Boelson Cottage – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Boelson Cottage

This tiny cottage surrounded by railroads is the oldest surviving structure in Fairmount Park. 


Constructed on land granted to John Boelson (or Jan Boelsen in some documents) in 1677 by the colonial Swedish authorities, the cottage is one of the oldest surviving residences and buildings in Philadelphia. It’s believed to have been constructed between 1678-1684

Composed of wood and fieldstone in Dutch and Swedish-style, the house has changed ownership and its name many times over its existence. A few of those names include Aunt Cornelia’s, Pig’s Eye, Belmont Cottage, and most prominently during the 19th-century, Tom Moore’s House. After functioning as a private residence, the house changed hands several times and now functions as offices for the Friends of the Philadelphia Parks. 

Located in what was once a secluded tract above the Schuylkill River, the area became a suburb for the wealthy Philadelphian elite before being carved up by railroads and highways during the 20th-century. The house is in still somewhat good condition and is one of only two remaining Swedish style buildings in Philadelphia.

While the area around the building is easily accessible, the building itself maintains some of its original privacy. It’s only signage is a placard that notes its owner and the date of construction. 

Know Before You Go

The building is not open to the public, but can be easily viewed from MLK Drive (West River Drive on some maps), as well as from the side road that the cottage is located.

Access by car may be blocked on certain days due to frequent road closures and pedestrianization on Saturdays and Sundays. The side road to the house is very poorly and irregularly paved, so it's a good idea to walk bicycles on the hill. Also, the cottage is located next to an active stable, so please do not disturb the horses or other wildlife in Fairmount Park.

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November 17, 2020

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