Boxwood Farm and Dick Harley

Updated: May 22, 2020

As I continue to celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, I look into buildings that are still standing today, and were featured in the PA Historical Research Survey Form.


Today, I looked into the "Boxwood Farm." I pass by this building so many times along Skippack Pike, and I was confused about its shape. It's literally a box house! When I found this property in the PA Historical Research Survey Form, they said it's a Federal-style, 1.5 story building. Right away, the front facade is asymmetrical: you have the door on the left side while there are two paneled windows on the right side with white framing around them. The windows on the building have 6x6 windowpanes, which is common in colonial times. The door itself is the most decorative: the doors were painted forest green with curved panels on the door, concluding that it might be "French Provincial." The roof is nearly flat. To add symmetry, the building has 2 chimneys on each side. The materials of the house was originally built in stone, but it was painted over by stucco. Today, the property was owned by PA State Representative Liz Hanbidge who occupies it as her District Office.


They featured a brief information about the Boxwood Farm from Whitpain... Crossroads in Time book, and the author didn't give much detail about the Harley family in the mid 1850s. When I looked at the historical maps, they were telling me the property belonged to "E. Harley" for a while until ownership changed. It's possible the author found the information about earlier ownerships in other primary sources. And since the author didn't mention the Harley family, I'll take the opportunity to share their story with the Boxwood Farm.


But here's one thing: there isn't anything "E. Harley" and his family. Even trying to find the Harley family in the 1850 census data they weren't found. Through Google searches, there was absolutely nothing about them... until I learned about this man: Richard "Dick" Harley, a famous baseball player in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Richard Joseph "Dick" Harley (1872-1952)

I took a quick look in Wikipedia, and it briefly said that he was a Philadelphia native, and was born and raised on his family's land called "Boxwood Farm." That was when I found someone from the Harley family.


But what about the other members of the family?


Based on the 1871 map, the only Harley that appeared on the map was named as "E. Harley." It turns out that "E. Harley" was actually Edward Harley, whose name appeared under the "Whitpain Business Directory."


It's unclear when Edward Harley was born, and when he came to Whitpain. But based on the historical maps shown below, he owned at least 2 lands. And since his name was featured under the business directory as a farmer, we can conclude that he was also running a business. Or it could be that he owned more than 1 house since he was rich.


What's very interesting was that there was a store and post office located right next to Edward's property on the NE corner of Skippack Pike and Dekalb Pike, diagonally across from the Waggon Inn (Centre Square Hotel), that was owned by Albert Katz at the time. We don't know if that store and post office was owned by Edward Harley, but it's possible. That area was transformed into what's now today, the "Center Square Shopping Center."


So what about the other property owned by Edward Harley? That house is still standing today! According to the PA Historical Research Survey Form, the house was built in 1752, with Georgian-style elements. I remembered seeing a little plaque that was attached to the front facade of the house. I couldn't see the wording, but it must be a clue that could tell us about that house.


Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1871, Page 031; G.M. Hopkins & Company, Publisher; William M. Cline owned the Boxwood property before Edward Harley.
Google Satellite Plan View: 1301 W Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422; Center Square Shopping Center
Google Satellite Birdseye View: Looking North
Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford; J.D. Scott, Publisher; Edward Harley had 3 properties!!!

Even though we don't know a lot about Edward Harley and his family, we at least know something about his possible son, Dick Harley.


This plaque is located at Wentz Run Park, possibly by the baseball field

Richard Joseph "Dick" Harley (1872-1952) was born on September 25, and was raised in the Centre Square section of Whitpain township. He could be born in either of those houses in Centre Square by looking at the 1871 map. While he was growing up, his family moved into the Boxwood Farm. You can see that in the 1877 map when ownership changed from William M. Cline to Edward Harley.


In education, Dick attended St. Joseph's College High School. After high school, Dick attended Georgetown University as a "First Grammar" major in the Arts and Sciences Department, and graduated in 1896.


He made his first debut as an MLB baseball player for the St. Louis Browns (today the St. Louis Cardinals) on June 2, 1897. He was 24 years old. He was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies.


NOTE: I am not very good at looking at baseball statistics, so if anyone out there is a baseball expert, please comment, and you can determine of Dick Harley was a good baseball player or not.


His time with the St. Louis Browns lasted for a year. He was assigned to the Cleveland Spiders. Unfortunately his time with the team ended too soon. Even the team itself started to lose fame. He later joined the Cincinnati Reds. What's confusing is that he was purchased by the Detroit Tigers after the Cleveland Spiders' last season in 1899. Dick played for the team in 1900, even though he also played for the Cincinnati Reds.


Dick did end up coming back to the Detroit Tigers a year after the team was finally recognized in 1901 as a major league team. He was transferred one more time to the Chicago Cubs in 1903, where he ended his last season in the major leagues.


During his baseball career, he was also a coach. From 1898-1903, he coached at Villanova; from 1915-1917 he coached at Penn State; and from 1920-1924 he coached at the University of Pittsburg.


In his personal life, he married Letitia (1883-1952). It's unknown if he has kids.


Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left; J.L. Scott, Publisher; Now Edward Harley owned 1 property
Google Satellite Birdseye View: Looking South

Additional collections about Dick Harley are found on these links below:



SPECIAL MESSAGE: I know that baseball season isn't happening due to the pandemic. But don't worry. It will come back!


Bibliography:


A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Georgetown University, One Hundred And Fifth Year, 1892-1893. (Washington D.C.: Stormont & Jackson, 1893), 65.


"Dick Harley Stats." Baseball Reference. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/harledi01.shtml#1897-1898-sum:batting_standard.


"Find A Grave." Find A Grave. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com.


"Historical Sites & Properties." Whitpain Township, Pennsylvania. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.whitpaintownship.org/186/Historical-Sites-Properties.


Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.


Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford, 1877.


Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.


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