Like many of the grand old houses of Fairmount Park, Woodford Mansion has a long and varied history. It is one of Philadelphia's earliest country houses, built in 1756 for William Coleman (described by his friend Benjamin Franklin as having "the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest moral of almost any man I ever met"). After Coleman's death in 1769 the house passed through a series of owners before it was purchased by the city in 1869 to be incorporated into Fairmount Park. It served briefly as the home of the Park's chief engineer, and later as the Park guard headquarters and even a traffic court, slowly spiraling into that usual vortex of municipal decay.
Enter Naomi Wood (1871-1926), the daughter of a moderately wealthy Philadelphia shop owner. She never married, and after inheriting her father's business turned her energies to collecting American decorative arts and antiques. Upon her death she directed that the collection be put on display in an appropriate historical venue. Beginning in 1927, Woodford was restored for just that purpose, and reopened in 1930 as gallery for her fine antiques. While there is plenty of Chippendale and Hepplewhite to tempt the furniture lover, it is the little accoutrements of life that distinguish her collection. Playing cards and chess sets, sewing birds and whist games, samplers and beaded needle cases ~ small things, well loved and used (and often overlooked by major collectors of American antiques). Together they give a picture of life in the 18th century: its daily duties and diversions.
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