PlanPhilly

Look Up! 19th Century rural retreats in Northeast Philly

    • The Knowlton mansion sits on a 12-acre site at 8001 Verree Rd.
      The Knowlton mansion sits on a 12-acre site at 8001 Verree Rd.
    • Architect Frank Furness' mix of styles and details fit together at Knowlton.
      Architect Frank Furness' mix of styles and details fit together at Knowlton.
    • An arched dormer and geometric spine add interest to the slate roof.
      An arched dormer and geometric spine add interest to the slate roof.
    • Original interior features, including stained-glass windows, have been preserved.
      Original interior features, including stained-glass windows, have been preserved.
    • The Furness-design barn still houses horses at Knowlton.
      The Furness-design barn still houses horses at Knowlton.
    • The owner of the banquet facility maintains a residence in one of the outlying buildings.
      The owner of the banquet facility maintains a residence in one of the outlying buildings.
    • Burholme sits atop a hill at 7370 Central Ave.
      Burholme sits atop a hill at 7370 Central Ave.
    • A grand veranda wraps around the Ryerss mansion.
      A grand veranda wraps around the Ryerss mansion.
    • The upper levels, normally closed to the public, offer a magnificent view of the city.
      The upper levels, normally closed to the public, offer a magnificent view of the city.
  • Previous
  • Next

“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.

Former farmland sprouted rowhomes and duplexes in Northeast Philadelphia during the post-war housing and baby boom. But a century before, the area was a bucolic retreat for some of Philadelphia’s most affluent citizens, and a few remarkable estates survived the wave of suburban development.

One of the few rural designs of Frank Furness still stands at Verree and Rhawn Streets.

Furness built the summer residence for banker William H. Rhawn, who named it Knowlton, in 1879. The 13-acre property included a carriage house, gatekeeper’s house and barn. The architect incorporated fieldstone quarried at the site, and adorned the Queen Anne-inspired home with arched gables, bracketed balconies and carved chimneys.

A renovation in mid-1990s preserved much of the interior beauty, including stained-glass windows, elaborate woodwork, inlaid floors, and carved fireplaces with Minton tiles. Knowlton remains open as an elegant banquet hall.

About a mile away from Knowlton, at Cottman and Central Avenues, is the Italianate summerhouse built for Tioga Railroad president Joseph Waln Ryerss.

Dubbed Burholme (“house in a woodland setting”), the mansion sits atop a hill overlooking what was a 97-acre farm and is now Burholme Park. The architect of the 1859 stucco-over-stone structure is unknown. The distinctive belvedere was added to the house 30 years later; it provides a view from one of the highest points in the city, but is usually closed to the public.

The building was restored in 1983 by the Vitetta Group. Burholme’s colorful history includes a chapter as a station on the Underground Railroad. Today it’s an active library and museum housing exotic artifacts collected on the travels of the Ryerss family. 


Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

"Look Up!" Modernist lines on Haverford Ave.

"Look Up!" Chestnut Hill's modernist gems


"Look Up!" The Art Deco Palace of Mt. Airy
"Look Up! An architect's legacy on Spruce Street
"Look Up!" The French Village in Mt. Airy
"Look Up" and check out the nouveau mansions of North Broad

"Look Up" and check out elegant Southwark
"Look Up" and check out Henry Disston's company town
"Look Up: and check out Spruce Hill
"Look Up" and check out Green Street
"Look Up" and check out West Laurel Hill
"Look Up" and check out Parkside
"Look Up" and check out Awbury Arboretum
"Look Up" and check out Nicetown
"Look Up" and check out Overbrook Farms
"Look Up" and check out Girard Estate
"Look Up" and check out Rittenhouse/Fitler Square


About the author

Alan Jaffe, Historic preservation reporter

ajaffe@planphilly.com

B.A., Temple University

Alan Jaffe writes about historic preservation issues for PlanPhilly and focuses on often overlooked built landscapes in his column, “Look Up!” He
was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”


blog comments powered by Disqus

Logging in via Facebook

Log in

Subscribe to the PlanPhilly Mailing List