Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 1988 Volume 26 Number 2, Pages 69–70

A Brief History of Greenwood Farm

J. Randall Cotton

Page 69

Greenwood Farm on West Valley Road in Tredyffrin, alleged by Samuel W. Pennypacker to have been General Washington's temporary headquarters at Valley Forge before he moved into the Potts-Hewes house, was originally a part of the famous Welsh Tract. In 1706 it was granted to David Meredith by William Penn's agents, a tract of 160 acres.

The property was little improved, however, until it was purchased by James Davis, a member of one of the area's "founding families". Davis, who was a farmer, probably built the house in about 1760, of stone in a vernacular-plan tradition of two back-to-back rooms, with a stairway running along the side. He was listed as the largest landholder in Tredyffrin township in 1765.

His son, Dr. John Davis, a well-known physician in the Chester Valley, inherited the property in 1782. It was he who filed a claim for £113 for medicines taken from him to "replenish medicine chests of his British Majesty" during the British occupation of the valley in September 1777,

After Dr. Davis' death in 1816, the farm was bought in 1820 by Dr. William Harris Upham, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in the Class of 1812, who also practiced in the Chester Valley. He was also a founder, and the first vice-president, of the Chester County Medical Society; his father-in-law was director of the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia from 1805 to 1824. Dr. Harris continued a distinguished medical career in Philadelphia after 1834, when Greenwood Farm was sold to Isaac Richards, a carpenter.

Page 70

The house was then leased to yet another doctor, Dr. Isaac Walker, a descendant of Lewis Walker, one of the original settlers of Tredyffrin. It is believed that the house was improved and expanded at about this time, to its present center-hall Georgian plan configuration. Dr. Walker had an office on the Lancaster Pike, and lectured in Philadelphia. He was also an executive commissioner of the Chester County Agricultural Society. He died in 1860.

From 1860 to 1874 the farm had several short-term owners until it was bought by J. G. Richard Heckscher. Heckscher founded the "Koohnoor" mine near Pottsville, the largest anthracite coal mine in Pennsylvania at that time, and later operated the Swedeland Iron Co. near Norristown. The Heckscher family rented a townhouse in Philadelphia, but occupied Greenwood Farm yearly from April to October, where they practiced a farm life not unlike others of Philadelphia's well-to-do who retreated seasonally to estates on the fringes of the Main Line.

After Richard Heckscher's death, his son Stevens, a founder of Duane, Morris & Heckscher, one of Philadelphia's largest law firms, made substantial improvements to the estate in about 1913, in the then-popular Colonial revival style. The swimming pool, and now-demolished billiards hall, date from this era, and reflect the leisurely life at the farm. He also built the tennis court, on which the Spanish Davis Cup players, the Alonzo brothers, occasionally practiced.

The estate was sold to Radcliffe Urquhart in 1942. In 1969 the farm land was subdivided by a developer, at which time a four-acre compound that included the main house, a stone barn, a stone carriage house, and a frame tenant house, was sold to the present owner, John L. Giegerich jr.

Greenwood Farm


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