The Ruins on Englamere Farm

On a number of occasions, the Historical Society has been asked about unique stone ruins in the woods off the East Branch Brandywine Trail in the Harmony Hill Nature Area of East Bradford Township. The ruins are easily accessible along or just off the “Yellow Trail” which branches off the main paved trail a few yards from the Trail's bridge over the East Branch Brandywine Creek.

The Eades' and Englamere Farm

Walking along the Yellow Trail from the paved trail, a small set of ruins can be seen to the left.  A short distance further, along a side trail, is a much larger set of ruins.  These ruins were the home and barn respectively on the farm of William and Persis Eades.  The Eades' purchased the 309 acre farm from Benjamin Lippincott in 1927, the year after they were married (it was the second marriage for both).  George Kerr, after which Kerr Park is named, was an owner of the property prior to Lippincott. The Eades’ called the farm “Englamere.” The home and barn were probably constructed in the late 1800s. In addition to the home and barn, there were several other smaller houses and outbuildings on Englamere.

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This 1933 map shows the 309-acre farm of William Eades in East Bradford Township (Eades’ middle name was Harold, not Harlan).  It was situated north of Harmony Hill Road between Skelp Level Road and Route 322 (former State Highway 5).

William Eades was born in England in 1895 and was a British veteran of the First World War.  He came to America in 1925 with his daughter Emily (born in 1922) from his previous marriage.  Eades married Persis Burnham Furbush in 1926.  She was the widow of Charles Lincoln Furbush, former director of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health with whom she had a daughter named Lydia (Persis was also the granddaughter of George Burnham, former president of the Baldwin Locomotive Works; and daughter of William Burnham, former president of Standard Steel Works).  Persis was a member of St. James Episcopal Church in Downingtown.  She died at Englamere in 1946.  William remarried in 1948 to Honora Ganoe and they lived on the farm until 1953 when they sold it to the East Caln Realty Company.  After selling Englamere, William and Honora spent the winter months in Florida and summered in Bar Harbor, Maine (William and Persis also summered in Bar Harbor but lived most of the year – when they weren’t traveling – at Englamere).  Honora Eades died in Florida in 1962.  William Eades died at Bar Harbor in 1970.

The photograph below (courtesy of the Hagley Museum) was taken in 1932 by Frank Zebley and shows the bridge to the Eades’ farm Englamere.  It crossed the East Branch Brandywine Creek at the same location as the current bridge for the East Branch Brandywine Trail (right).

When Persis was still living, the Eades’ traveled a lot and were part of Main Line society.  As such, William was probably more of a “gentleman farmer” rather than working the land himself.  Most of the farm work was probably carried out by laborers who lived on the property.  A 1937 aerial photograph shows most of the property under cultivation.  Orchards appear to dominate the northern half of the tract near the Eades home, but other crops, perhaps wheat or corn, appear to be growing in the southern half closer to Harmony Hill Road.  A large herd of sheep was also known to have grazed along both sides of the Brandywine at Englamere.  About a quarter of the tract at the time was forested.

In 1929, the Eades' made plans to build a much larger home on the property which would have exceeded the size of the main farmhouse by perhaps four to five times.  The existing farmhouse would have been incorporated into the new structure and the driveway from the bridge over the Brandywine would have been re-routed to a new garage behind the new home.  The stock market crash in October of that year most likely halted the Eades' plans and the new home was never built.

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These plans from 1929 show the existing and planned structures on the Englamere Farm property.  The new home was never built.

In 1953 William Eades sold the property to the East Caln Realty Company at which point nature slowly took back the farm.  The main house burned down sometime in the late 1950s.  In 1967, the realty company sold the property to the Downingtown Paper Company which used some of the land along Skelp Level Road to dump sludge from the paper-making process.  In 2005, East Bradford Township acquired the site from Sonoco, Downingtown Paper’s successor.  Today, except for some areas of residential development, nearly all of the former Englamere farm is forested.

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Persis and William Eades (left), and Persis’ daughter Lydia Furbush (right) are seen here dressed up for a “Circus Party” at the home of friends at Wynnewood on New Year’s Eve 1937.  Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Home and Barn Ruins

As mentioned, the first set of ruins along the trail was the former Eades home.  Fortunately, through a little detective work, we were able to obtain a photograph of the home.  William’s daughter Emily eventually moved to Maine herself where she worked as a nurse in a local hospital.  She later married and started a family.  We were able to locate Emily’s daughter in Maine who graciously provided us a photograph of Englamere’s farmhouse.

At right is a photograph of the main farmhouse on Englamere Farm provided by the granddaughter of William Eades.  It was taken the morning after a fresh snowfall but the year is unknown.  The photographer was standing on the driveway just above the bridge over the Brandywine River.

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The home’s ruins are a few steps off the Yellow Trail a short distance north of the paved trail by the bridge over Brandywine Creek.  The approximate outline of the home is highlighted above.

Right, the larger image at the bottom was taken at the approximate spot from where the photographer was standing when the photograph of the home at top was taken. Two sycamore trees seen by the home in the older image still stand (green arrows).  One of the stone porch columns in the photograph still lies by the ruins (red arrow).

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The barn's ruins (images below), which are just past the home's ruins, are quite fascinating, especially the long stone foundation wall on the north side and the walls perpendicular to it. Holes for second floor support beams can be seen on the long north wall.  Some of this wall, which may have been part of an attached garage still has stucco attached to it. On the south side of the ruins is a low u-shaped stone wall that surrounded a level area next to the barn. 

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A long driveway to the property started from what is now Route 322, crossed a bridge over the Brandywine, then up the hill past the house to the barn where it split. To the right the driveway went directly to the barn where it appears a garage of some sort was attached the barn's ground level. To the left, the driveway went up the north side of the barn to another entrance, then continued to Skelp Level Road. During the time the Eades’ lived at Englamere, they would have had a clear view from their home down to the Brandywine and beyond.

Trolley Remains

The West Chester-Downingtown trolley also ran through the property parallel to the Brandywine.  The paved East Branch Brandywine Trail runs on much of the old trolley line between Skelp Level Road to a point about one-quarter mile west of Harmony Hill Road.  The trail beyond this point veers slightly north of the old trolley bed, which can still be seen, especially during the late fall and winter months.  Small bridges were built for the trolley to cross streams that flowed from the higher elevations of Englamere Farm into the Brandywine.  Stone abutments for these trolley bridges are also still visible.  Again, late fall and winter are particularly good times to see all these features as the leaves in the spring and summer tend to obscure them.  The entire trolley line from West Chester to Downingtown was covered here.

The trolley once crossed this culvert (where the large tree is growing) near the East Branch Brandywine Trail's bridge over the Brandywine.

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These are abutments for a small bridge that carried the West Chester-Downingtown trolley over a stream that flowed from the property’s higher elevations into the Brandywine.

Conclusion

So, if you get a chance, take advantage of the great trail system in the Harmony Hill Nature Area to see the former Englamere farm, especially the Eades’ house ruins.  Other building ruins can be seen along the trails too and are much more visible during the late fall and winter months.  Also, one of the connector trails that runs west from the former Eades home is on top of an old earthen pond dam built by the paper company.