Rittenhouse Town
206 Lincoln Dr.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(215) 438-5711

Wilhelm Rittenhausen was one of the first Germans to settle in the New World, where he changed his name to William Rittenhouse. He was a talented paper maker who had apprenticed in Germany. In 1690, Rittenhouse and his son, Nicholas, built a mill to manufacture fine white paper. It was America's first paper mill, and the foundation of a new town.

The ensuing years saw Rittenhouse Town grow up around the mill, eventually including more than 40 buildings. Other paper mills sprung up nearby along Wissahickon Creek to meet the growing demand for this valuable and hard to make product.

The Rittenhouses and their town supported the American Revolution in a variety of ways, including providing paper for newspapers and pamphlets. Paper was also used to make cartridges and gun wadding. Townsfolk also spied on the British and directly fought in the War.

Today visitors can enjoy a Guided Tour of what remains of the town, including a number of historical buildings. The town faces a brief stretch of Lincoln Drive in Fairmount Park.

A Tour generally includes:

  • The Abraham Rittenhouse Home (c. 1720): Reflecting three centuries of architectural development, the building serves as a Visitor Center and features a Video Presentation, exhibits, and a working model of a Colonial Paper Mill.
  • 1690 Homestead of William and Gertrude Rittenhouse: Illustrates the living conditions of early settlers and features one of the finest examples of a Colonial Fireplace in Pennsylvania.
  • The 1707 Rittenhouse Home: Becoming affluent from the papermaking business, the Rittenhouse family built a second residence. David Rittenhouse, noted astronomer, clock maker, and mathematician was born here in 1732.
  • Archaeology On-Site: This site features the foundations of an early paper mill that was unearthed here in the early '90s.

Rittenhouse Town not only provides a great tour for a family or group, it is also an excellent resource for educational programming. Family Workshops on Papermaking range from a simple introduction to papermaking to Japanese Papermaking, casting dimensional forms with paper, and finishing (binding, etc.). Call for details and costs. Adults Groups can have a Tour designed to meet their specific interests and can include a Papermaking Workshop. All groups must have at least 10 people.School Groups can enjoy a Tour that is adaptable to any grade level from K - 12. Classes have the option of seeing a papermaking demonstration or actually making their own sheet of paper to take home. A Tour last 1½ hours for groups of 18 or less, 2½ hours for groups up to 36 students. Add time for a Workshop if desired.

Hours: Open June thru September, weekends 12 - 4pm (last tour begins at 3pm). Open other times by appointment. From October thru May open by appointment only. Visit the official website linked above for information on schedule variations.
Adults $5.00
Seniors $3.00
Children (5-12) $3.00
Groups: School Groups: $2.50 to $5.00 per student, depending on Tour, Workshop, etc.
Group Reservations: At least 4 weeks in advance.
Lunch: Picnic areas available.
Handicapped Access: Partial. Call.
Directions: Located in northern Fairmount Park.

Copyright © 1996-2014 by Patrick Tadeushuk. All Rights Reserved.