This article is based on History of Talamore by Dr James Hilty100 except where otherwise noted.
Henry Pratt McKean., born January 12, 1866, was the great great grandson of Thomas McKean, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and grandson, on his mother’s side of George Mifflin Wharton, a prominent Philadelphia attorney. Buoyed by inherited wealth and high social status, H. P. McKean became a financier, clubman, skilled horseman, and widely known “gentleman” socialite in New York, Washington and London100. He was a descendant of Samual Carpenter through his Wharton lineage
John Adams described Thomas McKean as “one of the three men in the Continental Congress who appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others in the whole body.” He outlived all but five signers of the Declaration and eventually acquired a fortune through investments in US bonds, foreign shipping, and real estate. To commemorate his contributions, McKean County, Pennsylvania is named after Thomas McKean, as is McKean Street in Philadelphia (originally McKean Parkway from Moyamensing to Broad Street) 100 p9
McKean's father, Thomas, in 1869, hired Frank Furness, who was then with the firm Fraser, Furness & Hewitt, (other sources give credit to another prominent architect, Wilson Eyre, Jr.)103to build a néo-grec residence for his family at 1925 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. He was apparently "so pleased with the one he had constructed that he had a copy of it constructed for his son. The houses were built with doors in the party wall to allow them to combine the 1st floors into a single large ballroom". This second home, at 1923 Walnut St was known as the H. Pratt McKean house. (Henry was only 3 at the time of the construction).
The home at 1923 Walnut Street was purchased in 1890 by one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia, Edward T. Stotesbury, who made numerous renovations including the addition of a large ballroom. Although described by some as the grandest townhouse on the East Coast, Stotesbury eventually wanted something bigger and went on to build Whitemarsh Hall. The Stotesbury Mansion at 1923, the former H. Pratt McKean House, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the Philopatrian Society.103
Henry Pratt McKean attended St. Paul’s School from 1878 to 1883 and is a member of the Form of 1884131. He graduated from Harvard in 1889
McKean married Marian Shaw of Brookline, Massachusetts in 1889, From 1889- they lived in a large house on Pulaski Avenue, Germantown, described in the newspapers as a “country estate. This home, known as Fern Hill and the Henry Pratt McKean House, was designed in 1852 by John Notman, "one of America's most important early architects". Notman introduced Italianate to American design and also developed American Gothic. 128 Here Notman decided to use Richard Upjohn's double tower plan. The original owner - name unknown - had a typical Victorian love of rare plants. His house was noted for showcasing his collection of uncommon flowers and shrubs.
Despite the magificence of Fern Hil, the McKeans - like other wealthy Philadelphians - sought to move even farther from the city to escape the omnipresent smoke and grime.
The Ambler-Penllyn area held particular attraction, as it became increasingly accessible. By the 1880s the Reading Railway lines extended into the Gwynedd Valley and by 1902 trolley lines connected Philadelphia and its suburbs, linking Flourtown to Ambler, Spring House, and the William Penn Inn. A few businesses relocated to the area and several socially prominent Philadelphians purchased open farmland and built summer estates nearby. 100 p11
Ambler experienced a notable growth spurt after 1881 when Henry Keasbey and Richard V. Mattison relocated their pharmaceutical business from Philadelphia to Ambler. Keasbey and Mattison eventually became the world’s largest manufacturers of asbestos products. Reflecting the opulence of the times, Richard V. Mattison’s Ambler mansion, “Lindenwold”was modeled after Windsor Castle (now the St. Mary’s Villa) and in 1891 he added a church and an opera house to Ambler’s burgeoning inventory of classic architecture. Others who built impressive mansions in the area included William Singerly, owner of the Philadelphia Record, who built “Record Farms” (now Normandy Farms). Brewmaster George Rieger built a mansion on Blue Bell-Penllyn Pike (now Silverstream Retirement Home), as did financier Henry B. Coxe (now Beth Or synagogue). Financier Francis Bond hired Horace Trumbauer to design a spectacular residence on his 250-acre estate on Sumneytown Pike (now the main building at Gwynedd-Mercy College). 100 p12
Wealthy Philadelphians, such as the Ingersoll, Smith, and Vaux families, were already ensconced in Penllyn, deeply engrossed in a social competition of conspicuous consumption, each determined to acquire Penllyn’s best land to built enormous chateaus and country estates. With most of the choicest properties already taken, McKean looked just beyond Gwynedd’s edges into Horsham Township.100 p12
At the time, Penllyn generically described all of the desirable areas within and adjacent to Gwynedd Township. As Polly King (Miller), a long-time Gwynedd resident explained, “Penllyn is what we called this whole area of Gwynedd.” Specifically, Penllyn referred to the interconnected estates extending from Horsham to Whitemarsh that permitted the “horsey set” to ride to the hunt from one property to the next. Horses and cross-country riding were Henry McKean’s enduring passions, and so Penllyn was an ideal locale for his entry in the ostentatious estate derby. Seeking something impressive to suit the tastes and lifestyle of his highbred Boston wife, Henry Pratt McKean and his agents assembled several parcels of land in Horsham Township along Welsh Road in 1894. 100 p12
The estate ran from a point about a half-mile West of Hughes Road (now Tennis Avenue) to what was then called Creamery Road (now McKean Road), including 89 acres from William Wilson, 96 acres from Clement Comly, 10 acres from Jesse Seaman, and 10 acres from Thomas Marks. McKean named his estate Pine Run Farms. (Some sources call this estate "Pine Run Farm" 100 and others "Fox Run Farm."
The Comly farm, the most developed of the four properties, became the physical core of Pine Run Farms. Clement Comly was the son of Phoebe Kneedler, whose grandfather, Jacob Kneedler in 1791 built an imposing stone "homestead" on the "upper farm" either directly on or very near the site of what became the McKean manor house. In 1894 the McKeans took up residence on the property, apparently moving into the renovated Kneedler-Comly house.10 p13
Henry Pratt McKean named his manor house “Pine Ridge,” apparently because the house was built on the upper ridge of the Comly farm bordered by a line of pines, likely planted by McKean, some of which still stand. Pine Ridge is a gothic styled country mansion following the shape of luxurious English manor houses, with two large wings framing an open courtyard and carriage turnaround in the front. In 1986 Professor George Thomas, a distinguished architectural historian at the University of Pennsylvania, described the McKean manor house as “one of the last surviving and best preserved grand houses of the turn of the century in the Philadelphia region.” The building, according to Thomas, was “probably” designed by noted architect Horace Trumbauer and erected “around 1904, or another explanation is that the McKean manor house may not be an original design at all, but rather, an expensive expansion and renovation of the Kneedler-Comly farmhouse100 p16.
McKean’s coaches and coach horses were kept on a separate farmstead called “Cold Spring Farm” which was located on the former Rowland Hugh property (now the van Steenwyk residence) a few hundred feet from Tennis Avenue (next to Talamore’s fourteenth green). Cold Spring Farm consisted of the former Hugh house, where McKean’s teamsters and carriage drivers lived, a springhouse, water tower, various sheds and outbuildings, and a large hay barn whose footprint was about three times the size of the house. A roadway through the property paralleling Welsh Road and a bridge across Park Creek connected Cold Spring Farm to the main residence. Water from Cold Spring Farm was pumped through pipes over four thousand feet to the estate from the water tower (still standing) that drew and stored water from the highly productive spring next to the Hugh house. Today, only the Hugh house and water tower remain of what was once Cold Spring Farm. The huge barn was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1976. 100 pp14-15
Pine Run Farms consisted of several working farms and scattered components, with the main residence, Pine Ridge at the center. The piggery and chicken houses were located farthest away, near today’s sixteenth green and Glendevon Drive. The stables for McKean’s prized horses were closest in a large stable on the site currently occupied by Talamore’s clubhouse.
Given Trumbauer's great renown and his many famous buildings, his most durable imprint on Talamore at Oak Terrace came about in a surprising manner. In 1902 Henry Pratt McKean's large stables, containing many of his valuable horses, burned to the ground. Desiring to build a state-of-the art facility to house his precious horses and concurrently conceding the growing impact of the automobile, McKean hired Trumbauer to design and oversee construction of a fabulous multi-purpose carriage house to serve as both stable and automobile garage. This was not to be just any carriage house or stable and garage. Indeed, it became one of the most luxuriant and expensive known to exist. Vouching for the elegance of Trumbauer’s design and the soundness of its construction, the carriage house, having since gone through scores of interior renovations, survives today as the clubhouse for Talamore at Oak Terrace. 100 p22-23
In a matter of a few years Henry Pratt McKean significantly expanded his estate. By 1900, according to County tax records, McKean had acquired 247 contiguous acres, 240 of which were "improved" and 7 were timberland. Tax assessments reveal that between 1894 and 1900 McKean built two houses, a barn, and new stables. Over the next ten years he held steady the number of horses he owned at around 30, but nearly doubled the size of his cattle herd to 120 head. He gradually added adjoining parcels, increasing the size of Pine Run Farms to 322 acres by 1903, to 444 acres in 1906, and to 630 acres by 1909.
Virtually no records remain of what life was like at Pine Ridge. But clearly the McKean estate was part of an interlocking community of privileged, elite country estates, all early twentieth-century playgrounds for Philadelphia’s ultra rich. Henry Pratt McKean's farm lay between the Henry McKean Ingersoll estate (then called "Annandale Farms") and the estate of McKean’s sister, Phebe Warren McKean Downs, who married Dr. Norton Downs, a Germantown physician. In 1906 Dr. Downs commissioned Horace Trumbauer to design and build a large manor house at the corner of Welsh Road and Butler Pike (now the site of the Horsham Clinic) 100 pp19-20
Henry Pratt McKean, for all his land and wealth apparently found little happiness at Pine Run Farms. His wife, Marian enjoyed it even less. In 1910 scandal struck the McKean household, which for many years had been the topic of Philadelphia gossipmongers. Marian Shaw McKean -- a woman celebrated in newspaper accounts for her "beauty" and "diplomacy" -- simply packed up one day and left her husband. That summer she went to Boston ostensibly for the purposes of settling her two sons at Harvard University, visiting her family, and vacationing at the McKean summer residence at Price’s Crossing, Massachusetts. Instead, Marian McKean and her sons took up residence on Beacon Street in Boston, determined to remain.
Suit for divorce was filed at Norristown by Henry Pratt McKean, widely known in local financial services, from his wife, who before her marriage in in 1889 was Miss Marion Shaw, of Brookline, Mass. Mr. McKean, who is living at his country place, "Fox Run Farm." Pennlyn, charges his wife with desertion on or about July 1, 1910.127
Mrs. McKean is now living in Beacon Street, Boston, where she has made her home, it is said, since the couple separated. She is a niece of Professor Agassiz, the famous naturalist. Her family has been prominent in Boston for several generations and by the recent death of her father and mother she inherited $2,000,000.
They were divorced in 1913, and in 1914 he married Margaret Moore Riker, a wealthy New York City socialite. This notice is from the
Henry Pratt McKean Married
In New York the wedding of Henry Pratt McKean Jr.of Philadelphia and Miss Margaret Moore Riker, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Richard Riker of New York, took place on Wednesday at the home of the bride's aunt, Mrs Samuel Riker, 27 East 69th Street. The bride was attended by her brother Samuel Riker, 2d who gave her in marriage. The bridesmaids were the bride's sister, Miss Ruth Riker and her cousin, Miss Frances M. Dickinson of Trenton, N.J. Mr McKean had no best man. On their return from their wedding journey Mr and Mrs McKean will live at Pennlyn, Pa. Only the relatives and a few intimate friends were asked to the wedding reception. The engagement of Miss Riker to Mr McKean was announced last August. It is Mr McKean's second marriage.101 p12
(McKean) died in April 1922 of a cerebral hemorrhage suffered aboard the steamship Intra France while returning from a three months’ trip to Turkey and Egypt. McKean’s Philadelphia Evening Bulletin obituary described him as a “financier” and a "gentleman" -- meaning he had no real occupation. He was a director of the Reading Company, a member of every prestigious Philadelphia club (Philadelphia Radnor Hunt, Racquet, Germantown Cricket and Philadelphia Country Clubs and of the Sons of the Revolution. He is widely known as a whip and at one time was president of the Four-in-Hand club.127), and on the board of the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York. Following McKean's funeral at Pine Ridge, his estate, which newspapers roughly valued at $1,000,000 (not including Pine Run Farms) was divided between his wife and two sons.
McKean's sons, Henry Pratt McKean, Jr. and Quincy Shaw McKean remained in Boston with their mother and settled there permanently. For various reasons, then, by the mid-1920s the McKean family name, a Philadelphia fixture since before the Revolution, was gone, transplanted to Boston. The splendid McKean townhouses in Rittenhouse Square, prime examples of turn-of-the-century townhouse architecture, passed from private ownership when the McKeans departed and became the home of the Philopatrian Society in 1926. Margaret Riker McKean sold off the bulk of her husband's real estate holdings, including Pine Run Farms, which was soon converted into Pine Run Golf and Country Club. 100 p26-27