banner search whats new site index home


Woodford was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1967. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original National Register nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group. Photos, HABS. [2]

Woodford, East Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, was begun in 1756, making it chronologically the first of the great late Georgian mansions to be erected in the Philadelphia area. The house was built in three stages with what is now the ground floor of the front section dating from 1756. In 1772 the second floor was added, giving it the present formal Georgian facade with central Palladian window. The brickwork is Flemish bond. There is a modillioned cornice at the roof line and a second cornice with a pent roof at the second story level which runs around three sides of the original building. A stable and servants house also exist from the first building phase, providing a rare survival of an eighteenth century stable. The interior is finely paneled on the chimney walls, with paneled dado and deep window seats. The graceful stairway is located in a rear hall, added when the second floor was constructed in 1772. Woodford, in its three stages forms an interesting illustration of the organized growth of a Georgian mansion, and its fine woodwork of the early section provides one of the first illustrations of the great opulent late Georgian style.

William Coleman, a judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, bought twelve acres of land in 1756 and built the first section of Woodford. At his death in 1769, the property was sold to Alexander Barclay, Comptroller of His Majesty's Customs for the Port of Philadelphia. At this time an advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette which mentions an outhouse suitable for a tenant built of stone, a stone stable and an orchard garden. Upon Barclay's death in 1771, David Franks purchased the property. During Frank's residence the second floor and stair hall were added. In 1780, because of his adherence to the Crown, Woodford was confiscated and given to Thomas Paschall, then in 1793 it was purchased by Isaac Wharton. It is thought that at about 1790 the kitchen wing was added to the rear of the building which was a two story structure. Woodford remained in the Wharton family until it was purchased by the City of Philadelphia in 1868. In 1912 it was made the headquarters of the Captain of the Woodford File, Philadelphia Historical Commission, City Hall Annex, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Restoration took place after Woodford was placed under the care of the Naomi Wood Trust in 1927. A new kitchen and staff quarters were added so that none of the original house of 1758 and 1772 are disturbed. A small restored back porch provides an entranceway to the oldest part of the house from the rear.

The front block of Woodford is a two story brick structure laid in Flemish bond. A hipped roof, balustraded at the top, rests upon a cornice with prominent modillions. A subordinate cornice at the second floor level is most unusual and may reflect the influence of the pent roof which was much used in the Philadelphia area. It may also have been used for some reason of construction when the second level was added after 1769. Brick pilasters at the corners with corresponding cornice projections at both levels provide additional exterior decorative features. Six soapstone steps lead to high narrow double doors enframed in a pedimented portico supported by two Tuscan columns. This pediment is repeated at the roof line, modillioned like the cornice, above the large Palladian window which completes the central emphasis of the facade. This front block is a combination of the ground floor, erected about 1758-59 and the second floor, built about 1772, with a separate stair hall added to what was then the rear of the house. Then, around 1790, a two story wing containing a new kitchen was added to the rear of the building. Architectural investigation by Charles E. Peterson, led to the conclusion that the stable and servants house were built as part of the first construction of the house, 1758-59. They were definitely in existence at the time of the 1768 survey which also described the stone steps and Tuscan frontispiece of the door. A piazza at the back of the house is also mentioned which would have disappeared with the addition of the kitchen wing.

On the interior, a large center hall, wainscoted, with fluted pilasters supporting a lintel decorated with a Doric frieze, is across the center, similar to but much earlier that the Corbit-Sharp House in Delaware. The stairway is located near the center of the house in a hall to one side of the main hall and reached through a side door. Both the dining room and the parlor are wainscoted with deep window frames which form seats. In the parlor the mantel is dentiled below with a broken pedimented tabernacle above. An elaborate cartouche sets in the pediment and delicate scrolls adorn the sides. All of the ceilings in these lower rooms are coved and were so originally. The cornices of the 1772 additions are dentiled in the hall and decorated with bands of Greek fret design on the second floor. The addition is also fully wainscoted. The stairs have a delicate scroll wave pattern on the ends. The wainscoting on the walls, mirrors the profile of the banister and forms a handrail on the wall side.

Woodford today faces Ridge Avenue, just within the boundary of Fairmount Park, surrounded by circling drives of the Park. The boundary includes the house, stable and servants house, beginning at the point where Dauphin Street crosses 33rd Street into the park and becomes Edgely Drive, continuing west along the inside curb until it intersects with the drive that runs along the east of Edgely Baseball Field, then north in a straight line to the road which runs along the north side of Woodford, then east along the south curb of this road until it intersects with the drive which parallels Ridge and 33rd Streets, then south along the west curb of this drive to the point of beginning as illustrated on the sketch map.

  1. Snell, Charles, Woodford, 1967, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places; updated 1975; Heintzelman, Patricia, for Historic American Buildings Survey, Landmark Review Project.
  2. Photos: Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS PA-1307], 1960, Jack E. Boucher, photographer.

Woodford Map

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
Copyright © 1997-2016 • The Gombach Group • • 215-295-6555 • 106009 • Privacy