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City of Philadelphia

Historic Archives

The Archives is a repository for information on Fairmount Park's evolution. The primary goal of the Archives is to help preserve park resources and provide information to the public. The collection is key to understanding the architectural and landscape resources of the Philadelphia parks system.
The historic Archives essentially grew out of the working documents of parks staff and engineers. Its estimated number of archival documents is over 10,000. The collection was slowly accessioned over a twenty-year period by the long time Park Historian, John McIlhenny.

The Archives focuses on a variety of aspects of Fairmount Park history, including a wealth of material on the park's architectural history. Most notably, the collection contains hundreds of original architectural and landscape drawings from the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Fairmount Park.

You can find the following types of documents in the Archives:
  • Books - Primary and secondary source information ranging from bound copies of Fairmount Park Ordinances to Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record
  • Current Reports - Working management documents such as historic structure reports, cultural landscape studies, archeological studies, and planning documents
  • Fairmount Park Commission Annual Reports - Documentation of the yearly actions of the Fairmount Park Commission from 1869-1998. Collection excludes the years 1900-1912 and 1998-present when no reports were written
  • Fairmount Park Art Association Annual Reports - Documentation of the yearly actions of this important sister organization and a significant portion of the sculpture history of the park
  • Fairmount Park Engineering Records - 230 field survey books, 20 engineering journals, 25 daily log journals kept by senior engineers, and hundreds of pieces of correspondence relating to land acquisition providing unprecedented information about the initial formation of one of the country's oldest and largest urban parks
  • History Files - Book excerpts, brochures, correspondence, genealogies, newspaper clippings, reports, specifications, and studies that document the history of sites and activities within the Philadelphia park system
  • Photographs and Prints - Engravings, lithographs, paintings, photographs, postcards, stereo-views, slides and other types of print that aid in the understanding or documentation of property within the park system
  • Maps and Drawings - 3,000 + original drawings, blue prints, blue lines, Mylar's, photo-lithographs, reproductions and tracings of elevations, maps, plans, renderings, sketches, topographical plans, etc. that document the acquisition and development of property within the park system and surrounding areas.