Berks County Historic Colonial Home
1790 Limekiln Road, The Glendel Farm, Circa 1757
The spring of 1752 was a busy and exciting time in Berks County. On March 11, 1752, Berks County was founded. It was equally as exciting for Morris Ellis who was a prosperous Welch Quaker and landowner in the Oley Valley. While his fertile Pennsylvania farmland was being tilled for new crops of wheat, oats, and Indian corn, English tradesmen, including stonemasons, carpenters, plasters, and blacksmiths, were hard at work building a new farmhouse for the growing Ellis family.
The Pennsylvania farmland was rich with natural resources. Fieldstone and cut limestone were used in the building of the foundation and walls. Rough-hewn timbers of walnut, yellow pine and oak provided strong flooring and beamed ceilings. Hand-milled oak and walnut were used in the woodwork around the thick doorways, deep windowsills and the molding around the walk-in fireplaces of the colonial home.
The Ellis colonial home emerged as one of the sturdiest two-story farmhouse floor plans in Pennsylvania. It included the popular hall-parlor design from English folk-architecture tradition. Later on, Ellis sold the property in 1769 to Anthony Lee, another prominent Welsh Quaker. Two more additions would be made to the farmhouse by the end of the 18th century. Another addition was added by the present owners in 1995.
Today, those additions can still be seen in the restored, cut limestone vintage farmhouse situated on the 73.96-acre “Glendel Farm” in Exeter Township, Berks County, PA. Much of the home’s idyllic Pennsylvania farmland is worked and harvested by a local farmer. The remaining farmland is used for paddocks and open space, which is maintained by the groundskeepers who live on site.
On the property’s pristine Pennsylvania farmland, a nearby limestone and clay-tile roof springhouse and a red cedar-shingle smokehouse are separated by a small pond fed by a stream that runs through the property. A swan swims gracefully in the water. A short walk from the Ellis-Lee farmhouse, which, if you hadn’t guessed by now is a Berks County Historical Site, there sits a large, restored 1785 fieldstone and oak barn. The barn houses the owners’ horse, five miniature Sicilian donkeys and an assortment of cats. The barn has a tack room, 4 bays, and a large hayloft. The Owners have also added a two-bedroom apartment with modern amenities to the barn. It presently houses the caretakers. A red cedar-shingle, four-bay garage with a second-level guest apartment is close by.
The present owners purchased their Berks County vintage farmhouse 17 years ago after living on the Main Line in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, and restoring another historic Pennsylvania farm in Chester County. “We were looking for a large farm with a historic home that hadn’t been restored,” the owners said. “We wanted a property with some water and good topography that was off the road.” “We wanted to preserve as much of the original house as possible, yet be able to be comfortable in it,” the owners also said.
In 1995 the Owners began the process of historic home restoration, stripping down the walls and ceiling and tearing up linoleum and carpeted flooring to see what they could uncover. Fortunately, much of the original wood and stone was underneath. After two years of intense restoration work by James Cherry and Perry Bales, Chester County contractors specializing in historic home restoration, the original hall-parlor of the Ellis-Lee farmhouse looks much as it did more than 260 years ago. Its walk-in fireplace, thick stone walls and wide-plank walnut flooring leave a lasting, appealing impression. They succeed in making you feel as though the late 1700’s and the present blend in a timeless harmony embraced by a beautifully resilient colonial home.
One of the Owners’ many antiques, a Sotheby’s acquired painted cherry grandfather clock – circa 1750 with its dial signed by clockmaker Adam Brant – towers next to a small wooden bench in the vintage farmhouse hallway. Also gracing the area is an early-1600s gate leg table. Much of the interior farmhouse decor in the vintage home features subtle earth tones and painted antique furnishings that maintain historical integrity. An enclosed winder staircase leads up to the two original bedrooms with deep-sill windows that open to a sweeping landscape of seemingly endless pastures and trees.
The restored formal dining room introduces more stunning vintage farmhouse decor with its centerpiece walk-in fireplace enhanced by an 18th century painted hanging cupboard, walnut-top table with a painted stretcher base, and painted Windsor chairs. Leading off the dining room is a new section of the house that the Owners added, including a kitchen, family room, upstairs master bedroom and office area. But even in the kitchen, with its spacious pine cabinets and granite countertops, the past and present co-exist and historic home restoration seems to have outdone itself.
The entire joist system for the kitchen ceiling was designed using original painted wooden beams from another 18th century Pennsylvania farmhouse, including an original, notched summer beam that runs the length of the room. The Owners also added a sloping sunroom off the back of the house, adding more charm to the elegant farmhouse decor and new dimensions in farmhouse floor plans. With vintage-brick flooring, walls of white painted stone and log cabin beams, and a side of paned windows running its length, the sunroom doubles as a breezeway connecting one end of the house to the other. The view from the windows overlooks a picket fenced courtyard edged with perennials.
The eastern part of the house was built in 1773 when Samuel Lee took over the property and added a one-room extension with a lean-to roof called an outshut. Today, the Owners have turned that area into a cozy library, with an exposed oak beamed second level.
And the western end of the house, originally the kitchen with its walk-in fireplace and bake oven, now resembles a small Colonial pub with its wooden “caged” bar area and mahogany countertops crafted from original door frames.
The Owners of “Glendel Farm” understand that they are the most recent in a long line of stewards of a historic home that was built on land issued to Morris Ellis and his family by fellow Quaker William Penn. And they consider the legacy of ownership priceless. None the less, they are ready to gracefully pass the torch to this piece of colonial home history to the next steward.
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