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Walking in William Still’s Steps: Underground Railroad Guided Hike & Community Conversation

Join us for a hike, lunch, and community conversation exploring the Underground Railroad’s connection to West Fairmount Park


Saturday, October 7, 2023


6:00am - 10:00am


Ridgeland Mansion
4100 Chamounix Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Join Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania on October 7 from 10:00 AM–2:00 PM for an Underground Railroad history hike in West Fairmount Park.

On his 202nd birthday, we honor the “Father of the Underground Railroad”, William Still (born October 7, 1821), and all those freedom seekers who traversed the lands of present-day Fairmount Park. Join us for a hike through West Fairmount Park in the morning followed by a conversation in the afternoon focused on how public historians can expand and support narratives of 19th century Black Americans in Philadelphia.

The 3.5-mile loop hike will visit places of historical significance, some with connections to the Underground Railroad. Stops include Ridgeland Mansion (c.1762) Boelsen Cottage (c.1684), Belmont Mansion (c.1742), and physical remnants of the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, which was a means of clandestine conveyance for freedom seekers in the mid-19th century.

Preview of the hike route HERE. 

The walk will begin at Ridgeland Mansion’s barn at 10:00 AM and return there for a noon lunchtime discussion. The hike will feature immersive experiences led by historic storyteller and “Conductor” Dee Patterson of UGR3DAY Underground Railroad Experiences Inc. and Gilletta “Gigi” McGraw, portraying free Black woman Cornelia Wells. 

From 12:30-2:00 PM, there will be a panel discussion and community conversation with historians Emma Lapsanksy-Werner and Andrew Diemer, moderated by Justina Barrett of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Space is limited in the Ridgeland barn’s conference center so please register only if you intend to come. The $15 ticket includes a boxed lunch (sandwich, chips, cookie, and drink) provided by Joshua’s Catering. We will follow up with your sandwich choices (meat or vegan). 

-Guided hike only: Free RSVP
-Guided hike + community conservation and lunch: $15
-Community conversation and lunch (no hike): $15


  • The hike is roughly 3.5 miles in length, with a combination of open parkland and hilly trails
  • Appropriate for adults and families with children ages 10 & up. Minors must be registered and accompanied by an adult.
  • Please dress according to weather conditions and wear good hiking shoes (boots/sneakers).
  • Please bring your own water and snacks (drinking water is not available in the park).
  • There are bathrooms at the start/end of the hike and a couple of porta-potties available along the hike route.
  • Bring sunscreen and bug spray.

Please park in the lot near The Barn at Ridgeland Mansion. When you turn into the driveway for Ridgeland Mansion, please follow the ‘William Still Walk’ directional signage to the correct lot. As always, NEVER leave valuables in your car! If traveling by public transit, the nearest stop is at Ford and Cranston Road (a one-mile walk from the start). The nearest Indego bike station is at MLK Drive and Strawberry Mansion Bridge (about one mile away).

QUESTIONS? Please reach out to programs@myphillypark.org

Enjoy our programs? Become a Supporter of Fairmount Park Conservancy to help ensure that Philadelphia’s parks are enhanced for generations to come! Supporters enjoy special benefits like early registration access for events and our Park Perk Pass, which offers discounts and benefits throughout Philadelphia.

This event will take place in light rain. In the event of heavy rain or other severe conditions, the event will be canceled and attendees will be notified and eligible for a full refund.