Imagine being in the Brandywine Valley before America was a nation. In 1714, as part of the John Hope plantation, the original section of the home was built. Situated then on about 300 acres, the original home was built (approx. 30’x20′) with a full 6′ basement which leveraged the east wall fireplace as a winter kitchen. The fireplace on the main floor is still functional. The main floor (living area) and then the second floor (bedroom) as well as a full attic supported the original family. The winding staircase next to the fireplace goes from the basement and turns 180 degrees for each level. There has been a major update to the bedroom supporting a comfortable and modern bathroom with shower. Additional to the multi-floor fireplace in the west side of the house, in the NE corner was an additional fireplace / chimney built all the way up. Unfortunately, this fireplace was <corniced> and eventually failed, causing the corner of the home to start sinking. This fireplace is no longer functional. While the flooring and the fireplace in the main area were updated in the last century, the character of the room continues with original transoms, doors into the winder staircases, and window insets in the 18′ stone walls. Currently this section of the home is used for the owner’s quarters due to the difficulty in navigating the stairs.
Additionally, there was a summer kitchen built as a separate structure about 50′ east, 40′ south of the original building. This is a stand-alone stone wall (about 20′) which includes an original beehive oven and steel access door.
There was also a carriage house built about 300′ east of the main house. This also contained an ice pit. Unfortunately, after highway 1 was moved in 1961 and built right in front of this building, along with a snow storm in 1965, the house fell. Two of the walls of this building still exist and are used for the main Wild Wisteria sign at the front of the property.
A hog pen was also built on the property. Today, this is more of a ruins, but adds plenty of character to the yard and overall feel of the property.
Eventually in 1749, they added on to the home and 3 bedroom / 1 common area extension (approx. 40’x20′) which shored up the wall where the fireplace was causing the sinking. But not without impact – the door frame which leads from one room to the other is about 2″ lower on one side. And being that it is about 6′ high, it is definitely a navigation issue for those of us who are tall. The inn (first addition), which started in 1749, had a staircase which led to the upper rooms. This has since been removed (when a stair case was added to a later section), but evidence can still be seen on the original floor which, by the way, has no sub-floor and is composed of the original plank flooring from that time. Additionally, the wall originally used to separate the bedroom on the main floor was also removed creating a single large common area. And, for the sake of modernizing for a comfortable B&B stay, the upstairs rooms were modified to support comfortable bathrooms. The B&B room in this section is the Seaglass Room. There were also two additional fireplaces added to this section of the house, both in the NW and NE corners. These are no longer functional, but the original wood paneling / cabinetry is still stunning.
In 1759 an additional section was added onto the back of the home as an extension to the inn (approx. 40’x20′). This was intended and used as a dining area for the inn, and also supported an additional room upstairs. This is now the Cherry Blossom Room. Eventually the staircase was moved from the 1749 section to a straight stairwell in the 1759 section. A small 1/2 bath has been added in this section on the main floor to support the B&B. The architecture of this room implies a high end update as the window frames are curved even though they are built in 18″ of stone. There is a very large fireplace hearth in this section – about 3′ deep and 10′ wide and 4″ high. This is quite a large single piece of stone to be set in place in 1759. There would have been a wood stove placed here for heating purposes.
The garage building (40’x20′) was added about 100′ east of the main home. This is single story with an attic.
We can’t ignore the fact that we are in the crux of one of the major revolutionary battlefield areas. The Brandywine battle occurred on Sep 11, 1779 and is the battlefield is located about three miles east of us. What we know is that there was an ambush two miles west of us at the Kennett meeting house. And that the armies came through this property in route to the battlefield.
We don’t have a lot of history on who has stayed here, but we are an inn on the main highway between Philadelphia and Baltimore. We suspect the guests are many.
Joseph Lancaster owned the home during this time and went back and forth with the township on leveraging the facility for use as a tavern. In this time the 1850 extension was added directly east (approx. 20’x20′). A winder staircase (90 degree) was built to gain access to the upstairs. The Boxwood Room is available in this section. There was a solid 3′ wall extension added between the sections of the house, likely to support some of the needs of the tavern. In this there a two alcoves which supported their business. Eventually, in the 1900’s, this section of the room was covered and a full wall built-in cabinet was added. However, to pull back the character of the original home, the wall has been exposed and the original exterior brick is now visible in the room. The flooring here is still original, leverage new technology at the time of 4″ cut planks. One of the original 1714 exterior doors has been hung, still with original hardware, as a sliding barn door in the room to continue the character of the house.
Additionally, they extended the house north connecting the summer kitchen into the enclosed facility. This created a natural (and modern) kitchen area. At this time they carved out a vent path in the wall for the wood stove. The kitchen was modernized in the mid 1900’s and is in process of more updates actively. The room created above the kitchen is in fact the biggest bedroom in the house and has a beautiful Palladian window overlook into the garden. This is our Rose Suite.
The barn was built across the road to support the farm. In 1961, they moved highway 1 from the south side of the barn to split the property between the barn and the main house. This barn is now used as an antique shop and is truly a stunning building inside (be sue to go to the third floor).
This area of the Brandywine Valley was also a part of the Underground Railroad. Every house in the area has a trap door into the basement for the purpose of throwing off the authorities (presumably because they would have to check every house). Additionally. we have the remains of a tree alongside the old Hickory Hill road which we understand, because of its uniqueness (came from HI) was used as a stopping point on one of the Underground Railroad routes.
After the carriage house fell down, the owners of the inn (at the time a residence) decided to re-purpose the flooring, the beams, and the stone into the next addition of the house. They added an “L” shaped extension (40′ x 40′) extending the kitchen and around the 1850 section on the east side of the house and built it into the character of the old style while still modernizing with electricity, etc. This addition included another two bedrooms upstairs as well – the Lavender Room and our Guest Room (currently used as an owner’s room). This is also when one of the most stunning features of the home was built, the main fireplace. Leverage the stones from the original carriage house, a beautiful and incredibly large fireplace was placed and is an amazing addition to the home.
Additionally, there was another room added to the SW corner of the house (attached to the original). We use this for our Iris Room.
In an effort to convert the residence into a Bed and Breakfast, a large improvement effort was taken on to create private baths for all rooms. This, of course, meant room rearrangement and extensive update efforts, but the character of the home was honored during the modernization.
The most recent undertaking was one reactive to reviews for the B&B. As we are less than 50′ from highway 1, a major four lane highway, road noise can be an issue. So the exterior needed to be addressed. New windows, doors, siding, shutters, trim, and gutters were added to give a modern look to this beautiful old house. Still retaining it’s old charm, this new update was intended to call out the character of the old stone while addressing the modern needs of a bed and breakfast. And, from the inside, it is quiet and peaceful. Rest assured you will rest well.
The doors from this update have been repurposed throughout (as mentioned in the 1850 section) and we are looking to build a greenhouse outside using the old windows. We’ve even built a wedding altar using the old shutters and will continue to find unique and creative ways to show off not only this house and property’s amazing historical elements, but the modern amenities and the seamless aggregation of the two.