19 March 2016

Saturday Spotlight- Circa 1879 Gothic Revival in Plymouth Meeting

This week's Saturday Spotlight is a bright yellow Gothic Revival home in Plymouth Meeting, PA. It is a contributing structure to the Cold Point Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Image via Google Street View
Measuring in at approximately 3,800 square feet, this property also has a fairly large barn structure behind the main house. Built with an L-shaped plan, the main form is a cross-gabled Gothic form. In the straight-on photo of the front facade seen above, we see the hallmark of many Gothic Revival houses with a steeply pitched, centered front gable that dominates the roof line and incorporates a single pointed arch window. A simple king post truss adorns the primary gable as well as the two side gables.. This example, built during the tail end of this style's popularity, includes a relatively small number of Gothic detailing and even includes some Italianate roof eave bracketing. The existence of a full-width porch at the entry is indeed common to Gothic Revivals, however.

Taking a spin around to the right side, we see that the house presents two facades of architectural interest to the street. The front porch wraps around to meet the rear ell, which rises the same 2-1/2 stories and terminates with a secondary gable and a palladian window. Above the porch are two symmetrical projecting bay windows, and directly above those we see some further late-19th-century Victorian-era influence with arch top windows. The single-story piece extending from the house out to the right seems to be an addition, as one is documented as having been performed in the late 1980's.

Image by author.


This house was constructed approximately in 1879 by carpenter Charles B. Camburn. Born in 1853 and having been raised in the area, Camburn built this as a home for he and his wife, Emma. Having acquired the land in 1879, Charles and Emma are listed at this location in the 1880 census, along with two other young carpenters, George W. Janes and Edward Coulston. Perhaps these fellow carpenters were boarding in Camburn's house to help him finish the job.

Carpentry was a trade which ran in this family: in 1900, Charles has a nephew, Joseph, who was also a carpenter and was living with them for some time. Charles and Emma's only child, daughter Elsie, married a man named George Matz, who was also a carpenter. Although Charles Camburn was a skilled builder, he also seems to have enjoyed his diversions, taking out a patent for a checkers-like solitaire game in 1897.

Camburn's patent for a "game apparatus" from 1897. Image via Google Patents.
George and Elsie Matz remained at the Camburn house through at least 1910, having produced two grand-daughters for Charles and Emma-- Eleanor and Hazel, before eventually moving on to their own house in Upper Dublin. Charles Camburn passed away in 1914, at the age of 61, of stomach cancer, and Emma Camburn followed in 1918. Their final resting place is very nearby, only a few doors down at the Cold Point Baptist Church cemetery.

1919 to 1960

The next several decades proved to be find relatively stable ownership for this house. George and Elsie Matz sold it in 1919 to William Hemphill Potts. Potts, age 42, was a manager at the Germantown facility of Abbott's Alderney Dairies, a highly successful company distributing butter, milk, cheese and other dairy products which had several locations in Philadelphia. Potts had a wife, Jennie, and three children, Helen, Alice, and William, Jr, with him at the home. A third daughter, Marion, was already married by the time the Potts family moved in at the end of 1919.

William Potts would continue his job with Abbott's Dairy for several more years, commuting from the Gothic home at Cold Point. He likely was accompanied daily by his daughters Helen and Alice, who took up jobs as bookkeepers at the dairy. In 1938, matriarch Jennie Potts passed away after battling a strep infection in her throat for several weeks. Soon thereafter, William appears to have retired from Abbott's. As of the 1940 census, now-grown children Alice and William Jr. remained in the house with their father, and Marion had moved in as well along with her husband and two children. William H. Potts sold the property in 1944, and later died in 1948.

The next 13 years saw the house owned by a John C. Fetter, and his wife Helen. Fetter, having lived most recently in nearby Conshohocken, was an inspector at a glass factory. The Fetters had at least one child, daughter Helen-- making a total of at least three Helens to have lived in the Gothic home.

1960s to Present

At some point, most likely upon his sale of the property in 1961, John Fetter subdivided his 4+ acre land into two parcels. The other parcel saw a one-story ranch house erected, which was later demolished for a new home in 2003-04. As for the Gothic Revival house, it stood the test of time, owned by Bernard and Mercedes Pannone from 1961-1972. The current owners have continued to hold the mantle of long-term and stable ownership for nearly 45 years, giving them the longest term of ownership in this house's 135+ year history. And I'm thrilled that despite the missing shutters at the pointed arch Gothic window in a 1990's photo of the house, these owners have replaced or repaired them in an architectural accurate manner.

Circa 1990's photo via Montgomery County.

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