Special Architecture Walking Tour

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Sunday October 24

1:00 PM  –  3:00 PM

**Special Tour** THE MONASTERY COMPLEX

Go for a walk around the 18th- and 19th-century Monastery Complex in Fairmount Park and be transported away from city streets into a lush green environment with an active historic barn and stables.

The PreservationAlliance celebrates the achievements of the Boarders and Stewards of the Monastery with a special tour of the Monastery Complex located in Wissahickon Valley Park. Join Liz Jarvis, Vice President of the Boarders and Stewards of the Monastery, as well as Lucy Strackhouse, retired Director of Preservation & Property Management at the Fairmount Park Conservancy, who will lead the tour.

The Monastery Complex comprises five historic structures. We will visit the Great Room of the Monastery Mansion that dates back to 1747, walk around the barn, which dates to the late 18th century, and view a millworker's house, built before 1848, with its own small barn and spring house. This farmstead is a rare surviving example of the 18th and 19th century way of life in Philadelphia, and is all that remains of a thriving water-powered manufacturing center along the banks of Wissahickon Creek. The 1747 house is a well-proportioned and elegantly crafted example of a Philadelphia Georgian farmhouse. The main barn is a prototypical Pennsylvania bank barn. The five buildings are situated in their original setting above the steep slopes of the Wissahickon. Horses and sheep continue to live in the two barns and graze in the pastures, offering visitors a vivid reminder of early agricultural Philadelphia in the heart of our metropolis.

The Monastery derives its name from members of the Germanic group, the Church of the Brethren, many of whom led a monastic life near the property. They first settled in Germantown in 1719, and built a log building for meetings on the hill overlooking the Wissahickon Creek, near or on the present day Monastery house site. By 1739 the Brethren began to disagree on theological issues, so that many of them moved to the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County or to nearby Germantown. In 1747, Joseph Gorgas, a member of the sect, and a miller, built the house still standing on the site, using local Wissahickon schist. The house was referred to as the "Kloster," meaning cloister or monastery, although the house was probably not used for that purpose. The Georgian farmhouse is unusually large, with three and a half stories and 17 rooms.

The Wissahickon gorge with its 100 foot high slopes and rapidly moving creek was an ideal source for more than 35 water-powered mills. In the early years, there was a saw mill at this site at the end of Kitchen's Lane, then a grist and corn mill, and by 1818 a paper mill, and later still, a flax and twine mill. After the house, barn, and mill changed hands many times it was bought by the Kitchen family in 1852, hence the name Kitchen's Lane. They operated a woolen mill. The kitchen wing on the Monastery house was added probably before 1871. William Gordon Kitchen's family sold the mill property in 1873, and the house property in 1898 to the Fairmount Park Commission.

 

Meet at the parking area in front of the barn (1000 Kitchens Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119 map).

Know Before You Go

  • Parking is available on the Monastery Field near the horse trailers. Public transportation is not recommended. The nearest bus is about 1 mile away from site.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Expect to walk on grass and dirt trails
  • This site has active stables that houses horses, sheep, and other animals 
  • An optional short walk to see the Church of the Brethren marker and Kitchens Bridge is available after the main tour. Part of the trail may be slightly rough and steep. 
  • Exploring other trails in Wissahickon Valley Park after the tour is encouraged! 

In registering to attend this walking tour, you agreed to the following (Please note the updated changes as of May 26th 2021):

  • During tours, facemasks will be optional for all fully vaccinated individuals including the tour guide
  • During tours, facemasks are required for individuals who are not fully vaccinated
  • Facemasks are required to enter buildings on certain tours. Please bring one with you in case it is needed 
  • Preservation Alliance walking tours utilize an audio system that transmits from a headset worn by the guide to earpieces worn by tour attendees. The equipment is thoroughly sanitized before and after each use. Tour attendees can also plug in their personal headsets or earbuds that use a standard headphone jack.
  • Be sure to bring water and wear comfortable clothing 

Space is limited. Advance registration required.

 

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