Positively Philadelphia: Remembering the woman who built Laurel Hill Mansion

Lauren Lipton
March 10, 2019 - 7:00 am

Courtesy of the Laurel Hill Mansion


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- As we celebrate Women's History Month, we look at Laurel Hill Mansion, a historic house in Fairmount Park, built by Rebecca Rawle in 1767.

"Our house was actually unusual in that it was built by a woman," said Alma Jacobs. "In those days, women normally did not do things like that."

Alma Jacobs chairman of the board for the Women for Greater Philadelphia
Lauren Lipton/KYW Newsradio

Jacobs is the chairman, or should we say chairwoman, of the board for the Women for Greater Philadelphia. The group, which began during the bicentennial, now takes care of the historic Fairmount Park home.

"She (Rebecca Rawle) and her husband had purchased the property to build a summer home, but he was killed in a hunting accident," Jacobs explained.

However, despite losing her husband, Rawle would go on to build the famous Laurel Hill Mansion.

Men also belong to the group. And Jacobs says the group holds fundraisers like teas, Christmas tours and candlelight concerts.

"When money is short and something is needed, you do what you have to do," she said. "We waited ten years for the house to be painted. And when we saw that it wasn't getting painted, we raised the funds to make it happen!"

She says it takes a lot to keep this more than 250-year-old home in tip top shape.

On International Women's Day 2019, we celebrate Rebecca Warner Rawle Shoemaker (1730--1819), a wealthy Quaker widow with three children who built Laurel Hill Mansion in 1767. She married Sam Shoemaker, a Loyalist, and their home was confiscated by the Colonial Revolutionaries. Samuel escaped to England but Rebecca was eventually able to buy back Laurel Hill Mansion by raising and selling strawberries,cabbages, and other vegetables. Thank you Rebecca and all women who have lived in and preserved Historic Laurel Hill Mansion. #women #history #internationalwomenshistorymonth #thisplacematters #savingplaces #philadelphia #philly #historichouse #internationalwomensday #rebecca #lady #colonial #colonialhouse #parkcharmsphilly #parkjawn #parkcharms #fairmountpark #fairmount

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For visitors, this Blue Star Museum features a special music room and even a rare Jefferson Window, which opens up to the porch after the concerts. 

While the official schedule is not finalized, the house usually opens for visitors in April.

Jacobs adds that as the group works toward the future you can visit and experience the hospitality of the past.