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Glenhardie Farm - from country estate to suburbia
The purpose of this paper is not to describe the historic significance of the Valley Forge area during the 18th century, but to show how living conditions have changed during the present century and to give the reasons for trans- forming a country estate into a housing development. Although this transformation has occurred in many places, I will concern myself only with one area--Glenhardie Farm, which is located in the extreme northeastern corner of Tredyffrin township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
It is true that the land of Glenhardie Farm is rich in Revolutionary War history. Not only did Washington's men patrol this area, but Generals Potter, Poor, Sullivan, Mifflin and Weedon all had their headquarters in this area, as it was part of the Valley Forge encampment of 1777-1778. Much research on the Revolutionary history of this area has already been done though. For this reason I will not re-write any of that history unless it directly affects my subject.
In order to understand more fully Glenhardie Farm one should know something of the life of its founder, John R.K. Scott. Mr Scott was born on July 6, 1873 in Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pennsylvania- At age eleven he moved with his family to Wilkes-Barre and five years later to Philadelphia. - There he graduated from Central High School in 1893 and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1895.
He entered politics early in life and became a member of the State House of Representatives in 1899. He was again elected to the same capacity in 1908, 1910, and 1912. In between his first and second terms he served as Assistant City Solicitor in Philadelphia. He also served in the United States Congress from 1915-1919 as Pennsylvania congressman at-large. He was defeated when he ran for Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania in 1918.
After his second term in Congress had expired, he practiced criminal law in Philadelphia until his death on December 9, 1945.
It was said of him: "Mr. Scott is credited with more acquittals in criminal cases in Philadelphia courts than any other attorney of his time. He was identified with numerous cases which received national attention."*
*West Chester Daily Local News; December 10, 1945.
The history of the farm itself can be traced back to 1913 when Mr. Scott was very active in politics. (See 1912 map which shows approximate area of his later purchases) bought East Watch on Gulph Road(see picture) with the
intention of its becoming a week-end house away from his main house in Cynwyd. But soon he started buying other surrounding land and building houses for tenant farmers. It soon became apparent though that these farmers did not need or appreciate the dwellings erected for them. So Mr. Scott began what was to become one of his hobbies--the "making" of houses from old, no longer used structures. (See examples in back of booklet)
After East Watch the Scotts moved first to Brookside House on Richards Road and then, in 1920, to the present main residence. This house (see picture) was originally
built as two separate houses by the Walker family and later joined together. The addition of a kitchen wing replaced the one in the basement while the machine shop was connected to become a library-sitting room. A combination barn-house still located near the main residence, served as a place to keep the polo ponies and the show horses along with the stable hands. (see picture)
The farm prospered and the Scotts sold their house in Cynwyd. Mr. Scott commuted to his law office in Philadelphia. He loved horses and frequently went fox hunting and for rides in a carriage. In its prime the farm grew most of its own food and had a dairy herd that produced about one ton of milk per day. He owned more than 500 acres. Mr. Scott built a milk bar as an outlet for some of his products.
After his death in 1945 it was decided to fix-up and sell all of the tenant houses. Renting them had become very unprofitable and less man power was needed with the introduction of milking machines and other types of mechanized farming. Under the direction of Mr. Scott's wife, Helen Hardie Scott, and his children, Hardie and Jean Scott Darby, the farm itself though remained essentially unchanged. (See 1946 map at the end of this document) Much of the fertile valley land as far south as Pugh Road was either owned or rented by the Scotts for farming.
But in the winter of 1952 the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, by the right of eminent domain, acquired a turnpike right-of-way through the middle of the farm. This almost completely stopped farm operations, necessitated the sale of the huge dairy herd, and hastened the sale of the tenant houses.
Glenhardie Road was also relocated to its present position and delegated to Tredyffrin Township.
In 1953 Mrs. Helen Hardie Scott died and Mrs. Jean Scott Darby, her daughter, moved from Mifflin House (see picture below) to the main residence. Her brother Hardie remained with his law practice in Philadelphia. Limited farming proving impractical and with the mass influx of commuters to the Upper Main Line, selling the land to a developer seemed the best solution.
On November 9, 1955 The McClatchy Building Corporation purchased approximately 95 acres for the purpose of constructing a housing development. In order to make the houses blend with the historic heritage and scenic beauty of the area, certain stipulations were made concerning the construction of the houses. Some of these were: colonial style house and colors, houses back from road, at least 3/4 acre plot of land with each house, each house on Glenhardie Road must be of different elevation, and black roofing on all houses. The development was also to be known as Glenhardie Farm. On June 3, 1957 sixty-five acres of land were sold to Albert Monteith with approximately the same stipulations and again for the purpose of a housing development.
Today the area is almost complete. Although a "sea of mud" at first, the area is being mellowed by the contributions of the individual house owners. It is remarkable to watch a community being carved from a meadow. For except for trees planted along the original roads by Mr. Scott, the area was completely rolling farm land.
The beauty, historical significance, and proximity to major transportation arties [sic] have made this a ideal area in which to live. With so many advantages a few people of note have obtained houses in Glenhardie Farm. They include: Dr. Wells, president of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Harold B. Stassen, politician and senator from Minnesota, Ted Key, cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post and creator of "Hazel", and Norm Van Brocklin, former Quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The future of Glenhardie Farm is very bright. The Valley Forge Civic Association has been organized and St. Mathews Methodist Church, on Walker Road, has been built. With the mass exodus of people and industry from the city to the suburbs, expansion will certainly be no problem. But the question is, how far should the area expand?
People move out of the city to be away from industry, not to be followed by it. But on the other hands progress must prevail. It can only be through a proper balance of these two factors that one can live happily with today's modern life. It is the author's sincere hope that this historic area achieves chat much sought balance.
House "Making"--John R.K. Scott's Hobby
For location of houses pictured refer to 1946 map. For the name of the present owner, see the present-day map.
Even the names of the roads in Glenhardie Farm are rich in history. Below is a complete list of the roads with their derivation.
Click on plan to see higher resolution version