Discovering an amazing place in Philadelphia that no one else seems to have heard of is like discovering a great band that hasn't hit mainstream radio yet. You feel a bit smug and proud of yourself. And once they hit it big, you can brag about how you always knew they were amazing.
Glen Foerd on the Delaware River is just such a place. Just inside the city limits, along the river, this historic estate has been right there waiting for you to visit for a long, long time - you just haven't realized it yet. We didn't realize it either until this summer when we went for a visit, and then promptly made plans to return again! One of our new favorite spots in Philadelphia, Glen Foerd absolutely needs to be on everyone's list of places to visit.
The estate was established in 1850 by a business man and broker from Philadelphia named Charles Macalester. In 1850, he built the house as well other various structures on the property (such as the stone water tower) and named the estate Glengarry. The summer home remained in the family until the death of Charles' daughter, Lily, in 1891. In 1895, Robert and Caroline Foerderer were able to purchase the estate with Robert's success in the kid leather business. They added onto the home and grounds in the Classic Revival style that was popular at the time. Additions included the Haskell pipe organ, grand staircase, porte cochere, and the art gallery (an amazing room still displaying pieces of the family's collection). Robert passed away in 1903 leaving behind his wife and two grown children, Percival and Florence, to move into their new home, now renamed Glen Foerd. In 1915, Florence and her husband, William Tonner moved back to Glen Foerd to assist widowed Caroline, who then passed away in 1934. Florence was a great lover of art and continued adding to the estates private collection until her death in 1971 at the age of 89.
Glen Foerd has a story to share about the family and the staff who served them in each room of the house and corner of the grounds. It's fascinating on a historical level, but also relatable on a human level. As opposed to tours of other locations, here you feel like your walking through someone's actual house instead of a museum. It's easy to imagine yourself staying in a guest room and having your morning coffee in the front room looking out over the river. Glen Foerd has a personal quality to it that makes it warm and inviting.
It must be that relatable factor that makes it such a great location for special occasions and events. We had the privilege of attending two Riverside Concerts this summer and seeing first hand how joyous Glen Foerd is with lots of people having a good time. The house and the grounds combined (not to mention the new venue tent complete with dance floor outside) make it the perfect location for private events like weddings and parties, as well as fun, public events - picnics, concerts, festivals, etc. Glen Foerd also hosts their own events throughout the year from photography and tai chi to children's programs and big events like the Garden Gala in October.
Even without an event to attend, Glen Foerd is still an amazing place to visit. The grounds are FREE and open everyday to the public. Walking the gravel path with only the sounds of nature makes us feel like we're down in the Carolinas. Our favorite spot is looking out over the river next to the statue of Charles' loyal pup, Little Ugly, watching ships of all sizes go by. A place in Philadelphia that somehow remained frozen in time - not cold like a museum, but still alive and welcoming and waiting to be discovered by everyone.
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