Updated: Sep 17, 2021
I never knew I could come across this particular building, and I never knew how much of an impact this place had on helping struggling pastors and clergymen. It was thanks to Ann Jane Mercer who made this happen.
"If soldiers who lose their health or break down in trying to destroy men's lives are well provided for, ought not the soldiers of Christ who lose their health in trying to save others be provided for also?"
- Ann Mercer's principle in establishing the Mercer Home
Ann Jane Mercer (1817-1886) grew up in a Christian family, and was trained by her "devotedly pious" mother. That was when she was converted to Christianity in 1859, and relied on religion, God, and heaven. She remembered her mother's "strength in faith," her "humility of character," "gifted in prayer," and "remarkable for her knowledge of the Scripture."
She also grew up in a wealthy family, and married a wealthy Philadelphia businessman John C. Mercer (1815-1883). They had no children. With so much wealth she inherited through family and marriage, Ann and her husband built a big mansion on what's known today as "Mount Pleasant Avenue."
Before she died, she wrote a will to establish a corporation to take over her estate on Mount Pleasant Avenue, with the funding of $100,000, to maintain "a home for the support and maintenance of selected clergymen of the Presbyterian faith, who are decayed by age or disabled by infirmity, and who do not use tobacco in any shape or form, and who in all ways shall comply with rules of a board of managers." (Ann's will, November 26, 1885)
Her brother John Hamilton, Jr. was the executor and trustee of Ann's will.
The John C. Mercer Home for Disabled Clergymen of the Presbyterian Faith
The clergymen who lived in the Mercer Home were provided with free board, medical attendance, food and clothing, railroad tickets for traveling to and from Philadelphia, horses and carriages for traveling and doing errands, and cars for them to drive to the city. Books, newspapers, magazines, and stationary were also provided for them.
The Mercer home benefited the clergymen living in the home with comfort and health.
Even with the good impact it had on them, there were controversies surrounding the home. For example, what Ann wrote in her will that confused people in terms of "selecting clergymen" into her former home.
There were controversies surrounding the Mercer Home that relates to not following what Ann wrote in her will (ex. Hamilton et al v. The John C. Mercer Home for Disabled Clergymen of the Presbyterian Faith (1910)), how she worded that only "selected clergymen" were allowed to live in the home, and only wanted occupants who don't use tobacco.
Fun Fact: Robert Hamill Nassau was one of the clergymen who stayed and retired at the Mercer Home. He spent at least 40 years in West Africa promoting faith to the people.
Surprisingly, this architecture looks like it still maintains its original architectural look. Immediately, I recognize these architectural elements:
"Elaborative" porch supporters
Custom patterned porch posts
Based on comparing every Victorian-style home, this home seems to be very symmetrical since other typical Victorian homes are not always that way, and that's the only feature that stood out a lot. Drawing from research and looking at examples of Victorian homes, I would say that this home is more towards the Folk Victorian-style.
McAlester, Virginia Savage. A Field Guide to American Houses. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017): xv-xxv, 397-405.
"Montco's famous Mercer mansion hits the market for $2.95M. See the photos." Philadelphia Business Journal. Last modified May 11, 2018. https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2018/05/10/montcos-famous-mercer-mansion-hits-the-market-for.html.
Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 27, 1916.
Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.
Smith, Sandy. "A Museum-Quality Estate in Ambler for $2.95M." Philadelphia Magazine. Last modified May 22, 2018. https://www.phillymag.com/property/2018/05/22/hilltop-victorian-in-ambler-for-2-95m/.
The Church at Home and Abroad Vol XXII. (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1897): 176-178.
"The Mercer Home: History of this Notable Institution Endowed by Mrs. Mercer in Memory of Her Husband - Its Present Secretary." Ambler Gazette. July 14, 1899, Page 2. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/wivp-gazett/id/197/rec/1.
Who's Who Among North American Authors. (Los Angeles: Golden Syndicate Publishing Company, 1921): 143.