The "Gingerbread House"

"During the Depression years, this home was known as the 'Gingerbread House' because the occupants at that time sold home-made backed items in front of the house on Skippack Pike."

- Whitpain... Crossroads in Time (238)


When I first read about this house, I was skeptical about it: Why was it called the "Gingerbread House?" Was there a baking business in the home? Did Santa Claus live there?


The first source I looked at was the Ambler Gazette archives. I typed in as am nay search terms as possible like "gingerbread house," "1030 skippack pike," "home baked skippack pike," etc. I thought that my searches would be accurate with the actual address of the house, but nothing came up.


According to the Whitpain... Crossroads in Time book, the reason why this house was named "The Gingerbread House" was because the owners during the Great Drepression were selling baked goods in front of their homes. The problem I faced was that I didn't know who those owners were. I had no access to physical archives due to COVID-19, and there are no online sources for me to research. If I knew who those owners were, I would've had a better chance of understanding the house's "historic" name*.


NOTE: When researching the name of this house, most real estate websites (Zillow, RedFin and Trulia) called this home, "The Historic Gingerbread House of Blue Bell".


There is some kind of reason why this house was named the "Gingerbread House," but there's no physical evidence to prove it. The Whitpain... Crossroads in Time didn't cite the source, even though they inserted the bibliography at the end of the book. I guess my question is, "How come the authors of the book knew the reason why the house was named that way, but didn't know the name of the owners of this home during the Great Depression?"


I find it odd...

Architecture


Most of the old homes I pass by are mostly Colonial; either Georgian or Federal. For this home, it has a few architectural elements that makes it Colonial:

  • 6x6 and 9x9 double hung sash windows

  • Symmetrical facade

  • Low pitch, side-gabled roof

  • Exterior brick chimney on the east facade

  • Pedimented wall dormers

  • Entablature over the front windows

There are a few elements that were altered over time with different owners. For example, the entrance door looks more from the later half of the 20th century.


In conclusion, I would say that this home is a Federal-style home. Most of the elements on this home has more of the Federal-style elements than the Georgian-style. For example, the low pitch side-gabled roof is a common feature in Federal-style buildings as well as the pedimented wall dormers, even though this feature was more popular from the 19th century onward.


According to the survey that was done to this house, It says that the year the house was built in 1850 while real estate websites said 1910. As mentioned many times when talking about these old homes, never trust real estate websites! They never give you accurate dates of the houses. Based on the structure, and the altered/additional features on the home, I'm going to bet that this home was around the 18th century based on my findings and analysis.


Read and view the survey done by the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form here!

Conclusion


There is no physical evidence to prove that this house is "The Gingerbread House." I find it odd to know that the Whitpain book didn't give me the name of the owners during the Great Depression, but somehow knew why this house was called "The Gingerbread House." It could be that they did cite the source in the end with the bibliography, but didn't directly lead me to it, which I find frustrating.

Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford; J.D. Scott, Publisher
Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left; J.L. Scott, Publisher
Google Satellite Plan View: 1030 West Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Google Satellite Birdseye View: Looking South

Bibliography


"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed October 9, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.


McAlester, Virginia Savage. A Field Guide to American Houses. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017): xv-xvi, 53-54, 201-232.


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.


Whitpain... Crossroads in Time. (Montgomery County, PA: Whitpain Township Bicentennial Commission, 1977): 238.


#pahistory #historicpreservation #whitpain #skippackpike #gingerbreadhouse #greatdepression #depressionera #federal #architecture #colonial #bakery #homemade #bakedgoods #PAHRSF

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