Fortunate in its off-the-beaten-path location, Marlborough has kept much of its mid-19th century look. 150 years ago this quiet village
was busy, with shops, schools, a post office, blacksmith, carriage-maker, and various tradesmen serving the surrounding farms. Most
reminiscent of the past is the 1801 Friends Meeting, peaceful now but long ago the scene of conflict over slavery.
In 1993 Marlborough was named to the National Register of Historic Places. None of the private homes is open to the public, but
visitors are warmly invited to attend Meeting for Worship any Sunday at 11:00.
Marlborough Village began in 1801, when local Quakers built a meetinghouse next to the present Marlborough Spring Road. Three years later came
a little school, then a store and a house for the schoolmaster. When the township laid out Marlborough Road, making a crossroads, the stage
was set for development by the owner of the large farm to the north, who sold off a handful of building lots.
From 1830 to 1855, farmers, teachers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, and other such workers built houses which still form the core of the village. Residents
here have always served the surrounding farm community. In 1834 the Friends built a new slightly larger school, in spite of the feeling of
some that it was “but to gratify a spirit of pride.”
Then as now, two significant buildings framed the village: at the crossroads, Marlborough Meeting, looking serenely across the burial ground; and, at
the east end of the village, the log house. The village and its people prospered, but things were not always peaceful. Some meeting members
who were active abolitionists left Marlborough for Longwood Progressive Meeting in the years leading up to the Civil War. And many a young Quaker
man took up arms to oppose slavery, as you can see from the flags in the burial ground.
The village saw conflict and growth 150 years ago, but population and business went elsewhere, leaving
Marlborough the tranquil backwater it is today.
1. Friends built Marlborough Meeting in 1801 on land donated by two farmers, Isaac Baily and Richard Barnard, who had a disagreement over water rights. After years of bitter dispute, Barnard defused the situation by washing Baily’s feet. Their gift of land for the new meeting was an outward sign of their truce.
Of locally fired brick, Marlborough Meeting follows Quaker tradition in having a divider between its men’s and women’s sides. The women’s side was converted around 1880 to a schoolroom, where the old desks, inkwells, maps, and books may still be seen.
Outside in the burial ground, most tombstones are modest, as was customary among Friends. A surprising feature is the large number of flags, showing that many young Quaker men put their zeal for abolition before their pacifism and went off to the Union Army.
2. From this farm the village developed when lots were laid out and sold along its southern edge in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Part of the stone house dates from before 1726, and the barn, also stone, was begun in the 18th century and enlarged in the 19th. It is today a working dairy farm.
3. This stuccoed stone house dates from before 1834 and was for many years the village store and post office. Today it is remarkable for its attractive gardens and for the rear porch and gazebo, built to take advantage of the magnificent view over the Pocopson Valley to the north.
A vernacular building with no specific style, the house is nevertheless a major element in defining the simple sturdy character of the village.
4. This is the first of the row of five similar vernacular houses which form the core of the village both in location and style. Built as a double brick house, it was remodeled as a single dwelling and stuccoed over after a fire in the 1930’s. One of the original builders was Simon Barnard, a noted abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor.
5. This mid-19th century house is stucco over brick and boasts a dentilated cornice. The builder was probably John Huey, of the family that developed the village.
6. In the 1840’s sisters Sarah and Phebe Martin built this house, their home for the next fifty years. This house and #7 form the only present-day double house in the village.
7. Isaac Martin, village schoolmaster, memoirist, and jack of all trades, joined this house to that of his sisters about 1850. Here he conducted a school and other enterprises, and from here his son Walton left to serve in the Union Army at Antietam and Chancellorsville, then returned to farm down the road. Both houses are stucco over frame, but #7 has recently been sided.
8. Built in 1844, this house has a dentilated cornice like #5’s. Of brick covered with stucco and siding, it was the home of local diarist and carriage maker Caleb Wickersham in the mid-19th century.
9. The newest house in the village is this frame rancher. Its long silhouette and low-pitched roof blend into its sloping site, to which the owners have added a notable wildflower meadow.
10. Isaac Martin (#7) was probably the builder of this house and barn, sometime in the 1840’s. Later blacksmith John Ford owned it and worked just up the road in a shop at Caleb Wickersham’s (#8).
Several years ago, the owners discovered that the siding on their home concealed the original oak logs, V-notched and chinked with lime mortar. Hand wrought nails were used in the wide floor boards and in the battened doors throughout the house. An enclosed stairway curves beside the chimney to all floors. The house has recently been restored and enlarged.
11. This stuccoed concrete block house was built in 1948 by the Browns, who operated the greenhouses that used to be a dominant feature of the village. Only the shell remains of one large greenhouse; of the other, across the road to the east, nothing is left.
12. On this plot in 1834 the meeting built a one-room schoolhouse, razed in 1927 to make way for the present house. It is the “Ardara,” one of a series of houses manufactured by Sears Roebuck, and it has remained almost unchanged A one-story white frame building with Tuscan pillars supporting a bonnet-hood porch roof, it was the first house in the village to break with earlier building traditions.
13. In 1827 Cyrus Barnard was commissioned by the meeting to build this house, to be used by the schoolmaster of the Friends school. Isaac Martin and his wife lived here from 1831 to 1851, and here their three children were born. From 1851 until 1925, when the meeting sold it, the house was rented out. Of stone construction, now stuccoed, the house façade retains its original appearance in spite of a large recent addition to the rear.
14. In 1901 East Marlborough Township built this new brick schoolhouse– “rather pretentious,” the Daily Local News called it. One and a half stories high, it had separate entrances for boys and girls in the east end, where a datestone can be seen. It served the village area for a score of years, closing when the new consolidated school was built in Unionville.
The house became a private residence in 1926, when a local family bought and enlarged it.
15. The second village house to depart from the traditional local style, this Cape Cod structure followed plans purchased from Better Homes and Gardens. It was built in 1937.
From West Chester: Route 842 west about 7 1/2 miles, left onto Marlborough Spring Road, 3/4 mile to the village at the top of the hill
From Kennett Square/Route 1: Route 82 north 3 miles, right onto E. Doe Run Road, .2 mile to left turn onto Marlborough Road (second left), 3/4 mile to the village
Text and sketches by Mary Larkin Dugan
East Marlborough Township Historical Commission, 721 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania