1680 – 1800
Fairmount was named by William Penn because it was the largest hill in the area. During the American Revolution, British soldiers utilized the hill as a means of defense when they were fighting against American soldiers under George Washington’s command.
1800 – 1900
By the 1800s, the Fairmount Dam and Water Works organization utilized the large hill as a natural pump, using the flow of gravity from reservoirs at the top of the hill to provide water to homes and businesses within the city. Initially the land was primarily used by farmers until affluent Philadelphians began building country estates in the “hills.”
Industrialization brought breweries and other factories into the neighborhood which spurred residential development around the factories. The Eastern State Penitentiary, built in the early 19th century, is a prominent landmark in the neighborhood. The residential housing stock is predominately composed of rowhomes dating back to the early 19th century.
1900 – 1960
The area is probably best known for the historic and symbolic Philadelphia Art Museum located on Pennsylvania Avenue, adjacent to the neighborhood. Construction began on the Greek Revival building in 1919. The neighborhood is commonly referred to as the ‘Art Museum’ area because of its proximity to the Museum (this label can also encompass parts of the Spring Garden, Francisville, and Brewerytown neighborhoods).
From the early 1900s through the 1960s, Fairmount was home to many working class white Europeans. The neighborhood had a strong European-ethnic flavor and was very tight-knit.
1960 – Present
Since the 1960s, Fairmount has gentrified with younger, middle and upper class residents moving into the neighborhood and renovating homes. Following the abandonment of Eastern State Penitentiary in 1971, the jail has become a huge tourist attraction, bringing thousands into the neighborhood.
Today, the neighborhood has a vibrant commercial center along Fairmount Avenue from 20th Street to 24th Street, which is surrounded by a residential community consisting of primarily two story and three story rowhomes.
The Fairmount neighborhood is bounded by Fairmount Avenue to the south, Corinthian Avenue to the east, Girard Avenue to the north and Fairmount Park to the west.