The following article about Wissinoming Park appeared in The
Philadelphia Record on Monday, August 28, 1911. It is reproduced below with minimum
CORNELIUS ESTATE FORMS IDEAL PARK
Lawndale, on Bristol Pike, Acquired by City, Rich in Natural
FINE OLD TREES ABOUND
Few Changes Necessary to Adapt Grounds to their New
The purchase by the city of splendid old estates and the converting
of them into public parks, thereby preventing their being cut up into building lots and
their identity lost forever, is truly an ideal method of preserving to the community these
beautiful tracts which belonged to an age when land was plentiful and fine large estates
Through acts of public-spirited philanthropy, as well
as through a wise foresight on the part of city officials, the city has been enabled to
preserve a number of such tracts of beauty for posterity, and in many cases old estates
have been allowed to remain almost intact as public parks, very few changes being found
necessary to adapt the grounds to their new purpose. The habit of beautifying the
grounds of splendid trees and shrubbery was a wide-spread one among our fathers, and many
of them would vie with our modern parks for sylvan beauty, which perhaps is one
explanation why public parks were not considered such necessities then as they are today.
Few such estates, however, have been found to be so
ideally suited for parks as Lawndale, the old Cornelius estate, which lies just beyond
Frankford on the Bristol Pike, and which Councils have just authorized the city to
purchase as park property. Had a park been deliberately planned 50 years ago on this
spot and everything done to fit the property for that purpose, the grounds could hardly be
expected to surpass in natural beauty their present condition and appearance.
Large Old Trees Cover the Tract.
Large and beautiful trees of every conceivable variety cover the estate,
here arranged in long avenues, giving the effect of magnificent cathedral aisles, there
clustered together in utter confusion like a piece of primeval forest. As one
wanders over the grounds at every turn new vistas of beauty are opened up.
Combinations of color and shape such as only Nature can construct, gladden the eye on all
sides, and the friendly shade of the great trees that are everywhere gives the impression
of a protecting presence hovering about. To spend a day amid such surroundings is to
get near to the heart of things and to be refreshed by the contact. It is, as said
at the outset, an ideal spot for a park.
But when Mr. Cornelius, who was well known in the
business world as a manufacturer of gas fixtures, moved to the property in 1852, enlarged
the old mansion and set about the task of beautifying the grounds, the era of their
present beauty began. Mr. Cornelius was a great lover of trees and he planted over
4,000 on the 79 acres that then constituted the estate. He imported many rare
varieties from all parts of the world, and in consequence Lawndale, as he called the
place, soon became famed for its beautiful trees.
A great deal of care he devoted to beautifying the area
immediately surrounding the mansion, and as this is the part that is still intact and that
the city is to purchase, it is likely that the most beautiful portion of the estate is
here preserved. Many rare plants once beautified this portion of the grounds, but
these have disappeared through neglect during recent years, very little trace of them
The mansion, which stands in the centre of the grounds
and is at present used as a clubhouse by the Turney Cyclers, a social organization, was
originally a two-story stone building which stood on the grounds at the time Mr. Cornelius
purchased the place. It was a very old building, it is said, at that time.
Nevetheless, it was made the basis for the present mansion, which was built around
it. It now rises to a height of four stories, above which is a tower which affords a
splendid view of the surrounding country. Lawndale was the centre of the social life
of that section just before the war and immediately after.
Three are a number of other buildings on the grounds,
one of them being an old farmhouse which has stood more than a century. Miniature
mansions, which the Cornelius children played in, still stand about fifty yards from the
main building and give an interesting insight into the life that was lived on the place in
the days of its glory. One of these miniature mansions now serves as a house for the
chickens of the caretaker of the place, and another houses the caretaker's cow.
While much of its glory belongs to the past, the wild
beauty of the place remains. Mr. Cornelius builded better than he knew when he gave
so much attention to the planting of trees on the grounds. Only the destruction of
these trees and the turning of the section into a residential neighborhood could undo his
work and destroy this wild beauty. The purchase of the place by the city and the
turning of it into a park will secure it to prosperity and will ensure the perpetuation of
Mr. Cornelius' work and the beauty which resulted from it.
The Cornelius Mansion in its heyday.
A day at the Cornelius Estate.
The Wissinoming Park pond. Lillypads in the
foreground, looking west from the bridge at the east end of the pond. 1940s.
The Bandstand and Comfort Station. 1934.
||The milestone marker at the SE corner of Comly St. and Frankford Ave.
The marker reads 6MT which means "the sixth(6) mile(M) of the Frankford -
Bristol turnpike(T)." The milestone was installed sometime between 1803 and
1810. Frankford Avenue, an Indian foot path, later known as one of the King's
Highways or King's Roads, became the Frankford-Bristol turnpike in 1803. The
Turnpike followed the general line of present day Route 13.