philly file · July 8 2016

7 Degrees of Historic Philadelphians: They Sure Don't Make Homes Like They Used To

Third time's a charm right? Hopefully this saying rings true for this third attempt to consolidate an enormous amount of fascinating and historic factoids about the beginnings of some very influential individuals.

While reading through some reference materials, trying to pick an angle for what I'm reminded is a 3-paragraph synopsis max, I couldn't help but also remember the game "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon." This wasn't because of his father's skilled urban planning, but more because it seemed that a lot of these names reoccurring around our city were sparking connections every which way I looked.

And did I look! The reason I had decidedly became such a historian on this subject was due to the very unique opportunity I was granted this spring, to attend a private tour of the property known as "The Elkins Estate." Some quick fun facts about why this property is important in Philadelphia history as I approach my cutoff point...

1. The 45 room main mansion owned by William L. Elkins, and its adjacent home for his son, were both built by a man named Horace Trumbauer.

2. The mansion was built with materials flown in from France, and decorated with an art collection so massive that a gallery was created to feature it. In fact eventually some of the art collected was later donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to begin its own collection.

3. Trumbauer was a well known architect for the well-off at the time and in fact designed the Philadelphia Art Museum with a partnering organization. While now an adored piece of Philadelphia, Trumbauer did not receive a lot of positive feedback from people at the times and the museum was referred to as the "Great Greek Garage."

4. Trumbauer got his big break by building and impressing a Mr. Peter A.B. Widener, with his own mansion now called the "Lynnewood Hall" located directly across the street. Widener later became a great friend and business partner to William Elkins (They even married a few of their kids to each other which is sort of like a pact right?).

There actually is a lot more mind blowing history to learn about these guys and their legacy, and we cannot encourage you enough to learn more (and then teach us) about them. However, it looks like I've reached my character limit, so instead I'll just leave you with these photos of my afternoon wandering through a truly American castle.

Philed by Erin DiSerafino

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