This page includes periodic progress reports on the restoration of the Penrose-Strawbridge House and other structures on the property. Most of the topics listed below also have their own pages with much more detail and additional photos.
The front door to the house opens into the entry foyer. Like most of the house, the plaster here was either cracked, falling off, or missing. We also had to redo some of the plumbing in the 2nd floor bath immediately above the foyer so we removed most of the plaster and some of the lath in order to do the plumbing. The foyer was then replastered and painted in 2011..
The Strawbridge Library, or the West Parlor, is the room to the left when you enter the Penrose-Strawbridge House through the front door. This room features a large fireplace and was a favorite place for Mr. Strawbridge.
When we began the restoration, this room was suffering mainly from structural issues in the foundation below. In the early 1920s, the Strawbridges created a bulkhead door in the basement on the north wall below this room. This opening was not done correctly and caused the north wall to sag, and a problem with a beam on the east wall caused that to sag. This resulted in a lot of cracked plaster and problems with the windows and french doors. We also had a problem with the floor in the bedroom above that was causing the ceiling to sag.
We corrected the foundation problems back in 2005 by adding steel beams throughout the basement, repaired the plaster cracks, reinforced the floor in the 2nd floor bedroom and replaced the ceiling in this room. We stripped and repainted all the woodwork and refinished the floor. As of November 2014 this room is finished.
Ironically, this almost 300 year old room did not need much work. We had the plaster repaired on the ceiling and walls and then repainted it. read more...
The sun room has been in poor condition since we began the restoration. It was added to the house by the Strawbridges in the 1920s and therefore really doesn't fit our goal of restoring the house to the 1890s. But it has utility while we do the rest of the restoration: storing firewood and equipment, painting shutters and doors, etc. At this point we have not yet decided whether to restore this room, tear it down, or remake it into something else... stay tuned. Read more about the sunroom.
The basements under the Penrose-Strawbridge House are where most of the mystery of this old house begins. The current thinking is that the basement under the Penrose Library dates back to c1722 and is associated with what was likely one of, or the first structure built by Sir William Keith. The basement under the dining room was built shortly after (1722-37) and contains a mysterious arch and cistern which could be evidence that this building was at one time used or designed to be a distillery. Read the full story on the basements here.
Despite being nearly 300 years old, these basements remain pretty much as we found them. Margaret Choate excavated several feet of rubble stone from the cistern but we found nothing significant. We added steel beams to support the floors above in 2005, did some pointing of the stone work in 2013, and also added a second oil tank in 2013. We presently have no further work planned for the basements.
Two pent roofs were added to the house probably c1875 on the east and west elevations above the first floor. The pent roof on the eastern facade was torn off by Horsham Township in 1997. The roof on the western facade was reshingled when Mrs. Strawbridge's executor replaced the roof on the house in 1996. HPHA replaced the roof on the eastern facade in 2008 with a new cedar-shake roof.
The pent roof on the western facade is in bad shape and needs to be replaced as soon as we can raise the funds. Read more on the pent roofs.
The 2nd floor of the structure was remodeled as a caretaker's apartment early in the project. All work, with the exception of the main stairway and the room above the Strawbridge Library, was completed by 2005.
The bathroom, above the entrance foyer in the 1810 section of the house, was remodeled into a modern bathroom. The entrance door was moved from the stair landing to opening into the room above the Penrose Living Room. The window on this room was not replaced since it is on the front facade.
The room above the Penrose Living Room in the 1810 section of the house has been converted into a bedroom. Renovations to this room mainly included painting.
The room above the 1721 Dining Room was added by the Penroses in 1830 and was probably originally constructed to be 2 rooms with a small hallway, as it was while the Strawbridges lived here. We removed (but saved) the interior walls and converted these rooms to a single living room for the caretaker. The original ceiling beams have been left exposed. We replaced the windows on the western facade in this room with historically accurate replacement windows. The windows on the eastern facade were repaired.
The back room was probably originally a closet that was converted into a servants bathroom by the Strawbridges. This was remodeled into a modern kitchen/laundry as part of the caretaker's apartment.
Work on the stairway and walls leading from the main floor to the upper floors is complete up almost to the 3rd floor as of May 2015.
The bedroom above the Strawbridge Library had a very serious sag in the floor. We removed the ceiling in the library in December, 2013 and reinforced the original rough hewn beams and then replaced the ceiling. This room still needs some work but is now being used as the office for HPHA' s executive director.
The third floor bathroom, located at the top of the main stairs and above the entrance foyer, was remodeled in 2010. This room had originally been a closet during the Penrose era and was converted to a bathroom by the Strawbridges, possibly before they moved it. The Strawbridges retained the clothes pegs on the wall and so did we. We replaced the commode and sink with modern pieces, and the tub with a vintage claw-foot tub.
This room has one window on the front facade of the building so we did not replace it.
This room is considered remodeled as of 2010.