House of Beauty Hidden in Horsham
(from article in Women's Notes section of the Daily Intelligencer 12/14/1971 page 6 titled: Strawbridge home:House of Beauty Hidden in Horsham by Susan M Hansen). (A copy of this article is in the HPHA collection and currently hangs in the Strawrbidge Library.)
Tucked away amidst tall spreading trees, unobtrusively sharing common ground with the historic Keith House, Graeme Park, Horsham, is the home of Mrs Welsh Strawbridge.
The splendid home, originally a large farm type house, but since partially converted to a more Victorian look, was built in the early 1800's by William and Hannah Penrose, newlyweds who wanted to have their own house apart from the baronial mansion originally owned by Governor Keith and Dr Graeme.
In 1920, the late Welsh Strawbridge purchased the property including Keith House, the present Strawbridge House, and a little caretaker's cottage from Morris Penrose, believed to be the great-grandson of William and Hannah Penrose. Sitting in front of the large fireplace in her dining room, Mrs. Strawbridge informed me of these facts as she consulted her big volume of "History of Montgomery County" published in 1884 by Everts and Peck, Philadelphia now out of print.
In 1958, the Stawbridges gave Keith House to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and it and the surrounding property became known as Graeme Park.
And the three story plaster house became the home of the Strawbridges, unasserting its own beauty in the presence of its neighboring historical mansion.
When the Strawbridges purchased the house, it was "in need of repair" according to Mrs. Strawbridge. "There was no heating system, just little stoves all over the place, no bathrooms. and no electric. It must have been very inconvenient for them to have to visit the little outhouses all the time."
However, the first thing the Strawbridges did to the house was to open the huge fireplace in the dining room which had been boarded up. Mrs. Strawbridge insisted on that.
The dining room is Mrs. Strawbridge's favorite. "There are seven doors in here " she commented. "That's very unusual. And the doors were made in a very special way." Mrs. Strawbridge proceded to point out that each door was put together in such a way as to form a cross. Also, she pointed out the "H" and "L" hinges, standing for Holy Lord.
One door in the dining room is even more significant to Mrs. Strawbridge. Decorating and outlining the formed cross are 365 nails.
The kitchen of the Strawbridge house is a warm, cheery place. Tucked away in a little corner is a stone sink, the original that was built into the house. Mrs. Strawbridge uses it to arrange plants and flowers and claims it has been in constant use ever since the house was built (HPHA note: the kitchen was a 1858 addition to the house).
Also in the kitchen is an old coal stove, still in working order and still working. A coal scuttle and little coal scoop sitting beside the stove and the merry blue-gold flame licking up from the center attest to that. (HPHA note: this stove was still in the house when we took it over, but it disintegrated when we had to move it to replace a pipe)
"We had a kitchen tour through here last here" Mrs. Strawbridge told me. "They were delighted with my stove, they really were."
A graceful staircase wraps up to the third floor after which separate staircases lead to the three attics. Most of the rooms have fireplaces, many of which were cheerily burning as we walked through.
"I didn't want to live in this big house when my husband brought me here as a bride" confided Mrs. Strawbridge. " I wanted so badly to live in the little caretaker's cottage. But my mother-in-law told me that just wouldn't be proper. I thought it would be very romantic."
The original wooden drapery rods hang in the house but all of the furnishings are from Mrs. Strawbridge's family and her husband's family.
Long, thin windows dress the front porch from floor to ceiling and appear inconsistent with the other colonial style small paned windows.
Mrs. Strawbridge explained that the downstairs windows were changed to Victorian style when a Penrose wedding was held in the house.
Sitting in the library before the burning fire with her dog on her lap, Mrs. Strawbridge spoke briefly of the heirlooms in the room. Hessian soldier andirons at the fireplace are particularly dear to her, as is the big grandfather's clock, a family treasure which has two different chimes.
Although she may have at one time wished to live in the caretaker's cottage, Mrs. Strawbridge is happy in the home which holds so many memories and treasures for her.