Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Samuel Meeker's villa Fountain Green; what is a "villa"?: &...The villa becomes a Brewery!

Fountain Green became a popular rural hotel/restaurant in the 1830s and later was taken over by the famous Engel & Wolf brewery which carved its cooling vaults directly from the rock ledges below the mansion.

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 the middle stands a statue of Apollo...." (taken from Historic Houses of Philadelphia by Roger Moss, U. of PA Press, Philadelphia 1998.)

Samuel Meeker's country estate is mentioned in histories of Philadelphia

“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.)

Stay tuned for what Samuel's villa Fountain Green looked like, before it was turned into a brewery!


emikk said...

Whenever anything turns into a brewery, well, that's alright with me!

Rouchswalwe said...

Ja, das höre ich gerne! I wonder what sort of beer they brewed? And do you know whether Samuel or Gilbert were beer drinkers?

einbildungskraft said...

Gibby has a well-established rep as a drinker, but...of wine~ which probably also means das Bier, as for Sam, geez its really hard to pull such details out from the past, unless the habit was really pronounced (like with GS, more on that later)...Fountain Green was turned into a Brewery after Sam died, and I suspect the location was what motivated such a development (with the cliffs offering a natural fridge.)
I KNEW some of my friends would like this story!! :-) But this area had a large German emigrant pop, and brew making took hold there...

Rouchswalwe said...

Hmm, with the caves and the Germanic heritage, I'd put my money on Lager Bier then.

einbildungskraft said...

I will investigate this further!

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