photo of side of barn and small stables wit columns in front
Rebuilt 1839 Barn and Columns at Penrose-Strawbridge Farm. The northern forebay on the Original Barn - typical of a Pennsylvania Bank Barn, extended to and was supported by these columns but barn was rebuilt smaller after 1949 fire
photo of side of barn and small stables wit columns in front

Barns at Penrose-Strawbridge Farm

Farm Buildings

Like any farm there are a number of out-buildings here at the Penrose Strawbridge Farm - some are still in use, some in ruins,others that have disappeared - and there is at least one Mystery.

  • c1829 Barn - now Graeme Park Visitor Center134 p13
  • 1839 Barn on current Strawbridge site
  • c1735 Barn (ruins)
  • Equipment Barn - still in use
  • Carriage House - in need of restoration
  • Springhouse - private residence
  • 1939 Pump/Milk Room
  • c1920s Horse Stables - deconstructed 2017
  • post 1949 Stables - in need of restoration
  • Sheds/Coops ruins - found in what is now woods - not shown on map
  • Ruins - probably Sheep Pen listed on 1956 Apppraisal - east of Carriage House across creek - not shown on map
  • c1920s Grain Silo
  • Mysterious Scottish Arch

The aerial view shown here indicates where each structure is, both at the Penrose Strawbridge Farm and the adjacent Graeme Park. The cars parked in the field indicate that an event is being held.

aerial view of the present day Penrose Strawbridge Farm and Graeme Park
aerial view of the present day Penrose Strawbridge Farm and Graeme Park

19th Century Barns

William Penrose built two barns - one dated c1829 and another 1839 - possibly to replace or enlarge other structures. The c1829 barn is currently being used by Graeme Park as their visitor center and is a typical Pennsylvania bank barn with a single forebay on the side (south) which now faces it's parking lot. Its ramp goes to the second floor on the opposite side. The second barn was originally much larger than it is presently. It was rebuilt to a smaller size after a fire in 1949.

The barn at Graeme Park does not show a date stone but was dated 1829 in a Masters Theseis by Nancy Wosstroff in 1958134 p13

The barn on the Penrose-Strawbridge property was also built by William Penrose in 1839 but this was originally a much larger building with 3 gabled ends (north -south-east) and 2 ridge beams perpendicular to each other. This barn was rebuilt to its present size following a fire in 1949. It may have had modifications prior to this - between the 1920s and 1949 in which the size was reduced also. This barn did have a ramp on the western side and a forebay on this side that was supported by a retaining wall against the ramp and columns at the end. During the Strawbridge years the open space under the forebay served as an alley for their thoroughbreds to enter the pasture on the north west side of the barn from their stables that faced south. A photo from 1923 shows that the eastern side of the barn - which no longer exists - was gabled, so we're not sure there was a forebay on this side.

photo of barn at night with forebay in front supported by columns and ramp in rear
Barn at Graeme Park built in 1839 by Penroses and now used as their visitor center,. Barn shows classic Pennsylvania Barn features with a forebay in front and ramp in the rear.

Pennsylvania Bank Barn

"The Pennsylvania Barn's main diagnostic feature is the projecting 7-8 foot forebay, or overshoot. The barn is banked, and organized such that the upper level consists of central threshing floor(s), flanked by mows (pronounced mah-ows - place to store or dry hay in a barn), and a granary (sometimes in the forebay, sometimes next to a mow on the bank side). The Pennsylvania Barn almost always has a gable roof. On the lower level, stable and stalls (organized crosswise to the roof ridge, separated by alleyways for humans) housed horses, milk cows, beef cattle, and sometimes sheep or hogs. ... The Pennsylvania Barn appeared late in the 18th century and flourished from about 1820 to about 1900. It is most common in the southeast and central parts of the state (although it can be found in many parts of the state). The Pennsylvania Barn exemplifies a highly mechanized, diversified grain-and-livestock agriculture. With its rational, centralized organization and gravity-fed multi-level arrangement, it also represents a response to an increased need for labor efficiency. The agricultural systems associated with the Pennsylvania Barn tended to produce cash grain (usually wheat), feed grain (mainly oats and corn), and hay; and livestock and livestock products - beef, dairy, hogs and pork. Provision for horses reflects mechanization."

Graeme Park Visitor Center

The 95,000 SF136 c1829 barn is located on the 42 acres that the Strawbridges gave to the Commonwealth of PA in 1958. This land is now a state park known as Graeme Park and also includes the National Historic Landmark Sir William Keith House.. The barn here is to the northwest of the Penrose-Strawbridge farmhouse and to the west of the Keith House and is used as the Visitor Center for Graeme Park. This barn is typical of a Pennsylvania Bank barn with its earthen ramp to the 2nd floor located on its north side, and a forebay supported by stone columns on it south side. The lower floor and columns are of rubble stone and the upper section is framed and clad with long boards.

The photo shows the south facing forebay which is supported by stone columns.

The Keith House cannot be seen in this photo but is just off to the right.

photo of Graeme Park Visitor Center with colonial flags out for 4th Julu 2018
Pennsylvania Bank Barn built by William Penrose in 1849 now used as the Visitor's Center at Graeme Park with flags out for 4th of July 2018

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Penrose-Strawbridge Barn

The other barn built by William Penrose in 1839 is located on the current Penrose-Strawbridge Farm just south of the farmhouse and about 200 yards to the southeast of the barn at Graeme Park. This barn was originally much larger but was rebuilt after a fire in 1949 as a smaller structure with no forebay and the ramp no longer reaching the threshing floor on the upper level.. The original design was a bit unusual with the ramp leading to the forebay on the west side - ramps were often on the north121. The forebay on the other barn here (Visitor's Center) faces south with its ramp on the north. This barn did not initially have a forebay on the other side. The photo of Welsh Strawbridge and River Breeze here shows a forebay on the eastern side and columns to support this forebay still exist. The photo below from 1923, however, shows the western side of the barn extending all the way to the arch, much further than it appears in the Welsh/River Breeze photo. So the barn may have been modified between 1923 and 1939.

Both barns had/have forebays maybe larger than usual - they were supported by columns, not cantilevered. The western forebay on this barn was supported by columns and a retaining wall against the ramp which led to the second level on this side. Stables were later built into the eastern side of the ramp - probably by the Strawbridges c1920. The alleyway between the ramp and barn underneath this forebay led from the paddock in front of the stables to the pasture on the other side of the barn.

One visitor reported that Riverbreeze, Mr. Strawbridge's favorite horse, would remain completely calm and manageable until reaching the other side of this alley and would then run wildly out into the pasture.

photo Welsh Strawbridge to the left holding rein to thoroughbred Riverbreeze to right.  Both standing in front of gable end of barn showing forebays to the right and left
Welsh Strawbridge and Riverbreeze on the east side of the 1839 barn. Photo (c1939 shows apent roof on the gabled end, and the north and south forebays which were destroyed by fire in 1949 and not rebuilt

This barn was originally very large with gabled ends on all sides but the west, and 2 ridge lines running perpendicular to each other. The northern wall incorporated the stone Scottish Arch that probably dates back to Governor Keith's time c1720.

photo of original 1939 barn with 3 gabled ends and 2 ridge lines
detail of 1839 Penrsose Strawbridge barn from about 1923 taken from near the Keith House. This shows the original barn which then burned down in 1949. The replacement barn was built smaller than the original.

This photo shows the Scottish arch to the east of the 1839 barn. The original barn used this arch as part of its gabled eastern facade, making a much larger barn than shown here. This original barn burned down in 1949 and was then rebuilt but to the 30,000 SF barn shown here. Cost to rebuild in was $8,500 but it was only valued at $6,000 in an appraisal done in 1956 (part of the process where some of the farm was transferred to the government for the WGNAS).136

photo of side of barn and small stables wit columns in front
1839 barn and Scottish arch in background behind daffodils at the Penrose Strawbridge Farm. The original barn incorporated the arch and the wall behind it to the right to make a much bigger barn, but this burned down in 1949 and was rebuilt as seen here

Fire in 1949

The barn nearest the farmhouse caught fire on the evening of Monday June 6, 1949 and was discovered around 10:30 PM by Laurence Henry, the dairyman for the Strawbridges. A stable of race horses and 20 head of dairy cows were out in the fields and were not injured in the blaze, but the building was a total loss except for the stone walls. Firefighters were hampered by poor water pressure and traffic by gawkers on County Line Road.

Mr Strawbridge estimated the cost of the damage at $20,000.

From Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 1949, Page 27, column 4

During the Strawbridge's time here this barn was used for dairy cows- they had 20 cows in 1949 122. A well house was constructed a short distance to the south c1939. The well water was used to cool the milk before being taken to the trolley on Doylestown Pike for the trip to the dairy. The farm was likely not growing grain by the late 1940s so the ramp to the threshing floor was no longer needed - so the barn was rebuilt smaller,.

photo of newspaper clipping with headline Fire Perils Mansion in Graeme Park
Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday June 7, 1949 page 27 column 4

Scottish Arches

One of the more unusual - and mysterious - features at the farm is the arch between the farmhouse and barn. The barn was originally built using the wall containing the arch. Our architectural historian, Herb Levy, tells us these are similar to arches used in Scottish architecture in the early 18th century - contemporary with Governor Keith. more on the scottish arch

photo of stone archway and wall
Stone archway on the north side of the barn at the Penrose-Strawbridge Farm. This very similar to arches found in Scottish architecture in the early 18th century - this may have been part of a distillery here



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