Trish and Jim Gorman's Gladwyne Colony Home: An 1840s Gladwyne Colony Home Stands Anew
After nearly two centuries, the Gladwyne structure remains equally steeped in history and beauty.
Cabinetry: Van Heyneker Cabinet & Furniture Makers, Mendenhall, (610) 388-1772, heynekerfurniture.com.
Faux painting: Alix Jacobs Decorative Painting, Haverford, (610) 658-5996.
Interior designer: Trish Gorman, Patricia Gorman Associates, Manayunk, (215) 482-1820, patriciagorman.com.
It’s hard to recall a time when Gladwyne didn’t have its current cache. Prior to the Schuykill Expressway’s completion in the 1950s, what is now among the nation’s 10 richest zip codes was remote and largely devoid of sprawling properties and grand mansions.
Trish Gorman’s house on Rose Glen Road stands as proof. The 1840s-era stone home she shares with her husband, Jim, was once part of a village established in the mid-1830s around William Charwick’s cotton mill along Mill Creek.
In 1912, the dozen vacant Rose Glen Village’s structures captured the attention of local psychiatrist S. DeWitt Ludlum. The isolated area was the perfect location for his sanitarium, where mentally ill patients could wander freely as he evaluated them beyond the constraints of an institution’s walls.
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Ludlum renovated all the buildings at Rose Glen for what became known as the Gladwyne Colony. He ran the sanitarium for decades, caring for patients from all over the country until his death in 1956. A son tried to continue his work, but it was difficult to retain doctors with the same beliefs as his father. He eventually sold the property to the prestigious Dorrance family.
After the sale, most of the buildings in the Gladwyne Colony were demolished. Just three homes were spared, including the Gormans’, which had been a tenement for sanitarium workers.
More than a half century later, the former Gladwyne Colony remains tranquil. Mill Creek babbles along, surrounded by densely wooded land untainted by development.
Sixteen years ago, the Gormans were looking to downsize from a larger home nearby. The Rose Glen house wasn’t really what they had in mind—at first.
“As soon as I walked in, it felt like it was meant to be,” says Trish. “It was so incredibly charming. It had great bones.”
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As an interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, Gorman saw plenty of potential in the four-bedroom home. She liked the rounded walls, the 12-inch-wide plank flooring and the exposed beams. She even commissioned an artist to paint a mural of the European countryside in the entry foyer. “I wanted to go for more of a European influence in a little village,” she says.
An unexpected fireplace in the foyer’s corner is one of five throughout the first floor. “We have a very cozy home in the winter,” she says.
Off the foyer, an intimate sitting room houses many treasures from the Gormans’ travels, including an African zebra-skin rug. “I like to have a bit of zebra or leopard print in every room,” says Gorman.
The home’s formal living room boasts an eclectic collection of antique furnishings. “This is the mandated formal room that every house has but no one sits in,” she laughs. “I go everywhere to find furnishings and accessories.”
Gorman also has her own furniture and accessories boutique, DIGS in Manayunk. “I have more space at the boutique to buy for than I do here,” she admits.
The Gormans spend most of their time in the family room, which they overhauled with an addition that almost doubled its original size. A glass roof brightens the newer space, and French doors lead to the two-level patio area and terrace.
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Gorman made her biggest mark in the kitchen. Knowing they didn’t need a formal dining room, the couple removed a wall to create one large space with an eat-in area. The existing exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and the floor’s vintage Mercer tiles inspired the rest of the design, which has the feel of a quaint European cottage. “I couldn’t put in a modern kitchen,” Gorman says. “I wanted to remain reverent to the home’s history.”
To that end, Gorman even designed the kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling cabinetry to look like it had aged and evolved over time, commissioning well-known Chester County craftsman Van Heyneker for the job. Each cabinet is constructed of wormy chestnut wood and painted a different color. As an impressive finishing touch, faux-painter Alix Jacobs embellished the fronts with images inspired by English folk symbols and designs.
Decorative wood panels cover the refrigerator, maintaining a consistent theme throughout the space. Gorman points to a small hole in one of the panels. “When Van was cutting the wood, he hit a bullet that was lodged into it,” she says. “Unfortunately, it broke his saw.”
The kitchen’s large island has a French limestone top and a copper sink handmade in Mexico. “Like in any house, our kitchen is the heart of our home,” says Gorman. “We do a lot of entertaining, and clearly people participate in the [food preparation] process.”
Even after all these years, Gorman is still in awe of her home. “I feel like I’m in a country house in Vermont sometimes,” she says. “It’s absolutely beautiful here. I’m still on the Main Line, but sometimes feel a world away.”
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