A majestic Chester County farmhouse defies its true age.
Photos by John Lewis Published January 25, 2011 at 01:40 PM
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Dotting the magnificent landscape in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County, are farmhouses that date back to the mid-1700s. Set among these historic gems, there’s also one that’s a mere four years young. And thanks to architect Richard Buchanan and builders Robert Griffiths and Wayne Rowland, it’s a challenge to discern new from old.
The owners wanted the house “to feel as if it had grown there” over the centuries. In fact, it appears as if it could’ve been an 18th-century farmhouse that was expanded from three bays to five.
Buchanan, of Archer & Buchanan Architecture in West Chester, has an unrivaled reputation for similar projects in Chester County and beyond, as does Griffiths. “We specialize in good construction,” says Griffiths. “We do quite a bit of this period work just because of where we are. There’s a high call for this sort of thing in the Chester County area.”
Formerly of Bryn Mawr, the owners never had any desire to buy a farm—that is, until they got horses. “My neighbor moved out to this area,” says the owner. “As far as I was concerned, he may as well have moved to Iowa.”
Soon enough, though, they found themselves making the drive to East Fallowfield every weekend to ride. “We looked forward to coming here, and I finally said, ‘This is ridiculous. Let’s buy a country house,’” says the owner.
With that, the search for the perfect stone farmhouse on just the right piece of land ensued. What they found was a remarkable 33-acre property with a less-than-remarkable house—one loathed by neighbors. Built in the 1980s, the stucco home was a startling “Pepto-Bismol pink.” “When people asked why I bought the pink monstrosity, I showed them the view,” says the owner.
The home overlooks two valleys of uninterrupted farmland open to the occasional fox hunter or fellow horse enthusiast. “I’d argue that they have the best view in Chester County,” says Rowland. “It’s absolutely spectacular.”
At first, the home looked to be salvageable. But then came some honest advice from an architect: “Someone is going to knock this down; it might as well be you.”
Starting fresh, Buchanan designed a home with an authentic feel of an old Pennsylvania farmhouse, but with all the modern amenities. A priority was the use of old materials, including fieldstone reclaimed from a demolished Lehigh Valley barn for the home’s façade.
The trend continues inside. Mantels in the dining and living rooms came from 19th-century homes in Chester County and South Carolina. Many of the interior surfaces were hand-planed for an antiqued look, while wood panels and floorboards salvaged from old barns were used throughout the home. “Finding all these materials was a team effort—from the homeowners and Richard, to myself and the interior designer,” says Griffiths.