The Other McIlhenny Mansion

April 9, 2013 | by Peter Woodall


Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Long before there was a McIlhenny Mansion, there was Park Gate. Before he moved to Rittenhouse Square, Henry Plumer McIlhenny lived in his family’s home on Lincoln Drive, where Wayne Avenue and Johnson Street converge and where Germantown and Mount Airy blur.

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Built in 1910 by John D. McIlhenny, Henry’s father, the home is called Park Gate for the twin stone gates marking this section of the city’s entrance to Wissahickon Valley Park. McIlhenny sold the house to Fredric Mann after moving to Rittenhouse Square in 1950. The School District of Philadelphia bought it from Mann in 1954, and two years later built the Lingelbach Elementary School on the grounds next to the house.

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Nearly sixty years later, the School District has no need for Park Gate. Two years ago, Patrick Moran filed an application to place it on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places; the Historical Commission requested revisions. Currently, the house is vacant and in significant disrepair.

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall

Photo: Peter Woodall


About the Author

Peter Woodall Peter Woodall is the Project Director of Hidden City Philadelphia. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for


  1. patrick moran says:

    the house is vulnerable to ongoing despoiling. As recently as two years ago, the stair case railings were intact except for the newel post and the decorative finials where the railing turned at each landing.

  2. Davis says:

    Good God – How horrible – One of the finest mansion houses in Philadelphia brought to a state of ruin by – once again – the city.

  3. James says:

    This building needs to come down as it is a firetrap and an accident ready to happen. There is nobody out there who wants it and who has the money to restore it to live there.

  4. Soldat says:

    I really doubt a building of semi-fireproof construction and without anybody in it can be a “firetrap”.

    It is historic and a gorgeous building within city limits. Shortsighted people like you would have torn down the Colosseum and Parthenon decades ago citing they were “an accident ready to happen” and the world would be devoid of any relics of our past. History is what makes philadelphia, and it needs to be preserved.

    Also, what is the harm is allowing it to become a ruin? When a derelic building like this is torn down for a new structure it is a shame but at least understandable. There is no reason to demolish a building to replace it with a vacant lot. Now that is a waste and a shame.

    1. Love Victorian says:

      I think this mansion should be restored also. I know it costs money, but there are so many ways to raise money or there has got to be somebody that likes historical stuff that could afford it and restore it.

  5. Bixbyte says:

    Don’t worry the City of Philadelphia will do nothing.
    The man that signed the Declaration of Independence owned a giant home in West oak lane.
    James Morrison Estate was torn down and the City of Philadelphia built a low income housing project on the site.

  6. Soldat says:

    Or when they personally demolished the Benjamin Rush House in the 1960s.

  7. DuBois says:

    The main problem is to restoring this building is the school next to it. The original curbcut next to the “Park Gates” is still there, for access besides through the schoolyard. If someone crazy like me were to buy buy it and restore it, are there any funds out there to help?- I ain’t nothing but a teacher (ironically in the district).

  8. Tim says:

    Some of you are a little hard on the city. Let’s be honest for years and years Philadelphia struggled economically. Let’s not get into those political factors of why that was the case. However, during those decades where was the priority of the Federal and State governments. If someone had an estate who signed the Declaration of Independence, that estate is not just a City treasure but obviously a national one. With the historic legacy of Philadelphia, as unique as it is, it is/was impossible for the city as an entity to finance preservation, upkeep, security of dozens and dozens of these estates. They are literally in every zip code in the city. Financiers of the republic, signatories of the Constitution, Civil Rights pioneers. Boston, Charleston, maybe New Orleans are the only cities that can even compete with our legacy and importance in the 17th-19th centuries. We are of national significance and funds need to be made available on the national level.

  9. Ann Fisher says:

    I just visited Lingelbach where they are raising funds to improve their playground and saw this handsome building. What a shame that no one has stepped up to preserve it.

  10. Gregg E Gorton says:

    Any idea what the relationship is between the McIlhennys of Philadelphia and the family of the same name from Louisiana (Avery Island & Baton Rouge)?

    1. Brian says:

      The two families knew each other, and jokingly referred to each other as cousins but there was no genealogical link. Both the Mc Illenny families originated from Co. Donegal in Ireland.

      1. Louise R Johnston says:

        Henry McIlhenny was my mother’s first cousin. I remember going to a Christmas Eve party at Park Gate when I was perhaps 7 or 8 in the late 1940’s. I don’t recall many details except that it was a very grand house. The current photos are so sad.
        My mother and an uncle got to know the Avery Island McIlhennys by sheer coincidence. They all tried hard to find a family connection but couldn’t. My mother and I visited the Edmund McIlhennys on Avery island in 1977. It was a beautiful place in the middle of a salt marsh, where they made Tabasco sauce.

  11. Richard Lee says:

    The Mc Ilhenny Mansion should be saved. I have pictures from the museum that show what a beautiful place it was. Don’t tear down more of Philadelphia.

  12. August Barber says:

    I am looking into purchasing this building.

    1. Richard von Ernst says:

      Has it been saved??

  13. We would love to restore this beautiful old mansion, while making it a place to have our business grow.We currently have a storefront on Maplewood Mall called CONCEPT STUDIO ARTISAN BOUTIQUE.LLC..Our company would someday love to expand to support Artisans and this is the best way.The land would be wonderful for a community farm, and a children’s garden. There is so much life left in these old mansions.These old structures need new purpose ,and the presence of human interaction to continue to stand Grand… We would love to find out ways to save such a beautiful mansion.

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