13 December 2015

Saturday Spotlight (Rabbit Hole Edition)- The Jarden Family in Wyndmoor

This week's Saturday Spotlight house was supposed to be a Depression-era French Colonial in Wyndmoor, PA:

A charming French Colonial on Jarden Road in Wyndmoor. We will need to come back to this one...
It is a very nice house, with its own history, which will need to get back to in due time. However, once I started researching the development of the land upon which this house sits, I was led so far "down the rabbit hole", so to speak, that the history I unlocked deserved its own post. Thus, I present this Rabbit Hole edition of the Saturday Spotlight. Now, allow me to explain...

I suppose I could have expected this: I was looking to feature an architectural style which I have not yet discussed, and I often drive down Willow Grove Avenue through Wyndmoor and this French Colonial on a side street fit the bill. For those unfamiliar, Wyndmoor is a small and quaint suburb bordering the Philadelphia city limits, with a plethora of old housing stock. I personally am only dipping my toes into the local history of Wyndmoor here, but many of these houses are large, stately former mansions. This is, after all, the location where Edward T. Stotesbury, a very, very, very, very wealthy banker from the turn-of-the 20th century, commissioned prominent Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design Whitemarsh Hall, a mansion which was larger than the White House but sadly demolished in 1980. While Wyndmoor may not be the Main Line, the village remains one of the Philadelphia area's gems, and there is plenty of old money here. And with old money often comes old stories. The following is what I have been able to piece together, based on a few hours in the rabbit hole...

The Jarden Subdivision

So... The French Colonial home exists on Jarden Road, a winding side street which intertwines with Pine Road, off of the main road Mermaid Lane which heads into the city. The subdivision of land which created Jarden and Pine Roads is shown on a 1938 map, and based on County tax assessment records, appears to have occurred sometime in the 1920's. Here we have that 1938 map, labeling the subdivision as "Walter H Jarden Plan".

Clip from a 1938 map; overall map courtesy Franklin Maps

Directly below it in the image, to the east (north is roughly to the right), is the remainder of Jarden's land, labeled "Walter H Jarden Est.", the implication being that Walter Jarden passed away prior to the creation of this 1938 map. Back to that shortly. As an aside, Jarden's land is wedged between that of Randal Morgan, a gas utility executive who also owned land across Stenton Ave in Chestnut Hill, and the Winoga Farm, where the aforementioned Edward Stotesbury bred his horses. At the end of East Lane was a now-defunct rail station, reportedly built largely for the convenience of Stotesbury. The Winoga Stock Farm, in 1939, became the site for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Eastern Regional Research Center, where apparently chemists developed technology which we can thank for the existence of Pringles and other convenience snack foods.

The Jarden Family

I will now revert back to about 1880, with Samuel H. Jarden, a retired Philadelphia brick manufacturer. Samuel, his wife Amanda, and their two sons Fred and Walter had lived in the city most of the previous decades, including in the Fairmount neighborhood on Green Street in 1880. Older son Fred, born in 1857, had by this time become a civil engineer. Younger son Walter, born in 1859, graduated as a chemist. Both sons graduated from the University of Pennsylvania the previous year, in 1879, as their father Samuel had done in 1843. While I'm unsure of when Samuel Jarden acquired the farm in what was then known as Spring Village (now Wyndmoor), he did own it at least as early as 1893. Having retired from the brick industry and gained some significant wealth, this may have been the property used by the family as a retreat from the city.

Amanda passed away in 1898, with Samuel following a few years later in 1901. Ownership of the farm in Wyndmoor fell to Walter Jarden. After spending a few years as a chemist upon graduation, Walter's career had taken a bit of a winding turn, with a brief stint in fruit preserving, before establishing a lithography and printing firm at 1215 Race Street, Philadelphia, in 1889. Walter married Gertrude Finley in 1898, and the couple had their first of 3 daughters, named Ellen, on June 12, 1901. Despite the availability of the Wyndmoor grounds, it appears that the Jardens may have maintained their primary residence in the Green St townhouse in Fairmount for at least a few years after marriage.

By 1910, however, Walter and Gertrude are listed in the census at Wyndmoor. By this time, Walter was 50-years-old, had owned his own business for 20+ years, and continued to live well with inheritance from his father Samuel's brick manufacturing career. A 1909 map shows that some of Jarden's land (it previously extended all the way to Stenton Avenue) had since been sold (or otherwise conveyed) to Randal Morgan, however Walter Jarden had also apparently recently built a new mansion on his property which he christened "Cherry Knoll". Thus, it appears that the family had moved permanently to Wyndmoor. They lived there with their daughters Ellen, Roberta, and Mary; they also housed multiple maids.

Clip from a 1909 map; overall map courtesy of Franklin Maps

Now, the dates on record with the county tax assessor office for nearly all of the homes in the future Jarden subdivision range from 1920-1928, yet the name of the subdivision bears Walter Jarden's name, suggesting that he created the subdivision himself. By 1930, Walter, Gertrude, and younger daughter Mary were listed in the census back in the city, in the Mount Airy neighborhood on Germantown Avenue. So what happened? Did he grow bored of the suburb? He reported the value of his home at a handsome $35,000, and although he subdivided his Wyndmoor land, he did not split some of it, and even built a home for his daughter Ellen and son-in-law Otto Frederick Nolde (who later became a nationally-prominent ecumenical diplomat) on the remaining land. An account of Nolde's life mentions that the Jardens also maintained a shore house at Mantoloking, NJ. So Walter Jarden had certainly not squandered his fortune. Perhaps he missed being closer to the action in the city, although Mount Airy is nearly as suburban as Wyndmoor despite its location within the city limits. One theory: Walter's middle daughter, Roberta, passed away in 1922 of influenza, at the age of 16. Perhaps the heartbreak caused by the sudden loss spurred Walter to sell off most of his Wyndmoor land, including the house where Roberta died.

Walter Hahn Jarden, lithographer and printer, passed away at Chestnut Hill Hospital on December 28, 1934 at the age of 75, of chronic myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. His wife, Gertrude, lived to the age of 94, passing away in 1970. Oldest daughter Ellen passed away in 1961 at the East Lane home that Walter had built for her. Finally, youngest daughter Mary passed on in 2000, in Arizona.

Jarden's Wyndmoor Land Today

As we know, most of Jarden's land in Wyndmoor was subdivided in the 1920's and was filled in with a number of well-size houses in the following decade. Here, again, is the map from 1938, this time with a few of the houses numbered:

House #5 is the French Colonial which we will re-visit next week, just for reference. The others, #1 through #4 are all structures related to the history of the Jarden family just presented herein. The 1909 map shown again, now labeled with the same structures numbered #1, #2, and #3 as in 1938:

And here is a recent aerial view of the former Jarden land, from Bing Maps, noting the same five structures still standing today. If you look closely, you can see the ghost of the former tennis courts shown in the 1938 map, near #3:

House #1 is Cherry Knoll, the mansion erected circa 1909 by Walter Jarden to serve as his family's permanent private residence, which it apparently only did for about 10-15 years before they moved on. Today it fronts on Pine Road:

Photo courtesy of Montgomery County.

House #2 is what may be the original farmhouse on the Jarden property, or at least original in the sense that it may have been the house used by Samuel H. Jarden as a suburban retreat when he originally acquired the property. Current property records date the house to 1830-- further research would be required to confirm the date. It survives today on East Lane, and was sold relatively recently, in 2013. Zillow still has some photos from that listing here:

Looks to be in fantastic condition; In the back, you can see House #3, a former barn. Not in such great shape. Photo courtesy of 2013 real estate listing via Zillow.

View towards 1990's addition. Photo courtesy of 2013 real estate listing via Zillow.

Parlor Room. Photo courtesy of 2013 real estate listing via Zillow.

House #3, may have been the former main barn on the property, converted at some point to a residential home. It is listed as such (converted barn, dated to circa 1880) in county records, and appears to have been passed down through multiple members of the Nolde family, until earlier this year when it was sold out-of-family to a Wyndmoor Court LLC. The expired listing, still available via Zillow, touted development opportunities via possible subdivision of the currently 2-acre property. While the listing also suggested restoration of the existing house, it appears that Wyndmoor Court LLC is planning to subdivide the land into 4 individual lots surrounding a cul-de-sac (presumably extending Pine Rd). The developer's plans, as of November 11, 2015 (video of presentation by the developer begins at 07:50 mark at this link), had not yet been approved due to a requested zoning variance being sought, but was on the agenda for a November 23, 2015 zoning board hearing. If anyone knows more about this or the result of the zoning hearing, let me know! It is quite clear that there are no plans to save the existing historic house. According to the developer, it is "dilapidated". It certainly is quirky and would take quite a bit to bring it up to snuff. I'd prefer to see the stone barn portion remain and incorporated, with the later additions torn down, but that is not happening.

Photo via Redfin.

Photo via Redfin.

Photo via Redfin.

Photo via Redfin.

House #4 is the home commissioned circa 1927 by Walter Jarden for his daughter Ellen and her new husband, Otto Frederick Nolde, upon their marriage. As mentioned, Ellen passed away in 1961. Fred Nolde remarried in 1966 and passed away in 1972. His second wife, Nancy Lawrence Nolde, continued to own the house until 2007:

Photo via Google Street View.

Okay. I think that's enough of that rabbit hole. It was fun. Next week-- the French Colonial (House #5).

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