The Pennypacker Mansion and an Interesting Lead

I grew up very close to the Pennypacker Mansion in Schwenksville, PA but never visited it. The 23rd Governor of Pennsylvania, Samuel W. Pennypacker lived at the impressive farmhouse and estate. Long before the Governor was born George Washington stayed at the property while preparing for the Battle of Germantown during the Revolutionary War. Figuring better late than never, today I finally visited the historic site.

The Pennypacker Mansion.

The house is decorated with artifacts from the Governor’s period (1903-1907), along with some of the older furniture he collected. The library is impressive, as are the bits of memorabilia from the Governor’s term. Governor Pennypacker was a fascinating man. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War as part of an emergency regiment formed for the Battle of Gettysburg. He studied law and ethics, once stating: “Scientists like all men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit . . . sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone . . . to lose sight of broad principles outside of their domain.” [1] Wise man.

At the mansion family portraits and pictures line the walls (I’ll get back to this). A letter written by George Washington during his stay at the property is displayed, the first time I have seen the first President’s real signature in person. A large grandfather clock sits in the library. It was in the house when Washington stayed there.

While I was getting a great tour of the house I mentioned the book I have that was owned by Anna Pennypacker and the photo negative I found inside it (see the post I wrote about it several weeks ago). I got to see two photos of Anna. She was a very pretty young woman–it made me think of the inscription in the front of the book I have that was given to her in 1894. I learned that she never married and never had a family. It was interesting to be able to put a face to her story and hear more details.

When I showed the curator at the house a picture of the photo negative I have from Anna’s book, he made a quick connection. We went to his office while he retrieved a scanned image from his computer. The image was taken from a newspaper article. It showed Governor-Elect Pennypacker and his family in front of their 15th Street residence in Philadelphia. He told me it was the only known photo of the front of the house during that time period. And it matches the photo I have!

Here is a quick photo I took with my phone of the newspaper picture:

Armed with this information I looked up the house on Google and Bing maps. See for yourself.

The mystery photo I have from Anna Pennypacker’s book.

A modern photo of the house where the Pennypacker family lived on 15th Street.

That looks like the same building to me.

I’m glad I stopped by the Pennypacker Mansion this afternoon. It was great to see the place, hear the stories, and solve the mystery of the photo negative.

[1] Admittedly my source is Wikipedia on this. . .

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Pennypacker Mansion and an Interesting Lead

  1. Kate LS

    This post gave me goosebumps! So satisfying when a mystery is solved.

    • I was thrilled to have the building identified. I’m still working on the sign that hangs from the building. I’ve been looking at Philadelphia Business Guides from the 1890s and 1900s, but the ones I’ve found are scanned as images and not text, so I can’t search for the address.

  2. Anonymous

    THANK-YOU!!
    MY NAME IS CHARLES B PENNYPACKER
    SAMUEL WAS MY GREAT UNCLE.

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