Graeme Park, located about twenty miles north of Philadelphia, in Horsham, Pennsylvania, was originally named Fountain Low due to the many springs on the property. The manor house’s construction began in 1722 under the direction of Sir William Keith, the lieutenant provincial governor under Hannah Callowhill Penn (widow of Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn). The original estate, which became Governor Keith’s summer home to escape the heat and diseases of Philadelphia, included the house, the barn, a “long house” for servants, a malthouse, and other outbuildings.
Unfortunately, Sir William Keith did not exude the honesty and integrity of Pennsylvania’s founder, and in 1726 Hannah Callowhill Penn removed him as governor. Keith remained in the province for two years but then returned to England, probably to escape creditors in the Colonies, leaving behind his wife, Lady Anne Keith.
Lady Ann remained at Fountain Low, though she lived in much less extravagance. She gradually sold off the 1,700+-acre property to pay her husband’s debts, but the estate came back into the family in 1739, when Dr. Thomas Graeme bought Fountain Low and its remaining 834 acres. (Dr. Graeme was the husband of Ann Diggs Graeme, Lady Ann’s daughter by her first husband.) Despite this, Lady Ann returned to Philadelphia and lived in “penury” until she died in 1749, two years after Sir William Keith’s death in a debtor’s prison in England.
Dr. Graeme, a port physician in Philadelphia, renamed the estate Graeme Park and began using it as a summer home for his family. From 1739 until his death in 1772, the estate was a popular vacation of luxury for many British officials and members of Philadelphia’s high society. (An interesting contrast, since Horsham was a primarily Quaker community.)
|The Manor House|
Upon Dr. Graeme’s death, the estate was granted to his daughter Elizabeth, who was at the time considered the most learned woman in America. Sadly, she experienced many difficulties in life as well due to health issues and her marriage to a Tory by the name of Henry Hugh Fergusson. She lost Graeme Park when it was confiscated as a result of her husband’s convicted treason during the Revolutionary War, but then the property was restored to her in 1781. Financial troubles then led her to eventually sell off Graeme Park, but she stayed in Horsham, where she was much loved by the neighbors, and eventually died in 1801 in the home of Seneca Lukens (one of my ancestors).
|The Summer Kitchen and Physic Garden|
The estate then remained in the hands of the Penrose family and later the Strawbridge family, until it was bought by Horsham Township in 1997. Fortunately, Graeme Park’s buildings have remained mostly intact since the late eighteenth century. Currently the estate contains the manor house, the barn, a pond and stream, a summer kitchen that was reconstructed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission on the original summer kitchen foundation, a physic garden, and walking trails. Photography is discouraged within the manor house, so I couldn’t take inside pictures, but I can describe the interior.
The first floor contains Dr. Graeme’s office, the dining room (this room was the kitchen until Dr. Graeme had the summer kitchen built), and the formal parlor, which boasts eighteenth-century paint and many period paintings of the home’s original owners. A staircase (which replaced the original winder staircase) leads to the upper two floors, which include bedchambers (both for the family and some of their staff) and storage rooms. From the third floor, a ladder leads to the roof, and this access was used to douse any roof fires started by embers expelled from the chimneys. Period furniture and décor grace most rooms, and Dr. Graeme’s Port of Philadelphia logbooks are exhibited in the barn along with other educational displays.
Today Graeme Park is a historical site dedicated to continuing the legacy of its owning families and the history of Horsham. It offers educational programs throughout the year, and is also a popular venue for weddings and family photography (as its grounds are truly lovely) and ghost hunts (as long-held local lore claims that Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson still walks the wide-width floorboards of the house and the site’s grounds). Tours are available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays.