I am honored to be marketing my 7th William Lightfoot Price designed residence!!!
For those that do not know the creative genius of this gifted Architect, allow me to take you on yet another not so brief history tour of the work of this amazing man!
Born in 1861 in Delaware county, Will Price had two Brothers (Walter & Frank) that also became architects! At the young age of 21 & 26 respectively, Will & Frank Price established their own architectural practice and one of their very first commissions was for the new housing development called North Wayne in the early 1880’s. Over the course of the next 10 years, the Price brothers also designed a series of larger homes for the 2nd phase of that development called South Wayne. When all was said and done, there were over 100 houses constructed in Wayne, designed by the Price brothers.
The financiers were Anthony Drexel (the founder of Drexel & Co. that ultimately became part of J.P. Morgan) and George Childs (the owner of the Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper).
Drexel & Childs then sought to create a 2nd large development closer to Philadelphia they called Overbrook Farms in the late 1890’s. By this time, Frank Price had left the practice and moved to New York, while Will’s other brother, Walter Price started his own architectural practice.
In Overbrook Farms, both Walter & Will Price designed in excess of 50 properties in that new development. His final development project was in the Pelham historic district of Germantown where far fewer homes could be attributed to his name.
By the late 19th Century, William Lightfoot Price had established himself as a reputable & creative architect and started getting large-scale commissions for mansions of the industrialists and other wealthy clientele of the period. The majority of those properties were constructed along the “Main Line” from Merion Station to Wayne.
His penchant for highly detailed Gothic and Tudor estates were well received by his clientele in the 19th Century.
Whether because of his Quaker roots or his passion for the arts (both stage & musical), he began to seek a new, remarkably “American” aesthetic in his designs.
One of the earliest examples of this transition of his personal style is my new listing that was constructed in 1897.
Many of you that have been in my database for a very long time know that I try my best to get every last detail of the original owners of my listings!
This one is a bit more of a challenge, for this property was not constructed for a wealthy industrialist with a long list of public accomplishments. This was designed & constructed for what is likely, a friend of the Price family.
John & Henrietta Walter were also Quakers.
Based on their age at the time of the construction of this house, they were around the same age as Will Price. Maybe they knew him through Quaker meetings, maybe through other connections but that remains a mystery.
John Walter was a traveling salesman for a wholesale dry goods company. I cannot even find any reference to who employed him. In 1880, he and Henrietta lived in Willistown Township, Chester County. By 1900, they owned a boarding house at 128 S. 19th Street in the Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia.
Since they listed their Philadelphia address as their primary residence, I can only surmise that they constructed this home as a summer house, easily walkable from the nearby Wallingford railroad station with quick service back to their primary home in Philly.
Among one of the most widely published designs of Price’s early houses, this Wallingford house indicated his growing interest in non-historical designs.
In 1907, Will Price contributed a chapter of verse to the book “Country Homes and Gardens of Moderate Cost” where he shared his thoughts on the uniquely American vernacular of architecture that began with this house.
“The advantages of the use of common and rough local materials seem to me to be threefold. First, they are cheap; second, they are easily obtainable; and third, they are beautiful.”
“Build your house and your garden (for your house is not a home without a garden, or your garden a garden without a house), to fit the needs of yourself and your friends – to express their life, to shelter their intimacies, and to proclaim their joyousness. Build it simply, for we are at heart a simple people, joying in the doing rather than in the having of things. Build it of the materials next at hand, and you will wake up some day to find that we have an American architecture, as typical and expressive as the world has known.”
In 1983, the Brandywine River Museum hosted an exhibition called “A Poor Sort of Heaven – A Good Sort of Earth – The Rose Valley Arts and Crafts Experiment” where this house was referenced in detail.
“…Price had developed for the mid-Atlantic region a house that was the equivalent of those which Frank Lloyd Wright would develop for the midwestern prairies, logical and open in plan, suited to the American democracy, and one which carried within it the half-century of old notions about building for place and owner…”
George Thomas, in his book published in 2000 titled “Arts & Crafts to Modern Design – William L. Price” had the following to say about this specific house on page 271.
“The exterior is almost entirely lacking in the Gothic details of Price’s houses of the period, with the exception of a truncated tower at the east end that becomes a favored motif in later houses. Masonry resisted the turn towards modern simplification, reflecting instead conventional stone-cutting patterns. Fenestration reflects the function of the rooms within, linking the building to the Wayne tract houses of the previous decade and ultimately to the Furness manner.”
There is a very interesting combination of several styles of the period, from Shingle-Style on the rear elevation to pure Arts & Crafts on the interior detailing.
Before I delve into the details of this amazing residence, I do want to talk about one subsequent owner of note.
Virginia McCone was an icon in the fashion circles of Philadelphia in the 1940’s through the 1960’s. She and her husband owned this property from 1951 to 1963.
Mrs. McCone was the Director or Retail Merchandising for Ladies’ Home Journal for 18 years, starting in 1944. My Owners have an original copy of the January 1953 magazine that highlights the “modern” kitchen that Mrs. McCone had installed into the Gothic cottage on the property (see the photos in the listing). That amazingly modern 1950’s kitchen remains (although the color schemes and appliances have changed)!
Another interesting historical tidbit is that Mrs. McCone was the Founder of the Philadelphia Chapter of Fashion Group International and in 1945, helped convince the then Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Fiske Kimball) to recognize fashion as an art form and helped create the Fashion Wing at the museum.
So, let’s begin to discuss all the magical elements of this wonderfully crafted residence.
First, allow me a few moments to discuss the magical setting of the house. The property conveys with two tax parcels that straddle both sides of a tributary of Vernon Run. The babbling brook from which the current owners named the house (Netherbrook) is located far downhill from the house and weaves through a canopy of tall shade trees. The western lot encompasses 1.63 acres while the eastern lot encompasses another 0.84 acres for a total of 2.47 acres. This provides for exceptional privacy as the house is sited high above the brook with large porches (both covered and open) facing east.
There are two pedestrian bridges that cross the brook to provide access to informal pathways throughout. Sited right at the edge of the brook is an old playhouse with its own fireplace! This does need some restoration to its flooring & possibly the foundation, but what a delightful space this would make for a future artist’s studio, home office or just your own folly to enjoy year-round!
Next, allow me to take a few moments to highlight the details of another structure on the property. Likely pre-dating the 1897 Will Price residence and closer to the street is an absolutely delightful Gothic cottage! Originally constructed over a stable, this little slice of heaven provides a cozy 1-bedroom apartment where one will find the “modern” 1950’s kitchen referenced earlier! This is a legal, non-conforming rental unit and currently brings in $1,250/month to defray the overall costs of the property for the current owners.
The original stable was expanded to provide sufficient space for 2 automobiles in the garage underneath.
Now, let’s get to the main residence!
You approach the main entrance from a large parking courtyard and ascend a set of wide stone steps to the covered front porch. One could walk to the right and find a lovely open section of the porch that provides a fantastic vista over the rear yard and beyond that, enter the three-season sunporch.
Through the front door, you immediately begin to appreciate the subtle Arts & Crafts elements of Will Price. The main entry door has an ever so slight nod to Gothic architecture in the simple design of the window muntins. That same pattern is replicated in the corner built-in china cabinet in the dining room.
A departure from earlier Victorian architecture, all of the rooms are directly connected with no long hallways (just one small hallway connects the rear staircase, the kitchen and the living room). A corner wood burning fireplace anchors the space while original wainscoting and a plate rail harkens to more of the Arts & Crafts designs that Will Price would embrace just 4 years later in Rose Valley.
Of particular interest is how Price designed the simplest balusters that are ever so slightly tapered. You would think they are square, but look closely!
Then, take a moment to gaze at the amazing two story leaded glass window! This window has something that I’ve never seen before. The lower half is clear original glass, while the upper half is this amazing frosted & crackled glass that provides privacy to the upstairs hallway. Facing West, this floods the main living area with light all afternoon. I have never seen this particular glass pattern in any house that I have shown or sold in my career.
Two lovely little spaces are tucked just off the main living room. The first is a cozy den with a second fireplace that is located in the octagonal “truncated tower” that George Thomas referenced in his book. The second is a small home office/study that also provides direct access to the three-season sun porch mentioned earlier.
The large dining room faces East over the front lawn with two oversized, double hung windows and the original built-in china hutch mentioned earlier. Originally, there was a unique triangular cut-in to the foundation that had windows to the outside. A previous owner had enclosed this small space to provide a tiny little greenhouse area for plantings, yet the original interior casement windows remain.
The efficient kitchen was modernized by the current Owners, taking advantage of every square inch of space while still retaining enough room to keep a breakfast area. The 42” cabinets from an Amish manufacturer are Cherry with granite counters. The 36” Wolf range has 6 gas burners and there’s also a Bosch dishwasher.
The laundry is tucked just off the kitchen on the first floor with direct access to the rear yard for BBQs and outdoor dining.
Before we head to the second floor, a series of coat hooks line the small rear hall at the rear staircase and there is a powder room tucked under the main staircase. There is also direct access to the rear yard from under the stairs.
All of the bedrooms on the 2nd floor line the Eastern side of the home, with the hallway providing access to all four bedrooms and a bonus room.
The owner’s suite occupies the entire southern end of the 2nd floor with a fully updated en-suite bathroom and a unique walk-in closet that is located within what used to be an outside balcony! There is a large bay with 4 double hung windows that overlooks the front yard.
One can directly access the 2nd bedroom from the en-suite (currently used as an office/study by the current owners). If the next owner doesn’t need 6 bedrooms, this would make a killer walk-in closet!
The two bedrooms at the rear of the 2nd floor are also connected, but both are also accessible from the hallway. There is another 2nd floor office space and a huge walk-in closet. The one rear bedroom has the third fireplace. A hall bathroom with a tub/shower combination provides service for the 3 additional bedrooms on this floor.
Ascend to the third floor, and there are 2 more bedrooms, another full bath (with a stall shower), a large craft room and two storage rooms!
The basement, while unfinished, has high ceilings and provides ample additional storage.
Most people who live in Wallingford don’t even know that Walker Lane exists! It’s a small private lane (maintained by the 8 houses that share the road) yet is extremely convenient to so many places. One can walk to the Wallingford post office, the Helen Kate Furness Library, the Wallingford Elementary School or the walking trails of Furness Park.
Just a few blocks away is the Wallingford SEPTA station with direct service to the University of Pennsylvania & Drexel University campuses (29 minutes), 30th Street Station (32 minutes) or downtown Philadelphia (37 minutes).
Just a short drive away (or a longer walk!) are all the shops & restaurants of downtown Media (including a Trader Joe’s). If you are a lover of the Arts & Crafts movement, the unique community of Rose Valley is right around the corner and one can visit the Rose Valley Museum & Historical Society or attend a play at the Hedgerow Theater. The Rose Valley Swim & Tennis Club is just a mile away as well.
Just a few more miles away is downtown Swarthmore where one can enjoy the beauty of the Scott Arboretum (on the Swarthmore College campus) or shop at the Swarthmore Coop.
Another fantastic advantage of this location is that one could get to the Philadelphia Airport or downtown Wilmington, DE in less than 15 minutes (with no traffic jams!).
Come explore Netherbrook and let your senses take in everything this magical oasis has to offer.
Updated on July 20, 2021 at 3:28 pm