Ury House mistakes...
...as presented at Ury House Demo In The 1970s Erased Oldest Home In PA:
The mansion and adjoining estate were sold in 1973 to a real estate developer who demolished the historic home for a large tract of duplex apartments.
Ury House was built of stone quarried nearby by Swedish refugees who had sailed up the Delaware River and then the Pennypack in the early 1640s. It was said that the settlers arrived there by accident because they were sailing on the Delaware River during the evening and mistook the Pennypack Creek for their intended landing at Christiana, Delaware.
The Swedes quickly constructed a building of stone to protect themselves from the Lenni-Lenape, although they generally maintained friendly relations with local Native Americans. The stronghold also provided refuge when interloping Dutchmen from the Hudson Valley came down to the region to cause trouble. The Swedes used the structure as a fort, trading-post, and government house, since the settlers were scattered in huts and log cabins all around the dense forest that became Northeast Philadelphia.
The blockhouse was the core of what eventually became the Ury House mansion. The approach from Pine Road was by a 400-foot long winding driveway with old-growth pine trees on both sides. A large peach orchard surrounded the concrete shelter, with cows and other livestock grazing about the grounds. Visitors entered through a monumental pillared porch and broad room, called Swedes Hall, with low rafters and a large fireplace. The mansion contained a square stone tower, under which was a cellar supported by stone supports. Swedes living in the surrounding woodlands would use a forge in the fort’s cellar to weld farm tools, mold lead bullets, and shoe horses. Ury House was so solidly built that when changes were made in 1899, dynamite had to be used to make even a dent in the masonry.
English colonists later took over the settlement and its blockhouse. Jacob Taylor, the surveyor general of Pennsylvania from 1725 to 1737, bought the estate in 1728 and added another wing to the house. He later sold the dwelling to Miers Fisher, a Quaker lawyer. It was Fisher who gave Ury (or Urie) House its name from the Scotch country seat of Robert Barclay, the Quaker theologian and author. Around 1795, Fisher made subsequent additions to the house, building parlors on the west side with new bedrooms above them. Ury House eventually had 23 rooms, making the former fort a genuine mansion in the woods.
A list of guests who arrived on horseback and were entertained by Miers Fisher and his wife included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. On the front lawn, Fisher planted a pecan tree given to him by Jefferson, which lasted until 1928 when it was felled by a storm. George Washington was another guest of the young couple. He slept in the mansion shortly after the evacuation of Valley Forge. One maid was so flustered by Washington’s presence that she accidentally sprinkled salt instead of sugar on a bowl of strawberries. The general ate them without saying a word. Benjamin Henry Latrobe also visited Ury House, as did painter Charles Willson Peale, who sketched the estate. Even John Audubon spent time at Ury in the early 1800s, beginning his famous artistic career by painting birds of the Pennypack Valley.
The Ury House had a succession of owners in the 1800s. A Mr. Miller purchased the country seat in 1800. Captain James West later became the owner. Dr. Thompson Holmes bought the estate in 1835 for $14,000. Seven years later, it was purchased by Stephen Rowan Crawford for $15,500. He and his wife made further changes and additions to the residence, and their Scottish gardener laid out a labyrinth in the garden that was bordered by boxwood hedges. A great stone barn was on the property, and a tunnel linked Ury House to the Pennypack Creek. It was said that the tunnel facilitated the escape of runaway slaves, as the estate was also a station on the Underground Railroad.
By the 1960s, the Medical Mission Sisters could no longer pay to maintain Ury House or the surrounding estate. The old mansion needed constant repairs. The nuns sold off the eastern 40 acres of the property facing Verree Road. Some 400 twin homes were constructed there in the mid-1960s. This was around the peak of Northeast Philadelphia’s development, which was a prime example of post-WWII growth. In 1970, the remaining 24.8 acres of the Ury estate were vacated and put up for sale. Despite modest efforts to protect the mansion, it suffered vandalism and was ultimately torn down in 1973 for a large residential community, the Montclair Duplex Apartments.
The Ury House could have been converted back into an immersive educational facility set deep in the woods of Northeast Philadelphia. Alas, the prominent hill upon which mansion stood is the only thing left of the Ury estate. While an original wall still might still peek up here and there within the Montclair development, not even a historical marker denotes this once-storied mansion that was known by so many important, influential Americans and underwent so many noteworthy uses.
corrections from Joseph J. Menkevich:
Beginning with your interpretation of the deed between Jacob Taylor and Miers Fisher, you are wrong.
You state that “Jacob Taylor, the surveyor general of Pennsylvania from 1725 to 1737, bought the estate in 1728.” That is wrong, as one Peter Taylor owned this estate and sold it to his son John Taylor, who in turn sold it to his son Jacob Taylor.
The deed executed 17th August 1795, “…between Jacob Taylor of the Township of Lower Dublin in the County of Philadelphia, Blacksmith and Sarah his Wife of one Part and Miers Fisher of the City of Philadelphia, Merchant of the other Part …
Whereas Peter Taylor heretofore of the said Township and County aforesaid deceased in his life: Was seised in his Demesne as of Fee of and in a Certain Plantation and Tract of Land … from the great Length of Possession in his Family beyond the memory of Men now living, it is unnecessary to recite and so being seised the said Peter Taylor together with Sarah his Wife by indenture dated the second Day of April 1728 did give, grant and convey unto their son John Taylor and his Heirs and assigns forever forever a certain Messuage Plantation and Tract of Land … containing 150 acres…”
1st July 1750, A deed was made and between John Taylor, Blacksmith (then an aged widower) of one part and his Son Jacob Taylor, Yeoman. Apparently after his father’s death, Jacob Taylor became a Blacksmith. He was not the surveyor.
suggestion from Beasiex:
It seems a fair bit of the information in this piece can be found in The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia by Eberlain and Lippincott.
"Le Corbusier's great teacher was the Greek temple, with its isolated body white and free in the landscape, its luminous austerities clear in the sun."
Re: which Acropolis do you prefer?
The explosion of the Parthenon occurred 26 September 1687. It would be interesting to know how many people on Earth 316 years from now will know the date of the attack on the World Trade Center off the top of their head.
Collective memory is a lot more selective than criticism.
For how long did the 'ideal' design of the Acropolis actually exist? Moreover, do we even fully understand what the Acropolis was really like while it manifest it's most ideal existence. For example, how was it all painted? Did a fair amount of the ideal design actually fade as soon as the colors did?
Re: The history of the destruction of architecture
Imagine how different ancient architectural history would be if there were existing records of all the 'Pagan' temples destroyed in the name of Christianity. For example, where exactly in Greece did the spiral columns within the original St. Peter's Basilica (later reenacted via the baldachin by Bernini) come from? It was Eutropia that first told Helena about these columns and their original locations.
Or what would architectural history be like if all the buildings that were ever erected on this planet were a matter of record?
Chapter 54. Destruction of Idol Temples and Images everywhere.
All these things the emperor diligently performed to the praise of the saving power of Christ, and thus made it his constant aim to glorify his Saviour God. On the other hand he used every means to rebuke the superstitious errors of the heathen. Hence the entrances of their temples in the several cities were left exposed to the weather, being stripped of their doors at his command; the tiling of others was removed, and their roofs destroyed. From others again the venerable statues of brass, of which the superstition of antiquity had boasted for a long series of years, were exposed to view in all the public places of the imperial city: so that here a Pythian, there a Sminthian Apollo, excited the contempt of the beholder: while the Delphic tripods were deposited in the hippodrome and the Muses of Helicon in the palace itself. In short, the city which bore his name was everywhere filled with brazen statues of the most exquisite workmanship, which had been dedicated in every province, and which the deluded victims of superstition had long vainly honored as gods with numberless victims and burnt sacrifices, though now at length they learned to renounce their error, when the emperor held up the very objects of their worship to be the ridicule and sport of all beholders. With regard to those images which were of gold, he dealt with them in a different manner. For as soon as he understood that the ignorant multitudes were inspired with a vain and childish dread of these bugbears of error, wrought in gold and silver, he judged it right to remove these also, like stumbling-stones thrown in the way of men walking in the dark, and henceforward to open a royal road, plain and unobstructed to all. Having formed this resolution, he considered no soldiers or military force of any sort needful for the suppression of the evil: a few of his own friends sufficed for this service, and these he sent by a simple expression of his will to visit each several province. Accordingly, sustained by confidence in the emperor's pious intentions and their own personal devotion to God, they passed through the midst of numberless tribes and nations, abolishing this ancient error in every city and country. They ordered the priests themselves, amidst general laughter and scorn, to bring their gods from their dark recesses to the light of day: they then stripped them of their ornaments, and exhibited to the gaze of all the unsightly reality which had been hidden beneath a painted exterior. Lastly, whatever part of the material appeared valuable they scraped off and melted in the fire to prove its worth, after which they secured and set apart whatever they judged needful for their purpose, leaving to the superstitious worshipers that which was altogether useless, as a memorial of their shame. Meanwhile our admirable prince was himself engaged in a work similar to what we have described. For at the same time that these costly images of the dead were stripped, as we have said, of their precious materials, he also attacked those composed of brass; causing those to be dragged from their places with ropes and as it were carried away captive, whom the dotage of mythology had esteemed as gods.
Chapter 55. Overthrow of an Idol Temple, and Abolition of Licentious Practices, at Aphaca in Phœnicia.
The emperor's next care was to kindle, as it were, a brilliant torch, by the light of which he directed his imperial gaze around, to see if any hidden vestiges of error might still exist. And as the keen-sighted eagle in its heavenward flight is able to descry from its lofty height the most distant objects on the earth, so did he, while residing in the imperial palace of his own fair city, discover as from a watchtower a hidden and fatal snare of souls in the province of Phœnicia. This was a grove and temple, not situated in the midst of any city, nor in any public place, as for splendor of effect is generally the case, but apart from the beaten and frequented road, at Aphaca, on part of the summit of Mount Lebanon, and dedicated to the foul demon known by the name of Venus. It was a school of wickedness for all the votaries of impurity, and such as destroyed their bodies with effeminacy. Here men undeserving of the name forgot the dignity of their sex, and propitiated the demon by their effeminate conduct; here too unlawful commerce of women and adulterous intercourse, with other horrible and infamous practices, were perpetrated in this temple as in a place beyond the scope and restraint of law. Meantime these evils remained unchecked by the presence of any observer, since no one of fair character ventured to visit such scenes. These proceedings, however, could not escape the vigilance of our august emperor, who, having himself inspected them with characteristic forethought, and judging that such a temple was unfit for the light of heaven, gave orders that the building with its offerings should be utterly destroyed. Accordingly, in obedience to the imperial command, these engines of an impure superstition were immediately abolished, and the hand of military force was made instrumental in purging the place. And now those who had heretofore lived without restraint learned self-control through the emperor's threat of punishment, as likewise those superstitious Gentiles wise in their own conceit, who now obtained experimental proof of their own folly.
Chapter 56. Destruction of the Temple of Æsculapius at Ægæ.
For since a wide-spread error of these pretenders to wisdom concerned the demon worshipped in Cilicia, whom thousands regarded with reverence as the possessor of saving and healing power, who sometimes appeared to those who passed the night in his temple, sometimes restored the diseased to health, though on the contrary he was a destroyer of souls, who drew his easily deluded worshipers from the true Saviour to involve them in impious error, the emperor, consistently with his practice, and desire to advance the worship of him who is at once a jealous God and the true Saviour, gave directions that this temple also should be razed to the ground. In prompt obedience to this command, a band of soldiers laid this building, the admiration of noble philosophers, prostrate in the dust, together with its unseen inmate, neither demon nor god, but rather a deceiver of souls, who had seduced mankind for so long a time through various ages. And thus he who had promised to others deliverance from misfortune and distress, could find no means for his own security, any more than when, as is told in myth, he was scorched by the lightning's stroke. Our emperor's pious deeds, however, had in them nothing fabulous or feigned; but by virtue of the manifested power of his Saviour, this temple as well as others was so utterly overthrown, that not a vestige of the former follies was left behind.
Chapter 57. How the Gentiles abandoned Idol Worship, and turned to the Knowledge of God.
Hence it was that, of those who had been the slaves of superstition, when they saw with their own eyes the exposure of their delusion, and beheld the actual ruin of the temples and images in every place, some applied themselves to the saving doctrine of Christ; while others, though they declined to take this step, yet reprobated the folly which they had received from their fathers, and laughed to scorn what they had so long been accustomed to regard as gods. Indeed, what other feelings could possess their minds, when they witnessed the thorough uncleanness concealed beneath the fair exterior of the objects of their worship? Beneath this were found either the bones of dead men or dry skulls, fraudulently adorned by the arts of magicians, or filthy rags full of abominable impurity, or a bundle of hay or stubble. On seeing all these things heaped together within their lifeless images, they denounced their fathers' extreme folly and their own, especially when neither in the secret recesses of the temples nor in the statues themselves could any inmate be found; neither demon, nor utterer of oracles, neither god nor prophet, as they had heretofore supposed: nay, not even a dim and shadowy phantom could be seen. Accordingly, every gloomy cavern, every hidden recess, afforded easy access to the emperor's emissaries: the inaccessible and secret chambers, the innermost shrines of the temples, were trampled by the soldiers' feet; and thus the mental blindness which had prevailed for so many ages over the gentile world became clearly apparent to the eyes of all.
Chapter 58. How he destroyed the Temple of Venus at Heliopolis, and built the First Church in that City.
Such actions as I have described may well be reckoned among the emperor's noblest achievements, as also the wise arrangements which he made respecting each particular province. We may instance the Phœnician city Heliopolis, in which those who dignify licentious pleasure with a distinguishing title of honor, had permitted their wives and daughters to commit shameless fornication. But now a new statute, breathing the very spirit of modesty, proceeded from the emperor, which peremptorily forbade the continuance of former practices. And besides this he sent them also written exhortations, as though he had been especially ordained by God for this end, that he might instruct all men in the principles of chastity. Hence, he disdained not to communicate by letter even with these persons, urging them to seek diligently the knowledge of God. At the same time he followed up his words by corresponding deeds, and erected even in this city a church of great size and magnificence: so that an event unheard of before in any age, now for the first time came to pass, namely, that a city which had hitherto been wholly given up to superstition now obtained the privilege of a church of God, with presbyters and deacons, and its people were placed under the presiding care of a bishop consecrated to the service of the supreme God. And further, the emperor, being anxious that here also as many as possible might be won to the truth, bestowed abundant provision for the necessities of the poor, desiring even thus to invite them to seek the doctrines of salvation, as though he were almost adopting the words of him who said, "Whether in pretense, or in truth, let Christ be preached,"
Life of Constantine Book III