Things You Never Knew About Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia

Since our Chestnut Hill Food Tours opened in 2015, we’ve been showing off not only the best foods in Philadelphia’s garden district, but also the stunning architecture and surprising history of the area. Now in our 3rd year of Chestnut Hill Food Tours, we’ve had time to not only perfect our one-of-a-kind food tastings, but to truly become experts in Chestnut Hill, PA’s vast history. Read on to learn fascinating facts you never knew about Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Chestnut Hill Philadelphia History The American Revolutionary War was fought in Chestnut Hill. On December 5th, just after 3AM, soldiers fighting in the Battle of White Marsh arrived in Chestnut Hill. The location of Chestnut Hill was an important aspect of the battle, as it’s ridge concealed the British army’s movements. Henry Houston’s Will is Famous. Many know about Henry Houston’s great impact on the development of Chestnut Hill, but fewer know the tale of his will. Although the famous businessman passed in 1895, his will was contested until 1964. Why was his will contested for nearly 70 years after his death?  It’s a complicated answer, but essentially deals with the interpretation of future interests created in favor of Houston’s grandchildren. The case went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and had such complexity that the case is often taught in law school in property and probate law courses. By the time his property was divided, it was valued to the tune of $145 million dollars. Pastorius Park was named after Francis Daniel Pastorius. A leader of early German immigrants to the area and the agent to the first German investors in the neighborhood, he became close with William Penn during the purchase of Cresheim and Sommerhausen, the original names for what is now Chestnut Hill. Today, the serene green space is host to many community events, including the popular Pastorius Park Summer Concerts. Things You Never Knew About Chestnut Hill | Food Tours in Philadelphia Chestnut Hill was the site of iron mining. J.C. Sidney’s 1848 map of the area indicates iron ore, (the rock from which iron is extracted), was located in the present-day Morris Arboretum site, and it’s said that iron for the famous ironworks of New Orleans was mined in Chestnut Hill. Chestnut Hill was a booming mill town. While many think of Manayunk when it comes to historic mills, Chestnut Hill has quite a history itself. Paper Mill Lane refers to the mill that was in operation as early as 1710 and was the second paper mill in America. The first paper mill in America was formed in 1690 along the Wissahickon Creek, by Wilhelm Rittenhouse of the prominent Philadelphia family. (Fun Fact: a section of Germantown was once called Rittenhousetown, and still hosts visitors to its 7 remaining 18th-century buildings.) Chestnut Hill Academy was the site of The Wissahickon Inn. This was a summer resort built by Henry Houston, one of the many structures and homes that Houston built throughout Chestnut Hill. Houston also funded the construction of the McCallum Street Bridge over Cresheim Creek in 1890, and then gifted the bridge to the city. Chestnut Hill History & Homes | Philadelphia Food Tours Water Tower Recreation Center has a historic past. It was the site of the old engine house and boiler house that comprised the original Chestnut Hill Water Company, built in 1859. During the Civil War, Mower Military Hospital was constructed in Chestnut Hill near the waterworks, relying heavily on its water supply, and designed in part by John McArthur, Jr. who would later design Philadelphia’s City Hall. The hospital opened on January 3, 1863 at the height of the Civil War, and during that year alone served 6,034 patients, treating a whopping 20,000 throughout its operation. Temple University almost had a home in Chestnut Hill, PA. In the 1950s, the Temple University administration was frustrated with the lack of parking and space for new buildings, and felt that the space in Chestnut Hill would allow more growth. Philadelphia Mayor Joe Clark was concerned for the future of North Philadelphia if Temple were to relocate, and assured Temple President Robert Johnson that he would secure the University with the federal funding necessary to stay in their original location, where they remain today. The Woodward Family still owns land in Chestnut Hill, PA. Many know that while Henry Houston was the first major developer in Chestnut Hill, his daughter Gertrude and her husband George Woodward were instrumental in fulfilling his vision after his death, adding 180 new homes to the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. But many don’t realize that even today, the Woodwards own 100+ homes in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy, and are remain a vital thread in the neighborhood’s identity. Want to immerse further into Chestnut Hill, PA’s culture? Visit our Chestnut Hill Culinary Experience page, or check our our blog on some of the best bakeries and sweet shops in the garden district. Sweet Treats of Chestnut Hill Food Tours