Coordinates: 40°1′56″N 75°10′6″W / 40.03222°N 75.16833°W / 40.03222; -75.16833
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 United States
Location5267 Germantown Avenue, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Coordinates40°1′56″N 75°10′6″W / 40.03222°N 75.16833°W / 40.03222; -75.16833
Area< 1-acre (4,000 m2)
Architectural styleAmerican Georgian
NRHP reference No.72001155[1]
Added to NRHPMarch 16, 1972

Grumblethorpe, in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the home of the Wister family, who lived there for over 160 years. It was built in 1744 as a summer residence, but it became the family's year-round residence in 1793. It is a museum, part of the Colonial Germantown Historic District.

Early history[edit]

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

Grumblethorpe was built as a summer residence in 1744 by Philadelphia merchant and wine importer John Wister, when Germantown was a semi-rural area outside the city of Philadelphia. It eventually became the family's year-round residence when they withdrew from the city during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.

It has a stone and oak facade and was known as "John Wister's Big House". It has lower-ceilinged rooms than those at Cliveden, Loudoun, and Stenton, other historic houses in the area.[2] 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.[clarification needed]

The Wister family lived in the house for over 160 years. Diarist Sally Wister lived there from 1789 until her death in 1804.[3]

Because it was built on the fertile soil of Schuylkill Valley, Grumblethorpe's garden was among the most productive in the region. It was primarily a working farm, and it dominated Philadelphia's horticultural trends for nearly two centuries (1740-1910). The land was a prime source of marketable crops and animal husbandry from the 1740s to the 1870s, and it decreased in practical use only when the farmstead grew smaller in the late 19th century.[4]

During the American Revolutionary War[edit]

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.[5]

Later history[edit]

In the 1960s, the house was restored and refurnished to match the original period (removing an early 19th-century Georgian-style facade) and now serves as a museum. The 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 Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  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.
  4. ^ Susanin, Jay Davidson (May 28, 1990). "Grumblethorpe : an historic landscape report". Retrieved May 28, 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ Moss, Roger W. (1998). Historic Houses of Philadelphia: A Tour of the Region's Museum Homes. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0812234381.

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]