From Mansion to Hostel
Chamounix Mansion was built in 1802 by George Plumstead. Plumstead was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant. His father and grandfather both served as former Philadelphia mayors. He built Chamounix as his seasonal retreat in the country -- within a day’s journey of the city, but far enough from Colonial Philadelphia to escape its crowds and summer heat.
In 1853, the property was sold to the Topliff Johnson’s, the first family to live in the house year-round. The Johnson family was ultimately forced to give up both their land and the house in 1867 when an act of the assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appropriated the grounds for public use; this site was to become Fairmount Park.
In the following century, it served as a boarding house and restaurant between the months of June and September. In the early 1950’s the Mansion was used as a refreshment stand, eventually falling into disrepair.
Fairmount Park Commission intended to demolish Chamounix Mansion. However, the Committee to Establish a Youth Hostel in Philadelphia actively petitioned to save this historic site for community use. In July of 1964, a dedication ceremony was celebrated at Chamounix Mansion. Frederic Mann represented the City, and Dr. Paul Dudley White, the celebrated Boston physician and honorary president of American Youth Hostels, gave the main dedication speech. Chamounix became the first urban hostel in the United States.
Since 1964, Chamounix Mansion has provided thousands of guests with a rare view of the city, from the comfort of it’s most scenic park.