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Penrose Strawbridge Main House

Main House

this description of the Penrose Strawbridge House is taken from the Keith-Penrose-Strawbridge Preservation Plan & Feasibility Study

The most significant building of the farmstead is the main house. It is located east of the well/pump building. The entire house is constructed of rubble stone, which has been plastered. The house has four sections and is in the shape of an “L”. The largest section of the house is a five bay, one pile, end gable (40 ft. by 21 ft.) three story Georgian home built in 1810.

The first floor of the southern façade has an attached 8ft stone porch supported by Doric order columns which was added to the home in the early 1920’s. The house is entered through a central door, which is surrounded by both side lights and transom lights. The second story windows are 6 over 9, and there are 3 over 6 windows on the third floor.

The eastern façade is composed of the gable end of the 1810 structure, which has one floor to ceiling window on the first floor. The attic has a 4 by 4 window on each side to the chimney. The remainder of the eastern façade is composed of three sections (40 ft. by 20 ft.) that are attached to the 1810 house. This facade had a pent roof, which ran the entire 61-ft length until 1994 when a new roof was put on the house. (the photo below from 1984 shows a slate roof with a dormer on the 3rd floor, plus the pent roof which probably dates back to c1859. The main roof was replaced in the 1990s and the dormer was removed at that time. The pent roof was replaced in the 2000s with a new cedar shake roof)

The first floor is believed to have been a one-story, one-room pen plan cabin built before 1810 (possibly before Keith House, which dates to 1722). The first floor has a plain post and lintel entrance door. The three windows on the first floor are not the same. One is a 6 by 6 sash, the other two are 6 by 9 sash windows. The center window may be the window in the original cabin. The second floor of the center section was added to the cabin structure in 1830. The third section of the eastern facade is a small two and one half-story addition built in 1858.

The main house is the focus of the buildings, and has been the structure on which most of our research has been done. The interior of the house is in a state of neglect. There seem to be no major structural problems. However, the settlement of the house over the years has caused the staircase to lean. The house has three staircases. The main staircase is located in the main entrance hall. The other two staircases are enclosed “winders”. One is accessed in the dining room and the other is accessed in the kitchen.

The center room of the house, what we call the 1721 Dining Room, is believed to date back to 1722-37 and may be part of the 1st building constructed on the site. The basement below this room, as well as the basement below what we now call the 1810 addition also date to this time.

"The earliest section appears to have been a building of one, or more likely, two rooms, at the first floor level with a basement beneath. It cannot be determined from available physical evidence whether this was a one-story or two-story structure but the 1798 direct tax evidence supports the supposition of a shorter second story .... Shortly after the initial construction (between c1722 and c1737), the building was expanded ...This expansion consisted of the dining room and the basement beneath." (41 p2.6)

The main entrance to the house is through the 1810 portion. There is a center hall plan with a library to the left and a living room to the right of the staircase. Each room contains a working fireplace. The fireplace in the living room currently has a wood stove inset. Each fireplace mantel is of wood. Mrs. Strawbridge, the prior owner, stated in her oral history, that she replaced the marble fireplace mantels with the current wooden mantels shortly after she arrived at the house in 1922. She also stated that the fireplace mantel in the library was moved from the Keith House at the same time. The dining room is entered through the living room. This room is what is believed to be the original cabin and contains a large walk-in fireplace. Attached to the dining room is the 1858 kitchen addition.

The second floor can be accessed via any one of three staircases. The second floor of the 1810 section has two bedrooms, both of which have working fireplaces. A broken fire-back molded in the shape of King Charles II coat of arms was used as the hearth in one of the fireplaces. It is possible that this was moved from the Keith House. Access to the remaining three bedrooms is made via the bedroom on the eastern side of the 1810 section and two winder staircases. The third floor of the 1810 structure contains two bedrooms.

Each section of the main house has a basement. Inspection of the basement of the possible pre-1810 section shows two large supports. One of the supports is for the large fireplace one the first floor. The other support is a mystery. It is almost identical to the fireplace support and is much larger than needed for any normal kitchen activities above. The basement also has a circular stone structure that may have been a well or a vat, used for water storage or possibly ice. Upon closer inspection of this basement, the remains of a winder were discovered directly below the winder in the dining room.

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Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
A Community Benefit Organization

Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
We are A Community Benefit Organization
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215-343-0659 | Email