Nostalgia

Lachford Hall & Annual Break

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Today will mark the start of A Short History’s annual mini-break. Last year I took a little time to write the podcast, this year I need the same to do some maintenance on the site and to edit the book, which is coming together!

If you’re subscribed to the newsletter (if not, you can do so in the sidebar!) you’ll be getting some mini posts exclusively in your inbox. Until then follow along on Instagram (@ashorthistoryblog) for the occasional update and get ready for some really dramatic, exciting posts when the blog returns. We’re talking more pirates, European royalty has a bad visit in Delaware, something strange washes up on the beach, shipwrecks, a park with a very dark past and more. There is a lot of good stuff coming up!

Until then here’s the gorgeous Tyler Arboretum which is now a great park {in Media, Pennsylvania}. Sometimes there’s no theatrical story, just a beautiful setting:

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Lachford Hall is quite the stunner. It’s unlike any other home around here with its delicate filigreed wooden porch and diamond-shaped stained glass windows. Originally built in 1738 by Thomas Minshall it was ultimately used as a summer home by John J. Tyler, whom the park is named after.

Just across the little walkway is a stone home, the Painter Library. It looks even older than Lachford but it was actually built in 1863 and used as a museum, print shop, library and the home for the custodian of the nature preserve.

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Painter Library

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Called the “Fruit Vault” it’s actually a root cellar. It was named for fruit because it was built to store apples and vegetables. It was constructed in 1858 into the side of the hill just in view of Lachford.

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Lachford Hall takes its name from Thomas Minshall’s hometown: Lachford, England. Before it was a great hall, it was the home of Thomas Minshall who followed William Penn’s “Penn Plan.” One room built in front of the other…William Penn may have been prosperous in real estate but he possessed less flair for architecture.

The house was gradually added on to as the family changed. John Tyler and his wife, Laura Hoopes, married in 1881 and they were granted permission from his mother to renovate the home into a summer residence for themselves. When they were done the home was transformed into the country villa style you see today.

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The Painter Library still stores many of the Tyler’s antiques, books and scientific recordings.

The estate became a scientific arboretum when the Painter brothers inherited the property. Minshall (born 1801) and Jacob (born 1814) were not only brothers but incredibly close friends. The pair devoted their lives to the family farm and their love of nature. They had little formal schooling but were extensively well-read and insatiably curious, becoming self-taught natural science experts.

When the two brothers died their younger sister, Ann Painter, inherited the property. Her son, John Tyler, managed the property for her and was the one who renovated the house. Today it’s an arboretum and park and is just as beautiful as some of the fancier botanical gardens around here.

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The springhouse was the original source of water for the farm and also a natural refrigerator. Dairy and other food was kept in its lower level, placed into the cold running water. Because it ran dry in the summertime, a second springhouse was built near the Rocky Run creek further from the house.

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The Painter Greenhouse was built in 1871 by Minshall and Jacob. They originally built it as a “grapery.” Growing grapes in a greenhouse was a new fad at the time.

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The stone barn was enlarged to this size in 1833 to house livestock. It is one of the largest remaining bank barns in the Delaware Valley. The first floor was used for sheltering animals, the second and third floors to store their food: hay and grain, which was the primary purpose of the farm in its beginning.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3