The Home of Charles P. Fox - Spring House, PA

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

This home was located along Norristown Road where the current Spring House Estates retirement home is. It was one of the houses in Lower Gwynedd that was built as a summer home for people of wealth from the city, mostly from Philadelphia.


The home is known for its unique architecture and design. A home like this would have to be owned by someone who was from a wealthy family, wanting to escape the city life, and enjoy the quiet environment. This home was owned by Charles Pemberton Fox, who came from a line of innovative and talented people.

 

Charles P. Fox's Descendants


Charles P. Fox was descended from Justinian Fox who came from Plymouth, England to Philadelphia around 1700. According to records, Justinian was a Quaker.


Prior to becoming a "Master," Justinian's son Joseph won the election at the Colonial Assembly in 1750 as a representative to Philadelphia, but lost reelection after his first term. He then returned to the Coloial Assembly in 1753 to represent Philadelphia County (before Montgomery County was established). He held this position until 1771. On October 24, 1764, Joseph was unanimously elected as the 26th Speaker of the Assembly.


Fun Fact #1: Joseph was part of a general committee with John Dickinson where they wrote a letter to the people of Boston, assuring them of sympathy, staying committed to the American cause. They delivered the letter to Paul Revere to take back to Boston.

The Fox Family (Made from Microsoft Word)

George Fox, MD (1806-1882) attended the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 16 where he earned his medical degree in 1828. He immediately became a resident physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital where he invented the apparatus for treatment of a fractured clavicle.

"It forms a very effective dressing, and at once fulfills all the indications in the treatment of this fracture by keeping the arm upward, outward, and backward. The apparatus, as is well known, consists of a wedged-shaped pad, which is placed well up in the axilla. A ring or collar encircles the opposite shoulder, to which the axillary pad is fastened by strings across the chest, back and front. The arm is supported by a strong muslin sling. There is no apparatus better than this, we think, for general use. Nevertheless, occasionally some deformity may result from the fact that the patient in moving about produces a jarring of the limb, and the bone may become overlapped."

- Thomas G. Morton, Surgery in the Pennsylvania Hospital

Source: Thomas G. Morton, Surgery in the Pennsylvania Hospital (1880)

In 1831, George was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians. In 1854, he retired from his professional work, and purchased a tract of land in Bensalem Township on the Delaware River a couple years later. In 1856/1857 he built a large stone house named "Chestnutwood." This home is still standing.

 

Charles P. Fox and His Home


Charles Pemberton Fox, II (1858-1934) was the youngest son of the seven children of Dr. George Fox. We know about his life from his descendent:

"My grandfather was a quiet, shy man whom my aggressively handsome, auburn-haired grandmother depicted as a 'slammer of doors'... My grandfather's life was: travels to Europe and the American West; fox hunting and trout and salmon fishing. Each autumn he deer-hunted."

- Charles Fox, III, grandson of Charles P. Fox, II


He married twice: His first wife was Marion Galey, and his second wife was Mary Large.


The house was designed for Charles by the architecture firm Cope & Stewardson, who mostly designed collegiate Gothic buildings at UPenn, Princeton, and Bryn Mawr College. Charles built his Tudor-style home after his marriage in 1906.

"In Mr. Fox's house at Penllyn we have a compromise between the developed American cottage with its verandas and porches and the English house with its low roofs and picturesque chimneys."

- Henry W. Forhne, 316


Henry W. Forhne discussed details about the architecture designed by the architect and the interior of the home as he was taking people to a different universe:

"The designer does not repeat, as is so often the case, devises and details of a monumental character, in a simplified and perhaps meaningless fashion; he uses simple means to get broad, simple effects. He treats the roof as a covering to the house, and attempts no decoration save what perchance a happily chosen color will give him; he treats the walls as simply as he does the roof, and gets his effect here again by color. The doors and windows alone come in for a very small share of decorative embellishment. The chimneys, being considered a part of the roof, are kept dark and in tone with it. The cement with which the walls are covered, it will be noticed, stops at the water-table and reveals the well-shaped stones of which the foundation is composed.
With the assistance of the interior views shown herewith, the reader can readily in his mind picture the plan of the house--of the first floor at least--the chimneys lending material aid in the visual picture. The spectator enters from the front porch into a large living hall, with a staircase in plain view, on either side of which are situated the dining-room and a drawing room, with a library or den beyond the latter. Attached to the dining-room are the kitchen, pantry and service dependencies. The chimneys, which are plainly but attractively brought out in large fireplaces, are so arranged that they occur in convenient places in the principal rooms."

- Henry W. Forhne, 316-322

Montgomery County 1877, Gwynedd, North Wales, Ambler, Royer's Ford, Limerick Station; J. D. Scott, Publisher
Montgomery County 1893, Upper and Lower Gwynedd Townships, Lansdale, North Wales, Spring House, Ambler Right; J. L. Smith, Publisher
Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 25; A. H. Mueller, Publisher
 

Bibliography


Forhne, Henry W. "The House of C.P. Fox at Penllyn, PA." The Architectural Record Co. 14, no. 1 (January 1906): 316-322.


"Growing with America - The Fox Family of Philadelphia Addendum." August 2013. https://growingwithamerica.weebly.com/uploads/5/9/3/3/59339633/gwa_addendum_2013.pdf.


Jordan, John W. Colonial And Revolutionary Families Of Pennsylvania, Volume 1. (New York and Chicago: Clearfield Company, 1911): 316-329, 330-334.


"Joseph Fox." Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Accessed June 22, 2021. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/SpeakerBios/SpeakerBio.cfm?id=88.


"Justinian Fox." Geni. Accessed June 21, 2021. https://www.geni.com/people/Justinian-Fox/6000000007979044365.


Karsch, Carl G. "The Quiet Revolutionary." Carpenters' Hall. Accessed June 22, 2021. https://www.carpentershall.org/quiet-revolutionary.


Morton, Thomas G. Surgery in the Pennsylvania Hospital. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1880): 265-266.


Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 25, 1916.


Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Gwynedd, North Wales, Ambler, Royer's Ford, Limerick Station, 1877.


Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Upper and Lower Gwynedd Townships, Lansdale, North Wales, Spring House, Ambler Right, 1893.


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