November 15, 2009

Historic House Tour: Stenton

Over the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to be included in several historic house tours, organized by the incomparable JCBPhiladelphia 186 You can read about some of the houses we’ve visited here, here and here.  Many of JCB’s friends are in the historic preservation and conservation fields, so we’ve often been treated to behind the scenes tours, which is great fun!

Over the weekend, we drove to Philadelphia to visit two historic homes, Stenton and Cliveden. Stenton was the home of James Logan who helped William Penn settle Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. In this post, I will just give you the outlines of the house and some of the rooms. Later posts will detail some of the furnishings. Philadelphia 002 The home remains very much in its original condition, with no lighting or heating. Because it was an overcast and rainy day, and the house is not lit, my pictures are a bit grainy.

The house is Georgian, interpreted by the early Americans. The brick is laid in the Flemish Bond pattern and the front of the house is typically symmetrical, although the back is not, especially with the veranda roof which was a later addition.Philadelphia 189The house is unusual in that the center hall does not connect to the rest of the house with a grand staircase and the adjoining rooms are shut off. The hall has one of the oldest remaining brick floors, as well as a fireplace.  Although it initially appears to be symmetrical, on second glance, it isn’t.

Philadelphia 016 Philadelphia 060
There is beautiful woodwork and wood paneling in the hallway, where people waiting to see James Logan on business probably waited, as he was a justice, merchant, politician and scholar.

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To the left and right of the hallway, there were reception rooms, one of which may have been used for a library, since Logan had a collection of more than 2,700 books, extraordinary for the time and the other for an office. Again, these rooms don’t have the classic symmetry that you expect to see.

In the room to the left, there are niches made especially for the family’s collection of imported china. Philadelphia 041 While conducting an archeological dig, more than 20,000 shards of pottery and other items were uncovered. Philadelphia 042Each piece has been carefully numbered and some have been reassembled.

Across the hall, to the right is another reception room or office. Philadelphia 028One of the most fascinating things in that room was seeing the layers of paint that had been uncovered. A restorer has taken off layers and layers of paint, all of the way down to wood to see the progression of colours over the decades. Philadelphia 032 However, in some places, this has also happened organically, with the paint flaking and peeling away.Philadelphia 027 Behind the two front rooms and separated by doors and a wall are a bedroom and Philadelphia 092a dining room, which has paneling on the walls,Philadelphia 083as well as the staircase.  Philadelphia 179 In addition to the main staircase, there is also a servants staircase, with doors connecting the main rooms, so the servants, and the children, don’t walk through the main rooms.  Philadelphia 105 There are two huge and interconnected bedchambers in the front of the house, echoing the important rooms directly below them. Philadelphia 156 There is a hierarchy to this house, with the important rooms in the front and the less important ones in the back, with passages and servants stairs between them. In the inventory of the house, the fabrics in these two bedrooms were listed as second most valuable only to the silver collection that the family owned.

There are some extraordinary pieces of furniture and some amazing textiles in this house, which I will talk about in another post.

For more pictures of our trip to Philadelphia, check over on Architect Design and JCB.Philadelphia 177  More to follow!


  1. I spy -with my little eye - ME in the last photo- ha!

  2. Thank you for posting these. So much great architecture in this country, such great heritage, we need to be reminded of it now and then. Just walking into these classic old buildings lends a feeling of order and harmony.

  3. I love to see these grand architectural and historic sites!

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. What a lovely house. Looking forward to more posts on your visit!

  5. Great portrait (it is more than a picture) of JCB! KDM

  6. Meg ~ your interiors came out really, really well! I am so glad that you could join us on Saurday ~ what a tour. (I am still working on my post...).

  7. Lovely post. Could you have gotten a better shot of our fav lady in the mirror, I think not!


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