The house termed "villa" is an architectural style that has been essentially lost, mainly because one of the characteristics of a 'villa' was that it be built in the countryside, but within reachable distance of a city. This feature put villas at risk as eighteenth century cities, such as Philadelphia, expanded. The owners of villas enjoyed the cooler airs of the countryside, pretty vistas and large gardens, and most of all, escaped the rounds of disease that swept through big cities. Philadelphia suffered severe outbreaks of yellow fever (see entry Aug 15 09, Washington rented a villa on the Schuylkill River in about 1777 during the yellow fever outbreaks in Philadelphia.)
The villa also offered opportunity for display; besides using his villa to entertain, perhaps inviting guests to stay the night during fox hunting weekends (more on that later)....I speculate it was here that Sam chose to celebrate his 40th birthday with his twin sister Phebe in 1803, Fountain Green would have offered the perfect setting for the gifting of a Gilbert Stuart portrait!
A description of a villa garden from 1762:
"....From the front of this hall you have a prospect bounded by the Jerseys like a blue ridge. A broad walk of English Cherry trees leads down to the river. The doors of the house opening opposite admit a prospect of the length of the garden over a broad gravel walk to a large handsome summer house on a green. From the windows a vista is terminated by an obelisk. On the right you enter a labyrinth of hedge of low cedar and spruce...in the middle stands a statue of Apollo...." (taken from Historic Houses of Philadelphia by Roger Moss, U. of PA Press, Philadelphia 1998.)
“Fountain Green, the seat next beyond the Cliffs, originally belonged to Samuel Mifflin. The grounds ran over to what was called Mifflin’s Lane. Mr. Mifflin died in 1781, and Samuel Meeker became the owner and lived there many years during the present century; Casper W. succeeded him. After the old mansions on the Schuylkill were deserted Fountain Green was known as “Engel & Wolf’s farm,” and was occuped near the railroad by that firm for brewing purposes. The old Mifflin-Meeker Mansion was used as a restaurant and for the accomodation of picnic-parties and social gatherings. ” (History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884 by T Scharf, T Westcott pub L.H. Everts & Co. Philadelphia 1884.)