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Henry Pratt McKean

Henry Pratt McKean, Jr

This article is based on History of Talamore by Dr James Hilty 100 (see also Talamore at Oak Terrace and Cold Spring Farm)

Henry Pratt McKean., born January 12, 1866, was the great great grandson of Thomas McKean, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and grandson, on his mother’s side, of George Mifflin Wharton, a prominent Philadelphia attorney. Buoyed by inherited wealth and high social status, H. P. McKean became a financier, clubman, skilled horseman, and widely known “gentleman” socialite in New York, Washington and London. (100 p10)
<0>McKean's father, Thomas, in 1869, hired Frank Furness, who was then with the firm Fraser, Furness & Hewitt, to build a néo-grec residence for his family at 1925 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. He was apparently "so pleased with the one he had constructed that he had a copy of it constructed for his son. The houses were built with doors in the party wall to allow them to combine the 1st floors into a single large ballroom". This second home, at 1923 Walnut St was known as the H. Pratt McKean house. (Henry was only 3 at the time of the construction.

The McKean's were very prominent in Philadelphia. Henry's great-grandfather, Thomas, had built a large townhouse at 1925 Walnut St and then constructed another next door at 1923 Walnut for his son, Henry, as a wedding present. Some reports attribute the design of these homes to Frank Furness 101 p10 102, but others give credit to another prominent architect, Wilson Eyre, Jr.103 The home at 1925 was eventually demolished and is now the site of the Chatham Hotel.

The home at 1923 was purchased in 1890 by one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia, Edward T. Stotesbury, who made numerous renovations including the addition of a large ballroom. Although described by some as the grandest townhouse on the East Coast, Stotesbury eventually wanted something bigger and went on to build Whitemarsh Hall. The Stotesbury Mansion at 1923, the former H. Pratt McKean House, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the Philopatrian Society.103

Our Henry Pratt McKean married Marian Shaw of Brookline, Massachusetts in 1889, and...

.... from 1889 to 1894 the newly wed McKeans (both still in their 20s) lived in a large house on Pulaski Avenue, Germantown, described in the newspapers as a “country estate.” Still, the McKeans and other wealthy Philadelphians sought to move even farther from the city to escape the omnipresent smoke and grime.
The Ambler-Penllyn area held particular attraction, as it became increasingly accessible. By the 1880s the Reading Railway lines extended into the Gwynedd Valley and by 1902 trolley lines connected Philadelphia and its suburbs, linking Flourtown to Ambler, Spring House, and the William Penn Inn. A few businesses relocated to the area and several socially prominent Philadelphians purchased open farmland and built summer estates nearby. (100 p11)
Seeking something impressive to suit the tastes and lifestyle of his highbred Boston wife, Henry Pratt McKean and his agents assembled several parcels of land in Horsham Township along Welsh Road in an area upper crust types in the 1890s called “Penllyn.” At the time, Penllyn generically described all of the desirable areas within and adjacent to Gwynedd Township. As Polly King (Miller), a long-time Gwynedd resident explained, “Penllyn is what we called this whole area of Gwynedd.” Specifically, Penllyn referred to the interconnected estates extending from Horsham to Whitemarsh that permitted the “horsey set” to ride to the hunt from one property to the next. Horses and cross-country riding were Henry McKean’s enduring passions, and so Penllyn was an ideal locale for his entry in the ostentatious estate derby. (100 p12)
In a matter of a few years Henry Pratt McKean significantly expanded his estate. By 1900, according to County tax records, McKean had acquired 247 contiguous acres, 240 of which were "improved" and 7 were timberland. Tax assessments reveal that between 1894 and 1900 McKean built two houses, a barn, and new stables. Over the next ten years he held steady the number of horses he owned at around 30, but nearly doubled the size of his cattle herd to 120 head. He gradually added adjoining parcels, increasing the size of Pine Run Farms to 322 acres by 1903, to 444 acres in 1906, and to 630 acres by 1909.
McKean’s coaches and coach horses were kept on a separate farmstead called “Cold Spring Farm,” which was located on the former Rowland Hugh property (now the van Steenwyk residence) a few hundred feet from Tennis Avenue (next to Talamore’s fourteenth green). Cold Spring Farm consisted of the former Hugh house, where McKean’s teamsters and carriage drivers lived, a springhouse, water tower, various sheds and outbuildings, and a large hay barn whose footprint was about three times the size of the house. A roadway through the property paralleling Welsh Road and a bridge across Park Creek connected Cold Spring Farm to the main residence. Water from Cold Spring Farm was pumped through pipes over four thousand feet to the estate from the water tower (still standing) that drew and stored water from the highly productive spring next to the Hugh house. Today, only the Hugh house and water tower remain of what was once Cold Spring Farm. The huge barn was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1976. (100 pp14-15)
Pine Run Farms consisted of several working farms and scattered components, with the main residence, Pine Ridge at the center. The piggery and chicken houses were located farthest away, near today’s sixteenth green and Glendevon Drive. The stables for McKean’s prized horses were closest in a large stable on the site currently occupied by Talamore’s clubhouse.
Virtually no records remain of what life was like at Pine Ridge. But clearly the McKean estate was part of an interlocking community of privileged, elite country estates, all early twentieth-century playgrounds for Philadelphia’s ultra rich. Henry Pratt McKean's farm lay between the Henry McKean Ingersoll estate (then called "Annandale Farms") and the estate of McKean’s sister, Phebe Warren McKean Downs, who married Dr. Norton Downs, a Germantown physician. In 1906 Dr. Downs commissioned Horace Trumbauer to design and build a large manor house at the corner of Welsh Road and Butler Pike (now the site of the Horsham Clinic) (100 pp19-20)

McKean's wife left him in 1912, taking their sons with her to Boston. They were divorced in 1913, and in 1914 he married Margaret Moore Riker, a wealthy New York City socialite. This notice is from the Boston Evening Transcript Dec 3, 1914:

Henry Pratt McKean Married
In New York the wedding of Henry Pratt McKean Jr.of Philadelphia and Miss Margaret Moore Riker, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Richard Riker of New York, took place on Wednesday at the home of the bride's aunt, Mrs Samuel Riker, 27 East 69th Street. The bride was attended by her brother Samuel Riker, 2d who gave her in marriage. The bridesmaids were the bride's sister, Miss Ruth Riker and her cousin, Miss Frances M. Dickinson of Trenton, N.J. Mr McKean had no best man. On their return from their wedding journey Mr and Mrs McKean will live at Pennlyn, Pa. Only the relatives and a few intimate friends were asked to the wedding reception. The engagement of Miss Riker to Mr McKean was announced last August. It is Mr McKean's second marriage.101 p12
(McKean) died in April 1922 of a cerebral hemorrhage suffered aboard the steamship Intra France while returning from a three months’ trip to Turkey and Egypt. McKean’s Philadelphia Evening Bulletin obituary described him as a “financier” and a "gentleman" -- meaning he had no real occupation. He was a director of the Reading Company, a member of every prestigious Philadelphia club, and on the board of the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York. Following McKean's funeral at Pine Ridge, his estate, which newspapers roughly valued at $1,000,000 (not including Pine Run Farms) was divided between his wife and two sons. (100 p26)
McKean's sons, Henry Pratt McKean, Jr. and Quincy Shaw McKean remained in Boston with their mother and settled there permanently. For various reasons, then, by the mid-1920s the McKean family name, a Philadelphia fixture since before the Revolution, was gone, transplanted to Boston. The splendid McKean townhouses in Rittenhouse Square, prime examples of turn-of-the-century townhouse architecture, passed from private ownership when the McKeans departed and became the home of the Philopatrian Society in 1926. Margaret Riker McKean sold off the bulk of her husband's real estate holdings, including Pine Run Farms, which was soon converted into Pine Run Golf and Country Club. (100 p26-27)

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Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
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Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
We are A Community Benefit Organization
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