Historical Markers
Pennsbury Historical Marker
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Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
At site, East of Tullytown

Behind the Marker

A color photograph of a tree-lined path leading to a brick Georgian-style manor house.
Pennsbury Manor, Morrisville, PA.
Picture this scene: a man in his mid to late fifties is tired and coming home from a hard day's work. A whole day of business, finances, letters, meetings, paperwork, and read this, sign this, and this needs your attention, and problems, and more problems. He commutes to Philadelphia. His home is about twenty-four miles away but it's not such a bad commute.

He loves his home in the country. He had the place built to his specifications, so it's perfect. It's peaceful and quiet. He loves his garden. It's like an English country estate. The place has a magnificent view of the river, too. It's beautiful! Still, he has to get there, and the streets are crowded with people and traffic. So, this man, William Penn, makes his way down to the busy docks on the waterfront and steps into a big barge, sits down and tells his six oarsmen to head up the river to take him home. The crew pulls up to his landing and ties it up right at the front door. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from the demands of business, Pennsbury is his sanctuary.

In July 1682, Penn's cousin William Markam had purchased over five thousand acres for the proprietor's country estate and paid the original Lenape owners with beer, blankets, cider, clothes, Dutch guilders, fabric, guns, hoes, kettles, knives, rum and wampum (shell beads). Workmen began building the proprietor's house the following year, based on his precise instructions.

Three years later, the three-story brick manor house was complete, but Pennsbury was not ready for the owner to take up residence. That wasn't a problem, however, because Penn had departed for England in 1684 to convince the royal officials to settle the boundary dispute between his colony and Lord Baltimore's Maryland in his favor. Before leaving, Penn named James Harrison overseer of the estate and gave him a long letter full of instructions on what to do in his absence. To make the estate a suitable place for the proprietor to live, Harrison was to direct the construction of a combined brewery and bakery, two larders, a laundry with a room for ironing, and a stable to house a dozen horses.

Even while he was in England, Penn used the mail to play an active role in the affairs of his distant manor home. In 1685, he wrote instructions to Harrison to sell one of his African-American slaves to Joseph Cart "at full price." Penn sent his gardener Ralph Smyth a detailed letter about what fruit trees, herbs and vegetables he wanted to grow, how they were to be planted, and the chores he expected Smyth to complete before his return.

Penn expected to be away from his colony for only a short while, but he ended up staying in England for fifteen years battling creditors and the government for control of his colony, and attempting to clear his name from accusations of treason. He even spent a few weeks in jail. This unhappy time was made even more difficult by the death of his wife Gulielma Maria Springett and by false reports about the condition of his home and grounds in Pennsylvania. After a brief courtship, he married Hannah Callowhill in 1696, and then made plans for a return to Pennsylvania.
Pennsbury Manor was reconstructed from archaeological findings and descriptions in Penn's papers. Construction began in 1937, and was completed in 1939.
Pennsbury Manor was reconstructed from archaeological findings and descriptions...

Penn and his second wife, markerHannah, arrived in December 1699 and lived in Philadelphia until everything could be made ready for them at their manor. In June 1700, they moved into Pennsbury. They delighted in the time they spent at their tranquil country retreat. But they were there only for a short time when Penn was again forced to return to England. On November 2, 1701, they left Pennsylvania. In his absence, Penn's secretary James Logan rented the property to Robert Quary.

The proprietor and his wife never returned to their home in Pennsylvania. Within fourteen years of their departure, Penn became debilitated by a series of strokes and died in 1718. When Hannah Penn died eight years later, Pennsbury and the entire colony became the property of her children. Following the tumult of the American Revolution, subsequent Penn heirs sold the manor and grounds in 1796.

After centuries of neglect, the manor fell into ruin, and by the 1930s, all that was left was the original foundation. In 1932, the Charles Warner Company presented the state of Pennsylvania with ten acres of the property where William Penn's manor once stood. After receiving the gift, the Commonwealth conducted archaeological and historical research and then rebuilt Pennsbury, which was opened to the public in 1939.

Today, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission together with the Pennsbury Society administer the estate. The grounds of more than forty acres now contain the manor house and several other reconstructed buildings. At Pennsbury, visitors can see how Penn lived, how he viewed himself, and perhaps how he wanted to be remembered, as a Quaker and an eighteenth-century English country gentleman.
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