Urban growth in Philadelphia ignited new attitudes about the value of green space. In the early decades of the city, elites sought to privatize access to nature. Ironically, however, the private villa estates of the wealthy eventually became the starting point for a city-wide park system available to all. Public access to green space became enshrined as a right of citizenship.

The upper class claimed access to both city lives and country lives, a demand echoed in later years by middle- and lower-class Philadelphians. The rich often established both a townhome in center city and a country-seat just a few miles away in the hinterlands. The city life routine of business and social rounds, they insisted, required them to take time away to refocus on personal improvement and recreation of the mind and body through reading, writing, pursuing expression in the fine arts, and outdoor pursuits such as hunting and...

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