Belmont Mansion, with among the best views in Fairmount Park, is a small Georgian jewel of a house. Lovingly restored, it is a venue for private meetings and also a museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad. Worth the effort to see it.
Many historic mansions claim beautiful views, but none in the Philadelphia area can compare to Belmont Mansion. Standing at the summit of Belmont Plateau, on a clear day you can see the Center City skyline and New Jersey beyond. Originally you could see the Schuylkill as well, but this area is now forested.
The house itself lives up to the site. The oldest section of the house is Georgian with a very symmetrical facade and prominent quoins. It has the small-but-elegant proportions found on so many early country houses. The Georgian detailing such as the projecting center pavilion and the keystone – flat arch treatment of the lintels is noteworthy.
Its original appearance has been altered by a third floor addition and the wrap around porch – both 19th century additions that unfortunately compromise the proportions of the house. Look closely and you can see the quoins change in depth at the third floor. The interiors have been restored and the carved plaster work, noted by many visitors in the 18th century, is spectacular.
Built by William Peters, a prosperous lawyer, the house passed to his son Richard. Richard was very active in Revolutionary War era politics and hosted all the founding fathers here. After the war, in addition to being the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and a judge, he was an avid gentleman farmer and Belmont was known for its extensive gardens. Richard was also a member of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery and opposed the Fugitive Slave act of 1793.