East Marlborough Township Historic Places
On September 11, 1777, the first shots of the Battle of the Brandywine were fired near the Anvil Tavern when General Maxwell and his men surprised some colonial soldiers taking refreshment there. The Hessians, fearing that tavern owner John Parker's son would report their position to Washington, took the boy prisoner. The tavern was demolished in the 1920s, but parts of the basement remain at Routes 52 and 1. Look for the anvil there, too.
In 1860 Bayard Taylor built this Italianate mansion with the fortune he had made as an internationally known reporter, author, and explorer. Although raised in a plain farmhouse on the east side of Unionville Road, he aspired to the life of Europe's landed gentry. The house's bricks were made of clay dug from a pit which is now the pond at the northwest corner of the intersection of Routes 1 and 82.
Taylor did much of his writing (including his novel The Story of Kennett) in the sunny study at the top of the tower. His lavish entertainment of his literary friends disgruntled the locals and impoverished him. Cedarcroft is registered as a National Historic Monument.
Originally this was a farm granted by William Penn to George and Ann Peirce. In 1798, their twin grandsons, Joshua and Samuel, began an arboretum there which soon became known as Peirce's Park and for several generations the Peirces welcomed their neighbors to picnic by the lake. In the 1830s the southern part of the property was sold to daughter Hannah and her husband John Cox. They called it Longwood Farm and sheltered many famous abolitionists and hundreds of fleeing slaves. Their house, the old graveyard, and the former Progressive Friends Meetinghouse still stand along the north side of Route 1.
By 1900 both families were gone and what was by then a magnificent arboretum was to be sold for lumber. Despite his judgment that land was a poor investment, Pierre S. duPont bought the property to save the trees. His principles proved accurate - he poured millions into designing and redesigning the gardens until he developed the world famous showplace we see today.
The Cox House
John and Hannah Cox moved into this old house on her parents' farm in the 1830s. In 1852 they sold the little hill in their apple orchard to the Progressive Friends for their cemetery and meetinghouse. Ardent abolitionists, the Coxes opened their home to fugitives and famous abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Thomas Garrett, Susan B. Anthony Frederick Douglass, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Because the house sits close to the Great Nottingham Road (now Route 1), Hannah worried constantly that fugitives would be seen entering the house. As far as we know, none were ever caught.
In the late 1800s the house was Victorianized and in the 1920s it was a tea room. Local lore insists there is a tunnel from the basement running under the highway to the former site of the barn. However, intense research has found no indication of such a feature. The house is now in poor condition but it is hoped that it can be restored.
In the 1790s in the small valley north of the Marlborough crossroads, farmers Baily and Barnard had argued for years over the water rights to the stream that runs through the valley. No compromise would satisfy Mr. Baily. Finally one morning Mr. Barnard took water over to Baily and humbly washed his feet, according to the Biblical example. Baily was so impressed that the matter was settled, and to seal their agreement they each gave two acres to be used for a meetinghouse, which was built in 1801. The building is divided into halves - the men's and women's sides. After the Civil War, they met jointly and the women's side was turned into a school room. The school disbanded in 1878 and is still as it was - desks, the teacher's books, and the potbellied stove remain. Some years ago electric heat and light were added and in 2004 a small kitchen and bathroom addition was built on the west side. Nothing else has changed since 1801.
The Marlborough Meeting members were sharply divided into those who favored obeying the Fugitive Slave Law in the hope that slavery would just die out and those who were activists in the Underground Railroad. In 1852 the abolitionist Oliver Johnson came to speak here. Humphrey Marshall, an elder in the meeting, was strongly opposed to the activists and had sheriff's deputies on hand to stop Johnson from speaking. Marshall ordered the deputies to arrest Johnson for disturbing the peace and Johnson was fined. Thus ended the great Marlborough Riot. The two groups used the building alternately until the abolitionists built Longwood Progressive Meeting. Marlborough Meeting is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Marlborough Village Historic District.
The lush fields of Chester and the other southern counties were the food source for the coastal cities. Fresh meat was especially important and the only way to keep it fresh was to herd it to markets for slaughter. It could take a week or more from farm to market and so inns quickly sprang up along the main routes to provide food and a night's rest for the drovers. These were very simple places with a room where the men gathered to eat, drink, and exchange stories and a room or two where they slept often two or more to a bed. Most routes were simple backwoods trails, but William Penn had directed Street Road (926) to be laid out to facilitate travel from Philadelphia to the Susquehanna River. Many northern routes led into it and in East Marlborough there are still the former Worth's Inn at West Street Road and Mill Road, Taggart's Inn on the southwest corner of Routes 82 and 926, and the Red Lion Inn on the southeast corner of Rt. 926 and Conservatory Road. These inns were ideal for transferring escaping slaves as they could be hidden in wagons or passed off as hired hands. The Red Lion Inn is reputed to have such a history.
In Unionville the old Cross Keys Hotel still stands on the south side of Doe Run Road at Rt. 162. Some of the other inns have long fallen into ruin, like the Indian Queen which stood on the northwest corner of Doe Run Road and present day Oak Tree Road. The more sedate Temperance Hotel on Upland Road which served no alcohol is now a residence.
Just outside E. Marlborough's eastern border on Route 1 are the remains of the Anvil Tavern. The main building was demolished in the 1920s but the basement wall with its arched doorway forms part of the garden. Almost unnoticed, the original iron anvil which was its sign is embedded near the traffic light at Route 52.
This name seems odd to newcomers but there are Street Roads all over the counties around Philadelphia. The term is an ancient one dating to ancient England. It meant a well designated roadway linking important places, akin to our turnpike or highway. William Penn laid out our Street Road to provide rapid access between the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers in order to develop the back country and strengthen Penn's claim to the southern part of his colony against Lord Baltimore's rival claims for Maryland. Modern development has obliterated parts of the old road, but our section is still intact and has some scenes reminiscent of Penn's time.
The Progressive Friends Meeting
The ground for the meetinghouse and its cemetery were sold by John and Hannah Cox to the Progressive Friends - the strong abolitionist group that left Marlborough Meeting, Kennett Meeting, and others. Dedicated in 1855, the meeting welcomed people of all faiths, and almost every famous advocate of abolition, women's rights, and temperance spoke there. Once a group of fugitives arrived during meeting and were simply divided among members who took them home and eventually sent them on their way. The congregation dwindled in the early 1900s, and the building became a community theater and then the Chester County Visitors' Center. It is owned by Longwood Gardens.
The meetinghouse (1801) was probably the first structure in the village and was closely followed by the general store across present Marlborough Spring Road. Shortly a small school house was built in front of the meetinghouse and then the handsome stone house for the schoolmaster was built diagonally across the present intersection. In the 1840s, a farmer named Huey sold eight long, narrow lots on the north side of Marlborough Road. The houses are very simple working class homes with some classical touches, especially brick dentil molding at the eaves. At various times most of these houses held small businesses. By the end of the century there was a thriving greenhouse business and in 1900 a two-room school was built on the southwest corner. In 1926 a Sears package bungalow was built at the crossroads. The two magnificent Japanese maples in the front yard were wedding presents from friends who worked at Longwood Gardens. The last house in the village was the Cape Cod on the south side of Marlborough Road. At the east end of the village stands an early 19th-century log house. The entire village is on the National Register.
The Jackson family first settled the area and called it Jacksonville but by 1834 it had its present name. It is almost entirely a mid to late 19th Century town. In addition to the inns, it had an academy which boarded students at Doe Run and Upland Roads and a girls' seminary, Green Lawn Academy, on Wollaston Road. Both schools and the old Unionville Hall still stand and are now residences. Several quite large and fashionable late Victorian homes indicate it was a prosperous village. The entire town is on the National Register.
New Bolton Center
This veterinary hospital at the western edge of the township is the University of Pennsylvania's hospital for large animals. World famous, it was the focus of attention when the disabled Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was brought there in 2006. Also on the grounds is the Allam house part of which dates from 1710.
From around 1850 to early 1900's Unionville, Red Lion and Willowdale became the market places and centers of industry in East Marlborough. Red Lion, then called Dugdale or New Red Lion after the tavern, had a general store run by Francis S. Altemus.
(To be updated)