Rarely does the opportunity arise to purchase a home on Bancroft Road, a private lane located in the Moylan section of Upper Providence. Welcome to 485 Bancroft Road.
It’s time for me to take you on yet another Magical History Tour!
My history begins with the Bancroft family after whom the road was named. The Bancroft’s were devout Quakers and emigrated from England to the United States in 1822. They arrived in Delaware because of its association with the Society of Friends. John Bancroft (1771-1852) and his sons John (1802- 1882) and Samuel (1804-1891) began a woolen mill in Wilmington. Joseph (1803- 1874), the third son, came to Delaware in 1824. The Bancroft’s moved their business to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.
In 1831 the family established John Bancroft & Son in Providence Township, Pennsylvania. The Bancroft’s built woolen mills along Ridley Creek in what is now known as Nether & Upper Providence. The mills used several thousand spindles and 30 blanket looms to produce their textiles.
In 1842 an economic downturn forced the Bancroft’s to sell their business. Samuel Bancroft repurchased the mills in 1854 along with hundreds of acres of nearby farmland. Further north up Ridley Creek, Samuel Bancroft constructed another massive mill complex called the Upper Bank Woolen Factory. During the height of the Civil War, the two Bancroft Mills were likely the largest in the United States. Samuel Bancroft acquired yet another mill complex (Hillsboro Mills) from John Fox along Ridley Creek in 1870. It was this acquisition that provided the direct access to the rail line at Moylan and is the underlying land of where Bancroft Road and my listing now stand.
When Samuel Bancroft passed away in 1891, the northern farmland was sold to Henry Lewis.
As the industrial revolution was racing towards the end of the 19th Century, there was a growing revolt against the mechanization of the modern world. Machines were replacing craftsmen, and the “craft” of buildings, art & culture was being destroyed. Likeminded craftspeople, artists, philosophers and architects began to think of a new way to bring craft back to everyday life. Some of the national names we all know today like Gustav Stickley & Elbert Hubbard (founder of Roycroft) created workshops to craft furniture and decorative arts and write publications to promote the craftsman lifestyle. The Arts and Crafts influence on building design included a belief in fine craftsmanship, the importance of nature, and the value of simplicity, utility and beauty.
In Philadelphia, a similar movement was taking place at the very end of the 19th Century, led by the Architect, William Lightfoot Price, who was also a gifted artist & actor.
There were actually three Price brothers (Walter, Frank & Will) that all became architects!
Will Price’s first attempt at the creation of an Arts and Crafts community was in Arden, DE in 1900. Truly unique in its structure and governance, this became a single tax colony.
Will Price then set his sights on 80 acres of land with abandoned mills, worker cottages and a few larger homes along Ridley Creek in Delaware County. The Rose Valley Association was founded as a stock company in 1901 for the purpose of encouraging artistic handicrafts. A total of 21 initial shareholders invested $25,000 dollars with an additional loan from Swarthmore College to purchase the land and all the buildings. Walter Price, the architect of this listing, was one of the founding shareholders along with his brother Will Price.
Walter Price was a graduate of Haverford College and received his master’s degree from Harvard University in 1884. For approximately 10 years, he worked together with his brothers, Will & Frank on various architectural projects. By 1902 he had launched his own architectural practice which included work on the Haverford College campus and homes in the Overbrook Farms and Oak Lane areas of Philadelphia.
When the Rose Valley Association acquired the 80+ acres of land to create their new Arts & Crafts community, Walter Price first modified an early 19th Century farmhouse into an Italianate residence called Rose Hedge in 1902. This residence is across from what we all (locally) know now as Thunderbird Lodge, (originally the studios and residence of Charles & Alice Barber Stephens) now the home of the Rose Valley Museum & Historical Society.
My new listing is a historic 1915 colonial home with craftsman influences designed by Walter Price for Hugh and Nellie Heulings. Mr. Heulings was a successful salesman for the J. G. Brill Co., one of the largest manufacturers of railroad, bus and trolley cars in the U.S.
Walter Price had begun the process of designing a new personal residence in Moylan (still just in draft/paper format, not yet constructed) and the story passed down through the generations was that Mr. Heulings came out meet Mr. Price at Rose Hedge, viewed his new plans and said “build me the same house as yours, just a little larger.” Original blue-prints and design plans remain in-situ and will convey to the new owner.
Alfred Elkinton purchased about 13 acres in 1910 from Henry Lewis’ farmland and developed the tract that now contains Bancroft Road, Oak Lane & Osage Lane. Both Walter Price & Hugh Heulings purchased lots on this newly sub-divided acreage.
Mr. Heulings’ house was constructed first in 1915 and Mr. Price’s house across the street did not get completed until 1916. Walter Price designed 4 other distinctive houses in the community as well.
In its 100+ year history, this amazing property has only had two families that have called it home! The Heulings family sold the property to the current owner in 1971. Now, after 50 years of stewardship, it is time to find a new steward for this lovely property.
This stately home is located just 200 steps away from the Moylan/Rose Valley SEPTA train station, offering a convenient commute to Philadelphia. The residence is positioned on its nearly 1-acre lot to preside over the quiet community of neighboring historic properties on this private road. With absolutely no through traffic, Bancroft Road and Oak Lane provide its 15 residents with a private setting. Downtown Media is a 20-minute walk away. The Philadelphia Airport is a short 15-minute drive.
The current owner was an avid gardener and volunteer at the nearby Scott Arboretum. Their eye for color and texture compliment the various original trees that surround the property. Most notable is the massive Copper Beech tree that anchors the front yard. Three magnolia specimens, pink, yellow and white, are the pride of the owner. Azaleas, evergreens and native shrubs are thoughtfully planted throughout the property
Enter the property through two pillars at the roadway and ascend to either the circular driveway or the original 1-car detached garage. There is ample parking for guests. The expansive and level front lawn is a perfect venue for outdoor events, such as picnics, parties or sports. Traditionally, neighbors at the annual Bancroft Road picnic played games in the front yard.
Climb a few steps to the portico entrance to the home and you’ll notice a large and open terrace. The terra cotta patio extends 38’ across the front of the home and also has access from the sunroom. This is a great space to sit and enjoy the long-distance views of the front yard and beyond. An 8’ built in bench by the front door is a welcoming seat for visitors.
Enter the central hall and you will begin to appreciate the scale of the home, from the ceiling heights to the spaciousness of the rooms. The central hallway is anchored by a two-story main staircase with a large storage closet underneath. Plaster corbels, incised crown moulding and a finely detailed center medallion add to the beauty of the space.
Through a set of original French doors, the west wing of the house has the full-depth living room that is anchored by a wood burning fireplace. Another set of original French doors lead to the full-depth sunroom and are in line with the French doors in the hall. A large window looks out over the terrace.
The east wing has a spacious dining room with the 2nd fireplace. A large window provides full views of the front yard. The living & dining rooms and the entry hallway all have original Oak flooring with Walnut border and corner inlays.
Through a swinging door, one enters the exceptionally large butler’s pantry with original Cypress wood cabinetry. Just off the butler’s pantry is also the rear staircase that ascends to all 3 floors as well as access to the full basement.
The kitchen is recessed into the southeast corner of the house with windows on two sides. Another original Cypress cabinet remains in the kitchen area while the unique corner-designed stove provides for a nearly perfect cooking triangle. The dishwasher is located within the center island and there is an additional pantry closet. Just off the kitchen is the powder room, laundry & mudroom with direct access to the rear covered porch (12’ x 8’) and driveway.
On the 2nd floor, there is an exceptionally spacious hallway area that has a doorway to a charming balcony overlooking the rear yard. There is also a spacious linen closet with original built-in drawers and shelves.
The owner’s suite is over the living room below and has the 3rd wood burning fireplace. There is a second floor sleeping porch that also has its own storage closet. There is both a walk-in closet inside the sleeping chamber, and a 3rd standard closet for additional storage. The en-suite bathroom overlooks the front yard.
The 2nd bedroom (over the dining room) has the 4th wood burning fireplace and windows on two walls. The third bedroom (over the kitchen) has display shelves and windows on two walls. There is a recently renovated hall bathroom to service these two bedrooms.
Up on the 3rd floor is a fully contained fourth bedroom & bathroom suite tucked under the roof. There is also a massive attic for storage. This space could easily be finished for additional living space as either a 5th bedroom, office or as a large family/billiards room as was intended on the original plans.
The owners have just installed a new steam boiler and hot water heater prior to placing the house on the market.
There are so many original elements that add to the charm & character of the home. Details like the decorative pillars and arched windows in the sunroom, the five-panel doors and natural wood finishes lend a bit of “Arts & Crafts” aesthetic to the home.
With its southwest exposure, sunlight floods the entire house throughout the day. All the rooms face the front yard with the service rooms & staircases tucked away on the north side of the house.
Just off the rear porch is a hidden oasis tucked behind the garden shed and surrounded by perennials & shrubs. A large stone patio is in the far northeast corner of the property that is the perfect, private space for outdoor dining & entertaining.
Along the rear property line is a mature hedge of specimen rhododendrons, azaleas and arborvitae shrubs that provides privacy from the neighbors.
It’s a magical setting on a private and picturesque lane that has changed very little over the past 100 years.
Updated on October 26, 2021 at 10:16 am