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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Solitude

A Small Country Retreat

 
 
The Solitude wayside image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
1. The Solitude wayside
Inscription. John Penn, the grandson of Pennsylvania founder William Penn, was 23 when he arrived in Philadelphia in late 1783 to manage the family property. He purchased 15 acres on the high west bank of the Schuykill River – well outside the city – because of a turbulent political atmosphere which included distrust of the Penn family. It was here in 1774, that he began construction of The Solitude, his small county retreat.
The Solitude was one of the first neoclassical houses in America – and it began a trend. Serving as his own architect, John Penn borrowed ideas from popular buildings in England designed by Robert Adam, which included plaster ceiling ornaments and decorative wrought iron balustrades.

When John Penn returned to England in 1788, the house was still owned by the Penn family. In 1868, Fairmount Park bought The Solitude from the family’s estate for 59,000 pounds, over $6 million in today’s currency.

The Pennsylvania Legislature granted a charted to the Zoological Society of Pennsylvania in 1859, establishing America’s first zoo. In 1872, Fairmount Park offered to lease the land, including The Solitude, to the newly formed Zoological Society for one dollar a year.

The building served a variety of functions over the years, including an exhibition of snakes in its parlor. For many
The Solitude image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
2. The Solitude
years prior to 2006, The Solitude housed the Zoo’s executive offices.
 
Location. 39° 58.35′ N, 75° 11.717′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker can be reached from North 34th Street. Touch for map. This wayside is on the grounds of the Philadelphia Zoo. Marker is in this post office area: Philadelphia PA 19104, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named The Solitude (within shouting distance of this marker); The Philadelphia Zoo (approx. 0.2 miles away); Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia (approx. half a mile away); Fairmount Water Works (approx. 0.6 miles away); John W. Coltrane (approx. 0.6 miles away); Fairmount Dam (approx. 0.7 miles away); Freedom Now Rally (approx. ¾ mile away); First African Presbyterian Church (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
 
Categories. ArchitectureColonial Era
 
Insert - floor plan image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
3. Insert - floor plan
Insert - "George Washington did not sleep here!" image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
4. Insert - "George Washington did not sleep here!"
Insert - The Solitude, 1872 image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
5. Insert - The Solitude, 1872
Insert - John Penn image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, September 2014
6. Insert - John Penn
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 2, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 50 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on August 2, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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