Friday, August 31, 2012

Roof Progress

When we last left off, about mid-day on Friday, August 24, the lower slope of the south side was about half  done.

And if you're a Facebook Friend, then you saw where they were at the end of the day on Friday - about 2/3 done.

I made a quick trip out here Wednesday evening for something else, and saw that they had completed the lower slope on the south side, but didn't have my camera with me and my phone was too close to being out of juice to allow for photos, so just picture those lovely new shingles extending all the way over to the right side of the roof.

When I arrived this morning, the work had progressed to the upper slope of the south side, and while it is difficult to see well in the photograph, they've covered from the right end to the first set of chimneys, which is pretty close to half.

The crew is off today for the holiday weekend, so work will not resume until next Tuesday, but at the rate they're going, they should be on to the north side the next time we check in.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Roof

Well, after much anticipation, and an official state bidding process, the new roof project has begun on the Keith House.

The existing oak shingle roof was put on in 1989 (to replace the first roof the state put on the house back in the 1960s) and was really starting to show its age - both in the warped, curling shingles and in the fact that we had numerous leaks up on the third floor. Back at the very beginning of January a temporary rubber roof was installed to help protect the interior plaster from additional water damage through the winter and spring and we were told that the temporary roof could actually last for several years - we're very glad we don't have to test that out and the project is moving forward as planned.

Using a lift truck, Ressler Construction, out of Brownstown, Pennsylvania, is replacing the existing oak shingles with cedar, a material that will be longer lasting and is also most likely closer to the historic original. Rather than tearing off all of the old material before beginning the replacement, they're working a little at a time to remove and replace shingles. Each tapered shingle is individually nailed to the purlins, which span the rafters, and the shingles overlap so that only about 1/4-1/3 of the 24" length is revealed. The two man crew began work on Tuesday, August 21 and by Friday morning were about a third of the way done with the lower slope on the south side of the house, as seen above. By lunch, they had progressed to the point below:

What can't be conveyed via the internet is the wonderful smell of the new material - if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Graeme Park, stop in and see the progress and take a deep breath while standing in front of the house. We may have white-faced hornets, imperial moth caterpillars, hummingbird moths and walnut twig beetles on the property, but we certainly shouldn't have moths in the attic of the Keith House.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Last weekend and yesterday Graeme Park and the HPHA hosted a student film crew from Drexel University working on a short film called Reparations, which is set in the south just after the Civil War. They shot their exteriors around the Penrose-Strawbridge House and used the dining room in the Keith House for an interior scene. In the film, former Confederate Colonel Henry Gibbs must deal with the repercussions of his actions during the war when his ex-lover and former slave Amos arrives at his doorstep demanding that Henry keep his promise to him in order to spare the lives of his wife and son.

Editor and Script Supervisor Lauren Ott putting the finishing touches on the actor playing Amos.

Director Gerard Nocco with the actors playing Henry and his wife.

The interior scene was shot in the Dining Room of the Keith House.

While filming was taking place in the Dining Room, the Director and crew could keep an eye on the action via a laptop set up in the Keith House Office.

Of course we had one of our busiest tour days in awhile on Saturday, with volunteer Jack Washington taking three tour groups of seven, five, and eight people through the house and around all of the equipment. Perhaps they saw the action going on at the house and thought they'd see Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford and quickly signed up to take the tour, but most likely it was just Murphy's Law at work. Despite the interuptions they were able to wrap up their interior filming in just one day and have now moved on to the editing process.We'll keep you updated if they share the finished product with us.

More information.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Senior Days at Graeme Park

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson in discussion with Francis Hopkinson

In the tradition of Elizabeth Graeme's Attic Evenings, where people gathered to discuss various topics and learn from each other, the Friends of Graeme Park are offering senior citizens two days of classes, seminars, and discussions on a wide range of topics. Senior citizens are invited to join the Friends of Graeme Park on Wednesday, October 3 and Thursday, October 4 for two days of classes, seminars, discussions, food, and fellowship on the beautiful, historic grounds of Graeme Park. Both days will feature a continental breakfast and full lunch with optional tours of the National Landmark Keith House and a guided historical landscape stroll after lunch. Advance registration (through September 19) is $40/day or $75 for both days for non-members and $35/day for members (after September 19 - $45/day). We’re still finalizing the timeslots and a few additional topics, but as of now, here are the courses we’re offering:

Gilbert and Sullivan: Victorian Darlings of Community Theater
Presenter: Bob Binkley Founder of Bucks County Gilbert and Sullivan Society. The 14 comedic, melodic satires from Gilbert and Sullivan are exports from Victorian England. Explore the reasons for their success and why community theater groups all over America still love them. Includes a few bouncy examples of the most popular songs.

Your Appointment with Dr. Benjamin Rush
Presenter: Jim Miller. Dr. Rush will explain the dilemmas of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, the role of Graeme Park in it, and with the help of “patients” from the audience will demonstrate the three principal “scientific” methods of treatment during the colonial period.
Dr. Benjamin Rush by Charles Willson Peale (from HERE)

Musical Icons of the 18th & 19th Centuries
Presenter: Marvin Feld, retired Music Educator. Come and learn about the most iconic compositions, the lives of the composers, and enjoy samples of their masterpieces that are still rewarding. The genius of Beethoven, Mozart, and others are yours to discover and enjoy.

Home Downsizing: Understanding Value: What are Your Things Really Worth
Presenter: Michael Ivankovich. What are your antiques, collectibles, and other personal property really worth on today’s market and what is the best way to turn them into cash? Learn the difference between antique, retro, collectible and just plain used and the ins and outs of auctions, internet sales, and more. Attendees are invited to bring one item for appraisal.


Medicare Made Easy
Presenter: Howard Peck, owner of Senior Insurance Solutions, Green Lane. Entertaining and Educational presentation about all of the different Medicare options available.

What Did Americans Really Look Like Before There were Cameras?
Presenter: Jim Miller. And how do we know? Was George Washington really that tall? Ben Franklin that rotund? How did everybody get those picture-perfect complexions? What about their teeth? The primary focus of this seminar will be portraiture from the colonial era, but we will also examine what we can learn from their costumes, their household objects, and their writings.

Details on Portraits HERE, HERE, and HERE

How to Use National Archives in Your Genealogy Quest Presenter: Kellee Green Blake, retired director of the Nat'l archives Mid-Atlantic Region. Learn the many ways you can Use the National Archives to “flesh out” the history of your family. Learn how to use census, immigration, and court records as well as lesser known and often overlooked resources in Federal holdings.

Domestic Animal Bells from Around the World
Presenter: Dr. James Diamond. Did you know domestic animal bells vary depending on what type of animal they were for and the country and culture from which they came? Learn about the different types and international agricultural practices too.

Clip Art from HERE
 Confined for the Duration—The Tragic Story of Confederate Prisoners of War
Presenter: Bob Brooke. Relive the agonies and hardships of the confederate prisoners at Fort Delaware, the most dreaded of all Federal prisons as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

What Old Houses Tell Us
Presenter: Bob Brooke. We learn about people and their times from the houses they lived in. Historic houses help us to know how people lived in former times. Some houses fall into disrepair but many others have been preserved as learning tools. Find out how these houses are brought back to life, what it takes to recreate history, and how important are the findings of researchers in interpreting life in another time.

Digging for History
Presenter: Laura MacBride, doctoral candidate in Historical Archaeology at Temple University. Learn about the archaeology project that is going on at Graeme Park as well as what it is archaeologists do and what their work can teach us about the past.

Spirited Graeme Park
Presenters: Laurie Hull, author and paranormal investigator and Beth MacCausland, President of the Friends of Graeme Park. Hear the history of Graeme Park and the tragic story of its 18th C. mistress. Does her restless spirit still roam the halls? Personal experiences, lore, investigation techniques and actual evidence from Keith House investigations will be shared. After lunch the group will be invited on a “spirited” tour of the house.

Leaving a Written Legacy for Your Grandchildren
Presenter: Mary Washington, board member, Old York Road Historical Society and archivist, Old York Road Genealogical Society. To leave your story, you need to know your past—who the people were, where they came from and when. This basic course on genealogy will teach the proper format for forms and how to document sources as you go back in time, and cover where to look for information.

The Colonial Craftsman
Presenter: Jack Washington, reenactor. In the 18th C. artisans made almost everything that was needed to provide the essentials of daily living. Their contribution to the development of our country is an important part of our heritage. A broad description of some of the more common work will be discussed and woodworking tools and their use in creating utilitarian objects of a by-gone era will be demonstrated.

Clip Art from HERE

Graeme Park: A Continuing Mystery

Presenter: Herb Levy, FAIA and Graeme Park volunteer. Herb has been researching Graeme Park for nearly 15 years and has delved into some of the mysteries surrounding the property and the Keith House, as well as possible original uses. Through a thorough study of the roads, archaeology and architecture he has developed both theories and proofs regarding such uses, changes and developments during Gov. Keith’s, Dr. Graeme’s, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson’s and the Penrose family’s ownerships.

Harvest Centerpiece

Presenter: Beth MacCausland, President, The Friends of Graeme Park. You will create a beautiful, harvest centerpiece from dried wheat and other natural materials that have been gathered for you on the grounds of historic Graeme Park. Please bring hand pruners if you have them.


Contact us at if you’d like to receive a full schedule and sign-up materials, or look for them on our website.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Yellow Fever Comes to Graeme Park!

In 1793 Yellow Fever swirled through the city of Philadelphia, killing an estimated 10% of its population. Like fire, the fever trapped the city’s residents in a cloud of death and despair, not knowing the cause of what plagued them or how to avoid it. The events of the summer and fall of 1793 made country retreats like Graeme Park important havens, as the only way to escape the city was to have somewhere else to go.

It was this epidemic that prompted Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson’s nephew-in-law, William Smith, to take up residence at Graeme Park, which he had purchased from Elizabeth in 1791. Not wanting to live as a guest in her ancestral home, Smith’s move resulted in Elizabeth leaving Graeme Park, first for a boarding house in Hatboro, and finally to the home of Seneca Lukens, a local clockmaker, where she spent the last years of her life.

A special Living History Theater program, August 26 at Graeme Park in Horsham, will focus on the yellow fever epidemic and its impact on the residents of Graeme Park and their friends and family, including Elizabeth’s long-time friend Dr. Benjamin Rush who fought tirelessly against the fever using controversial bleeding techniques.

Costumed actors will present vignettes related to yellow fever in tours throughout the day between 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m. Admission is $8/adults and $5/kids (6-17). Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Friday, August 3, 2012

#FirstFridayFail: August 2012

It was bound to happen sooner or later: the first Friday of the month (the day I take the same picture of the summer kitchen and garden to see how things evolve throughout the year) found me sans camera, so this month's photo is brought to you courtesy of my non-smart Samsung flip phone. While I have finally mastered getting the photos from the phone to the computer, I did forget (and in bright sunlight you can't see the screen well enough to tell) that to get a horizontal photo you need to turn the phone on its side (the opposite of photographing with a camera) so we started out with this:

Thanks to a little creative cropping and some photo editing on, the result isn't half bad, all things considered. The photo was taken just before noon, on a hazy, overcast (and humid as heck) day. We have a pretty yellow weed in bloom, and some volunteers from Burpee Seeds were out last week with plans to get some fall crops in with seeds donated by their company, so hopefully things will start to look more lively out there soon.

Since August also marks another four month interval, let's look back on the previous photos we've taken. January - April things were looking like this:

And May - August we had this:

If you'd like to see the original posts with the photos in full size, you can view January, February, March, April, May, June, and July by clicking the links.

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