We called this project the Oreland Mystery because the subject home is in the town of Oreland and because the owners were looking for answers to a long-held story of a death in the house. This sounds macabre, we know, but we believe the story of a home is shaped by the lives of those who lived in it, and sometimes, those lives were not easy.
The home itself was built between 1892 and 1900 by a Philadelphia based German immigrant. He, his wife, and young son built the house, as his neighbors would do, as a summer home.
Three enterprising land owners, Rech, Apel and Aiman purchased a 95 acre farm from John Stout in 1890 on both sides of a then 50 year old railroad track. They called their company the Orlando Land and Improvement Company, and they began constructing large stone homes on spec. The homes were advertised as having every modern convenience (I.e. central heat instead of fireplaces, indoor bathrooms with underground sewers, and paved roads) and were meant to take Philadelphia residents to the country to escape the hot city summers.
The railroad was and still is used to take passengers to and from the city, lies just across the street, and the road the home sits on today was laid in the bed of an old track spur used to transport materials to a long-gone nearby mill.
Back to our mystery...while we could not find any definitive proof of a death in the home, we were able to tell the sad story of the original owners. Their son died at the age of 22 in 1906 after an illness and surgery. Based on the newspaper accounts of the time, his death was very difficult for his parents and the community. They would adopt another son, who would live in the home with his wife and family until his late years. The father also met a tragic end in 1918 after a fall from a hay wagon at a nearby greenhouse. While we don't enjoy discovering these stories, they are part of the history of the home and should be told.
Newspaper clipping for John Gundlach's tragic death:
Newspaper clipping for funeral services for John Jr., died age 22 from complications of bowel obstruction.
Our Oreland mystery house was once part of a large tract of land, noted as J. Stout on the map below. He owned 95 acres, is was purchased in 1890 to create the town now known as Oreland, PA
Map of the town of Oreland shown with the subdivision:
Plot plan of the town with housing tracts:
Original home of Jacob Rech, one of the builders of Oreland, still present today surrounded by a modern development.
Original Plan showing "Orlando Land and Improvement Company" found at the Montgomery County Historical Society.
Thomas Fitzwater originally purchased land from William Penn, it was called "Penn's Manor of Springfield" and would parceled off in future decades to create the town of Oreland, PA Sketch below from Nicolas Scull 1732
This home was one of the first to be built in a typical original Philadelphia suburb. Farm land was parceled into neat rectangles and communities were built on roads named for original owners and developers. While we love the old farms and farmhouses on great expanses of land, we also appreciate the sense of community and history of a turn of the century home. The deep sense of family and community we feel when researching houses like this makes it worthwhile.