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, Boxwood Farms is owned by Whitpain Township and the township leases it to the state of Pennsylvania who make it available to PA Rep. Liz Hanbidge.
When I looked at the historical maps, the property was labeled "E. Harley" as the owner. In the Whitpain... Crossroads in Time book, they featured a brief information about the Boxwood Farm, and the author didn't give much detail about the Harley family.
When I tried to research who "E. Harley" was, there wasn't anything about him and his family. I also looked into the Whitpain 1850 census data to find the family, but their names weren't found.
It wasn't until I had a phone conversation with Robert Harley, a descendant of the Harley family who has been researching his family history for over 40 years. He was able to share with me information about his family history and the properties owned by the family in Whitpain. After finding out that "E. Harley" was Edward Harley, Robert told me that his name appeared on the 1860 census as a Philadelphia resident, which explains why I didn't see his name in the Whitpain 1850 census. Edward Harley’s his name finally appeared in the 1870 Whitpain census after he purchased the 80-acre tract of land on Skippack Pike.
Edward Harley (1817-1882) was an Irish immigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1834 when he was only 17 years old.
"He initially worked as a weaver in Philadelphia and by 1840 had started his first business in Philadelphia, a grocery store. Within a few years, he became a 'bottler,' which meant he was selling soda and beer and mineral water, etc. at a location on Market Street at 19th Street."
- R. Harley, personal communication, October 8, 2021
He arrived in Whitpain in 1868 when he purchased the 80-acre property on Skippack Pike. 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. This property was bequeathed to his son Henry J. Harley after he died on April 14, 1882.
He later purchased a 10-parcel with two messuages: a house and the adjacent buildings: a blacksmith shop and a post office. He purchased the property at an auction for $3,100 on March 24, 1869. That area was transformed into what's now today, the "Center Square Shopping Center."
Finally, on March 17, 1871, Edward Harley purchased the 47-acre tract of land, known as "Boxwood Farm," from William M. Cline for $4,000, and operated it as his second farm. In his will, this property was bequeathed to his other son Edward A.J. Harley (1844-1916).
Richard Joseph "Dick" Harley (1872-1952) was born on September 25, and was raised on the Boxwood Farm. At that time, Dick's grandfather owned the Boxwood Farm, and employed his son, Dick's father, to work the farm and allowed him and his wife to live and raise their family on the property. Edward A.J. Harley would become owner of Boxwood Farm upon the death of his father Edward, who bequeathed the 47-acre tract of land to him.
In education, Dick attended St. Joseph's College High School in Philadelphia (now St. Joseph’s Preparatory School). After high school, Dick attended Georgetown University as a "First Grammar" major in the Arts and Sciences Department, and graduated in 1896 as the vice president of the graduating class.
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 was for two years in 1897 and 1898, and one year with the Cleveland Spiders in 1899. He played the full season for the Detroit Tigers in 1900, and then singed a 5-day contract with the Cincinnati Reds to finish out the 1900 season. A year later, he played the full season for the Cincinnatti Reds.
"Back in those times, players were bouncing around a lot and looking to play anywhere they could to earn the higher pay that professional baseball players earned."
- R. Harley, personal communication, October 8, 2021
Dick ended up coming back to play for the Detroit Tigers in 1902, a year after the team was finally recognized 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. From 1904 to early 1909, he played for different minor league teams.
During his baseball career, he was also a coach at Villanova from 1898-1900 and then from 1903-1904. He only coached up until the time he had to report to spring training with his MLB teams. He also coached at Penn State for the years 1915-1917, and the University of Pittsburghfor the years 1920-1924. He also coached one year at his alma mater, Georgetown, in 1913. Prior to that he coached at Blair Academy, a private boys boarding school, in Blairstown, New Jersey from 1910-1912.
Additional collections about Dick Harley are found on these links below:
National Baseball Hall of Fame- Telegram from F. C. Bancroft to Dick Harley, 1901 October 13
National Baseball Hall of Fame- Telegram from Frank Dwyer to Dick Harley, 1901 December 18
SPECIAL THANKS TO ROBERT HARLEY FOR SHARING HIS RESEARCH ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND THE PROPERTIES THE HARLEY FAMILY OWNED FOR 23 YEARS!
Read below Robert Harley's article on Dick Harley, his grandfather, from the 2011 Whitpain Township Newsletter:
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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