Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 35
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: Winter 1997 Volume 35 Number 2, Pages 41–54
VANISHED HOUSES OF THE GREAT VALLEY
In the heart of the Great Valley lies a two-square mile area in western Tredyffrin and eastern East Whiteland townships that, until recently, was beautiful farm land and the site of more than two dozen colonial-era farmhouses. The local corporate construction boom has led to the destruction of many of these historic treasures, however, and the Great Valley Corporate Center today has taken the place of these gracious old stone houses. A group of trees sometimes remains behind, marking the spot where an old house once stood, a silent testament to the Welsh farmers who years ago worked the land.
This wave of destruction began in 1950, when Bethlehem Steel bought about 150 acres from the Paoli Airport on Swedesford Road. Soon after that, Burroughs (now Unisys) acquired property on the south side, and the Corporate Center was begun. Most of the houses were demolished by their new corporate owners to avoid liability or property taxes.
This area, part of the Welsh Tract granted by William Penn, lies roughly along both sides of Swedesford Road, and stretches a mile and a half east from Valley Store, three-quarters of a mile north to the corner of St. Peter's and Church Roads, and south about half a mile from Swedesford Road (see map). It is hoped this report will bring back a glimpse of these houses and the people who lived in them.
The research was done by tracking down old photographs or engravings of the houses and finding out exactly where they stood and who their owners were. Lists of owners of the properties were drawn from the Arthur Reid title searches on file at the Chester County Historical Society library. The names were then compared with those on Breou's Farm Maps of Chester County published in 1883. The map, accompanying this article, is based on Mueller's 1912 maps. Names of property owners were also obtained from listings on the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, also called the "Glass Tax." The tax records provide dimensions, number of windows and panes, and building material (i.e., stone, logs, or brick) of a house. They also provide information about out-buildings. Unfortunately for researchers, this tax was not successful and was never repeated. In fact, it wasn't even enforced.
The old photographs used in this project came primarily from people who had once lived in these houses. Particularly valuable was Stinson Markley's slide collection, loaned to me by the Charlestown Historical Society. Stinson Markley was a local farmer who lived on one of these farms as a child. In later years, he photographed the old houses before they were destroyed. Several families predominate as owners of the farms, most of them Welsh. It was common in those days for a child to grow up and marry someone from the next farm. The same names, therefore, are often found on title lists for different properties. The Bartholomews were the largest landowners in this area from about 1740 until the mid-1880s.
1) GEORGE HOLLAND HOUSE
The George Holland House stood just west of the airport on the north side of Swedesford Road, and had been vacant for many years when it was torn down around 1960. The original house was the center section with the huge chimney. It may have been one of the oldest houses in Chester County - a 1688 date stone was noticed during the bulldozing. [T-E Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 4, page 76] It was undoubtedly built by a Welshman. The second floor windows that reach the cornice and the heavy squat features of the small building are typically Welsh.
The sketches above show how the George Holland house may have looked before the later additions. The smaller addition, built on the left side of the original house, must have been built before 1798 because the glass tax shows a stone house 33' x 19', which is long enough to include both the original house and the addition, and a separate stone kitchen 14' x 10'. A stone storehouse 30' x 18' is also listed.
The small, detached building to the right of the main house is too small to be the storehouse, but too long for the outside kitchen. Perhaps this building was the outside kitchen listed in the tax records, but it was enlarged after 1798. Note the two doors on the front of the building. The space between the house and the kitchen was filled by a second addition sometime after 1798.
It is difficult to guess who might have built the original house in 1688. The land was part of 300 acres owned by Philip Howell, but it is doubtful that he built the house as he owned other parcels of land closer to Philadelphia and was probably a land speculator. He sold the land to John Martin in 1712, who sold it to John Phillips in 1755. It was in the Phillips family at the time of the 1798 tax. In the early 1800s it belonged to Isaac Wayne, who was Anthony Wayne's son. Elizabeth Smith could have lived here in 1798 before she married Isaac Wayne - she owned the Joseph Matthews house (house no. 5) at this time but did not live there. John Dean, Joseph Malin, Robert Hughes and others owned the property until the early years of the twentieth century, when it came into the hands of the Holland family.
East Whiteland / Tredyffrin Map
2) CHARLES HOLLAND HOUSE
This house was demolished in the early 1980s when Penn State University bought the property for its extension. A clump of trees, including a beautiful copper beech, can still be seen where the house once stood. It was almost directly across the road from the George Holland house, but farther back from Swedesford Road. Its driveway was a dirt road that continued all the way south to the Lancaster Turnpike.
The western end was the original house, and it was probably built in the mid- 1700s by Joseph or John Bartholomew. The title search shows that the property belonged to Francis Howell in 1686, David Rees in 1710, Thomas Owen in 1725, and to Llewellin Parry, who sold it to Joseph Bartholomew in 1730. It remained in the Bartholomew family until 1814, when it passed to the Roberts family. John Roberts was married to Sarah Bartholomew. Their son, Jonathan (grandson of John and Hannah Davis Bartholomew), resided unmarried on his grandfather's homestead.
The property was acquired by the Holland family in the late 1800s, and was bought by James B. Robertson in 1922. His daughter, Mary R. Ives, is a member of the T-E History Club and has provided photographs and valuable information about this house and others nearby.
3) MARKLEY HOUSE
A little south of the Charles Holland house, on the same dirt lane, stood the house where Stinson Markley lived as a child. The house could also be accessed from Moorehall Road, very near the railroad at Valley Store Station. This house was characteristic of many of the old houses in the Valley; a modest original house was built in the early or middle part of the eighteenth century, and two or three generations later, a wing was built that would more or less double the size. The house was torn down in 1991.
It was owned by the same people as the adjacent Charles Holland house until about 1900. The older part of the house may have been built before 1720. In a will dated 1720, Thomas Owen left to his wife, Elizabeth, a room in his house. His son Richard was left the rest of the dwelling. I believe that John Bartholomew (the second John, grandson of the first) owned the house at the time of the 1798 tax. It is listed as a 40' x 26' stone house with ten 15-pane windows and two18- pane windows. There was also a separate stone kitchen measuring 20' x 16', and a springhouse measuring 16' x 14'. The walls of the springhouse are still standing.
4) ROBERT HUGHES HOUSE
This was "The Homestead" -- lived in by five generations of Bartholomews. In the 1940s it was owned by Arthur Young, a contributor to the development of the helicopter, who carried on his research in the barn.
"The Domestic Architecture of the Welsh Tract" is a book-sized thesis written in 1959 at Princeton University by H. Bartholomew Cox. Six copies exist, one of which is in the library of the Chester County Historical Society. According to Mr. Cox, the early section of his ancestors' homestead, built 1740-50, was the smaller of the two, with the higher-pitched roof. The larger part was built in the late 1700s. Mr. Cox mentions the Georgian details: ruled stucco walls, fluted pilasters flanking the main door, and the classical pediment and detailed molding of the cornice of the larger addition. These could have been added later. The huge chimney and fireplace could have belonged to an early separate kitchen. The house was built by the first John Bartholomew in the early 1700s. At the time of the 1798 glass tax, it belonged to Benjamin Bartholomew. The tax lists the two-story stone house 63' X 33', with two 24-pane windows, and seven 18- pane windows. It is possible to count the panes in the windows using the photos in Mr. Cox's thesis. The windows were a striking feature of this house because those larger than fifteen panes were not common at that time.
The view of the house shown above is from the rear as to date no photograph of the front elevation has been located.
5) JOSEPH MATTHEWS HOUSE
The eastern end of this big house was the original building which may have been built by a Bartholomew. The 1798 tax lists it as belonging to Elizabeth Smith, who married Isaac Wayne, and whose grandmother, Elizabeth Davis, was Joseph Bartholomew's sister. Elizabeth Smith never lived at the house, however. The sketch is based on a photograph provided by Ida Matthews Hardester, a member of the History Club, whose family owned the farm early in the twentieth century. Ida Hardester has a vivid memory and recalls many details about the house. She recalls that the big chimney on the left of the house was part of a large bakeoven.
The 1798 tax shows a two-story stone building 25' x 20' and a kitchen 25' x 13' pictured above. The kitchen must have been the western end of the house, with the bake oven. The middle, then, would have been filled in, and a second story added to the western end sometime after 1798. Also listed was a stone wash house 20' x 12'. This is on the left of the picture, and was later made into a small tenant house. Mrs. Hardester remembers when it functioned as a wash house. It was served by water that flowed down from the hill behind it.
6) WILLIAM HUGHES HOUSE
In 1798, according to the glass tax record, this house was a two-story stone house 45' x 26', with two 15-pane windows and eight 12-pane windows. Also listed were two 8-pane attic windows and two 10-pane windows. These long, narrow windows are sometimes found on the gable ends of houses. In this case, they were hidden or obliterated by the small nineteenth-century wing built at the far end of the house.
In 1765, David Jones sold it to Evan Evans, who willed it to his son, Jonathan Evans., who owned it in 1798. It is one of nine tracts that, according to Reid Title Search #398, belonged to the Cedar Hollow Lime Co. The lime company sold it to David Craft, who in turn sold it to William Hughes.
William M. Hughes (1850-1940), a native of Charlestown Township, bought the 114-acre farm in 1895 and lived there until his death. His son, W. Winfield, and daughter, S. Edith, continued to live in the farm house until they died within a few days of each other in 1969. Neither of them ever married, and after their deaths the house was never occupied. Gradually it, and the barn, fell into disrepair and they were eventually torn down.
7) ANDREW O'DANIEL HOUSE
Many of us can recall this strange ruin on Cedar Hollow Road. It seemed to have pillars on all sides. Ida Hardester remembers when the O'Daniels lived there - she says it was a magnificant estate. The house, with its windows of four large panes, its very flat roof, and the many columns, was probably built around 1860. The land was part of a large area owned by William Powell in 1686. In 1749 it was bought by Thomas Hubbert, who owned it until 1762, when it was bought by Thomas and Elizabeth Davis. Elizabeth Davis, in her will dated 1784, left all her real estate to her granddaughter Elizabeth Smith. In 1789 it was bought by Issacher Evans. It remained in the Evans family until William L. McDowell bought it from the Robert T. Evans estate in 1861.
William McDowell owned a prosperous iron foundry in Philadelphia that made elaborate wrought iron stoves. He was quite wealthy, and his estate on Cedar Hollow Road was a summer place. McDowell died in 1897, and his wife two years later. Bill McDowell, who lives in Paoli and has many old maps and deeds concerning the property, is McDowell's great-grandson.
Dr. Andrew O'Daniel bought the property from George Graham in 1909, and it was sold around 1940 out of the O'Daniel estate. In 1918 the land surrounding the house was used as a Marine training base called Camp Fuller.
8) HARRY DAVIS HOUSE
This was the only house I was able to measure before it was bulldozed away in 1996. It measured 45' x 35', and the attached kitchen measured 25' x 18'. It was advertised for sale by Thomas J. Maxwell in 1834. [T-E Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, page 109] Thomas Maxwell was married to Ellen Bartholomew, daughter of the second Benjamin Bartholomew. As the stone house was not listed in the 1798 tax, we can assume that it was built after 1798 and before 1834. The 1798 glass tax record indicates that Thomas Maxwell owned a one-story log house with one 12- pane window and two 8-pane windows, a 15' x 15' log kitchen, a 14' x 12' stone springhouse and a 50' x 18" log barn. The outbuildings were probably used long after the log house was replaced by the larger two-story stone house.
In the early days (1701 to 1740), the land was owned by Thomas Jerman followed by the Walker family who owned it for the rest of the eighteenth century. Abner Cornog acquired it in 1835 - most likely from Thomas Maxwell - and in 1852 his will gave his sons their choice of four farms, one of which was the 64- acre "Maxwell Farm." William Cornog chose this farm, but another son, Mordecai Davis Cornog, apparently ended up with it. In the 1880s the house belonged to Mordecai, whose mother was Margaret Davis. A lithograph of Mordecai and the farm appears on page 508 in Futhey and Cope's History of Chester County published in 1881.
9) THE JACOBS FARM
On the 1912 map this farm was owned by the Knickerbocker Lime Co. It had previously belonged to George Jacobs, who also owned other properties in both East Whiteland and Tredyffrin townships. The house was typical of those built in the mid-eighteenth century, with a wing added a few generations later. The only photograph is from Stinson Markley's collection. He wrote on the back, "At one time the Jacobs property along Valley Creek near Cedar Hollow Road. Now owned by Atlas Powder." The road to the house, part of which still exists as a driveway for an existing house, ran through the middle of the property and on south to Swedesford Road.
The Jacobs property was part of the 300 acres that Philip Howell sold to John Martin in 1712. The northern part of the property, which included the Jacobs farm, was sold to James Rowland in 1724, Morris Bowen in 1749, and Joseph Bartholomew in the 1750s. George Jacobs was descended from John Jacobs, who married Elizabeth Havard of Tredyffrin Township in 1753, and owned several contiguous farms in the Great Valley.
10) SAMUEL ACKER HOUSE
About a mile north of Swedesford Road on Church Road, near Cedar Hollow, was the Samuel Acker farm. It was later owned by the Cedar Hollow Lime Co., which became Warner Co. The house stood very close to the road, and to the lane, that went to St. Peter's Church. The lane, a dirt road at the time, passed the church and went on north to Devault.
The original house (the wing to the rear) was built either by Israel Davis around 1757, or by John Cloyd in 1782. Both men were Welsh. The house was distinguished by its odd-shaped corner chimney (see illustration next page). Although rare in our area, corner chimneys were quite common in the South. Note the high second-story windows that touch the cornice. This is a Welsh building characteristic. The large front section, built nearly a century later, has much more space between the windows and the roof. John Monday owned the house in 1798. The glass tax lists it as a 25' x 181 stone house with three 12-pane windows and one 8-pane window, which was probably beside the fireplace on the gable end.
Samuel Acker (1805-1880) owned the farm in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He added the large front section with the porch around 1850. The sides of the deep windows inside were curved -- a mid-nineteenth century characteristic. Samuel Acker's son, Zackariah, sold it to Edward B. English, and several owners followed before Warner Co. bought it. The farm is pictured on page 340 in Futhey and Cope's History of Chester County published in 1881. The illustration includes the tenant house shown on the right. The tenant house is still standing but has been vandalized.Top
11) WILLIAM IRVINE HOUSE
This is a Mystery House about which little could be learned. According to one writer, "... Benjamin Bartholomew built a fine house adjacent to St. Peter's and [it is] still standing in 1948." [T-E Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3, page 39] William B. Irvine is listed as the owner on the 1912 map.
No photograph or drawing of the house could be located. The only other reference to the house found is in a 1927 letter to the editor of the West Chester Daily Local News signed only William A. He wrote, "East of the Devault road was the fine farm and home of the late Joseph Menkins, now owned by the Cedar Hollow Lime Co. Surely no place in the fields of strife in France looks worse 'shot up' than the fine home of the Menkins. Sammy Acker lived east of the Menkins property and, oh yes, I forgot, up on the high point stands old St. Peter's Church like a lone sentinel in the midst of the surrounding ruins, and I guess she's there to stay. They've carved off two sides, cutting as deep as the law allows." The site of the Irvine house is now covered with tons of earth from the Warner Co. operations. St. Peter's Church still stands on the high point.
Page last updated: 2009-01-23 at 10:10 EST