in full flower about the middle of July next.
“We give this early notice of this interesting exhibition to afford persons at a distance an opportunity of making their arrangements to enable them to enjoy the gratification of beholding so rare and beautiful a sight.—Democratic Press.
[June 8] “We have great satisfaction in announcing, that Mr. Henry Pratt, not content with the liberality he had already shewn to the Widow’s and Orphan’s Asylum, by the generous gift of the FLOWERING ALOE, has made most liberal additions to his bounty. To render the exhibition at the Asylum as interesting and of course as profitable as possible, Mr. Pratt yesterday sent to that institution a considerable number of rare and beautiful tropical plants. Among them were the Night Blooming Ceres, the Rose Apple of the West Indies, the Sago Palm, the Coffee Tree, the Sugar Cane, &c. &c.--Ibid.

“A merchant, Mr. Halbach, to whom I was introduced, took a walk with me to two gardens adjoining the city. One of these belongs to a rich merchant, Mr. Pratt, and is situated upon a rocky peninsula, formed by the Schuylkill, immediately above the water-works. The soil consists mostly of quartz and clay. The owner seldom comes there, and this is easy to be perceived, for instead of handsome grass-plots you see potatoes and turnips planted in the garden. The trees, however, are very handsome, mostly chestnut, and some hickory. I also observed particularly two large and strong tulip trees; the circumference of one was fifteen feet. In the hot-houses was a fine collection of orange trees, and a handsome collection of exotic plants, some of the order Euphorbia from South America; also a few palm trees. The gardener, an Englishman by birth, seemed to be well acquainted with his plants. Through a hydraulic machine the water is brought up from the river into several basins, and thence forced into the hot-houses. There was also in the garden a mineral spring of a ferruginous quality. From several spots in the garden there are fine views of the Schuylkill, whose banks, covered with trees, now in the fall of the year, have a striking and pleasant effect from the various hues of foliage.”

  • Wailes, Benjamin L. C., December 29, 1829, describing Lemon Hill (quoted in Moore 1954: 359–60)[30] back up to history

“But the most enchanting prospect is towards the grand pleasure grove & green house of a Mr. Prat[t], a gentleman of fortune, and to this we next proceeded by a circutous rout, passing in view of the fish ponds, bowers, rustic retreats, summer houses, fountains, grotto, &c., &c. The grotto is dug in a bank [and] is of a circular form, the side built up of rock and arched over head, and a number of Shells [?]. A dog of natural size carved out of marble sits just within the entrance, the guardian of the place. A narrow aperture lined with a hedge of arbor vitae leads to it. Next is a round fish pond with a small fountain playing in the pond. An Oval & several oblong fish ponds of larger size follow, & between the two last is an artificial cascade. Several summer houses in rustic style are made by nailing bark on the outside & thaching the roof. There is also a rustic seat built in the branches of a tree, & to which a flight of steps ascend. In one of the summer houses is a Spring with seats around it. The houses are all embelished with marble busts of Venus, Appollo, Diana and a Bacanti. One sits on an Island on the fish pond. All the ponds filled with handsome coloured fish.

“The grounds are planted with a great variety of shrubbery & evergreens of various kinds of the pine & fir, and the hot house is said to be the largest in the US. It is filled to overflowing with the choicest Exotics: the Chaddock Orange of different kinds & the Lemon loaded with fruit. There are two coffee trees with their berries. Some few shrubs were in flower & others seeded, & I was politely furnished with a few seed of 2 varieties of flowers (Myrtle & an accacia). In front of the hot house, one at each end, is a Lion of marble, well executed, & a dog in front. On the roof is a range of marble busts.”

  • Committee of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1830, describing Lemon Hill (quoted in Boyd 1929: 431–33)[31] back up to history

“This beautiful garden, so creditable to the owner, and even to the city of Philadelphia, is kept in perfect order at great expense. Few strangers omit paying it a visit, a gratification which is afforded to them in the most liberal manner by the proprietor. Nor can any person of taste contemplate the various charms of this highly improved spot, without being in rapture with the loveliness of nature—everywhere around him, so chastely adorned by the hand of man.

“Undoubtedly this is the best kept garden in Pennsylvania, and when associated with the green and hot house department, may be pronounced unrivalled in the Union. The gravel walks, espaliers, plants, shrubs, mounds, and grass plats, are dressed periodically and minutely. . . .

“Along the walks, the flower borders are interspersed with Thunbergias, Eccremocarpus, Chelonias, Mimosas, &c. The Laurustinus, sweet Bay, English Laurel, Rosemary, Chinese privet, Myrtle, Tree Sage and South Sea Tea, stand among them, and bear the winter with a little straw covering. Even the Verbena triphylla, or Aloysia Citriodora, has survived through our cold season in Mr. Pratt’s city garden; seven of these plants are evergreens, and if they become inured to our climate, they will add greatly to our ornamental shrubs.

“The treasures contained in the hot and green houses are numerous. Besides a very fine collection of Orange, Lemon, Lime, Citron, Shaddock, Bergamot, Pomgranate and Fig trees in excellent condition and full of fruit, we notice with admiration the many thousand of exotics to which Mr. Pratt is annually adding. The most conspicuous among these, are the tea tree; the coffee tree——loaded with fruit; the sugar cane; the pepper tree; Banana, Plantain, Guva, Cherimona, Ficus, Mango, the Cacti in great splendour, some 14 feet high, and a gigantic Euphorbia Trigonia—19 years old, and 13 feet high. The green houses are 220 feet long by 16 broad; exhibiting the finest range of glass for the preservation of plants, on this continent.

“Colonel Perkins, near Boston, has it is true, a grapery and peach Espalier, protected by 330 feet of glass, yet as there are neither flues not foreign plants in them, they cannot properly be called green houses, whereas Mr. Pratt’s are furnished with the rarest productions of every clime, so that the committee place the conservatory of Lemon Hill at the very head of all similar establishments in this country.

“There are some pretty bowers, summer houses, grottos and fish ponds in this garden—the latter well stored with gold and silver fish. The mansion house is capacious and modern, and the prospects, on all sides, extremely beautiful. In landscape gardening, water and wood are indispensable for picturesque effect; and here they are found distributed in just proportions with hill and lawn and buildings of architectural beauty, the whole scene is cheerfully animated by the brisk commerce of the river, and constant movement in the busy neighborhood of Fairmount.

“An engine for raising water to the plant houses, is sometimes put in operation. Mr. Pratt placed it here at a cost of three thousand dollars. The vegetable garden is well kept and is of suitable size. For many years the chief gardener was assisted by eleven or twelve labourers, he now employs only six; probably owing to the finished condition to which the proprietor has brought his grounds. The whole plot may contain about 20 acres; Mr. Pratt has owned it 30 years or more. The superintendent aided by the liberal spirit of that gentleman, conducts his business with skill and neatness, and may challenge any garden for minute excellence or general effect.”

Fig. 10, J. Allbright (illustrator), J. B. Longacre (engraver), J. & W. W. Warr (engraver), Title page, in D. & C. Landreth, The Floral Magazine and Botanical Repository (1832).
  • D. & C. Landreth, 1832, describing Lemon Hill (The Floral Magazine and Botanical Repository 1: 6)[32]
“The vignette on the title-page, affords an excellent view of these far-famed grounds, from the pencil of ALBRIGHT, engraved by LONGACRE. The Garden is situate on the Schuylkill, above Fairmount Water-works, and is one of the oldest private establishments of its nature in Pennsylvania.
“For years it was the favourite summer residence of our first financier, ROBERT MORRIS, who originally laid out the grounds, and erected a part of the conservatories which there exist.
“In this fascinating spot, that worthy man and truly patriotic citizen, passed many of his happiest hours; returned from the city, whither his avocations daily called him, it was his custom and greatest pleasure to ramble around the grounds, planning new improvements, or entering with zest into the operations which were going on. The mutability of all earthly possessions transferred the premises, with the collection, about thirty years ago, to Mr. HENRY PRATT, the present proprietor, who is deserving of much applause for the improvements he is constantly creating. These magnificent grounds are, perhaps, as much favoured by nature, and more by art, than any in the Union; on the southern extremity, they are bounded by the Schuylkill, one of the most picturesque of rivers, enlivened by innumerable craft, laden with mineral and agricultural wealth: at a short distance is beheld the celebrated Water-works, and on a little further, is the 'Upper Ferry Bridge,' that with a single span of 334 feet clasps either shore; still further, the eye rests on a second bridge, with shipping and commercial bustle.
“The annual expenditure is very considerable. For many years, ten or a dozen labourers under the direction of a gardener, found ample work. The conservatories present an uninterrupted range of 220 feet, and are greater than any others in this country,—indeed would suffer little if compared with many of the trans-atlantic world. An engine for raising water to them, was erected by the present owner, at $3000 cost.
“In this fairy place, may be seen in a state of perfection, rivalling that of the climes from whence they came, the useful Sugar-cane, the Guava, Mango, and Banana: the exhilarating Tea of India, and Coffee of Arabia; and the Annona Cherimolia, the delicacy of whose fruit, travellers in South America dwell on with rapture. Thousands of exotics decorate the grounds in summer, or crowd the Hot and Green Houses in winter, filling the air with foods of delightful perfume, whilst Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Shaddocks, and other tropical productions, are here in vast profusion.
Fountains and fish-ponds, with gold and silver fish, added to the beauty of the scene. Grottos, bowers, and rustic cots, are blended with natural beauties,—all combined, producing an influence no less enchanting than the 'Leasowes.' And surely SHENSTONE had not been the less eloquent, had his poetic genius been cultivated at Lemon Hill.
“Few strangers visit Philadelphia without an examination of these grounds, and the proprietor has received the thanks of thousands for the gratification his liberality afforded.” [Fig. 10]

  • W., A., August 1835, describing Lemon Hill (quoted in The New-York Farmer and American Gardener’s Magazine 8: 332)[33]
“. . . I steered my course to Lemon Hill, which is the name very appropriately given to the pleasure grounds of Mr. Henry Pratt. It is situated in the immediate vicinity of the grand Water-works, and is said to contain over twenty acres. Nature seems to have displayed her utmost power in modeling this charming situation, leaving but little for art to accomplish, to render it one of the most delightful spots on earth; and art, with such a bold and lovely model, appears to have availed herself of every advantage, to beautify and complete what Nature had so happily begun.
“The mansion is placed on an eminence, commanding a delightful view of the Schuylkill, just at that point where every thing is in pleasant motion. The busy neighborhood of Fairmount, the interesting views of this fine landscape, are fully kept before the eye, by gently winding paths, through a rich and well kept grass plot; every turn producing some new and pleasing effect. The foot does not tread in the same path which the eye has gone over before. The groups of lofty trees, so advantageously placed on the hill, near the house, with their deep green foliage, form a beautiful contrast with those of more light and stinted growth, situated in front of the ground bordering on the water; thereby adding much to the effect, by seeming to remove the perspective to the farthest extremity of the picture. The numerous well stocked fishponds, with their islands and aquatic productions, summer-houses, gardens, porters’ and laborers’ lodges, all well placed for picturesque effect; and the beautiful little grotto, thrown so chastely over the mineral spring, all conspire to complete the beauty and variety, without, in the least marring the productions of nature, so very interesting in the immediate vicinity. The spacious green hot houses with their numerous and lovely tenants, spread far and wide in every direction, making the whole garden a repository of flowers and fragrance, certainly stand prominent in their kind; and as we migrate along the well kept gravel walks, so richly adorned by tree, shrub, and plant, of every shade and shape, and from every climate, intermixed with the inmates of the green house, the shaddock, orange, citron, lime, the fig tree, laden with inviting fruit; the sugar cane, pepper tree, banana, guava, and plantain; the cheremalia, mango, and splendid cactus; a reflecting mind must be lost in admiration, not knowing which most to admire, the amazing variety produced by nature, or the wealth, liberality, and taste, which have planted and sustain them there.”

  • Downing, A. J., January 1837, “Notices on the State and Progress of Horticulture in the United States,” describing Lemon Hill (The Magazine of Horticulture 3: 4)[34]
“For a long time the grounds of Mr. Pratt, at Lemon Hill, near Philadelphia, have been considered the show-garden of that city: and the proprietor, with a praiseworthy spirit, opening his long-shaded walks, cool grottoes, jets d’eau, and the superb range of hot-houses, to the inspection of the citizens, contributed in a wonderful degree to improve the taste of the inhabitants, and to inspire them with a desire to possess the more beautiful and delicate productions of nature.”

Lemon Hill, half a mile above the Fairmount water-works of Philadelphia, was, 20 years ago, the most perfect specimen of the geometric mode in America, and since its destruction by the extension of the city, a few years since, there is nothing comparable with it, in that style, among us. All the symmetry, uniformity, and high art of the old school, were displayed here in artificial plantations, formal gardens with trellises, grottoes, spring-houses, temples, statues, and vases, with numerous ponds of water, jets-d'eau, and other water-works, parterres and an extensive range of hothouses. The effect of this garden was brilliant and striking; its position, on the lovely banks of the Schuylkill, admirable; and its liberal proprietor, Mr. Pratt, by opening it freely to the public, greatly increased the popular taste in the neighborhood of that city.”

“850. Lemon Hill, near Philadelphia. . . . [Downing observes:] ‘. . . An extensive range of hothouses, curious grottoes and spring-houses, as well as every other gardenesque structure, gave variety and interest to this celebrated spot, which we regret the rapidly extending trees, and the mania for improvement there, as in some of our other cities, have now nearly destroyed and obliterated.’ (Downing’s Landscape Gardening adapted to North America.)"

  • Keyser, Charles S., 1856, describing Lemon Hill (quoted in Keyser, et al. 1886: 6–7, 18)[37] back up to history
“. . . by neglect, by fire and by wanton destruction, this place, the abode of a once princely luxury had fallen into ruin; where beautiful hot-houses filled with rare exotics overlooked the river, only falling walls blackened by fire remained; the shrubbery had been destroyed; the little bark grotto over the spring and the shady summer houses had decayed; and the ponds once filled with the gold fish had become loathsome with slime; only the grand old tulip trees remained, and the pines which stood as they still stand to-day, silent sentinels around the deserted mansion. . . .
“The grounds lie in undulating slopes, breaking off in bluffs at the water’s edge, at heights of perhaps from 50 to 100 feet. The intervening hollows are filled below and near the water’s edge, with an undergrowth of shrubbery. They spread out in an easy ascent to the slopes above, covered with greensward. Upon the highest point of the grounds midway between the two Water Works, are the remains of the foundation of a small building, perhaps a summer house; it is surrounded with a broken circle of cedar trees. Further down towards the dam, on a beautiful lawn overlooking Fairmount, stands the mansion house; near this are the ruins of the summer houses. Back towards the railroad from the mansion, down a thickly wooded descent, is the once beautiful spring. A carriage drive appears from the position of some trees, yet remaining in a traceable order, to have followed the course of the river along the summit of the slopes through the grounds. Some large tulip trees of beautiful form and some venerable pines remain.”

“It is a rolling piece of ground, commanding fine views of the river, but unfortunately has but little timber, that having been cut down some years ago by Isaac Loyd, a speculator who bought one or both these estates. Before that act of vandalism, it was beautifully wooded.”



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Other Resources

The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Lemon Hill Official Website


  1. At the sheriff’s sale, Pratt paid $14,654.22 for two plots comprising 42 acres and 93 perches of land, including the portion of Morris’s estate that housed the farmhouse and renowned greenhouse complex. Owen Tasker Robbins, “Toward a Preservation of the Grounds of Lemon Hill in Light of Their Past and Present Significance for Philadelphians” (master’s thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987), 25, 30, view on Zotero. See also Elizabeth Milroy, The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682–1876 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016), 144, view on Zotero. According to his accounts, Pratt ordered lumber to begin construction on the new country house in April 1800. Martha Halpern, “Henry Pratt’s Account for Lemon Hill,” Antiques & Fine Art Magazine view on Zotero.
  2. For much of his life, Pratt lived in a townhouse 112 North Front Street. See the official Lemon Hill website, www.lemonhill.org.
  3. Oliver Oldschool [Joseph Dennie], “American Scenery—for the Port Folio,” Port Folio, n. s. 3, vol. 2, no. 2 (August 1813): 166, view on Zotero. See also Karl Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Travels through North America, during the Years 1825 and 1826, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828), 1:140–41, view on Zotero.
  4. Bernhard 1828, 1:140–41, view on Zotero.
  5. Robbins 1987, 30, view on Zotero.
  6. Catalogue of Splendid and Rare Green House and Hot House Plants: To Be Sold by Auction, at Lemon Hill, Formerly the Seat of the Late Henry Pratt, Deceased, on Tuesday, the 5th day of June, 1838, and to Be Continued Daily Till Completed by D. & C. A. Hill, Auctioneers (Philadelphia, 1838), view on Zotero. See also Robbins 1987, 36, view on Zotero.
  7. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, From Seed to Flower: Philadelphia 1681–1876 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1976), 73, view on Zotero.
  8. Karl Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, for example, simply reported after his 1825 visit to Lemon Hill that “The gardener, an Englishman by birth, seemed to be well acquainted with his plants.” Karl Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Travels through North America, during the Years 1825 and 1826, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828), 1:141, view on Zotero.
  9. “Report of the Committee appointed by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for Visiting the Nurseries and Gardens in the vicinity of Philadelphia—13th July, 1830, as it appeared in The Register of Pennsylvania, edited by Samuel Hazard, Philadelphia, February 12, 1831,” in James Boyd, A History of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1827–1927 (Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1929), 434, view on Zotero. According to J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, McAran had been a gardener at The Woodlands for seven years and “laid out and improved Lemon Hill for Henry Pratt.” J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, Philadelphia, 1609–1884, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884), 2:944, view on Zotero.
  10. By 1830 Buist had left to form a partnership in a florist business with Thomas Hibbert. Boyd 1929, 385, view on Zotero. See also Thomas J. Mickey, America’s Romance with the English Garden (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2013), 5, view on Zotero.
  11. See Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 1976, 73, view on Zotero; “Peter Mackenzie,” A Historical Catalogue of The St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia with Biographical Sketches of Deceased Members, 1749–1907 (Philadelphia: Press of Loughead & Co. for the St. Andrew’s Society, 1907), 257, view on Zotero; “Death of Peter Mackenzie,” The Magazine of Horticulture 34, no. 3 (March 1868): 94, view on Zotero; “What Scots Have Done for Horticulture in America,” The Gardeners’ Magazine 50 (January 12, 1907): 33, view on Zotero.
  12. Appendix A in Robbins’s thesis traces the chain of title for the property. See Robbins 1987, 134, view on Zotero. Keyser mistakenly reports that Pratt sold Lemon Hill to Isaac S. Loyd in 1836 for $225,000. See Charles S. Keyser, Thomas Cochran, and Horace J. Smith, Lemon Hill and Fairmount Park: The Papers of Charles S. Keyser and Thomas Cochran, Relative to a Public Park for Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Times Printing House, 1886), 3, view on Zotero. According to Robbins, Knowles sold Lemon Hill to Henry J. Williams in trust for the Bank of the United States on September 12, 1840. Robbins 1987, 135, view on Zotero.
  13. Elizabeth Milroy, The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682–1876 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016), 207, view on Zotero.
  14. Robbins 1987, 43–44, 135, view on Zotero; Milroy 2016, 212–14, view on Zotero.
  15. Milroy 2016, 242, view on Zotero. According to Maria F. Ali’s history of Fairmount Park, Lemon Hill was sublet to Mr. P. Zaiss, a German immigrant, who operated a brewery on the site until 1855. Maria F. Ali, Fairmount Park; Along the Schuylkill River, Spring Garden Street to Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Historic American Buildings Survey PA-6183 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1995), 5, view on Zotero.
  16. “Lemon Hill, Phila.,” Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion 8, no. 19 (May 12, 1855): 297, view on Zotero. For the controversy surrounding the use of Lemon Hill as a beer garden, especially on Sundays, see Milroy 2016, 252–53, view on Zotero.
  17. For more on Keyser’s lobbying efforts on behalf of a public park at Lemon Hill, see Milroy 2016, 250–254, view on Zotero.
  18. Milroy 2016, 243–45, view on Zotero.
  19. Keyser et al. 1886, 6, view on Zotero; Elizabeth Milroy, “Assembling Fairmount Park,” in Philadelphia’s Cultural Landscape: The Sartain Family Legacy, ed. Katharine Martinez and Page Talbott (Philadelphia: Temple University Press for the Barra Foundation, 2000), 75, view on Zotero.
  20. Milroy 2016, 245, view on Zotero.
  21. Keyser et al. 1886, 10, view on Zotero; Robbins 1987, 49, view on Zotero.
  22. Milroy 2016, 261, view on Zotero. Sidney and Adams were partners from 1858–1860 and maintained an office at 520 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Ali 1995, 24, view on Zotero.
  23. The piazza would be located on the south, east, and west sides of the house to “afford shelter and a resting place for a large number of visitors.” James C. Sidney and Andrew Adams, Description of Plan for the Improvement of Fairmount Park (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Thompson, 1859), 18, 7, view on Zotero.
  24. “The New Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, and Its History,” The Gardener’s Monthly 1, no. 4 (April 1, 1859): 58, 57, view on Zotero. According to Milroy, it is likely that Pratt’s greenhouse was demolished around 1860. Milroy 2016, 373n103, view on Zotero. For a comparison of the Sidney & Adams plan with Olmsted and Vaux’s Greensward plan for Central Park in New York, see Milroy 2000, 79, view on Zotero; Milroy 2016, 261–62, view on Zotero; Michael J. Lewis, “The First Design for Fairmount Park,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 130, no. 3 (July 2006): 288–90, view on Zotero.
  25. Lewis 2006, 293, view on Zotero.
  26. Oliver Oldschool [Joseph Dennie], “American Scenery—for the Port Folio,” Port Folio, n.s. 3, vol. 2, no. 2 (August 1813): 166, view on Zotero.
  27. Kathleen A. Foster, Captain Watson’s Travels in America: The Sketchbooks and Diary of Joshua Rowley Watson, 1772–1818 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), view on Zotero.
  28. “The Flowering Aloe,” The Plough Boy, and Journal of the Board of Agriculture (June 23, 1821): 30, view on Zotero; a nearly identical article appears in “The Flowering Aloe, From The Philadelphia ‘Democratic Press’,” Niles’ Weekly Register (June 16, 1821): 255, view on Zotero.
  29. Karl Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Travels through North America, during the Years 1825 and 1826, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828), view on Zotero.
  30. John Hebron Moore, “A View of Philadelphia in 1829: Selections from the Journal of B. L. C. Wailes of Natchez,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 78 (July 1954): 353–60, view on Zotero.
  31. James Boyd, A History of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1827–1927 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1929), view on Zotero.
  32. D. & C. Landreth, eds., “Lemon Hill,” The Floral Magazine and Botanical Repository 1 (1832), view on Zotero.
  33. A. W., “Extract of a Letter from Our Correspondent, A. W., Dated Lansingburgh, 27th August,” The New-York Farmer and American Gardener’s Magazine 8, no. 11 (November 1835), view on Zotero.
  34. Andrew Jackson Downing, Notices on the State and Progress of Horticulture in the United States, The Magazine of Horticulture 3, no. 1 (January 1837), view on Zotero.
  35. Andrew Jackson Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America; . . . 4th ed. (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1849), view on Zotero.
  36. J. C. (John Claudius) Loudon, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening; Comprising the Theory and Practice of Horticulture, Floriculture, Arboriculture, and Landscape-Gardening, rev. ed. (London: Longman et al., 1850), view on Zotero.
  37. Charles S. Keyser, Thomas Cochran, and Horace J. Smith, Lemon Hill and Fairmount Park: The Papers of Charles S. Keyser and Thomas Cochran, Relative to a Public Park for Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Times Printing House, 1886), view on Zotero.
  38. Sidney George Fisher, A Philadelphia Perspective: The Civil War Diary of Sidney George Fisher, ed. Jonathan W. White (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), view on Zotero.

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