Once again, it’s time for yet another Magical History Tour!
Today, let me take you back to the early establishment of what is now known as Rydal in Abington Township and the Herkness family. Arriving in Philadelphia from Scotland at the turn of the 19th Century, the first Herkness family member (Adam Herkness) was a stone mason.
The second generation (Alfred Herkness) got into the auction business at the young age of only 15, and by the time he was 22, became a partner in the auction company, renamed Wolbert & Herkness.
Six years later, he established his own, competing auction company. Alfred M. Herkness & Company specialized in the selling of horses, carriages, harnesses, etc.
In the late 19th century, they began importing cattle from the Isle of Jersey. In less than 10 years, they sold in excess of $1,000,000 of Jersey cattle to buyers from all over the United States.
They ran their business out of the old Coliseum in downtown Philadelphia. I found a great postcard of that building that I’ve included in the listing.
In 1882, they purchased a country estate in Abington Township and called it Cloverly Farm.
Across the street from Cloverly Farm was another large estate owned by Alred’s Sister & Brother-in-law (Isabelle & Joseph Marshall Stoddart) called Rydal Waters. This is where the name comes from for what is more broadly now called, Rydal, PA.
Alfred Herkess Sr. died in 1898, and his Brother Wayne (who was also the executor of the estate) began subdividing the estate.
Wayne Herkness had already been dealing in real estate by the turn of the 20th Century, and in 1905, partnered with G. Henry Stetson (the Son of the famous hatmaker, also founded in Philadelphia!) and formed Herkness & Stetson. Many other Herkness family members joined in the real estate business. The auction company finally shuttered its business in 1913, and the Coliseum was demolished in 1915.
In 1912, the lot that now houses 1152 Sewell Lane was purchased by Andrews K. Borda and the house was constructed shortly thereafter. Very little can be found about Mr. Borda, other than a short obituary that stated he was a wholesale lumber dealer for the firm of J. Gibson McIlvain Co.
Interestingly, that firm is still in existence! Founded in 1798 in Philadelphia, they had a lumber mill and distribution site on the Delaware River until the late 1800’s when they moved to West Philadelphia because the rail lines were now transporting the majority of lumber to the market.
I reached out to the company, and spoke with one of the McIlvain family members who remembered several Borda’s working at the Philadelphia facility well into the 20th Century.
It is interesting that with the original purchase of the land by Mr. Borda in 1912, the land was “subject to an easement of Cloverly Lane and the said thirty-five feet wide proposed street.” That street never was constructed and is now the shared driveway of the neighboring house next door.
This remarkably intact residence offers a fantastic opportunity to make your own mark!
“The Lindens” as it is known locally is designed in the classic Tudor style with a solid masonry foundation and first floor with half-timbering and original stucco detailing the upper levels. Scaled appropriately, the symmetrical façade provides perfect proportions.
Along one side is the heated sun/family room on the ground floor with the original sleeping porch above. A two-story ell protrudes off the rear of the home containing the kitchen, breakfast room, laundry, powder room and a bedroom above.
The house has retained a cedar roof throughout its 100+ year history (not the same roof, but not converted to asphalt shingles).
It has remained in one family since 1965, largely intact since it was originally constructed.
Down a brick pathway, one approaches the main entry under a small gabled porch roof flanked by wooden benches. The original solid Oak front entry door is flanked by two sidelight windows. The gracious entry foyer is anchored by the main staircase and one of those delightful closets that tucks itself around, underneath the stairs. The newel post has a lovely inlay detail in the mahogany.
Flanking both sides of the entry hall are the large full depth living room on the Southern side and the dining room & original butler’s pantry on the Northern side.
Both the dining and living rooms have a large rectangular bay window that adds additional floor space for furniture.
The living room is anchored by a stone fireplace and has two sets of French doors that lead to the spacious sun/family room with three walls of windows and access to the grounds.
The butler’s pantry retains all the original cabinetry as well as a small bar sink (currently non-functioning) as well as the rear staircase.
The kitchen is located in the rear ell, and remains largely original. One wall retains the original 1912 cabinetry. A 36” gas stove and the refrigerator are located opposite from the cabinets. The kitchen sink (a really cool 1950’s stainless steel one at that!) and dishwasher are tucked next to a window overlooking the rear yard. Finally, there is a small pantry closet. Access to the basement is opposite the kitchen sink.
Beyond the kitchen is a comfy breakfast room with an elevated window facing the rear yard, another larger window at the end of the table as well as the washer & dryer with a storage cabinet above. The powder room is also tucked into one corner. From this space, one exits the house to a large brick patio directly outside.
Whether you ascend via the main stairs or the rear stairs, both join at a lovely landing with a large window. On the second floor landing, there is a set of built-in bookshelves.
The owner’s suite is in the Southeast corner of the 2nd floor. The en-suite bathroom is located over the entry foyer below, and one aspect that harkens back to the earlier Victorian era, the 2nd bedroom over the dining room is also connected to the Owner’s en-suite bathroom.
Behind the Owner’s suite is a smaller guest bedroom that provides direct access to the 2nd floor sleeping porch.
I can imagine the next Owner reconfiguring several of these rooms to provide for a larger en-suite bath and/or a killer walk-in closet.
At the end of the hall is the 2nd full bathroom as well as the 4th bedroom with 3 closets and an entire wall of bookshelves that overlooks the rear yard.
Up on the third floor, there are two spacious bedrooms tucked into the roof eaves. There is also a small storage room (which could make a cute home office) as well as the 3rd full bathroom with a stall shower. From one of the bedrooms, there is also access to a large storage attic over the rear ell.
Throughout the entire home, all the crystal doorknobs remain. One of the Seller’s grandchildren calls them “diamonds on the doors”!
The full basement is un-finished yet provides great storage.
Now let me take a moment to talk about the grounds. A screened octagonal gazebo is located just off the rear patio and is a great space to enjoy al-fresco dining without the bugs! A large & level area of grass & perennial beds is located just beyond the gazebo (some heirloom peonies continue to provide abundant blossoms as well as several berry bushes).
At the very rear of the property is the detached two-car garage which also has two garden sheds attached to the side. A privet hedge goes along the entire rear border, providing great privacy.
A circular driveway provides additional parking and is located next to one of the original Linden trees for which the house was named.
The house is a beautiful example of a classic center hall Colonial, yet does need significant investments to bring it up to today’s standards. However, as they say in our business….
Location, Location, Location!
Sewell Lane is a quiet and lightly traveled side street, predominantly filled with houses designed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries on mostly 1+ acre lots. While you feel like you are in the country, you actually can walk to the Rydal SEPTA train station or the Whole Foods just a couple more blocks away. Just around the corner from Whole Foods is Trader Joe’s.
You are less than 2 miles to downtown Jenkintown that has numerous restaurants and shops along with the historic Hiway Theater.
For commuting, one can access either I-95, Route 309 or the Pennsylvania Turnpike in less than 15 minutes.
This classic home has had one Steward for 56 years, will you be the one to create another generation of memories at 1152 Sewell Lane? I sure hope so!
Updated on May 25, 2021 at 1:51 pm