It’s time for me to take you on another prolonged Magical History Tour!!!
Once again, I am back in Cheltenham Township in the mid to late 19th Century in what was predominantly an agricultural community. During the industrial revolution, many wealthy business owners began purchasing large tracts of land for their country estates.
Gentleman farms became the norm in the 1880’s and onwards. The “business” of farming went further North as these large estates changed from producing produce for the masses to private farms for the wealthy families.
In Wyncote, over 200 acres of land was purchased by William C. Kent that straddled the Tookany Creek in both Jenkintown and Cheltenham Township. Kent was a wealthy dry goods retailer in Philadelphia and later a cotton manufacturer.
His estate was on the hillside in Jenkintown, facing South overlooking the creek and the verdant hills of “Chelten Hills” (before Wyncote was named!). Fortuitous in his acquisition, the railroad had not yet been laid, but Kent was the 2nd largest investor in the new North Pennsylvania Railroad (what is now the train line through Jenkintown) that went straight through his 200+ acres of land.
In 1857, Kent sold 22 acres to Joseph Heacock. Joseph Heacock was originally a blacksmith in Bucks County, however he became interested in agriculture, and purchased the Southern lands along Tookany Creek, and subsequently purchased another 10 acres from Kent.
Unlike the industrialists, Heacock was a true farmer and ran a profitable agricultural business from the land until his death in 1883.
Hi Son, Joseph Heacock Jr. followed in his Father’s footsteps, but shifted his focus from agriculture to the propagation and sale of flowers and indoor plants. Building a large complex of greenhouses on the family’s land that once had over 80,000 sq. ft. under glass, it was Joseph Heacock Jr. that began to sub-divide the farm into residential lots by the late 1880’s, laying out the roads that are now Webster Avenue, Maple Avenue and Heacock Lane (originally called Mather Road).
Lot #5 on Webster Avenue was given to his Brother, John Heacock. John and his wife Kate constructed the Queen Anne Victorian that you still see today at 127 Webster Avenue in 1888.
In later years, Lot #4 was acquired by the owners of 127 Webster Avenue (hence the two Tax IDs and the double lot, rare these days in Olde Wyncote!).
If you review the photos within the listing, you will find a historic image of the Heacock Greenhouses with 127 Webster Avenue tucked behind.
In the last few years of the 19th Century, the house was owned by a Mrs. Roma Meade. I found a fascinating 1904 newspaper article where she was sued by Jenkintown Electric for stealing electricity without payment (illegally tapping into the new wires laid out on the street) and won the lawsuit when her grocer testified that she purchased large quantities of oil!
One of the subsequent owners was John Keebler, nephew to the Founder of Keebler-Weyl Bakery (yes, that Keebler!). Did you know that Keebler was the first official baker of Girl Scout cookies?
That’s your little history fact for the day.
Remarkably intact, the original Queen Anne Victorian and detached carriage house retains 100% of their original details on the outside, including ornate gingerbread and the porte cochere.
The current Owner painstakingly repainted the entire exterior of the house in period appropriate colors, ensuring that ALL of the details stand out, from the scalloped cedar shingles to the slate tile star in the peak at the front gable.
The large wrap around front porch was restored recently and enhanced with new mahogany decking.
Surrounding the property on both lots is an abundance of specimen shrubs, trees & perennials that provide four seasons of interest. A small fish pond is tucked away on the side lot while a more formal trellised garden is perfectly sited directly outside the kitchen window. The owners for the past 50+ years were ardent gardeners, and here are just a few of the plants of note on the property!
Variegated Kousa Dogwood
Southern Magnolia (this was a personal gift from J. Liddon Pennock)
A Pink Rose that is over 100 years old from the Heacock greenhouses
A Chinese Wisteria that is over 100 years old
Blue Chinese Fir
Acer Palmatum – transplanted from the Wanamaker estate – Lindenhurst
Bitter Orange tree
A Contorted Mulberry tree
Red Buckeye tree
Step inside the 3-story Victorian, and you will begin to appreciate the respect that was given to the history of the home. Being in the same family since 1965, so many details remain in-tact. The original interior window shutters provide privacy when needed in the living & sitting rooms. The slate surround on the fireplace is a beautiful work of art, while the original hardwood floors are in remarkable condition.
The front parlors retain a period-appropriate aesthetic with a 2nd fireplace. The dining room is at the end of the entry hall with Westerly views over the double side yard.
The entire rear of the first floor was modernized with a custom country kitchen designed by Bob Schultz of William Draper Cabinetry in Buckingham. A professional grade, 36” Vulcan gas stove is the anchor of the kitchen. With three walls of detailed cabinetry and a central peninsula tucked next to the rear staircase that can accommodate a couple barstools.
The rear staircase is open, providing a direct sightline to the large breakfast room and the powder room is tucked into one corner.
Upstairs, the large bedrooms have high ceilings and an abundance of windows throughout.
The second floor has three bedrooms, a charming sitting room over the front entry (perfect for a home office!), a full bath with double sinks and a tub/shower combo as well as the laundry.
The third floor has three more large bedrooms tucked into the roof eaves, an attic storage room and the second full bath with the original claw foot tub.
While the basement is unfinished, it does provide great ceiling height and ample space for storage, a workshop or other uses.
The house does have central air conditioning!
Let me take a moment to talk about the detached, 2-story carriage house. So much potential is within the walls of this structure, yet will require some investment to bring it back to its former glory. A reconfiguration of the entry doors in the past has caused one support beam to sag, which could be stabilized with a steel I-Beam and then let your imagination run wild on how to re-purpose the massive space!
The house is tucked away on a lightly traveled side street, yet is only a 2-block walk to the Wyncote-Jenkintown SEPTA station (with the best scheduled service of any station). Three train lines converge at this station, providing service every 10-15 minutes during peak hours. One can directly access service to Temple University, downtown Philadelphia, 30th Street Station (to hop on Amtrak to New York or Washington D.C.) and even the airport line!
Also within walking distance are 5 Township parks and so much history!
Come explore 127 Webster Avenue!
Updated on June 15, 2021 at 3:34 pm