The South-West Square of William Penn's original city plan, renamed after the Revolution for scientist and instrument maker David Rittenhouse, became the center of fashionable Philadelphia living in the second half of the nineteenth century. It is commemorated in It's Not Done (1926), William Bullitt's roman à clef, as the “sacred square.” By the early twentieth century, with the departure of many of the principal families for year-round living on their country estates, the square fell into disuse. A 1913 redesign by Paul P. Cret rescued it, giving it an elegant circulation of diagonals and perimeter paths as well as its central fountain and perimeter walls. Around the square are a few of the houses that once attested to the pleasures of elite urban life. At the southwest corner are early, modestly scaled houses that survived because they were incorporated into the home of Henry McIlhenney, whose great art collection, now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was here.
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