Dozens of historic structures dot the vast landscape of Fairmount Park, from historic houses like Lemon Hill Mansion and Strawberry Mansion to the picturesque boathouses lining the Schuylkill River. One can also find remnants of small but mighty guard boxes, built throughout the late 19th century for the Fairmount Park Guard, one of Philadelphia’s police forces who patrolled the park.
Now, one of the few remaining guard boxes is currently stationed at Thomas Mansion in the Wissahickon, where Fairmount Park Conservancy’s conservation team is hard at work restoring the structure.
The East Fairmount Park Canoe House Guard Box is one of the few guard boxes left in Fairmount Park, though it was in worse condition than any of the others that the Conservancy has restored over the past 15 years, says Lucy Strackhouse, Senior Director of Preservation and Property Management.
In April, the Conservancy’s conservation team carefully removed the East Fairmount Park Canoe House guard box and transferred it to Thomas Mansion for restoration. Photo by Lucy Strackhouse
The guard boxes date back to the creation of the Fairmount Park Guard in 1870 to patrol the park’s grounds. At its peak, there were more than 100 guard boxes designed in various architectural styles scattered throughout the park. However, after the guard disbanded in 1972, the guard boxes experienced a rapid demise, as they no longer served a purpose for the park.
Today, only about a dozen guard boxes remain in Fairmount Park, including the East Fairmount Park Canoe House Guard Box.
In April, the Conservancy carefully removed the guard box from its spot at East Fairmount Park Canoe House via a crane and transferred the structure to Thomas Mansion. Despite its state of disrepair, “Fortunately it remained in one piece when we moved it!” says Strackhouse. It is currently being restored by the Conservancy’s team of architectural conservationists and summer interns.
There is a lot of work to be done, from roof replacement to rot removal to window restorations. Once the work is complete later this summer, the Conservancy will return the guard box to its original site for use by the Friends of Temple boathouse.
To learn more about the Conservancy’s conservation services, please click here or contact Lucy Strackhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.