Question of the Week
Belfield Mansion, once the home of artist Charles Willson Peale, is located on what college campus?
Answer: La Salle University
One of the oldest university buildings in use in the country is situated at La Salle University in Philadelphia. This building—known as Belfield Mansion—was once owned by artist Charles Willson Peale. In 1826, Peale sold the home to William Logan Fisher, an industrialist and entrepreneur. Fisher established Wakefield Mills Manufacturing Company, which at its peak produced nearly all the hosiery and fine knit goods in the United States.
Fisher gave Belfield to his oldest daughter, Sarah Logan Fisher, and her husband, William Wister, as a wedding gift. The couple raised six sons at Belfield and the mansion was eventually taken over by their son, John Wister, and then their granddaughter, Sarah Logan Wister Starr. Starr served as president of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now part of the Drexel University College of Medicine) from 1921 to 1941. Starr was also the state vice chairman of the World War I-era National League for Woman’s Services, as well as the Germantown branch. In that capacity, she raised two million dollars for children in Belgium.
Starr lived at Belfield for her entire married life. During that time, she and her husband made significant changes and improvements to the house and grounds. They added electricity and telephone service via underground wires, water and rock gardens, and a rose garden. Belfield Mansion is a National Historic Landmark. It became a part of La Salle University in the 1980s and is used an office for the university’s president.
The Belfield papers at HSP (#3159) contain a wealth of information on Starr's life and work, in addition to papers on and from the many family members that lived at Belfield. The collection also documents the history of the mansion.
Image: Mrs. James Starr with Miss Sarah Logan Starr, photograph undated
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.