Historical Narrative: Greenbank Farm
The parcel of land upon which Greenbank Farm now rests was a part of a Penn grant of 300 acres to Peter and Joshua Worrall in 1681. In 1699, ownership of 150 acres was transferred to John Worrall and subsequently to Joshua Worrall in 1716.
In 1720, the now 145-acre parcel was sold to Peter Thomson. It remained in the Thomson family until 1794, having been passed down to Peter’s brother Moses in 1754 and then to Moses’ children, Martha, Mary, Grace, and Moses, Jr. It was sometime during the Thomson ownership that a house was built upon the then 145-acre parcel. The administrative office of DCHS is now in the home. The first mention of a residence was in the deed from the Thomson children to Samuel Black in 1794, “…145 acres with messuage in Marple”. Although much is unknown as yet about the Thomson family, according to local tradition, they had a very successful dairy farm.
Samuel Black was of Scotch-Irish descent and had married Catherine Van Leer, daughter of the neighboring property owner, Bernhard Van Leer. Samuel owned the property for 45 years, and at his death in 1838, it was passed to his son John Black. It was during Samuel’s ownership that the “Mansion House” was built, referring to the Federal dwelling. A public sale notice from the Delaware County Republican on December 7, 1838, lists an improvement consisting of a “comfortable new stone mansion house, 33 by 38 feet, with four rooms on the first floor, with folding doors, four on the second with ceiled garrets”. This same advertisement refers to “…a spring and wash house, a double floored stone barn 40 x 60 feet, wagon house, potato cellar attached, a stone work shop, two and a half stories high, 24 x 28 feet, corn crib”. It was also stated in this same advertisement that “it is well calculated for a dairy or grazing farm”.
The property (133 acres) and buildings were sold to Samuel Sharpless in 1867. It remained in his hands until 1903. It is listed on the Mueller 1909 Atlas as “Greenbank Farm”, a 165-acre farm belonging to Henry and Jacob Beiswanger. It changed hands a few other times ove the next decade until S. Laurence Bodine purchased it in 1919. It remained under his ownership until 1955, continuing to consist of 165 acres. It is thought that Mr. Bodine was responsible for having the hyphen and guardhouse built. Both show definite elements of Tudor Revival. It is highly probable that many of the architectural features of the “Hyphen”, such as the doors and fireplace surrounds, were imported from Europe. Local lore also relates that “Greenbank Farm” was a social destination for the Rose Tree Hunt Club during this time.
The most recent private owner, James Q. Mackey, had purchased the buildings and 39 acres in 1961. Today, the Delaware County Historical Society is the new owner of the buildings and 4 acres. The former pasture and farm fields have been purchased by Natural Lands Trust, a well-known land conservancy, and by Marple Township.
The evolution of “Greenbank Farm” mirrors that of the architectural development of the County. The original building, the c. 1770 stone building, is typical of the 18th century Pennsylvania farmhouse, and the addition of the separate Federal (c. 1820) residence reflects both the prosperity of the farm and the process of rural adaptation of the more defined architectural styles from the cities. The unusual “hyphen” addition connecting the two houses is believed to have been built in the 1920s. Typically, many of the farm complexes became “fancied” during this period of prosperity, and at “Greenbank Farm”, this addition created extensive interior space, perhaps for entertaining purposes.
Greenbank Farm is home to the Delaware County Administrative offices and Passport to History. It is located at 981 Palmers Mill Road, Media, PA 19063.