This is a Historic Structures Report for the Derrick Casselberry House, located in
The key resources on the property are the Derrick Casselberry House, an underground well house/root cellar, and a smokehouse. The property also contains a dilapidated springhouse, a modern masonry outbuilding, and a stone wall. The latter was once associated with the property’s barn, now demolished. These resources are the remaining elements of the former 62-acre
The house is in fair condition, despite its abandonment for over five years. Major areas of concern are the condition of its roof and the failure of its flashing, eave and cornice systems. There are at least two major leaks visible in the interior and several areas experiencing plaster failure due to moisture within the walls. Structurally, the house appears to be in good to excellent condition. The well house/root cellar and smokehouse are in good condition, with no major problems other than the need for general repair, cleaning, and maintenance. As stated, the springhouse is in a dilapidated state, mainly due to a deteriorated roof.
The property is significant for several reasons and worthy of preservation. Architecturally, the house, which is the largest, oldest, and most visible feature on the property, is a fine example of the blending of early eighteenth century vernacular building traditions - beginning with the “Penn Plan” Core, c. 1734 - with the more stylized concepts of the late nineteenth century. Its many stages of development mirror the growth and desires of the
Regarding interpretation and/or reuse, the house offers large and usable rooms on all three floors. Windows provide ample natural light for just about any kind of use throughout the building. Outbuildings would be best preserved for interpretive purposes. The well house/root cellar, in particular, presents an opportunity for the citizens of
As an aside, the traditional name for the house, and for the purposes of this report, is the Derrick Casselberry House. While it has been known by that name locally for many years, the investigators found no concrete historical evidence that Derrick Casselberry actually built or ever lived in the house. Derrick Casselberry did live in
In conclusion, the Derrick Casselberry House (and property) is significant for its architectural and historical contribution to the history of Lower Providence and
The 3.975-acre property is the remaining tract of the once 62-acre Casselberry Farm. The farm was last subdivided in 1999, with the greater portion being developed for single unit residences. The development is occurring on a gradual hill rising north and west of the property. With little vegetation in between, the new development is highly visible from the property. The property sits adjacent to
The property itself is an irregularly shaped parcel running parallel to
The Casselberry Farm has been in existence for over 260 years. Most of the history of the property centers on the
Henry Casselberry was the immigrant ancestor of the
The chain of ownership is not entirely clear for the eighteenth century and thus the original builder of the house is uncertain. When
There is a local tradition that George Washington spent one night in the
Jacob Casselberry died in 1795. In his will dated 9/22/1795, Jacob directed his wife Ann to sell the farm to their son William, keep £300 for herself, and distribute the remainder to their other children. Ann Casselberry did not carry out the sale of the farm to William Casselberry until 6/2/1803, when William paid £1,500 for the land. Ann must have been living in the house because the deed states, “the tenants in possession have agreed to sell the same.” In 1804, Ann bought the adjacent property south of the farm from John Fronfield, who had built a house for her. At the turn of the eighteenth century, the
William Casselberry married Catherine Wentz on August 28, 1794, and they had six children: Richard, John, Joseph, Charlotte, Barbara Ann, and Rebecca. William and Catherine Casselberry are probably the owners who constructed the Kitchen Addition to the rear of the house around 1800. After reaching the age of sixty, William and Catherine Casselberry sold the farm to their second son, John, for the consideration of $6,365. This transaction included the tract of land upon which the house stood and five other tracts of land as well.
John Casselberry married Rebecca Morgan on February 3, 1824; they had four children: D. Morgan, D. Hearn, Melville L., and Catharine Casselberry. John Casselberry moved off the
Morgan Casselberry was a man of many talents and capabilities and indeed the most colorful and locally significant of all the Casselberrys who lived on the property. He is also responsible for the current appearance of the house. Morgan attended a school sponsored by St. James’ Episcopal Church, where his family attended, and then attended
Morgan was best known locally for his tanning business, named the Evansburg Tannery. Morgan purchased steam-powered equipment for the tannery, built a new structure to house the equipment in 1863 (which was demolished in 1925), and supervised the business during a time period in which most of the tanneries in
While the Evansburg Tannery was very profitable in the 1860s and 1870s, there is some evidence that it was beginning to decline in the 1880s. In 1887, Morgan Casselberry sold the farm to Christopher Heebner, a relative of his wife (perhaps her brother). Later the same day, Heebner sold the farm to Morgan Casselberry’s wife Ann Eliza. Ann Eliza Casselberry is listed as the owner of the
As stated, Morgan Casselberry made several alterations to the
11/12/1868 Commenced digin cellar for house.
11/18/1868 Commenced hauling stone for building.
11/21/1868 Finished deging cellar.
11/25/1868 Carpenters commenced frameing House.
11/30/1868 Masons commenced walling at house.
12/5/1868 Raised frame of house.
12/14/1868 Carpenters commenced weather boarding house.
12/19/1868 Leveled off around house.
12/21/1868 Brought one Load board & Lath from A. Thomas.
3/11/1869 Finished putting first coat Plastering on house.
3/26/1869 Plasterers finished putting on second coat on house.
4/2/1869 Cleared up around house
In 1872, Morgan Casselberry added the third floor and its highly visible Mansard roof. Mansard roofs were a major architectural element of the Second Empire style, a then popular style in urban areas and particularly in the nearby county seat of
As the twentieth century dawned, Morgan Casselberry was no longer farming the land. His declining health was further heightened when he went blind in 1906 at the age of 82. In 1911, Morgan and Ann Eliza sold the farm to Morgan’s younger brother Hearn, although they continued to live in the house. Eight years after going blind, at the age of ninety, Morgan underwent experimental eye surgery which restored his sight. Unfortunately, he lived only two years after the surgery, dying in 1916. His obituary states “He prided himself on his fine farm and excellent crops, his wheat being usually the best in the Perkiomen valley and readily marketed at high prices for seed.
Hearn Casselberry, Morgan Casselberry’s brother, only lived two and a half years after purchasing the farm, dying intestate on October 30, 1913. Hearn’s next of kin were his brothers and sisters (including Morgan). The heirs sold the house and most of the land in 1917 to Lenora R. Casselberry, a daughter of Morgan Casselberry, but she later wrote that she did not live in the house during the years she owned it.
Lenora Casselberry was the last member of her family to own the
As making a living farming became harder and harder, the
The last chapter in the life of the
The Derrick Casselberry house is a large, multi-sectional complex built over a 170-year timeframe. When the final section was added in the late 1800s, the result was a 3-story, T-shaped house with the main façade facing south. Clad almost entirely in stucco, the house consisted of a four part (including the third floor Mansard roof section) main block and a smaller, two-part, two-story kitchen/utility wing (the tail of the “T”) attached to the rear or north of the main block. The house is, and no doubt was, a prominent feature of the (then) rural landscape of nineteenth century central
The Derrick Casselberry house reflects a variety of styles of architecture. It was constructed in six stages. The Core, c. 1734, is a Penn Plan house built of stone. Typical of Penn Plan houses, it was two stories with two bays, an end gabled roof, and a pent roof on the main (south) façade. However, the house did not have a kitchen fireplace, thus a summer kitchen must have existed elsewhere on the property. Around 1760, the
Soon after the Middle Addition was added, a large two-story masonry addition (the Kitchen Addition) was constructed to the rear of the house. This rather unique section included a new kitchen hearth at the northeast corner. Various details indicate that the addition may have been constructed to support the family tannery business.
In 1868 the
The fifth stage of construction occurred in 1872 when carpenters removed the end gabled roof and added a Mansard roof and third floor across the entire length of the Core, Middle, and East Additions. Mansard roofs were a main element of the then popular
The final addition occurred in the late 1800s, when a framed second floor extension (Rear Porch Addition) was added to the north end of the Kitchen Addition. The addition added two small rooms to the rear of the house and served as a porch over the rear entrance of the house.
While the stone exterior of the Core, Middle and East Additions are now visible on the south side, throughout much of its history, the house was covered with stucco.
As mentioned, the construction of the 1868 East Addition created a “center hall” plan house, although not in the strictest sense. The East Addition included a hall, formal stairway, and parlor on the first floor and a hall, stairway and bedroom on the second floor. While most formal center hall plan houses were two rooms deep with two rooms on each side of the hall, the
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