Restoration of Lemon Hill has opened up great views of the 1799 house from Kelly Drive and wonderful vistas of the city from atop the historic property.
“Look Up!” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. The photo essays focus on different Philadelphia areas and their distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.
On your way to visiting the spring-blooming cherry trees and magnolias along Kelly Drive this month, don’t forget to look up to see the yellow house that rises above the pink cloud.
The Federal-style house Lemon Hill was built as a country retreat in 1799 for merchant Henry Pratt, who had acquired the property from Robert Morris. Morris had owned 300 acres along the Schuylkill, an estate that included a mansion, farm and greenhouses where he grew his lemon trees.
Pratt’s Lemon Hill house was made of rubble covered with stucco and granite trim. The southern side has a two-story curved bay that overlooked Pratt’s gardens and the river. The north side is a symmetrical composition that features an arched entryway with a grand fanlight and Palladian window.
The 104-acre Lemon Hill property was purchased by the city of Philadelphia in 1844 to protect the municipal water supply, and it was the initial tract of Fairmount Park in 1855.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Gerry Lenfest funded the viewshed restoration of the property in recent years, opening up the site to a panorama of the city skyline, Boathouse Row and the river.