|Contact name||Scott Laughlin|
|Home area||3,647 sqft|
|Lot Area||0.59 acres|
OK, this one is going to be a long & winding road of a Magical History Tour!
Do take the time to read the entire history, as there is a wonderful video link at the end!
But first, the information I am about to share with all of you would not be possible without the research for the exceptional documentary produced by Karen Smyles of WHYY-TV titled “The Montiers – An American Story.” The documentary was nominated for a 2018 Mid-Atlantic Emmy award.
To view the entire Documentary, please click on the web link below.
So today, we begin our tour with the founding of Pennsylvania!
William Penn was given a large tract of land in the “New World” that included most of Pennsylvania to pay-off a debt from the King. In 1682, the first suburb of Philadelphia was formed when 15 Quakers from Cheltenham, England purchased acreage to the Northwest of Philadelphia. One of those original landowners was Humphrey Morrey who acquired 250 acres on the westernmost edge of what is now Cheltenham Township.
Mr. Morrey also became the first Mayor of Philadelphia in 1691.
While the Quakers were one of the first groups to condemn slavery, many were early slave owners. Humphrey Morrey was no exception, and did own slaves on his farm in Montgomery County. One of his servants was named Cremona.
In his Will dated 1715, Mr. Morrey manumitted his slaves and they became freepersons. Richard Morrey inherited his Father’s property, and Cremona remained with the Morrey family as a house servant. Richard fell in love with Cremona, and they lived as Husband & Wife (though not legally as that was against the law) and had five children, the youngest of which they also named Cremona (Jr.). In 1753, Richard Morrey passed away, and in his Will, he gave 198 acres to his “wife”, Cremona.
This likely made Cremona Morrey (she did take his surname although never legally married) the wealthiest African American at the time. Because the laws of the time prohibited African Americans from owning land, Richard Morrey established a trust managed by a neighboring Quaker family, that honored his wishes after his death.
Cremona Morrey Jr. married John Montier in 1766. Mr. Montier was from Martinique and he ran a wagon delivery service in the area. As a couple, they built the core of the house at 312 Limekiln Pike.
Initially, the Montier’s lived in the barn that they constructed in 1766. (This structure still stands behind the main house. It was converted into a residence in 1990.) They began building their home in 1770 and moved in two years later. They were likely one of the very few African-American landowners in Pennsylvania at the time. The original home was a small 2-story structure (now the back wing of the current house) that housed a single living space on the 1st floor and a single bedroom upstairs. There was likely a separate summer kitchen, which may actually be the other structure on the property, just to the South of the main house today. The house was expanded twice in the 1800’s.
The Montiers had 4 children, Joseph, Solomon, Robert & Hiram between 1768 and 1780.
Dr. William Pickens III (primary subject of the above documentary) is the 6th great grandson of Solomon Montier. His Mother was the one that kept the family history & documentation that was crucial in pulling together this amazing story. Dr. Pickens discovered two family portraits “under the bed” of their Uncle in Philadelphia. These portraits of Hiram & Elizabeth Montier, now hang in The Philadelphia Museum of Art. These were the catalyst for the creation of the documentary by Karen Smyles of WHYY-TV.
The Montier family lived in the house for nearly 100 years until the 1860’s.
There were 12 members of the extended Montier family that served in the Union army during the Civil War.
So, with all of this history all the way back to the founding of Philadelphia & Cheltenham Township, let’s take a few more lines to talk about the house as it stands today!
Hidden behind a large series of evergreen trees, you get just a glimpse of the stone & stucco Colonial as you turn into the driveway. However, before we get to the structure, let’s take a few moments to discuss the amazing collection of specimen plants.
The current owner grew up at Raraflora, an arboretum in Bucks County. She is the daughter of a world-famous plantsman. Her mother was a former guest lecturer in Temple University’s horticulture program as well as the author/editor of Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Handbook on Dwarf Conifers.
The garden reflects this upbringing. Among its treasures: A fifty-foot tall Sciadopitys
Verticillata, three gorgeous Chamaecyparis and two wonderful cultivars–Pinus Parvifora
Bergmani– developed by the owner’s father.
Come spring, the garden is replete with flowers, too. Perennials include daffodils, crocus,
grape hyacinths, lilies and several luscious peonies. David Austin roses, Tess of the
D’Urbervilles, rim the small, ornamental pond. In the summertime, this pond is filled with a
mound of waterlilies in white and yellow and a single intense pink lotus.
A fenced vegetable garden stands in a corner. This vegetable garden has been nourished
only with the owner’s composted organic vegetable matter and egg shells.
The rear yard is fully fenced for your four-legged family members. A Cedar gate provides a glimpse to the grounds & history beyond, with reclaimed bricks providing a small pathway & raised beds towards the detached Springhouse. This structure was likely re-constructed in the early 20th century over the foundation of the original 18th century Springhouse, as the original well & root cellar remain underneath.
The façade of the home has had the original masonry wall exposed that provides an exceptional texture to the formal & symmetrical entry. The front 3-story portion of the house are the two additions that were constructed in the middle of the 19th Century, creating the Georgian Colonial that one sees today. As you enter into the formal central hall, you get a direct sightline back to the original 1772 “Keeping Room” at the rear.
Throughout the 19th Century section, you will admire the original, random-width Pine floors. The original 18th Century house has a brick floor. The surprising thing one takes a while to notice is the amount of abundant light the streams through the over-sized, original windows (that still retain the marvelous wavy glass!).
The formal dining room on the North side of the first floor has a wall of built-in display shelves & cabinets and the original fireplace mantel. The Living Room occupies the entire South end of the first floor. A large fireplace and china closet anchor one wall; there are box beams on the ceiling & direct access to both the kitchen and the central hallway. Both of these rooms, as do the ones above them, feature very large windows, many still retaining their original, wavy glass. They make the house very bright.
The one-story kitchen was completely renovated by the current Owner, contracting with Blue Bell Kitchens to custom craft the beautiful inset cabinets to fit every square inch of the galley kitchen. Thoughtful touches include a pull-out Butcher table to provide the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee or write a shopping list. The kitchen sink faces the rear yard & pond, while the Wolf cook top & cabinetry flanks the opposite wall. A set of Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers with matching cabinet panels provide a continuation of the painted cabinet bases. There is a GE Convection oven under the WOLF cooktop and a second GE Advantium combination oven/microwave on the opposite wall. Beautiful hand-crafted tile provides a focal point behind the cook top. Soapstone counters are a perfect complement to the period-designed kitchen and exposed stone walls provide even more character. The floors are reclaimed oak from an old Lancaster County barn. A small mudroom with a closet provides direct access to the side yard from the kitchen.
The original 18th Century Keeping Room now functions as a cozy, wood-paneled den with an interesting brick floor. A large walk-in fireplace (converted to gas in the 20th Century) dominates one wall. Two glass-fronted cabinets provide a home for a myriad of books and/or collectibles. A powder room has been tucked into one end.
What was once a sun porch off the back of the keeping room now provides 4 seasons of functional living space. With windows on three sides and another large closet, this is the space that one will likely find themselves enjoying the most! Through the sunroom, there is a large low-walled stone patio, rimmed with boxwood and roses, overlooking the rear grounds.
Upstairs, the second floor has been completely modernized for today’s living needs, yet still retains so many of the original elements. Over the Keeping Room, the original “Birthing Room” as Dr. Pickens calls it, is now a cozy guest bedroom, complete with its own en-suite bath with a stall shower.
The entire rest of the 2nd floor was reconfigured to provide for an exceptional master suite! Over the Dining Room is the Master sleeping chamber with another fireplace (with gas insert.) A small hallway across the front of the house connects to the beautiful master bathroom.
The master bath is an amazing space (formerly a bedroom), with a massive spa-like shower with a bench and glass on three sides. The vanity provides for significant storage in the drawers on both sides of and beneath the sink. Another wall has ample space for a make-up table, while the toilet is tucked behind a knee wall. A washer & dryer are concealed behind bi-fold doors. (A second washer & dryer remain functional in the basement.)
Finally, another bedroom connected to the master bathroom now provides for a fantastic walk-in closet & dressing room that retains yet another (though non-functioning) fireplace.
Tucked up under the roof eaves, there are two more large bedrooms and the 3rd full bathroom. There is enormous storage under the roof eaves and three (one of which is very large) closets as well.
The house is fully air conditioning (except for part of the 3rd floor) using a combination of forced air & mini-split systems.
There is something magical about the home and the property. One gets the true sense of history the moment you open the front door. In 250+ years, few people have called this home, yet all of them have completely respected its lineage. It has a grand feeling, allowing for large parties to entertain both inside & out, yet it is remarkably cozy to curl up by yourself in front of the fireplace with a good book.
The property is surprisingly convenient to so many things, yet is a private oasis the minute you pull into the drive. Public transportation is in walking distance if needed with the Glenside SEPTA station just a mile or so away. Route 309 is just a couple miles away for easy access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
It’s a remarkably intact, restored home of exceptional, historic significance to Philadelphia.
So rarely does one have the opportunity to become a Steward of history.