Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between roundups of historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
If you’re on the hunt for an old stone house—or, like us, just want to know where to focus a recreational Trulia search—then you'll need to turn to southeastern Pennsylvania.
Houses in this region were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and were influenced by the English building methods practiced by early American settlers. Generally speaking, the houses were not constructed out of one specific type of stone, but instead vary—from fieldstone to granite to rubble bound with mortar.
Stylistically, the houses—or at least, the ones we’re going to be looking at today—are not unlike what you’ll find in New England: they are largely Colonial and Federal style and built around the same time period, in regions influenced by English residential architecture.
What you’ll notice across all of these Pennsylvanian stone homes, though, is that the walls are insanely thick—in some cases up to a foot in width. No word yet on how this affects a homeowner's ability to install modern plumbing and electricity—a future column topic, perhaps?—but practicality aside, they're aesthetically beautiful.
Quarryville, Pennsylvania (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, $799,000)
Built in 1841 out of what appears to be fieldstone, this 4-acre estate was restored by its current owners. Today, the main house showcases its lovely historic features.
Our eye immediately went to the fan light and woodwork around the front door and the original hardware that can be found on some of the doors. There are four fireplaces, one of which—in the basement—is so big you could probably walk into it. Another fireplace, in the kitchen—our favorite spot for a fireplace—has its original, cabinet-like wooden doors, which are occasionally seen on houses of this age.
But what may be the most special feature of this house—even beyond the park-like grounds that include a mature orchard—are its windows. Look at how the wall curves into each window sill. Remember how we said that the walls in stone houses are usually very thick? Here’s where that feature takes center stage. The walls are so deep that the architect also cleverly built drawers into many of the window sills.
Malvern, Pennsylvania (6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, $1.769 million)
Our love for this 1832-built house was cemented the moment we saw the gigantic stone fireplace in the dining room. Everything else about it—from the Dutch door leading to the foyer with a fireplace to the graceful archways separating the rooms—was just old-house gravy. And, similar to the house in Quarryville, the walls gently curve into the windows. The curve isn’t as pronounced in the Quarryville house, but this is an interesting feature that we have only seen with stone houses.
We’d also be leaving out half the equation if we didn’t mention the grounds. Sure, we’ve been calling this a house—but lets be honest: it's a full-on country estate. There over 15 acres of gardens and lawns, a creek, and not one but two ponds. There’s even a historic stone barn and stables. Yes—so even your horses will get to live in a picturesque 19th-century structure.
West Chester, Pennsylvania (7 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, $1.575 million)
The stone facade of this 1840-built Greek Revival mansion may be beautiful, but the woodwork and grand proportions of its formal rooms make this house stand out.
Everything in this house is oversized. Just look at the foyer, with its archway that soars to the full height of the 12-foot ceiling (many of the rooms on the first floor have 12-foot ceilings). Continuing the grandeur is a double parlor just off the entryway. The reception room has thickly carved wainscoting and wide ear molding (a hallmark of the Greek Revival style) around the floor-to-ceiling windows. Another sitting room on the first floor is anchored by a massive intricately carved marble fireplace—one of seven in the 7,800-square-foot house—and the airy dining room has oversized doors that open onto a side patio of the house.
Thankfully, the house has been fully updated. The kitchen, which comes with both an AGA range and a fireplace, is thoroughly modern. So, too, are the bathrooms, meaning that this house is essentially move-in ready.
But calling it just a house would be a bit of an understatement. It’s more like a country club. The mansion, which is set back from the road (we checked on Google maps) stands on 9.4 acres of land that includes a pool (with an adorable pool house) and tennis court.
Birdsboro, Pennsylvania (4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, $539,900)
Consider this a stone-home blank slate. The center-hall house, which was built just around 1800, has exposed beams, four fireplaces, deep window sills, wide-plank floors, and simple (but elegant) woodwork. We especially love the kitchen, which has been updated to include stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops, while still retaining its old charm through a tall fireplace, exposed beams, and six-over-six windows. The rooms all seem in good shape; they’re just waiting for somebody to come in and put a stamp on the place.
The house, whose red trim compliments the subtle red hue of the stone, sits on 7 acres of land and, quite frankly, looks more like something you’d think to see in the English countryside than anything else. In addition to the house, the property also has a carriage shed and a pond with its own dock.
Grove, Pennsylvania (4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, $724,900)
Completed in 1869, this house was made for horse lovers. The structure sits on 27 acres that are home to multiple pastures, six paddocks, and a two-story barn that has accommodations for 11—11!—horses. The first story of the barn is outfitted with stables, while the second story was designed as a storage space for hay.
The house itself will appeal to anybody who loves indoor-outdoor living. An open living room with wood paneling opens onto a large three-season porch lined with six-over-six sash windows. There’s also a lovely stone patio partially covered by a pergola. But the house isn’t only made for summertime fun—the dining room, quite possibly the most charming room in the house, boasts a walk-in stone fireplace with a large wooden mantle.
Upstairs, the four bedrooms and three bathrooms have largely been renovated, but still retain certain elements of the old structure—namely the wide floorboards, wood trim, and hardware on some of the doors. In short: you won’t have to worry about bringing this 147-year-old home into the 21st century. Somebody else already has.