Cliveden (pronounced /ˈklɪvdən/, US dict: klĭv′·dən), also known as the Benjamin Chew House, is a historic mansion in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the Battle of Germantown, fought in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War.

The mansion was inhabited from colonial times by seven generations of the Chew family, from Benjamin Chew, who built the house from 1763 to 1767, up until 1972. Benjamin Chew was a Supreme Court Justice for the state of Pennsylvania and was among the wealthy elite in 18th century colonial America. His mansion at Cliveden was merely a summer home, with other locations in Center City Philadelphia and Delaware.

During the battle, Chew, a loyalist, was being held in New Jersey. The British, under Colonel Musgrave, occupied the stone house, and with muskets and bayonets fought off an attack by Continental soldiers. George Washington's army was repelled and sent back down Germantown Avenue in defeat.

The mansion house

In 1966, Cliveden was designated a National Historic Landmark, part of the Colonial Germantown Historic District. The National Trust for Historic Preservation operates Cliveden as a historic house museum, and offers tours from April through December. Significance:

The original estate included a number of other structures, including a stable and coach house, a smoke house, hen house and summer house. The landscaping features stauary and gardens with over 200 varieties of trees and scrubs. In 1868, a two-story addition was added in the original courtyard. A window on the second floor stair landing in the main house was converted into a hidden doorway to create an entrance to the addition.

Chew family papers discovered throughout the house are currently being archived by a team from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. These papers are expected to shed new light on the history of slavery in Philadelphia and the region. Benjamin Chew was known to have possessed many slaves at the Cliveden mansion. One of these slaves, Charity, is the feature of new research surrounding the discovery of the Benjamin Chew papers.

  • Architectural details
  • Colonnade in main hallway

  • Southeast room

  • Urns, dormers and chimneys on the front roof

Building Activity

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