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Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA


Hermitage Mansion






The Hermitage Mansion is located in the Wissahickon area of Fairmount Park. The history of the Mansion can be traced back 300 years to a small group of Rosicrucians, a religious sect composed of "hermits" or Pietists who emigrated from Germany in 1694 seeking freedom and privacy. The Rosicrucians were given a 175-acre tract of land in the Wissahickon Valley, encompassing the site of the present Hermitage Mansion.

The sect flourished under the leadership of Johannes Kelpius. A tabernacle was built, and the members engaged in vegetable and herb gardening and in scholarly endeavors. They were particularly fond of music and incorporated it into their rituals. Kelpius himself, although a practicing hermit who lived in a cave which he built as his personal retreat, was a talented musician and astute businessman who amassed some 7,000 acres of land in Germantown and the surrounding area.

But when Kelpius died in 1708 the hermit group disintegrated and some moved away from the area. One of the remaining families was the Righters, the primary owners of the land on which the Mansion now stands. In 1848 the property was sold to Evan Prowattain who began to make a series of improvements that would make it more suitable for a suburban residence. He built the Hermitage on the site of the old Rosicrucian tabernacle and leased it to Dr. Benjamin Chew of Germantown, who lived there for a number of years. In 1878 Evan sold the property to his son, Ivan.

The property came into the possession of the City of Philadelphia in 1895 through a sale by the same Ivan Prowattain. The selling price was $1, with the City taking over the balance of the outstanding mortgage. Since 1981 the Delaware Valley Opera Company has used The Mansion in return for care and maintenance. Currently, the Company is raising funds to make much-needed repairs to the building.

It seems particularly fitting that the present use of the Hermitage be devoted to music, one of the first loves of the early hermit settlers and their leader, Johannes Kelpius.



Hermitage Mansion
700 Hermit Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19128

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