The Underground Railroad Museum is part of Fairmount Park’s Belmont Mansion. Built in the early 18th century, Belmont Mansion is a historic mansion located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. It’s one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in the United States. The Belmont Mansion property became part of Fairmount Park in 1869, and it houses the Underground Railroad Museum, which opened in 2007.
William Peters, an English lawyer and land management agent for the Penn family, bought the property, then a group of farms, in 1742. Peters designed and built the mansion in 1745 and planted formal gardens around it. As the American Revolution approached, the estate passed to William’s son, Richard Peters, Jr., who had been born there. An amateur scientist, he operated the estate farm as a working model of scientific agriculture. He was also the first non-Quaker member of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, and his son, Richard Peters Jr., worked for the Underground Railroad.
It’s reported that Richard Peters, Jr., was part of the team that designed the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad (P&CR), which went through Fairmount Park. It’s believed that he engineered a way for the train to slow down enough to allow slaves to jump off, where they were then met by an agent of the Underground Rail Road and taken to the Belmont Mansion. You can learn more in this three-minute video produced by PBS.
Many prominent figures in the Revolution stayed at the mansion at this time, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
In anticipation of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, the first world fair in the United States, a large dining pavilion was built alongside the mansion.
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