Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in Chestnut Hill, Woodmere Art Museum is dedicated to the art and artists of Philadelphia. The building and grounds, together with the core of the collection, are the gifts of Charles Knox Smith (1845–1916), who purchased the estate in 1898 with the intent of transforming it into a showcase for his great collection of art. Smith opened Woodmere’s doors to the public in 1910.
A passionate collector of contemporary art in his day, Smith was a civic leader of stature, serving on Philadelphia’s Common Council (the precursor to today’s City Council). Born of modest means, his life story represents the American dream. Smith’s first job was that of grocer’s boy, but he eventually built a successful mining company that was active in Mexico. He lived in various parts of urban Philadelphia most of his life and purchased the Woodmere estate with the grand ambition to provide spiritual encounters with art in the context of nature’s beauty.
Woodmere continues to honor Smith’s vision to bring art and nature together and in recent years has acquired important examples of outdoor sculpture by Harry Bertoia, Dina Wind, and Robinson Fredenthal. Woodmere’s collection consists of more than 8,000 works of art, and nine galleries offer exhibitions and programs that serve adults and children. In the George D. Widener Studio, a converted carriage house, Woodmere offers painting and watercolor classes, and the Helen Millard Children’s Gallery showcases exhibitions of art made by students. To provide deeper engagement for visitors, Woodmere also offers lectures, panel discussions, gallery talks, tours, jazz and classical music series, films, and education outreach to Philadelphia schools.
Woodmere is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction held by only approximately three percent of museums nationwide. On the National Register of Historic Places, Woodmere is designated a significant structure that contributes to the historic character of the Chestnut Hill Historic District.