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Sweetbriar Mansion Collection

Identifier: SWE

Scope and Contents

The documents in this collection pertain to Sweetbriar Mansion in Fairmount Park. They include writings by Samuel Breck who built the mansion in 1797 and lived there until 1828. These are found in the first series but date from after his time at Sweetbriar. All following series date from 1928 and relate to restoration of Sweetbriar by the Junior League of Philadelphia. The league took over guardianship of the mansion in 1924 and the restoration was completed in 1932. Correspondence in this collection demonstrates how members of the Junior League reached out to descendants of the Breck family in preparation for the restoration, particularly seeking donations of Breck furniture and other historic objects for display in the house.

The second series is made up of Lysbeth Boyd (Mrs. Henry P.) Borie’s 1928 correspondence. Each folder is dedicated to her correspondence with a particular individual, organized alphabetically by last name. Mrs. Borie was a member of the Junior League and the chairman of the committee charged with the restoration of Sweetbriar. She served as president of the league from 1930 to 1932 as the project progressed. Later, she joined the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and served as Director of Public Relations from 1957 to 1972. During her tenure she spearhead museum initiatives such as the volunteer guide service, the members’ newsletter and the Cultural Loop Bus on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

In the third series is Thomas Reath’s 1928 correspondence related to the Junior League work on Sweetbriar, arranged into folders as above. He contacted members of the Breck family on the behalf of the Junior League and passed their responses on to Mrs. Borie. Many of these exchanges end with a form letter from Mrs. Borie as chairman of the restoration committee that have been kept with the Reath correspondence because they form part of his communication with Breck family members.

The final series contains various documents and photographs. In the first folder there is a letter from Elizabeth Martin to Mrs. McLean, presumably two Junior League members, along with a card that references Mr. Joseph Breck. This series also contains four photographs of Breck family members, all labelled, and two identical images of Samuel Breck on cardstock. Finally, notes and labels found among the other material have been kept, along with original housing, and are included in this final series.


  • 1841-1928


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sweetbriar Mansion Collection is the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

Sweetbriar Mansion was built in 1797 by Samuel Breck (1771-1862) on an estate in what is now Fairmount Park. Breck was a merchant elected to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the U.S. Congress. He was a prominent member of Philadelphia society, involved in politics and philanthropy and acquainted with many notable persons including the Marquis de Lafayette, Daniel Webster and Nicholas Biddle. Breck and his wife left Sweetbriar Mansion in 1828 after the death of their daughter Lucy.

The mansion became part of Fairmount Park in 1869. It was in the care of the Junior League of Philadelphia from 1924 until 1939 when it passed into the hands of the Modern Club of Philadelphia, which continues to keep its headquarters there today.


0.5 linear feet

Language of Materials



The documents in this collection pertain to Sweetbriar Mansion in Fairmount Park. They include writings by Samuel Breck who built the mansion in 1797 and lived there until 1828. There is also material related to the restoration of Sweetbriar by the Junior League of Philadelphia.

Custodial History

The material that now forms the Sweetbriar Mansion Collection was transferred to the Archives from the American Art Department in the summer of 2012. It was a gift of Miss Anna Shaw, 1939 with additions by C. P. Beauchamp Jefferys, 1966.

Processing Information

This collection was processed and described by Alethea Rockwell in 2012 and Rose Chiango in 2018.


Guide to the Sweetbriar Mansion Collection
Alethea Rockwell and Rose Chiango
2012, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Joan Root

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States