Here we go again with yet another Magical History Tour!
Sit back, this is going to be a long one!!!
Before the turn of the 20th Century, what we now know as Elkins Park had at least four other names, including Ogontz, Chelten Hills, Ashbourne and Melrose.
As I have mentioned previously in other listings, Cheltenham Township during the mid to late 19th Century had more millionaires living in its environs (as either primary residences or summer homes) than any other area of suburban Philadelphia.
The financiers and the industrialists of the mid to late 19th Century began purchasing large tracts of land to construct their country estates along the North Pennsylvania Railroad.
The most prominent Architects of the time were commissioned to design elaborate mansions for their wealthy clientele.
The one Architect that obtained the largest commissions in Cheltenham Township was Horace Trumbauer.
There were four families that were interconnected in many ways.
Elkins – William Lukens Elkins
Widener – Peter Arrell Browne Widener
Tyler – Sidney Frederick Tyler
Roberts – William Taylor Blake Roberts
Many of you already know how the Elkins & Widener families made their money, but for those that do not know the history, I’ll share briefly for your education!
Elkins’ early wealth came from the refinement of crude oil that was discovered in Northwest Pennsylvania, and is credited with being the first person to create gasoline! By 1875 he partnered with Standard Oil and became a large shareholder of that firm.
Widener’s early wealth came from his family’s butcher shop, having earned a contract to supply mutton to the troops stationed around Philadelphia during the Civil War.
Elkins and Widener met each other in 1873 and were the original founders of the Philadelphia Traction Company. While their wealth expanded into many other industries, it was this initial partnership that formed the basis of a lifelong relationship, both personal (living across the street from each other!) and professional.
Tyler was born in Philadelphia. After graduating from Harvard and earning his law degree, he started his career working for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company and his responsibilities covered both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. From 1878 until the death of his first wife in 1884, he was appointed to numerous boards of various railroads and other manufacturing companies. He moved back to Philadelphia with his two children and continued his career as an active Board member of various corporations. He founded the Fourth Street National Bank that later merged with Philadelphia National Bank.
Now here is where it gets interesting, you need to follow the generations & names as they get confusing!
Sidney F. Tyler had 2 children from his first wife (Mary Woodrow Binney), a daughter named Charlotte Hope Binney and a son named George Frederick.
William L. Elkins had 4 children, two daughters named Ida and Eleanor and two sons named George and William Jr.
In 1888, Sidney F. Tyler married Ida Lukens Elkins, the daughter of William L. Elkins. They had no children.
Sidney Tyler’s son from his first marriage (George Tyler) married Stella Elkins (daughter of George Elkins, grand-daughter of William L. Elkins).
So, here’s where the houses and the Architect finally come back into the story!
Horace Trumbauer had already constructed two residences for William Elkins (Elstowe Manor) and his son, George Elkins (Chelten House) as well as the massive 75,000 sq. ft. country estate for Peter Widener (Lynnewood Hall) across the street from Elkins. Roberts was the person responsible for the construction of these estates. Roberts also lived around the corner from Elkins & Widener on Old York Road and was responsible for much of the development in Cheltenham & Abington Townships in the early 20th Century.
William Elkins passed away in 1903, and the conveyancing of his estate was quite complex!
Through his will (William Lukens Elkins), the land & all the buildings of the Elkins estate ultimately were inherited by his son, George W. Elkins upon the passing of his mother in 1910. On a 14-acre parcel, George W. Elkins gave the land (not yet in deed!) to his daughter & son-in-law (Stella Elkins Tyler & George Tyler) who hired Horace Trumbauer to construct their residence called Georgian Terrace in 1911. The actual property did not come into their formal ownership until the death of George W. Elkins in 1920 and Stella Elkins Tyler formally inherited the land under which they constructed their house! This estate was conveyed to Temple University in 1939 that created the Tyler School of Art!
Quite interesting, and for another story in the future, Sidney Tyler’s daughter, Charlotte Hope Binney Tyler married Robert L. Montgomery. For those that know the famous families of the Philadelphia region, the Montgomery family founded Janney Montgomery Scott. In the 1870’s, the Montgomery’s purchased 800 acres in Radnor Township. The estate that Robert Montgomery & Charlotte Hope Binney Montgomery constructed (also designed by Horace Trumbauer) in 1911 is called Ardrossan. It was at Ardrossan that the social activities of the 1920’s and 1930’s inspired the Broadway play “The Philadelphia Story” written by Philip Barry and the subsequent movie with Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn!
OK, back to Sidney Tyler.
At the age of 62, Tyler acquired 22 acres in 1912 from the Jay Cooke estate, next door to the Elkins estate (and his son & daughter-in-law). He hired Horace Trumbauer to construct his “summer cottage” that he named Hopeland. His full-time residence was the former Saint James Hotel in Philadelphia.
He did not own the house for long, as records show that the estate was sold in 1918 to John Campbell for $160,000!
Sidney Tyler’s funeral services were held at Ardrossan in 1935.
In 1923, the estate was sold again and the majority of the land was subdivided to create what is now the extension of Ashbourne Road and the creation of Hopeland Road.
Fortunately, the main residence and carriage house was saved from demolition and purchased in 1924 by Morris Wolf who was the founding partner of one of the preeminent law firms in Philadelphia, Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen. The Wolf’s remained in the house until 1971.
That is the house that I am honored to be marketing!
Situated on a 1-acre parcel overlooking what is now Curtis Arboretum, this classic Colonial Revival home retains so much of the rich elements that are pure Trumbauer! As you approach the home, a circular drive provides ample parking around the central island. At the end of the drive is the detached carriage house and additional parking near the rear entry to the house.
The original carriage house provides a large 2-car garage with an overhead door, flanked on both sides by beautiful, original arched carriage doors. The left carriage door provides access to additional storage (large enough to store a 3rd smaller car) while the right carriage door provides access to the apartment upstairs. This space has remained vacant for quite some time and will require some restoration to return it to functional living space. It does provide ample opportunity to restore to make a great living space for extended family or an au-pair or even a fantastic detached work from home space! It offers a large living room, bedroom, kitchen, full bathroom and another room that is accessed through the bedroom which would make a lovely little office. Currently, there is no heat or running water to this space.
Now let’s discuss the amazing, primary residence that has been completely restored in 2005!
Enter into an enclosed vestibule with a curved copper roof into the central entry hall. One thing that Trumbauer is known for is symmetry and scale. There are four distinct doors or cased openings in each corner of the foyer. One provides access to the first (of three!) powder rooms, the large walk-in closet, a small storage cubby tucked under the stairs and the hallway that leads to the staircase, library and kitchen.
Directly in front of the foyer is the spacious reception/family room. This large, centrally located space has four sets of French doors and is the core of the home!
Across the rear of the home, the current owners converted two exterior three-season porches to an amazing fully conditioned 62’ long sunroom (heated and cooled) that spans the entire length of the main section of the residence. This room has several unique features and retains one mystery that no-one has been able to explain to date! There are speakers tucked up at the ceiling and one may ask (as I did!) why there are so many outlets in the ceiling? For entertaining, the current owners wanted the ability to provide ambient/mood lighting across the entire ceiling of this room to make it sparkle for parties! This entire room is heated by 4 separate radiant floor zones.
So, the mystery relates to a plaque that is embedded into the original exterior wall honoring Major General James Wolfe. He was a British Commander that died in 1759 during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, Canada. It is this battle that is credited for the ultimate success (or failure, depending upon which side of the war one was on!) for the British finally defeating the French in Canada.
Thorough research has yet to identify any familial connection to ANY of the previous owners of the house!
From the sunroom, one has direct access to the family, living or dining rooms. This truly provides exceptional flow for large parties.
The living room is located at the Western end of the house with views overlooking the inground pool outside. This space is anchored by one of the most amazing fireplaces I’ve ever seen. The structural ceiling beams add an element of warmth to this room while windows on two sides provide ample light during the afternoon and evening hours.
The dining room has another lovely fireplace and detailed crown molding. One could easily accommodate 20 of your closest friends for formal meals in this space, while the French doors to the sunroom could allow one to double their seating options for even larger parties!
Before we get to the entire Eastern wing of the first floor, there is one more space to share, and that is the library tucked at the front of the house, next to the staircase. This room has the third fireplace, the second powder room (with radiant floor heating), a wall of bookcases and a storage closet tucked under the staircase.
Once you enter into the kitchen area, you will notice all the original Chestnut trim and doors that have never been painted! A style of the time, the formal areas have all their trim and doors painted while the sections of the house where staff used to work and stay, the woodwork was never painted. At the transition between those two spaces, Trumbauer not only changed the finish, but he also changed the door patterns from the Colonial 6-panel (formal) to the more common 5-panel pattern on the reverse side of the same door!
Now, let’s talk about the heart of the home, the “kitchen” which in this house encompasses four distinct spaces! The current owners completely gutted and re-built this entire wing of the house in 2005. Trying to replicate the look and feel of the original space, all of the cabinets throughout are inset, white Oak.
Directly off the dining room and the hallway, one first accesses the butler’s pantry. A large closet provides the first of numerous storage options. Within the butler’s pantry is a wine cooler, a beverage cooler, two freezer drawers, a warming drawer, a dishwasher and a garbage disposal in the first of four sinks. Floor to ceiling cabinets provide an abundance of additional storage.
The main kitchen is a chef’s delight. First, the current owners removed a window and installed a set of French doors that leads to a flagstone patio directly outside. A gas line was also run outside to provide for a permanent connection for a grille. A very unique set of angled double islands with butcher block counters centers the room. There is bar seating for four people (two on each island, facing each other!) with a sink, garbage disposal, a Fisher Paykel dishwasher drawer, a warming drawer and a Miele steam oven. The one wall houses the 48” side-by-side SubZero refrigerator, the convection microwave oven and an abundance of cabinets. The front wall overlooks the entry courtyard and houses a farmhouse sink with another garbage disposal and a 2nd Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawer. The remaining wall houses the 6 burner 36” Viking gas cooktop and an amazing exhaust hood that was incorporated into the former chimney area (re-supported with a cement lintel) and tons more cabinets. The perimeter cabinets have granite counters.
Finally, as if that’s not enough, past the rear staircase is something I’ve never seen before, and that’s a separate “chef’s pantry” that houses two Miele wall ovens, another prep sink and even more white Oak cabinets along three walls for storage. There is even a heated towel rack to dry your dishtowels!
Finally, a separate breakfast room houses one original pantry cupboard and a 2nd matching cupboard that was recreated from remnants of the butler’s pantry when that was renovated. The original call bells remain on the wall (no longer functioning). The third powder room is located next to the rear door that leads to an enclosed porch.
Before we head upstairs, I just want to take a moment to highlight that most of the original light fixtures remain in the house and were completely restored by the current owners. From the brass wall sconces throughout the main living areas to the most amazing brass & copper ceiling fixtures that line the first-floor hallway, they look as good as they day they were installed over 100 years ago!
Ascending the main staircase, there are two architectural elements to admire. First is the design of the staircase itself, which is floating above the first-floor landing. The second is the large 1.5 story tall window that floods both floors with afternoon light.
The second-floor landing is as large as many traditional living rooms. There are four distinct bedrooms off this main landing, while the side hallway towards the back staircase provides access to two more spacious bedrooms as well as the upstairs washer & dryer tucked into the former “mop closet”.
All four of the primary bedrooms have a fireplace (three are gas, one is electric), all four of the bathrooms have radiant floor heating & heated towel racks.
The two guest bedrooms overlooking the front yard share a hall bathroom. One of those bedrooms does provide direct access to the bathroom (so think of it as a “Jack & Hall” bath) that also has a large walk-in closet. There is also a spacious walk-in linen closet in the main hall.
The third bedroom which is currently being used as a large home office has its own en-suite bathroom and a wall of bookshelves along with a large walk-in closet. This bedroom is directly connected to the Owner’s suite. Through a small rear hallway, one passes two large walk-in closets before entering the main bedroom. A third walk-in closet is tucked into a corner roof eave and is lined with cedar. The primary en-suite bathroom has a “peek-a-boo” window that is actually located inside the massive chimney, a large corner shower, two sinks, two heated towel racks and something I’ve never seen before, a warming drawer for your robes!
The fourth full bathroom is down the side hallway to service the remaining two bedrooms on this floor along with a small linen/storage closet.
The entire third floor was completely gutted, insulated and refinished for additional living space. There are three distinct rooms and while none can be considered a bedroom, this entire floor would make a fantastic playroom, home office or any other uses that one could imagine!
Before we head outside, just a few more highlights of the restorations & enhancements that have been completed within the house.
First, the entire house was re-wired! All remaining knob & tube wiring was removed (as well as many of the original gas lines that were installed in 1912 to service the wall sconces!) and the house was upgraded to 600 AMPs!
Second, the entire house was re-plumbed for all bathrooms, kitchen and laundry areas.
Third, a new high velocity gas line was run from the street to the house to service all of the various appliances, heaters, hot water heaters, pool heater and fireplaces and all the interior lines were also replaced.
Fourth, all of the service lines to the house were also re-routed to be underground, including electric, CAT-5, cable & phone.
There are a total of 5 distinct HVA/C systems that have all been replaced in 2005 and all were just serviced this month. There are three separate hot water heaters, one dedicated for the kitchen while the other two are on a recirculating system to supply constant hot water to the bathrooms.
The original laundry room in the basement remains with two original laundry sinks (a third laundry sink was removed, but remains with the house). There is also a wine cellar in the basement, as well as a workshop and an abundance of storage in the main area.
The current owners are truly stewards, and whenever possible, they have retained all of the original parts of the house that were removed during restoration. These include many original sinks, doors, light fixtures, trim and even one original toilet!
Directly outside the living room is the in-ground heated pool, surrounded by a flagstone terrace. The owners also installed a permanent gas line to the far side of the pool should one desire to add another BBQ at the pool. At the entry gate from the driveway, there is a set of iron gates that supposedly were obtained from Penn Charter.
There is a large & level grassy area that spans the entire rear of the home.
WHEW! This is likely one of the longest descriptions I have ever compiled for a house.
Updated on July 1, 2021 at 7:27 pm
Early Classical Revival