Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 2001 Volume 39 Number 2, Pages 39–54

Sprucemont: A Colonial Era House on Old Lancaster Road in Devon

Marian S. Buehler

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["Remove not the ... landmarks] thy fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28)." If at times the landmarks undergo removal and deflection, there must surely be upon the children of the fathers the obligation to recall and reverently mark for themselves and for posterity the ancient lines and corners. -Rector Crosswell McBee (from an essay read at the 225th Anniversary Sunday of Old St. David's Church, September 4, 1938).]

In the files of the Chester County Historical Society, references are made to this house as the Peter Latch House. The Latch family, beginning with Peter Latch, held the property in Tredyffrin Township for a period of ninety-eight years, from 1833 until 1931.

Because of its row of towering, century-old spruce trees in front of the house along what is now Old Lancaster Road, the property was named Sprucemont in 1918 by its owner, Mary Latch Linton. The name, comparatively recent, remains although the trees are gone. The word Sprucemont, as used in this text, refers to the property out of which it remains as a core of the original acreage.

Sprucemont was at its earliest time part of a William Penn grant of 490 acres first taken up by William Beach, in right of Richard Hunt, in 1685. From Beach it descended to the Davis family. There is a record in the

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Chester County Court House -- Book Q, Page 169 -- of the transfer in 1717 to Jenkin Lewis of 150 out of 500 acres of Timothy Davis. The present Sprucemont is a portion of it. The acreage of Sprucemont dwindled from the original hundreds in the 18th century to 4-1/2 acres in the 20th century.

The house at Sprucemont had its origin probably prior to 1763, which date is carved on a block of the west chimney in the gable. It was probably a small, two-story stone house, located at the present address, at the southeast corner of Valley Forge Road and the Lancaster Turnpike.

At that time Valley Forge Road was an uninterrupted, straight road, from a point north near the Schuylkill River, south to Old St. David's church. General George Washington, when at Valley Forge (1777-78) ordered the road rebuilt. Its old route, although now blocked by estates and developments, remains the township line between Easttown and Tredyffrin.

In 1949 the portion of it between Lancaster Pike (Route 30) north over the railroad overpass to Devonwood Lane was closed. An animal hospital on the northeast, and a restaurant (1966) on the northwest corners of the intersection at Lancaster Pike, have extended their boundaries into the area of the old roadway, all but obscuring its former place.

There is considerable documentation on a tavern, dating to 1810, said to be one of the inns on the Lancaster Turnpike in Chester County. It was known as "The Lamb" and was located diagonally across from Sprucemont on the northwest corner of Valley Forge Road and the Lancaster Turnpike. These two houses still stand on their original sites, now as then, neighbors and veterans of centuries.

It seems likely that at no time since its beginning has the house at Sprucemont been vacant. Since an unknown day, long before 1763, its thick stone walls have provided the backdrop for the drama of living. It has protected its families from the pinch of the changing seasons of more than two centuries - political, cultural and physical -- holding all secrets tightly in the enfolding of its comforts.


The House -- First Unit

It seems that the first unit of the house was built several years prior to 1763, which is the date chiseled into the date block in the chimney of the west wing. There has been found no record of, or reference to, the date

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of building the first unit. An attempt to arrive at an approximate date by examining the woodwork, moldings and hardware seems to show that there was a gradual interest in keeping abreast of the times since its probable pre-1763 date.

Before 1750, an old tax receipt shows that Jenkin Lewis, a weaver, paid taxes on a "habitation" here. In 1761 there is mention of a messuage or tenement in the record of the sheriff's sale on a debt owed by Isaac Lewis, son of Jenkin Lewis.

Four reasons for placing it as a pre-1763 house are:

1. The fact that it has four 18-inch stone walls, whereas the adjoining 1763 wing has only three.

2. The floor plan. This rectangular room is a common type in early Pennsylvania architecture, as is the small cellar under part of it. The winding, narrow stairway to a second floor is also typical.

3. The type of fireplace. This is the largest fireplace in the house, and its style suggests that it was used for cooking and baking purposes; whereas the 1763 fireplace is small and of the parlor type used only for heating purposes.

4. Early moldings and hardware.

The location faced westerly on Valley Forge Road, being placed in the southeast corner of what was to become the intersection of the Lancaster Turnpike in the 1790s. [It is probable that an east-west road of some sort preceded the Lancaster Turnpike past the house, since an old log habitation located about 500 yards to the west, later to be know as the Devon Tea House, is said to date to 1734.]

The first unit of Sprucemont consisted of two stories, with one room beneath on the first floor and two small bedrooms above. There was a small dug cellar under only part of the first story area. This was accessible from the outside, as piercing in the masonry of the foundation and cellar wall indicate. The four stone walls of this unit are 18 inches thick.

The room plan is common to early houses of this region. It measures inside, about 12x1 7 feet. There is an outside door at each end, east and west, and beside each door, a six-over-six-paned window. The late Dr. Charles W. Heathcote of West Chester State College, interested in research of Chester County antiquities, stated that the random width pine doors of this room could be of no later date than 1730-1750.

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There are two doors in this room, with paneling facing outside, while the random width pine boards face inside. One became an inside door to the parlor when the 1763 wing was added, it has four panels; the other is six-paneled. It still serves as an outside door in its original position, quietly and ably presiding over its wide stone doorstep, scooped out by more than two centuries of foot traffic. It is the east entrance to the first unit, now the study.

A third door of this type was found in the barn where it had been relegated years ago, probably during a remodeling project. It was brought in to replace a modern swinging door to the kitchen in 1941. All of these doors have ovolo molding.

The four-paneled west door could be of later origin. This gives on to a small porch and an ancient door step of stone. Both window and door frames in this room are so austerely plain and simple as to all but proclaim their early date of origin audibly. The doorknobs are of brass on iron wish-bone type latches.

The south wall is a little more than half taken up by a cupboard and two adjacent doors, one for the stairway to the second floor and one to the little cellar. Both stairways have been removed (1932) and the space behind the doors now is used for a powder room. Characteristically, the two bottom steps of the stair to the second floor are exposed in the room, with the door closing at the top of the second step. All are of old pine; it is possible that the paneled cupboard doors and the stair doors are of somewhat later design. The iron hardware and hinges are of early styles. The remainder of the south wall contains the fireplace.

The fireplace measures approximately 4x 7 feet. It is capped by a large beam of oak -- or perhaps chestnut. The chimney breast is of stone, now of rough pointing, and painted white. At its earliest date it must have had a brick oven. Such a feature seems to have been eliminated, perhaps because modern kitchen ranges of the later 19th century made the early ovens impractical. There is a small, heavy sheet-iron door, four feet high, and hung on strap hinges, back of, and at the extreme east corner of, the fireplace. It opens into a small lean-to said to have been built for the purpose of smoking meat, its walls are of stone; it has no exit although the walls show that a doorway has been filled in with stone on the east side. In the west wall of the fireplace there is a small niche for holding a kettle to keep it warm. The smokehouse may have served later as a hide­away, used as a station in the underground railway.

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Above the primitive kitchen were two (possibly three) small rooms. Two windows on the west wall are doubtless the originals. They are set into deep walls, with the simplest of straight frames, like the ones on the first floor. It seems likely that these three rooms -- the one on the first floor and the two (or three) above it -- comprised the original of what is now Sprucemont, and that this unit pre-dates 1763 by several years.


The 1763 Wing

In 1763 a stone addition or wing was added on the north wall of the original house. It was three floors in height and bears a date block in the west gable marked 1763.

This unit consisted of one north-west room on each of three floors and a hallway with open stair, as well as a cellar beneath, from which rises a substantial chimney accommodating a fireplace on first and second floors.

No reference to the building of this unit was found on file. The data such as obvious 1763-type woodwork baffle a novice by co-existing with 1830 medallions on the pilasters of the front hall door, for example, while the hall itself has a bannister of 1763 grace which ends at the second floor level and from which to the third floor, simple square bannisters were used.

It might be noted here that doors and moldings earlier than 1763 are found in each addition to the house; some doors have latches of later date than their moldings would indicate they had had originally.

The first floor room has three windows, six-over-nine panes, two of which face north on Old Lancaster Road and one west on Valley Forge Road. The deep window wells are paneled. There is a graceful reeded pediment mantel. A cupboard with paneled doors on the south side of the mantel is original, as is the chair rail. A five-paneled east door leads to the hall. Its small, elliptical brass knobs lift the large iron latch of early type. This room was used as a dining room, being next to the old kitchen until 1932.

The main entrance to the house is on the north, into the hall. The outside entrance door is a heavy, five-paneled one, with large, original iron lock and key, still in use. The sides of the entrance doorway are paneled and flanked by molded pilasters, beneath the arch of a fanlight. The design of the door columns ~ or pediments -- suggest the 1830 period. The fluting is wide and square; each pediment is topped by a rosette type block; the

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same type block is set into the arch above the fanlight. Inside the house, however, the arch is set with a keystone-shaped block. There are four rosette turnings decorating the stair supports, and only on the first floor. They might have been an added touch of elegance of the 1830s.

From the hall on second floor one entered the only room which had the same plan as the room beneath it on first floor, with the same pattern of windows at the north, but with a six-over-six window on the west. Its fireplace has a simple mantel, beside which there is a small closet. There was no connecting door from this new, large room to the three small bedrooms in the first unit of the house. An explanation given for this is that because wayfarers were welcomed here for a night's lodging, it seemed expedient that a solid stone wall separate them from the family's sleeping quarters.

The third floor room has a large chimney but no fireplace. On each side of it, in the west gable, is a small, quaint casement-type window with four panes which opens inward. The six-foot ceilings slope somewhat with the north and south roof lines. These three rooms, with hails, first to third floor, comprised the 1763 wing.


The South Wing

In 1955, William Clavius Latch stated that Peter Latch in the 1830s built a third floor room on the original unit of the house. This raised the old, original wing of the house to three stories in height and joined roofs with the 1763 wing.

This room is large, of the size of the two rooms beneath it. The six-over­nine-paned window in the south gable is of the same style as the windows in the 1763 wing. The floors of this room are of wide, pine boards - the original. With the exception of the first floor hall closet, this room is the only one in the house with the original floor.

As with the second floor room beneath it, there was no access from this room in the south wing to the corresponding room in the 1763 wing. From the second floor south wing room, a stairway was built to the third floor room. This made a continuous stairway from the kitchen to the "new" third floor room, but at the time, the only connection from one wing to the other was through the door from the kitchen to the 1763 room on the first floor, probably the dining room then.

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The East Wing

Probably at about the same time the third floor room was added to the south wing, an entire east wing, also of stone, was added. This doubtless was done in the 1830s by Peter Latch. It has been said that his brother, Francis H. Latch, who was a mason, often worked on building projects with him.

One room on each of three floors, and a cellar beneath in the "new" east wing, balanced the design of the 1763 wing at the west, joining them symmetrically on the north elevation of the house. After this addition, no appreciable changes were made at Sprucemont until nearly 100 years later, or in 1932.

The third story room has the same style front dormer window as the one in the 1763 room across the hall. It is likely that the dormer in the latter room was built at the time of the addition of the east wing, in the 1830s. These windows are of the same six-over-nine panes as were used in the other rooms. Outside, the dormers have arched roofs -- now covered with sheet iron. Their frames are of the grooving and with capitals to match the trim of the front door.



A large open porch, between the "L" of the parlor or east wing (the present dining room) and the old kitchen (presently study), was added perhaps in the 1830s or some later time during the Peter Latch tenure. Adjoining the porch, old photos show a stuccoed one-story addition on the east of the old parlor; it was used as a shed and wash-room. It had one six-over- six-paned window on the east. It was entered only from a door on the porch, and not from the inside the house. This old room exists now only in the memory of a few, and on the faded snapshot of it given us.

There was also, at an early date, a small porch on the west side of the old kitchen; the one there presently replaces an older one, of same dimen­sion, which had a flat roof.

Someplace near this porch -- or perhaps near the porch on the south, there was until 1932 a very large cistern. It is said that in 1932, when the old stucco which once covered the house was removed, it was used to fill the cistern which was then no longer useful.

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The 1932 Wing

On the 12th of June, 1931, Mary L Linton, by her attorneys-in-fact; (sons) George H. Linton and William B. Linton, the last of the Latch-line owners, sold Sprucemont to Neal E. Newman, a business man, and his wife, Carrie E. Newman. They made extensive renovation and changes to both the house and barn. The architect for this project was J. Wheaton Lynch, 118 Sycamore Road, Manoa, Pennsylvania.

A frame clapboard wing was added, on the site of the shed-room just mentioned, which was east of the parlor, in the 1830s. This addition was two stories, contained a breakfast room, a kitchen, a stairway to a small maid's room and bath on the second floor. On the eastern elevation a small laundry room was added. It is only one story in height and makes an artistic lowering of the roof line. There is a small service porch on this room. There is no cellar under this wing.

The house had been wired for electricity in 1918, but it was brought up to date with more efficient wiring by the Newmans in 1932. A hot water heating system and running water and septic tank were among the miscellaneous improvements. No owner has done more for Sprucemont than the Newmans, whose splendid restoration elevated it to a new dignity as a country home.


The Barn

The barn is probably as old as the 1763 wing of the house. It is of stone, rectangular in shape, and approximately 20 x 40 feet. A fan light, now covered with boards, adorns the gable on the north. On the south side, over half-way to the gable peak from the ground, there is a small door which was probably used to receive hay into a mow. On both gable ends there are two small, barred windows near the bottom of the wall.

Several unattractive, rambling frame sheds which connected with it were removed in 1932. A cement- floored two-car garage was made of what had doubtless housed large wagons or carriages. On the south side of this middle area is a stable, rebuilt with three box stalls, on a dirt floor.

The Newmans owned at least one riding horse, and perhaps a cow and pigs. The father of Mrs. Newman had temporary living quarters in the finished rooms of the barn, which was piped with running water and gas as well as wired for electricity. We were told he did the small farming of

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South elevation of Sprucemont showing (from left) south wing with smoke house lean-to, porch behind east wing, 1932 wing and laundry room.

North elevation of barn at Sprucemont. It is probably as old as the 1763 wing of the house.

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the 4.5 acres. When we took possession in August of 1941, the vegetable garden had been planted and the remaining land was in soy beans.


Later Changes

In May of 1941, Alfred G Buehler, Wharton School Professor of Public Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, and his wife Marian S. Buehler, bought Sprucemont from Neal and Carrie Newman. The Buehlers lived in Burlington, Vermont, for 14 years prior to 1939 when they came to Merion. On the first day of August, 1941, they moved to Sprucemont.

At that time there was a wooded area of about 13 acres across Valley Forge Road in Easttown Township, west of Sprucemont. In 1949 this tract was developed by Peartree and Passfield of Wynnewood. Some twenty small but attractive houses were erected among the old trees, most of which fortunately were allowed to stand.

On the north side of Old Lancaster Road, the Dallett-Fuget property of about seven acres had been bought -- also in 1941 -- by George Parsons. The remainder of the land on the north side of Old Lancaster Road was open to the underpass of the PRR, some planted to corn.

Since 1941, improvements and replacements have been made, with care that no exterior lines be altered in either house or barn. Mrs. Buehler died in 1981. The Buehler daughter sold the house to Kurt Wolter and Christine Reilly in May of 1999.


Some Latch Lore

The Latch family ownership of Sprucemont lasted for one hundred years, minus two. Beginning with Peter Rose Latch, it remained in the family from 1833 to 1931. The Latch era must have been a sort of "Golden Age" for Sprucemont, when, it might be said, that it would be impossible to determine which lent the other more enjoyment or security.

Only two of the members of the family had direct connections with Sprucemont. One was Peter R. Latch. The other was his niece, Mrs. Samuel B. Linton, to whom he willed it. She was a daughter of his brother, Francis Higgins Latch.

Peter was a casket and cabinet maker; Francis was a mason. Both were sons of Jacob and Jane Rose Latch and were born in Lower Merion

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Township. (Jacob Latch was born 31st of October, 1758; and he died 29th day of June, 1845. Jane was born 22nd of March, 1760; and she died at Sprucemont 18th of March, 1853.)

Francis H. Latch and his wife, Catharine Stearne Latch, lived in Roxborough. Their children were: Andora; Francis; Anna (Levering); Abram S.; Mary (Linton); Jeannette Rose (Eckfeldt); Edward Howell; and Alfred Howard.

Two of the grandchildren of Francis H. Latch have provided most of the information used in this chapter. One is Catharine Linton Cornelius (Mrs. J. W.), who is the daughter of Mary Latch Linton (Mrs. Samuel B.). Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Cornelius lived with her parents at Sprucemont. The other source of data presented here is the late William Clavius Latch, of Con­estoga Road, Berwyn. He was a son of Abram S. Latch.

The story of the Latches 98 years here at Sprucemont begins with the purchase of 14-1/2 acres (for $2600) in 1833 by Peter R. Latch, a young man of 34 years, and his wife, Johannah Stearne Latch. (She was a sister of the wife of Francis H. Latch.) They had three sons: Samuel; William Rogers; and Peter Adoniram, who was known as "Ado."

The two elder brothers, Samuel and William, died here in their twenties of yellow fever - or "Black Tongue" fever, as it was called - during an epidemic in 1856. "Ado had it too; wasn't expected to live, but did survive, and after that was considered eccentric," William C. Latch said in an interview early in 1955, just before his death. Be that as it may, he seems to have had a brilliant mind, if one is to judge from his little sheaf of reminiscences which he set down in engaging wit, as he recaptured for the reader the flavor of the early days, preserving the incredible tales which he must have heard his much older relatives and friends recount.

Peter Rose Latch bequeathed all his property to his wife, Johannah. He directed that after her death, their son Adoniram "should have the use of said estate during the term of his life, to hold as his own, except selling, but should he die and leave no child or children" it was then to become the property of his niece, Mary Linton (Mrs. Samuel B.), daughter of Francis H. Latch.

Peter R. Latch, born in 1799, died at Sprucemont on February 23, 1878. The influence of his 45 years of devotion lived on in the substantial addi­tions he made to the house.

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His wife, Johannah, died also at Sprucemont, in October of 1901, at the age of 92 years.In the Latch family file at the Chester County Historical Society there is a newspaper item of her funeral which was held at this house 11 October 1901, at 3 p.m. (It is interesting perhaps, that the lifetime of Mrs. Peter R. Latch 1803-1901 overlapped that of the writer by six months.)

Also on file is a newspaper report of the death of Jane Latch in 1853, Lancaster Road, Devon. She was the mother of Peter R. Latch, and may have come to pass her last days with her son and his family.

Adoniram Latch followed the occupation of farmer and schooi teacher. Born January 10, 1842, he was age 31 when he married Virginia Campbell, a neighbor, in 1873. A map of 1878 shows that the Thomas Campbell property adjoined Sprucemont on the east. The Ado Latches had no children. They adopted a girl, Martha, from the Baptist Orphanage when she was about 12 years of age. When she married, she went with her husband, Wilson Greenburger, to live in Berwyn. When her foster father, Ado Latch, died, the Greenburgers with their six children, came back to Sprucemont to live with Mrs. Ado Latch.

Ado Latch died in 1916, and had left no lawful issue, whereupon in accordance with the will of Peter R, Latch, the property fell to Mary Linton, daughter of Francis H. Latch of Roxborough.

After the death of Mrs. Ado Latch, for about two years, the Green­burgers stayed here. But in 1918, the Lintons, advanced in years, assumed ownership and moved to Sprucemont. Their daughter Catharine (Mrs. J. W. Cornelius) and her husband came also at that time to live here with them.

Mary Linton named her estate "Sprucemont." At about the beginning of Peter Latch's ownership in 1833, a row of spruce trees had been planted across the front of the house on Old Lancaster Road, then Lancaster Turnpike. They had been brought as young trees from the Roxborough home and remained, one might add, almost symbolically during the entire Latch tenure.In time they towered above the roof of the house and by 1932 had been lopped off, left tall but truncated, and according to o!d photos, unattractive without their green luxuriance of former days. When Sprucemont was sold out of the family, they were removed entirely. The name, however, remains.

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There are in possession of Latch relatives, references to Sprucemont under the name of Villa Rose. How long this name was used is not known. One wonders whether it might have been adapted from the name Rose, the family name of Peter's mother, Jane Rose.

Samuel Benton Linton, Mary's husband, a "draftsman, engraver and school director" in Uwchlan Township, was born at Spring House, Montgomery County in 1838. He worked as a draftsman for the U. S. Coast Survey, and created the first map ever made of the Hawaiian islands; also the first maps of California and Nevada while it was still a territory. At the time of the Civil War he was living in Washington and was not called for the draft because of a mistake in his name on the draft lists.

Towards the end of the war he went to visit his sister living in Richmond, and was drafted for the Southern Army. When he refused to fight against the Northerners, he was put in the Engineering Corps. He drew the plan of the last battle of the war, Chickannuxon Creek(?) which today hangs in one of the lower corridors of the Capitol at Washington. Because it was signed with Mr. Linton's name, he was never able to get another government job.

He came to Chester County March 19, 1877, and from that date to April 11,1890, lived in Uwchlan Township opposite the old "White School." He was a school director there and was the first to start the classification system in the schools of Chester County in the early 1880s. After leaving his home in Uwchlan, he lived for a short while in Philadelphia and Ridley Park, finally coming to spend the last ten years of his life at Devon.

To the Lintons were born: Minnie, who died in infancy; Anna (Mrs. Abram Dinkel); Mary (Mrs. Elmer E. Stiteler); George Henson; William Benton; Jeannette (Mrs. Henry Albright); Catharine Maria (Mrs. John W. Cornelius); and Emily Eckfeldt (Mrs. Frederick J. Coe). At this writing (1966), all have died except Catharine.

Mr. Linton died at Sprucemont, 28 August 1927, at the age of nearly 90. Mrs. Linton died 1 January 1 940, aged 98 years, at the home of her eldest daughter, Mrs. Abram Dinkel in Lionville, Pa.

Ten of the 14-1/2 acres which Mrs. Linton inherited from Peter R. Latch were located south of Route 30 and east of the Devon Horse Show Grounds. Before the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the present

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route of Lancaster Avenue (Route 30), there were no breaks in the continuity of the land. What remained of the 14-1/2 acres after the PRR and Lancaster Pike had been granted releases, was left to the heirs of Mrs. Linton - the Corneliuses - who later agreed to dispose of the part south of the railroad. Mr. Norcini purchased it on March 1, 1945 for $6250, recorded in Chester County Deed Book V-21, Page 297.

After Sprucemont was sold to the Newmans, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius built a house on a lot in Delaware County which was located on the farm of Emily and Frederick J. Coe. However, within a year they moved to Wayne. They had no children. In January of 1942 they took up residence at the Philadelphia Baptist Home on Roosevelt Boulevard. They were far from being infirm, but decided to make this their permanent residence.

Our first meeting with Mrs. Cornelius came about this way: The choir of the Narberth Church of the Evangel, of which the writer is a member, had gone to the Baptist Home on a Sunday in 1943, in the afternoon, to sing for the service of worship conducted by various Baptist churches at the Home. In the hall, shortly before the service was to begin, two women who lived at the Home were talking. One was referring to her house in Devon, at the corner of Old Lancaster and Valley Forge Roads. At once I pricked up my ears, and with quickening pulse, without a word, I walked toward the dear, little lady who was still talking to her companion, and held out for her gaze a snapshot of our house which I was carrying in my billfold. "That's MY house!" she exclaimed, smiling and wondering who I might be. That was the beginning of our acquaintance. At that time, as well as subsequently, I met her husband, who also was charming. Both seemed even younger than their chronological ages would indicate.

She remembers clearly the fireworks explosion of April 3, 1930, which destroyed the old stone house in which part of the factory was located. A larger factory had been built for the purpose of making fireworks, directly behind the old stone house. This was the scene of the greatest detonation. The establishment was located a few hundred feet east of Sprucemont, and on the north side of the road almost directly across from the stone house now owned by Mrs. Chiappini. The old foundations of the ruined house were still there in 1941.

The explosion shattered most of the window glass, and some of the stucco of the walls, at Sprucemont, but the house, amazingly, was equal to the terrific blast and the walls themselves stood firmly.

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In a recent conversation with Mrs. Cornelius, she related some details of the incredible explosion. She had finished washing the breakfast dishes in the kitchen - now the study -- and had gone up only two steps of the stairs in the front hall when the hardest blow of several sent glass crashing all around and thrust the fanlight from above the front door with such force, and such direction, that it cut off a lock of her hair, miraculously not cutting her head! A mark in the stair rail records its thrust. At the same time, one of the supporting rafters from the roof of the south wing crashed down over the ceiling of the second floor bedroom and the back stairway which at that time led from the bedroom to third floor. (This stair was removed in 1932.)

Mr. Cornelius, who at that time was asleep (he worked nights as a press­man for Curtis Publishing) was saved from critical injury by the tall head­board of "Grandma's old walnut bed," as plaster came showering down in huge chunks. Instead of rushing upstairs, Mrs. Cornelius said she ran in panic several hundred feet to the neighbors, a puzzling reaction indeed, she noted, to have run before ascertaining the state of her husband.

In the kitchen, too, she said the plaster had fallen in great, thick chunks. It was very old, at least two inches thick, she said.

Asked about damage to the barn, she remembered the roof had been lifted by the explosion, and came down at an angle, somewhat askew, leaving a large opening at one edge. Then she chuckled, and added, " ... and every hen laid an egg! Every one! Wasn't that remarkable?"

Because the house was so open immediately after the catastrophe, with most of the windows broken, her mother, Mrs. Linton, who was 88 years of age and somewhat frail, left that very day to live in the home of her eldest daughter, Mrs. Dinkel, in Lionville. Mrs. Cornelius in characteristic fashion, set about the business of rehabilitation, helping with Red Cross efforts to bring relief to the stricken, and among other tasks, helping to sew for days following the emergency.

At home, the Corneliuses nailed the front fanlight back into place. She herself replaced window panes, using as many as "nine boxes of [8 x 10-inch] glass panes" which she laboriously put in, first scraping off old hard putty and learning to apply the new. William Clavius Latch, of Berwyn, also came to help with the replacing of the window panes. Ac­cording to estimate, since there are more or less 445 panes now in the same windows, they undertook a project of gigantic proportions. She

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recalled much, but scarcely began more than enumeration of a!l the repairs they must have had to accomplish here. Needless to say, her memory of this was still green after the passage of 36 years.

On July 22, 1966, Mrs. Cornelius died following a week's illness after a stroke. She was 90 years old. (Her husband had died earlier in 1959.)

Sometime after 1941, William Clavius Latch, a house painter who lived on Conestoga Road in Berwyn, painted the dormers of Sprucemont. On this occasion we learned some interesting bits about the house. In a charming, pleasant and knowledgeable manner, he began one fascinating tale about the old well with, "Ado got a man to clean the well." The man, a stranger, perhaps an itinerant, professional well -cleaner, made many trips down the ladder into the old, dug well, which was 40 feet deep. He came up each time with bucket heavily laden with mud and other sediment, which he emptied on the ground behind the barn. After several hours of this work, but a shorter time than it was expected it should take for the job, he left, in a hurry.

Hours, or maybe days, later, when Ado Latch examined the mud the well­cleaner had piled behind the barn, he discovered some silver coins in it, some of which, obviously, the well-cleaner had overlooked. There was no knowing how many he had probably found at the bottom of the well, or what other treasure he might have taken from it, but his premature departure was explained by the coins he had missed in his haste to leave with what he had.



In addition to sources named by the author in the text of the article, the reader may wish to refer to the following resources which contain additional information about Sprucemont:

Cope, Gilbert and Henry Graham Ashmead, eds., Chester and Delaware Counties, Volume I, for biography of Ado. Latch at page 273. (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1904)

Gilliland, Betsy, "Restoring Sprucemont," in Main Line Life, November 10 and 17, 1999.

Winthrop, Grace, The Peter Latch House. (Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 3, Page 97, July, 1985)


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