Zook’s Dam (later Martin’s Dam), woolen mill, house photos

A little more than two years ago, in the summer of 1952, a long series of articles appeared in this column, tracing the history of Martin’s Dam, back to the time long before it was a popular swimming club. Naturally enough, the history of the dam developed into the story of that neighborhood and of the old mills and houses in that particular section of Chester Valley. However, it was some time after that series was published that three interesting pictures came into the possession of your columnist. Unfortunately only two are sufficiently clear to be reproduced.

On the back of the one that is too faded to include in today’s column is written “Swimming at the ’Old Cat Hole’, Martins Dam.” It shows the rope, the predecessor many times removed, of the one that now hangs from a branch of the tall tree in front of the bath houses, near the picnic table and fireplaces. But how different the background then from now! There seems to have been a crude platform, and there is a rowboat tied up to the platform. But there are no sturdily built docks, no lifeguard stands, no sliding boards, no floats. The background looks bare, indeed, to the eyes of a generation accustomed to all that has been done to “the old cat hole” in the last 30 years.

17_image01The other two pictures, shown above, are of the house across the from the dam breast, the first taken about 1906, when it was first purchased by George R. Park.

17_image02The second picture was taken a few years later, after Mr. Park had remodelled the house. It is now the property of Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Basinger, who acquired it recently.

In 1841, Richard Martin and his wife, Hannah, acquired the woolen mill near Zook’s Dam, as Martin’s Dam was originally called. The Martins moved their young family from Kensington into what was the original part of this house, the center part as it now stands. As the Martin family grew in numbers, Mr. Martin added first one wing, and then the other. It was this Martin family that gave its name to Martin’s Dam.

The original part of the house undoubtedly dates back to pre-Revolutionary days, with its great fireplace and wide triple doors, and with a huge baking oven in the basement under this fireplace. An old mill, once directly opposite the entrance to Martin’s Dam Club, was torn down by Mr. Park when he acquired the property in 1906.

The mill stone was used at the entrance to the house, to which Mr. Park added still a third wing.

After Mr. Park sold the historic old house, it was occupied for some years by Miss Isabel Maddison. As the present property of Mr. and Mrs. Basinger, it will be one of the historic homes to be visited by the Historical Society on October 16.