Graeme Park (pronounced like Graham Cracker) is currently the name of a 42-acre historic park adminstered by the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission and The Friends of Graeme Park, featuring the Keith House, the only surviving residence of a Colonial Pennsylvania Governor. The mansion - which is now a National Historic Landmark - has remained virtually intact since the late 18th century.
The name Graeme Park previously referred to a much larger estate that included the Penrose Strawbridge property. The land was originally part of 5,088 acres which Samuel Carpenter purchased in 1684 from William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania.
"Keith prosecuted a claim against Carpenter's estate for £2000 in compensation for money appropriated to Carpenter while he was Treasurer of the Pennsylvania Colony for which he had never fully accounted. Hannah Carpenter released 1200 acres to the Colony to settle the claim in 1719. Keith purchased the property from the Colony a month later for a recorded price of £500. Keith then purchased directly from the Carpenter estate another 535 acres to the south of the first parcel." (41 p2.2)
The boundaries would be roughly County Line Road, Chestnut Lane, Horsham Road and a line midway between Park Road and Keith Valley Road. An additional plot - part of which is now part of the Willow Grove NAS-JRB and also includes the present day Graeme Park and Penrose-Strawbridge House - was bordered by County Line Road to Privet Road then halfway to Horsham Road
The maps below show how the Graeme Park estate has changed over the years from the sale in 1801 from Smith to Penrose, to the 1920 sale from Penrose to Strawrbidge, and then the 1997 sale from Strawbridge to the Natural Lands Trust which was later purchased by Horsham Township.
Graeme Park was briefly owned by Dr. William Smith, the nephew-in-law of Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson, from 1791-1891. Dr. Smith may have bought the property mainly to help out Elizabeth, shortly after her death he sold to a Quaker farmer, Samuel Penrose.
Several generations of the Penroses owned and worked the farm at Graeme Park for the next 120 years. Although the Quakers are well known for the efficent use - and re-use - of resources, the Penroses saw the beauty and significance of the Keith House and maintained and preserved it through the years.
More about the Penroses.
In 1920, the land on which the Keith mansion stands was acquired by Welsh Strawbridge. In 1922, he and his newlywed wife, Margaret, took up residence in the Penrose's 1810 house. Like the Penroses, they maintained the Keith mansion in its original condition, using it for coming-out parties and family weddings. In 1958, the Strawbridges gave it to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thus ensuring its continued preservation.
The Strawbridges continued to live in their home which we now call the Penrose-Strawbridge House. When Welch Strawbridge died in 1969, Mrs. Strawbridge took control of the remaining 102 acre farm. In 1982 in an effort to preserve the farm and the surrounding land, Mrs. Strawbridge sold a half interest in the farm to the Natural Lands Trust for $1.00, with the remainder of the estate going to the trust upon her death.
Mrs. Strawbridge died in 1996. On January 8,1997 the 102 acres of the Penrose/Strawbridge farm was sold to Horsham Township by the Natural Lands Trust. The agreement of sale states the property is to be used for open space and will not be used for further development of the Township.
We are 13 years into this effort in 2015. We made great progress early on with help from a major grant we received that allowed us to do a lot of structural and exterior work. Funding has been harder to come by in recent years so we have had to pace our progress with the money we have been able to raise.
As of early 2015, we continue to make progress. The interior of the main house is nearly complete. We have yet to decide what to do with the 1920s era sun room which is falling down on the west facade and we also have to replace the pent roof on the west facade.