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Horsham Preservation & Historical Association

...the Future of Horsham's Past

PS-Strawbridge Library

Strawbridge Library

photo of Margaret Srawbridge sitting beside a roaring fire and in front of a book case

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 .

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.

photo of girls in Strawbridge Library with table decorated for Christmas

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.

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.

photo of Abel and Sarah Penrose on Rocking Chairs at Penrose Strawbridge House at Graeme Park

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."
photo of Door in Strawbridge Library
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.
photo of cracks in wall
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.)
photo of Strawbridge Library Book Shelves

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.

photo of library Hot set for the film Remorse in the Strawbridge Room  at the Penrose Strawbridge House

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.

Restoration

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.

photo of Strawbridge Library Steel Beams

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

photo of Strawbridge Room Windows Stripped

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.

photo of Fireplace in Strawbridge Library

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.

photo of library Hot set for the film Remorse in the Strawbridge Room  at the Penrose Strawbridge House

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.

photo of Old Beams in ceiling of Strawbridge Library

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.

photo of new beams added to support the floor above the Strawbridge Library

The ceiling was then replaced with drywall.

photo of new ceiling in Strawbridge Libary

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.

photo of table in Strawbridge Library with refinished floor wall ceiling

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

photo of lighted glass display case
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Margaret Srawbridge by the Fire
newspaper caption: IN THE LIBRARY Mrs Strawbridge smiles as her dog Sammy tries to climb into her lap. The room features a fireplace as do most of the rooms in the house. The little Hession soldier andirons are particularly dear to Mrs Strawbridge.
photo of Margaret Srawbridge sitting beside a roaring fire and in front of a book case
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Emily and Clare at the Covered Dish Supper
Some of our younger members all dressed up for our 2015 Covered Dish Supper shown here in the newly restored Strawbridge Library
photo of girls in Strawbridge Library with table decorated for Christmas
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Abel and Sarah Penrose?
Abel and Sarah Penrose?? on the front porch of the Penrose-Strawbridge House, probably between 1875 and 1893 - or is this Morris Penrose?
photo of Abel and Sarah Penrose on Rocking Chairs at Penrose Strawbridge House at Graeme Park
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Strawbridge Library Door
Door on the East wall of the Strawbridge Library into the center foyer. It still retains its original dark varnish finish.
photo of Door in Strawbridge Library
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Strawbridge Library East Wall Cracks 2
Detail of cracks in plaster on the the east wall of the strawbridge library at the Penrose-Strawbridge House
photo of cracks in wall
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Strawbridge Library Book Shelves
Book Shelves and fireplace in Strawbridge Library at Penrose Strawbridge House
photo of Strawbridge Library Book Shelves
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Remorse lolly columns in Strawbridge library
Lally Colums supporting the ceiling in the Strawbridge library for the film Remorse.
photo of library Hot set for the film Remorse in the Strawbridge Room  at the Penrose Strawbridge House
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Houzz
Strawbridge Library Steel Beams
Steel beams in the basement of the Penrose Strawbridge House under the library, The door on the far wall was built without a header and caused the walls and windows above it to sage
photo of Strawbridge Library Steel Beams
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Strawbridge Room Windows Stripped
Windows in the Strawbridge Library after being stripped.
photo of Strawbridge Room Windows Stripped
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Strawbridge Library Fireplace
fireplace has been pointed but is not usable
photo of Fireplace in Strawbridge Library
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Remorse library hot set 2
The Strawbridge Library being dressed for the film Remorse. In the film this room is under construction.
photo of library Hot set for the film Remorse in the Strawbridge Room  at the Penrose Strawbridge House
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Strawbridge Library Old Beams2
Rough hewn beam still showing some bark in ceiling of Library in Penrose Strawbridge House.
photo of Old Beams in ceiling of Strawbridge Library
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Strawbridge Ceiling New Beams 2
We reinforced the ceiling beams in the Strawbridge Room by adding a number of 16 foot long 2 x 10 wood beams
photo of new beams added to support the floor above the Strawbridge Library
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Strawbridge Room New Ceiling
new drywall ceiling in the Penrose Strawbridge room looking towards the north wall
photo of new ceiling in Strawbridge Libary
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Strawbridge Library refinished floor wall ceiling
The Strawbridge Library in June 2014 showing the recently refinished floor, replastered interior wall, and new ceiling. The table is a Strawbridge table donated by Margie Murphy.
photo of table in Strawbridge Library with refinished floor wall ceiling
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Display Case
Display case for our museum donated by The Friends of the Horsham Library
photo of lighted glass display case
Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
The Future of Horsham's Past
900 Governors Rd | Horsham, PA USA 19044
Email | 215-343-0659
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