The Historic Houses of Fairmount Park are steeped in history and admired by many. But for Veronica Underwood, who grew up with one of the houses in her backyard, they were a source of strength and hope.
“It was my special place,” Underwood says of Strawberry Mansion. “Just being in this yard helped me understand who I am in the middle of North Philly.”
Underwood and her five siblings grew up on the 2500 block of 33rd Street in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. Three years after moving there, her mother died. Underwood says she found strength and a place to heal on the grounds of Historic Strawberry Mansion, which dates back to around 1789. “As a young person growing up in a city, it gives you hope. It gives you a piece of heaven on earth.”
When Ed Miller, the Conservancy’s Program Manager for Historic Houses, first heard Underwood’s story at the first Neighbor’s Day in 2016, it stuck with him. “Most everyone who visits the Historic Houses admires their architecture and history, but Veronica found a special source of strength in the house and its grounds,” says Miller. “That one of our houses had such an impact on someone’s life, especially someone who lives nearby, was so compelling.”
Underwood’s story is just one example of what happens when neighbors come together during the Conservancy’s annual Neighbor’s Day, says Miller. Since 2016, the event has welcomed anyone living near Fairmount Park to visit the six historic houses during the holiday season. Miller says, “What makes it most special is that we invite any neighbors with a talent to share to perform in the houses for their friends, family, and the public at large, to see.”
Underwood says she would go to Strawberry Mansion when she needed time to herself, walking around the house while singing aloud. So it was a full circle kind of moment when she ended up bringing her talents to Neighbor’s Day in 2017, singing with a live band in the house. Learn more about Underwood’s connection to the Fairmount Park houses (and hear her beautiful voice) in the video below.
The next Neighbor’s Day is scheduled for Saturday, December 8, 2018. Anyone who lives in the neighborhoods near Fairmount Park are welcome to enjoy the houses for free. You can also volunteer or donate a few extra dollars to support the program. If you’re interested in getting involved in any of these ways, reach out to Ed Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Fairmount Park’s Historic Houses, visit parkcharms.com
For more information on holiday programming at the houses, visit holidaysinthepark.com.