Imagine a time when a good roof above your head, a big warm fireplace and a safe haven for your family were the top priorities for a farm house. Built sometime in the late 1700s, the farm house has transformed through the generations from an extremely simple stone and log home to how it is today. Amid all the changes over time, the basic priorities still live strong today! A strong farm house is a strong family house.
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An auction advertisement for the property in the local paper in 1814 described the house as “4 on a floor” suggesting the configuration of the old part of the house was as it is today. The architectual design is called the German Penn Plan. A Penn Plan (named for William Penn) is a basic design that was extremely common in Chester County in the 1700s comprising of a main room at the front door without an additional entry room. Four rooms, basically square, occupy each floor. The label “German” signifies the fireplace is placed inside the walls rather than on the outside of the walls, which was common with the Quaker design.
The house has been significantly changed several times in the past. Originally the house faced south towards the springhouse, and the evidence of the missing door was uncovered while doing stone restoration in 2012. In 1833 the front of the house was turned to the east; a new date stone was placed at the top of the eve on the east side. Likely numerous additions existed off the north side, and there was a kitchen on that side for the last 100 years. In 2007, a major two story addition was added to the north side. This added a modern master suite upstairs and a modern kitchen, laundry and dining room downstairs.
A warm fireplace was essential to a 1700s house in Pennsylvania. This house has 5, and four were restored in 2012. The biggest is an extremely large cooking fireplace in the main room just off the old front door. The 5th fireplace in the house is a large cooking fireplace in the basement sharing the same chimney as the one above. It is thought that this functioned as the summer kitchen in the early days in order to keep from heating the house in the summer. Plus the basement fireplace with a curved vaulted ceiling provides the structural strength to support the fireplace above.
The cooking fireplace is very large, but actually the family would of made small cooking fires in the corners. The original cooking arm swings across the entire span as it holds various cooking pots and pans over these small fires. Often times the coals were used with Dutch ovens in order to simmer meats and vegetables or to bake. Today the fireplace is equipped as it might of been in 1880 with large brass Chippendale andirons and a brass fence to keep the fire away from the wood floors.
The house had 3 of the most advance fireplaces of its time in 1830, the Rumford fireplace. A Rumford fireplace is a tall, shallow fireplace designed by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. The Rumford design was state-of-the-art in 1800 for its efficiency and elegant tall design. All 3 have been restored to good working order and you can read the details on the 2012 Restoration page.
The house also has a rare feature in the attic, a meat smoking closet. The chimney has a side vent where smoke can be routed 2 floors up into this closet. The purpose of the smoker closet was to preserve meats before the days of refrigeration. Preservation was achieved by first salt curing and then prolonged smoking in this closet, which took 2 weeks or more. The product would hang in different areas of the closet until ready to be consumed, often lasting over 1 year.
The new addition in 2007 added new modern functionality to the farm house. Today the upstairs has 3 bedrooms in the original part of the house along with a modern master bedroom and bathroom in the new addition. Downstairs the original two rooms against the south side windows were converted into one large room with a fireplace on each end. The dining room with a Rumford fireplace was retained. The new addition downstairs added a modern laundry room, a half bath, a large kitchen and an informal dining room that has exit doors out to two different porches. The house still retains the old charm while also providing the modern luxuries we expect and enjoy.
Finally, the house has been built to be a place to work and live, but it has also become a place to relax. Porches adorn all four sides of the house to fit the time of the day or the season. The enclosed front porch greets you warmly spanning the entire front of the house. There you find rocking chairs, benches and a small dining area. This is a great place to take in the morning sun on a cool autumn day and enjoy a cup of coffee. From this porch you can watch all the happenings of the farm without stepping outside into the weather. The two story side porch was added in 2012. This north-facing porch offers covered dining on a hand-made slab table just a few steps off the kitchen. Up above, the upstairs porch provides some of the best views of the farm. You can relax in the hot tub during cold nights or just sit at the small dining tables sipping tea and coffee. The south side porch is just a short walk through the grass to an elevated area overlooking the south pastures, the wetland, the ponds and the spring house. Extremely large conifer trees next to the Summer Kitchen provide cool shade to this sitting area on even the hottest of days starting at about 4 pm. This area is clearly the best area on the farm to enjoy refreshments late in the day while watching wildlife and the horses.
We hope you have enjoyed the story and pictures about the farm house. This house has been the main stage of 200 years of history. It might be one of the greatest stories you’ve ever heard if these walls could talk. Safety, security, warmth, the house has been there for the owners year after year.