Last week’s column told of recently formed plans of the King of Prussia Historical Society to preserve landmarks, including old houses and other buildings in the general area of Valley Forge. This includes the King of Prussia settlement, long famous because of the old Inn of that name.
In spite of the changes recently made in this section by the building of the Pennsylvania turnpike and the Schuylkill expressway the old Inn is still standing, its future as yet undetermined. But as further told in last week’s column, the old Alexander H. Crockett homestead did not fare so well. Despite the earnest efforts of Mr. Jack Crockett and of the King of Prussia Historical Society to preserve it, this old home has been torn down to make room for a Howard Johnson restaurant.
The Historical Society’s general plan is to make complete surveys of old buildings that seem doomed to destruction, despite the Society’s efforts to preserve them.
The group which has made a survey of the Crockett place, as well as of several others, consisted of a “draftsman, a photographer and a stenographer, working under the direction of an architect who is familiar with details of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary dwellings”, and of an historian who is familiar with the sources of information of the buildings in the area.”
However, this type of professional work pre-supposes that some preliminary investigation has already been done by local historical societies in anticipation of the professional work. The survey of the Crockett place is of especial interest to readers of this column, since the family has been well known locally for many years.
Like many another home in the Great Chester Valley section, the Crockett place had an interesting history. Situated on the northeast corner of the intersection of Gulph and Swedesford roads, the building had originally consisted of two dwellings which had been joined together in recent years by moving the west wing back against the east wing. The small stone farmhouse was jacked-up and moved without “a single crack appearing in the plaster.” This moving was done by the late A.R. Crockett and his son, Jack.
The exact date of the east dwelling is not known, though the date shown on the west building reads 1757. In Mr. Crockett’s possession is a deed bearing the date 1792. This deed traces the land back to Rees and Griffith Rees, both of whom are listed as landowners in Upper Merion township in the census of 1734. Of this land, Griffith Rees owned 50 acres and Thomas Rees, 100 acres. From an historical point of view this information is particularly interesting, in that the deed receipt traces the land to Rees Thomas, who was the brother-in-law of Letitia Penn Aubrey, by virtue of his marriage to her husband’s sister. He acted as her attorney in collaborating with James Logan, when Letitia Penn Aubrey decided to dispose of her manor of “Mount Joy.” This land transaction dates back to November 16, 1714. However, there is some question as to which home is designated by this deed. According to the King of Prussia Historical Society authorities, there have been so many alterations to the old building that it is impossible to [have] concluded that this represented the original plan of the house, however. The main room of the east wing contained a large cooking fireplace with excellent, typical colonial, beaded paneling extending from the fireplace mantle to enclose the stairwell. This woodwork was original and in excellent condition, and has been preserved to remain in the township as representative of this building. There was a Swedish-type curved stairway going down to the basement, up to the second floor and into the attic which was situated to the left of the fireplace. This arrangement of curved stairs ascending and descending, tucked into the corner or the room adjacent to the fireplace, is thought to be characteristic of Swedish construction in this area.
(To be continued)