Historic timeline at Hallowell Elementary School by Justine Musick
Historic timeline at Hallowell Elementary School by Justine Musick

PS-Strawbridge Library

PS-Strawbridge Library

Strawbridge Library

The Strawbridge Library is to the left of the entry foyer in the Penrose Strawbridge House. This room features a large fireplace and was a favorite place for Mr. Strawbridge .

We've reinforced the 2nd floor above the Strawbridge Library and replaced the ceiling!

The photo here is of Margaret Strawbridge sitting with her dog Sammy next to a roaring fire (taken from an article in the Daily (Intelligencer 12/14/1971). Mrs. Strawbridge was particularly fond of the Hessian Andirons in the fireplace.

Now complete, this room will be used as a library, storing many of the books and documents in HPHA's collection.

Check out more photos beow.

Update November 2014

The Strawbridge Library restoration is complete. In the past several months we have repaired the plaster on the interior wall, refinished the floor, and repaired one of the windows that would not close, and painted all ceilings, walls and woodwork in the two front rooms and hallway. We have furnished the front rooms with donated furniture and portraits from the Strawbridge and Penrose families. Several period pieces were purchased and/or donated by HPHA members.

Update January 2014

Our most recent restoration activity as of January 2014 was removing the old plaster ceiling, raising and reinforcing the 2nd floor above this room and replacing the ceiling (see below for more details). We still have some work to do on the windows on the north wall and fixing plaster cracks on the east wall. These issues were caused by structural problems which were corrected several years ago.

History and Original Condition

We believe the room we call the library (aka the west parlor) has been renovated at least twice before. The 6 light-french windows on the front (south) facade and the shutters for these doors were added by the Penroses probably around 1875 (41 p3.3) or slightly later. Some of the hardware on these doors appear to be c1880-90s. The French doors can be seen in the background of a photo that we believe is of Abel and Sarah Penrose on the front porch, the earliest photo that we have of the front facade which we date somewhere between 1875 and 1893. This photo also shows the front porch and one of the doric columns supporting the roof. There is a story that these doors were added to the home for a wedding but we're not sure.

From the 2002 Feasibility study by Westfield Architects (41 p3.15-3.16):

"The west parlor has similar finishes to the center hall. The floor is 2 1/2" wide tongue-and-groove flooring with a varnish finish around the edges only. The baseboard is 8" high with a cyma. reverse cap. The walls and ceiling are plaster, On the south wall there are two sets of French doors. The splayed jambs are paneled to match the exterior shutters, with raised panels and applied molding. The trim around those French doors matches that in the hall. The doors, which retain their original dark finish, have porcelain knobs, two-knuckle hinges, butterfly latches, and top and bottom slide bolts on one door.
In the east wall, the door to the hall retains its original dark varnish finish. The finish is nearly black with age and was most likely applied very dark. The trim around the door and the windows in the north wall matches that around the doors in the hall. The two windows in the south wall are two-over-two, double hung sash set in splayed jambs that continue down to the floor. The jambs and a panel set beneath the window have the same raised panels and applied moldings as the French door jambs opposite. The fireplace is centered on the west wall. The original mantel was removed and a Colonial Revival wood mantel was installed, The stone around the opening was also exposed, another common Colonial Revival treatment. Also during the Colonial Revival period, bookcases with open shelves above bottom cabinets were constructed on either side of the fireplace and given a stained finish. The room is heated by three radiators."
The finishes in this room have suffered from the two significant structural issues. The north wall has sagged due to the failure of the bulkhead and basement window lintels directly beneath and the east wall has sagged due to the drop of the supporting beam below at its north end. The Windows are distorted and the sash frames and trim have been altered over time to humor the movement, the floor sags, and there are cracks in the plaster on the ceiling and the east wall. In addition, there is cracked glass in the west window on the north side, the French doors require repair, and the paint is peeling.
The French doors are more Victorian in style as is the one-story wrap-around front porch (the original porch extended around the east side of the house (41 p 3.4)). The interior modifications such as the bookshelves and wooden mantle are all Colonial Revival in style. (Mrs. Strawbridge 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, and that the fireplace mantel in the library was moved from the Keith House at the same time.)

Another serious issue we ran into concerning the Strawbridge Library was a severe sag in the ceiling beams which caused the plaster in the ceiling to crack. We had been concerned that this ceiling may have been original, c1810, and were therefore reluctant to damage it further with restoration attempts. We also had difficulty getting to the beams from above since the floor boards above this ceiling were the length of the room and ran under the plaster walls on the second floor.

We finally did remove a small section of the floor boards which allowed us to view the ceiling from above and we were able to see that the lath holding the plaster ceiling up had been sawn instead of the split-board lath that had been used up till the mid-1800s. (42 p66)

This ceiling may have been replaced by the Strawbridges when they added the bookshelves, but in either case it held no significant historical value. We tore it down and reinforced the ceiling in 2014.


The restoration effort for the whole building began with stabilization and support. Steel beams were added throughout the basement to shore up the home where it had been sagging. This was done under the Strawbridge Library to stabilize the northern and eastern walls. The photo below shows the basement under the library, and a door through the stone to the outside. This door was probably added between 1920-22 when the heating system was added to the house. It was constructed without a header, however, and this caused the walls above to sag. We have fixed this but the sag is still very visible in the window frame directly above this door. We chose the leave the sag rather than straightening the window as a reminder of what the house has been through. The steel was added in 2003.

The steel was added in 2003.

Removal of paint and repainting has been on-going throughout the house and is shown nearly complete here in 2014.

The fireplace has been pointed but the interior of the chimney has not been evaluated so it is not able to be used. Unfortunately, we no longer have Mrs. Strawbridge's Hessian Andirons.

The ceiling/2nd floor was finally addressed in 2014. The production team from the film Remorse which was filmed at the Penrose-Strawbridge House in June 2013, added lally columns to support the 2nd floor beams so they could film in the room above the library. We actually had delayed this work because the movie folks originally wanted the option to tear down the ceiling as part of their film, but later decided not to.

The old, cracked plaster ceiling was taken down in January, 2014 by Tim Kalnajs Interiors under the supervision of architect and HPHA Charter member George Felbin. The sagging beams were raised and reinforced and a new drywall ceiling was added.

Once the ceiling was down we were able to see what are probably the original rough-hewn beams that were cut and installed by the Penroses way back in 1810. These beams ran the full length of the room and into the stone wall. Some still showed bark. Additional, sawed pieces had been added to the original beams to support the lath for the plaster ceiling. The room may have had open beams prior to the plaster ceiling being added probably in the late 1800s, or possibly as late as the 1920s, if done by the Strawbridges. The wiring seen in the photo was rerouted by William Thome Electrical Contractors before we sealed it up again.

We reinforced the ceiling by adding nine 16 foot long 2 x 10 beams to take the load off the sagging, 200 year old beams.

The ceiling was then replaced with drywall.

Later in 2014 we re-finished the walls and floors and added some furniture. The table shown here originally belonged to the Strawbridges and was refinished and donated to HPHA by Margie Murphy.

And, finally, we've add a display case that was donated to us by the Friends of the Horsham Library.

Support the Future of Horsham's History!

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
Horsham Preservation and Historical Association Logo
215-343-0659 | Email

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