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The House before its restoration in the 1960s, showing its early 19th-century Georgian-style facade.
Grumblethorpe is located in Philadelphia
Grumblethorpe is located in Pennsylvania
Grumblethorpe is located in the US
Location 5267 Germantown Avenue, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Coordinates 40°1′56″N 75°10′6″W / 40.03222°N 75.16833°W / 40.03222; -75.16833Coordinates: 40°1′56″N 75°10′6″W / 40.03222°N 75.16833°W / 40.03222; -75.16833
Area < 1-acre (4,000 m2)
Built 1744
Architectural style American Georgian
NRHP Reference # 72001155[1]
Added to NRHP March 16, 1972

Grumblethorpe, in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the home of the Wister family. With its strong stone and oak facade, Grumblethorpe was known as "John Wister's Big House." It is also a charming house, with lower-ceilinged rooms than those at Cliveden, Loudoun, or Stenton.[2] It was built as a summer residence in 1744 by Philadelphia merchant and wine importer John Wister. It eventually became the family's year-round residence when they withdrew from the city during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. The stones for the house were quarried on the property and the joists were hewn from oaks in Wister Woods, also owned by the family. The original section of the Grumblethorpe Tenant House was built as a dependency.

front of stone building
Grumblethorpe after restoration (front)
side view of stone building
Grumblethorpe after restoration (side view)

Because it was built on the fertile soil of Schuylkill Valley, Grumblethorpe’s garden was among the most productive in the region, giving way to a lush and varied array of plants on the property. As such, the Grumblethorpe property was primarily a working farm, and it held dominance over Philadelphia’s horticultural trends nearly two centuries (1740-1910).The land was a prime source of marketable crops and animal husbandry from the 1740s to the 1870s, and only decreased in practical use when the farmstead grew smaller in the late 19th century. [1]

In September 1777, the house was the scene of events in the Battle of Germantown. While the Wisters were staying in another home, British General James Agnew occupied the house as his headquarters during the battle. He was wounded and died in the front parlor, where his blood stains can still be seen on the floor.

The Wister family lived in the house for over 160 years. Diarist Sally Wister (John's granddaughter) lived here from 1789 until her death in 1804.[3] The house, which has been restored and refurnished to match the original period, now serves as a museum. The historic gardens are also being restored.

Grumblethorpe was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is a contributing property of the Colonial Germantown Historic District, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

See also[edit]

National Register of Historic Places listings in Northwest Philadelphia


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Grumblethorpe". Retrieved October 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ Albert Cook Myers, ed. Introduction, Sally Wister's Journal: A True Narrative: Being a Quaker Maiden's Account of Her Experiences with Officers of the Continental Army, 1777-1779. Ferris & Leach, Philadelphia, 1902.

Further reading[edit]

  • Minardi, Joseph M. Historic Architecture in Northwest Philadelphia: 1690-1930s. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2011.
  • H.D. Eberlein and H.M. Lippincott, The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia and Its Neighbourhood, J.B. Lippincott Co., Phila. and London, 1912.
  • Roger W. Moss, Historic Houses of Philadelphia: A Tour of the Region's Museum Homes, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.
  • John L. Cotter, Daniel G. Roberts, and Michael Parrington, The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.

External links[edit]