Friday, April 20, 2012

Gone but Not Forgotten: The Joseph Kenderdine House

It stood on the corner of Keith Valley and Davis Grove Roads for some 277 years, originally providing shelter for Joseph Kenderdine and his family who built and operated the mill on the opposite corner. The success of the mill meant the opening of Keith Valley and Davis Grove Roads so as to provide the local farmers with easier access to the mill, and the increasing circumstances of the family meant the enlarging of the home by a later generation, when the piece to the left was added on, more than doubling the space. The house is part of the Kenderdine Mill Complex which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Part of the description of the house in the nomination form reads as follows:

Its easternmost portion shows the steep roof pitch of pre-Georgian design. Its massive corner fireplace and winder stair are typical of early eighteenth century plans as well. Although the stair has been replaced on the first floor, it survives on the second floor into the attic. In the basement, the timbers of that early portion of the house are hewn and pit sawn, corroborating the antiquity of the forms and the plan. The house was enlarged with a two room deep "two thirds Georgian" Federal wing in the early nineteenth century, probably at the time that the mill was sold to Shay. Federal mantels, door and window surrounds, and chair rails establish the period of the addition while the old, single room house became the hall and kitchen...Both the mill and the early house show the character of the early eighteenth century, only a decade after the completion of nearby Graeme Park. The later Federal addition....[is] graced by mantels and trim which show the influence of Benjamin Latrobe's work in Philadelphia and mark the evolution of local building from craft to design.

When the mill was sold in 1810 to John Shay, the house was parcelled off to remain in the Kenderdine family while the Shays built an impressive stone farmhouse on the opposite corner and continued the operation of the milling business. It was most likely around this time that the enlargement of the original house took place. The land around the Kenderdine House continued to evolve through the 20th century, the dirt roads that provided access to the mill were eventually paved, the township built a large multi-use park across the street, a few more modern houses became its neighbors and a golf course became its back yard. The old sycamore by its front door, probably as old as the house, continued to grow, the house began to decline.

Not properly mothballed, water and animals were allowed to infiltrate, the once handsome Federal trim around the doors began to peel and separate from the walls, the window glass got broken, the shutters fell off one by one and vines crept up the masonry walls, digging their roots into the soft limestone stucco and the mortar that glued the stones together.

On Monday, April 16, 2012 Commonweath Country Club, the owners of the c. 1735 Joseph Kenderdine House, tore it down. The backhoes were still moving the earth around on Friday morning when the below photo was snapped, but give it a little more time, some grass seed, and the Commonwealth landscaping crew, and you'll never know it was there, save for the old sycamore keeping watch over his longtime companion's buried stone foundation.

The remainder of the Kenderdine Mill Complex -- the 1734-35 mill with mid-19th century addition, the early 19th c. Shay House, and the mid-19th c. carriage barn -- are all beautifully preserved and adapted for modern living and under different ownership. Hopefully they will continue on for a long time as an enduring testament to the Kenderdines and the Shays and the early industrial, architectural, and developmental history of Horsham Township. The National Register nomination lists the significance of the complex as:

An example of a remarkably well preserved, industrial complex surviving on its original site and dating from the first years of the settlement of Pennsylvania. Its evolution over more than a century denoted the continuing agricultural heritage of south-eastern Pennsylvania. Its construction stimulated the opening of many of the roads of the region including the Horsham Road, Keith Valley Road, and Davis Grove Road which made it possible for local farmers to reach the mill....the complex of buildings display the characteristics of the evolving architectural character of the region from the primitive Colonial buildings of the early eighteenth century towards the sophisticated Federal designs of the early nineteenth century.

A now an early piece of this history is gone.

For more information on the Kenderdine Mill Complex, see this article, information for which was taken from the National Register nomination, and the recent real estate listing, which shows that careful stewardship and sensitive adaptation can make these old buildings as liveable and useful today as they were to their earlier inhabitants.


  1. My name is Joseph Wright Kenderdine and read the article 'Gone but Not Forgotten: The Joseph Kenderdine House' about my ancestor’s house. I saw it many years ago when I was visiting the Kenderdine Mill. Does anyone know if there were any artifacts found when it was demolished? Please send me an email at Thanks!

    1. I'll pass your message along to the Horsham Preservation and Historical Association - I know they went in and took some pictures and possibly did some architectural salvage, not sure if they found any artifacts though. Such a shame about the house, and now it is just a big mound of unmown grass, like that is an improvement. - Carla

    2. Also I wanted to share the link to the interior pictures, but couldn't get to the site yesterday. It is

  2. Hi Joseph.. Kevin from HPHA here. We were able to get into the house right before it was torn down. We salvaged an old bathtub and a couple of windows but that was about all that was left. We would have loved to have preserved the floorboard and beams but they were destroyed in the demolition. The bathtub was recently used as a prop during the filming of the movie REMORSE at the Penrose Strawbridge House


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