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8141 High School Road, Elkins Park, , 19027 Property Website Dated Posted: September 24, 2017



Circa 1926

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About This Old House

There is some very interesting “history” that has been passed down to the Owners of this property, constructed in 1926 and with only 4 families, the rumors are likely to be true (and a bit of my research does support those tales!).

So, as is my nature, sit back for yet another magical history tour.

It’s been quite some time since I have a “brief” history of Elkins Park, so since this house was constructed during the roaring 20’s (one of the biggest real estate development booms in the region!), this time I will spare you the history that pre-dates that time frame.

Suffice it to say that Elkins Park was filled with vast estates of the wealthly manufacturers, industrialists, financiers & retail giants of the late 19th century, and those estates slowly began to be purchased & sub-divided by real estate developers & builders to construct fitting “country houses” on smaller lots for the growing upper-middle classes after the turn of the 20th Century.

A real estate developer & builder by the name of Joshua A. Holmes had acquired quite a few parcels of land in this section of Elkins Park in 1925 and 1926 (the County deeds show at least 20 parcels purchased during this time).

This house that I am representing was constructed as his own personal residence, and he named it Holmecrest (the house plaque still stands above the front door!).

Unfortunately, very little is known about Mr. Holmes, but he appeared to be a very profitable developer. This development in Elkins Park may have been his last. Previous to moving to Elkins Park, I was able to locate his former residence in the Queen Lane Manor section of Germantown. That residence was designed by the firm of Price & McClanahan (of which, William Lightfoot Price is the architect of my own house, small world!) in 1915. I cannot contribute this listing to a particular architect, but clearly a gifted hand drafted the design, as it is just beautiful.

Mr. Holmes’ widow sold the property in 1934 to Alfred Brunswick & his wife, Rona.

So here is where the “story” shifts from being actual history to a tale told through the years, but none the less more exciting, slightly supported by fact!

Prohibition held the United States hostage (so to speak) from 1920 to 1933. During that dark time in history, creative folks made a fortune on running illegal liquor rings from Canada and from the Caribbean islands. One of the most famous people who made some of their fortunes in this manner was Joseph Kennedy!

During this time period, the Bronfman family of Montreal created the Distillers Corporation Limited by purchasing the Greenbriar Distillery in the United States, dismantling the entire operation and re-constructing the factory in Canada!

In 1928, they acquired Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, and re-named their firm, keeping the Seagram’s brand! It is well documented that the Bronfman family were well connected with the U.S. bootleggers, and we believe that included the Kennedy family. At the end of prohibition in 1933, The Seagrams company was perfectly positioned to make a fortune in the United States, and their relationships with U.K. whiskey manufacturers & distillers. This is another key indicator of their relationship with the Kennedy’s, since Joe Kennedy obtained the exclusive U.S. rights to Gordon’s Gin & Dewar’s Scotch distribution in the U.S.

Harry Bronfman (one of the brothers that started the business with his Brother Samuel) had a daughter named Rona Retta Bronfman. She married Alfred H. Brunswick. In 1934, they purchased my listing, and the timing is perfect with the expansion of the Seagram’s business into America. Whether they used this house as their primary residence, or as a 2nd home is un-known. Many families from New York (where Seagram’s moved) used to have 2nd homes in Philadelphia, and the Bronfman family was very involved in certain religious non-profit organizations.

Stories have been passed down that Joe & Rose Kennedy (and their children) came to visit the Brunswicks at this house, often! Since Rona owned this house (or her estate) from 1934 until 1982, those stories are well supported by the very person who partook in the parties!

So, it is with that background that we surmise that the rumors are true, the bootleggers & the Kennedy’s enjoyed each other’s company at Holmecrest!!!

And that is the end of my magical history tour for today!!! Now let’s talk about this exquisite house!

Sited on just over 1 acre, the house was placed in the far N.W. corner of the lot. This location allows for an exceptionally large side & rear lawn that provides lovely vistas from all the windows. The lot sloped slightly down from the house, so it has a commanding presence when driving up High School Road.

There is a circular driveway (of stamped concrete) that leads up to the front porch and door. The current Owners have installed a full Tesla charging station out front!

The driveway continues down the side of the house, under the port cochere to the detached 2-car garage in the rear. There is ample area for additional parking out back and there is a small deck off the kitchen for evening meals or morning coffee.

Enter into the spacious hallway, and all the living spaces radiate off this central reception area. A large coat closet (with a window!) is just inside the door, while the powder room is discretely tucked under the main stairs (by the door to the side driveway).

The living room occupies the entire front of the house. It has exceptional trim & crown moldings. There is a large, rectangular bay window. The gas fireplace has a beautiful Georgian mantel.

A cozy library faces the western lawns and has a wall of built-in cabinets & shelves and a wet-bar.

The dining room occupies the S.W. corner of the 1st floor, has another large rectangular bay window and a large crystal chandelier with a ceiling medallion.

The kitchen has been completely modernized with marble counters, a Sub-Zero fridge, a professional gas range, Bosch dishwasher and double sinks. There is both a peninsula and an island (with a prep sink) while a wall of pantry closets is next to the large breakfast area. A set of patio doors accesses the rear deck.

The main staircase with iron railings (and a rear staircase) have a turnback at the 2nd floor landing which has the most intricate arched, stained glass window (and a door to the roof over the port cochere).

The master suite is contained within the front of the 2nd floor (over the living room & porch) that has a large sitting area & 4 closets. The en-suite bathroom was completely remodeled to include a glass enclosed shower (for TWO!) with a rain shower head. There is a bidet next to the toilet, and there are 2 sinks with an over-sized vanity.

Back in the 2nd floor hallway, one accesses another full bathroom, and the 2nd bedroom with a wall of closets & built-ins. The 3rd bedroom overlooking the side & rear yards is huge, has another wall of closets & built-ins as well as its own en-suite bathroom.

The 4th bedroom on this floor was converted to a laundry room with a stackable washer & dryer in one of the closets.

The 3rd floor has 2 more large bedrooms tucked up under the eaves of the roofline, the 4th full bathroom as well as numerous storage closets.

Because the house is sited into the hillside, the basement is a full daylight, walk-out area. One third of the basement has been finished as the family room, while another third of the basement is a home office with the 2nd powder room. The final third of the basement is un-finished for storage and has the furnace (which is a gas-fired H/W system and is less than 10 years old), H/W heater, etc.

There is central A/C for the 2nd & 3rd floors while there is a wall-mounted mini-split system in the kitchen. The house is serviced by public water & sewer.

It is so convenient to everything. Only 3 short blocks away, one can walk to CreekSide Coop and the shops of Elkins Park. The SEPTA train station is located in this area as well. There is a large park (High School Park) that is a 7-acre natural area with walking trails. Ogontz Field is the former running track for the former high school and is maintained for use by the neighbors as yet another Township park. The Elkins Park Library is only 5 blocks away and can also easily be reached by foot.

Downtown Jenkintown is only a 10 minute drive where one will find the historic HiWay Theater, numerous restaurants, Whole Foods & Trader Joes.

It is a gracious property on a lovely lot, easily accessible to so much, yet worlds away from the ordinary.

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