Research is our passion. In connecting people with the stories of their homes, we hope to spark a love for historic buildings and maybe, just maybe, we can save of few historic beauties from being torn down. This project epitomizes this hope!! In discussions with the current homeowners, we were told about the deplorable condition of their house when it was purchased. We were stunned by the photos they sent, It was in bad shape, like REALLY bad shape! (See photos) Transversely, when we visited for the initial interview, we were beyond impressed by their improvements. They literally brought it back to life! They had the vision to see beyond the nightmare that for most, would be a deal breaker.
We want to give people the stories of their homes so they can appreciate even more the awesome gift it is to own, or be a caretaker for a historic home. No question here, these owners get it!! (photo credit: current owners)
The After: WHAT??!?!? (insert applause here)
Ok, so now that we got that out of the way (stunning right?!?!) We'll discuss what we found! In tracing back this property we were clipping along at a nice pace and then hit the 1920's. The property was apparently a victim of the Great Depression - with 5 owners between 1928 and 1931. The timeline of transfers:
What to do when we're told there's a name and date painted on an attic roof beam? Find out who put it there, of course! This home was built in the early 1800s, so we knew the name was not the original builder. We learned from the deed search that the Baldwin family owned the property in 1907. A census record from that date was the missing link. A Thomas Burns was listed in the 1910 census as a “boarder” in the home – he was 60 years old. It was common for names to be misspelled during census collections (Burns for Byrne) – we’d like to think that Thomas was doing work in the attic and decided to sign his name to it, mystery solved! Pretty neat!!
Saving the best for last, property research is very intertwined with genealogy. And what better tool than the internet, like Ancestry.com to search family lineage. You never know what you'll find, right?
We knew the Charles Roberts family owned the property for almost a century. In doing some digging, we were stunned to find a college thesis written on the Charles Roberts family....WHAT?!?!? It's a 60 page document "A Dynamic Look at Material Life, The Charles W. Roberts Family", written by Tracey Rae Winters. It was written as part of her thesis to satisfy a requirement for a Masters of the Arts degree in early American Culture from the University of Delaware. Talk about a complete random stroke of luck!!
The book is a summary of documents of the daily life of farming and butter making and the additions that were made to the home. It also explains the link to all the marble we found throughout the home. We knew simple farmhouses from that era usually didn't have expensive details, especially marble. Turns out Charles Roberts was a marble cutter by trade in Philadelphia before moving to Chester County. We also discovered that Martha Walker (who later became Martha Roberts) purchased the land as a single woman prior to her marriage to Charles. The deed was written as a trust, with local men vouching for Martha.
Some images from the book we discovered and photos of the Walker family:
What an unexpected treat this research project was, not just discovering its past but seeing that historic homes can be saved! We applaud the current owners for their hard work and vision, and of course for trusting us to help them complete the home's story! If you have any further information on this property, feel free to comment or reach out to us. Thank you in advance and hope you enjoyed!
Additional images from the property (photo credit Linda McManus):