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Architectural History

by John J Snyder, Jr (1967)

Any attempt to analyze the architecture of the mansion at Locust Grove is hindered by several factors. First, there are no primary documentary sources known which relate to any stage of the building operations in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The date stone, in hybrid English-German, tells that the mansion part of the house was built by John and Maria Haldeman in 1811, but it is the sole relevant inscription known on the house. Further, the structural evidence of the evolution of the house before 1811 is often ambivalent, if not even contradictory. Finally, unfortunate changes done to the house in the past eighty years have removed or obscured important structural and stylistic evidence.

The following interpretation of the architectural evolution of Locust Grove is, in many respects, speculative and theoretical. Other interpretations of the evidence merit consideration. My interpretation is most important in the endeavor to establish background.

It stands to reason that the earliest improvements on the property were built for the Galbraith family in the late 1730's and/or the early 1740's. Most likely, the two oldest parts of the property are the so-called summer kitchen (known as a kitchen and smokehouse in the late 1700’s), and portions of the back wing of the present mansion. I believe that substantial portions of both these structures date from the general time of the mid-eighteenth century.

Supporting evidence includes the following:

1. The oldest part of the back wing may be the two rooms on two stories, being on the ground level the kitchen (once having a walk-in fireplace) and adjacent room to the west. This part of the house could be defined entirely by stone walls: there is a seam in the exterior wall marking what might have been the west wall of this stage of the house. The basement construction, with no basement under the kitchen and full basement under the adjacent room, is typical.

2. The relationship of the back wing, as above defined, to the dependency building, creates a spatial relationship observed in several other Lancaster County buildings dated ca. 1740-1770.

3. Importantly, the advertisement for the sale on July 10, 1767 states that the property then had "2 Dwelling-houses". This statement supports the above interpretation.

4. In view of the fact that the Galbraith and Work families were of Scotch-Irish or English family descent, it stands to reason that the houses built during their period of ownership would follow traditional English prototypes. The arrangement of the two buildings above described would fit this arrangement based upon precedents on English vernacular building practices.

Any idea of what the property looked like during the ownership by Samuel Scott is also speculative. However, Scott was a wealthy absentee owner, so it is unlikely that he conducted any extensive building schemes during the one decade of his ownership. The major steps in bringing Locust Grove to its present size consisted in two building operations conducted by John Haldeman; the first was completed by 1798, and the second was finished in 1811.

Although no primary documents survive for the enlargement done sometime before 1798, it is likely that this construction happened sometime in the early 1790's. John Haldeman's tax assessments rose in this period, thus supporting this conclusion.

The best documentation of the extent of this addition appears in the Direct Tax of 1798, which notes the following for John Haldeman:

1 stone dwelling house, 38 x 25 - 9 windows of 24 lights

New building adjoining, 20 x 40-stone- 2 stories - 4 windows of 15 lights

Stone kitchen 18 x 25

1 smoke house 15 x 15

If the dimensions of the present summer kitchen are added to include the overhang, they approximate the combined dimensions of the stone kitchen and the smoke house listed in the 1798 tax. It is likely that these functions continued for this structure for many years.

A literal interpretation of the old and new parts of the house in 1798 is well nigh impossible. There is no way to reconcile the count of the windows. However, it is very likely that the "New Building" extended west from the end of the earlier structure, with its western wall being part of the present facade of the Mansion facing the Susquehanna. The south gable wall of this new addition would have been in the approximate location of the interior partition which now separates the entry hall from the parlors. This wall would have been a continuation of the foundation wall that still constitutes the southern cellar wall.

If this interpretation of the 1798 appearance of the house is tenable, the following facts should be kept in mind:

1. The lay-out of the house was longitudinal.

2. In general, the house was probably one room deep at this time.

3. At this stage, the house was not oriented to the River; the facade may have faced the north.

4. In this state, the house was probably similar to the Mansion at Pool Forge in Churchtown in its original state.

5. The orientation and general floor plan of the house at this time may have been influenced by Samuel Blunston's house in Columbia. This house has been destroyed.

In all, there could be no end of theorizing about the house at Locust Grove in this early state of its development. These theories are perhaps more important for academic purposes than for an appreciation of the Mansion as it now stands. The additive character of Locust Grove, realized through a complex structural evolution, explains many of the house's peculiar features. Otherwise, the history of the house before 1811 is, to pardon a double meaning, largely foundation.

Although the date stone gives the year 1811 for the remodeling and addition which brought Locust Grove to its present form, it is likely that work on the Mansion commenced as early as 1809 or 1810. Large houses often consumed several years in construction, as witnessed by the time span of several years firmly documented in the construction of Jasper Yeates' country seat, Belmont (in Lancaster County, PA ). This building project bespeaks the rising prosperity of the Haldeman family at this time. It may also be a direct result of the inheritance of a substantial estate from Melchior Brenneman, John Haldeman's wealthy but parsimonious Mennonite father -in-law.

Based upon structural analysis, it appears that the earlier south gable wall was demolished and its stones used to extend the present facade (facing the River) to a full four bays. The stone in the present southern gable wall does not match that in the rest of the structure. Briefly, the parts of the house added in the 1811 enlargement may include the following:

1. The south gable wall (wall with date stone).

2. The entire area of the large entry hall.

3. The back rooms on both stories behind the kitchen with the walk-in fireplace. This possibility might be debated due to the lack of any evident seam in the masonry at this point, but it should be recollected that the walls are of rubble masonry, thus precluding a clear seam. Factors supporting :the belief that the back rooms on both stores are additions include the following:

a. The back wall of the kitchen chimney could have been the previous back wall of the house.

b. There is a division of the floor boards in the attic at this point.

c. The stone flashing course for the roof of a piazza (porch) on the south wall terminates at this approximate point.

d. If the back rooms were earlier than the Federal period, a pent roof at the gable might be expected.

e. Functionally, this back room might have been an office or adjunct to the kitchen. This would be logical for the apparent size and wealth of the household in the Federal period.

4. All the dark stone quoins probably date from this period.

There is little convincing evidence that the enlargement of 1811 actually necessitated a demolition of the earlier part of the building. Evidence of the survival of earlier parts of the building in the actual fabric of the Federal section includes the following:

1. The difference of the stone used in the masonry of the facade and gable.

2. Structural evidence that the large chimney stack was reworked from an earlier one.

3. The flashing course at the north gable end is now located above the pent roof. This tends to indicate an early alteration to this part of the building.

4. There is no basement under the large entry hall, thus indicating a later addition against an existing basement.

5. The settlement is most pronounced in the area of the likely junction of the older section with the 1811 addition to the south.

6. The relatively low ceilings on the second floor do not accord with high-style Federal taste. They would be logical, however, in a structure of earlier date.

7. Some woodwork may be re-used from an earlier stage. Elements that could have been reused include some window sash, many window and door frames, many of the raised panel shutters, the architraves surrounding some interior doors, some floor boards, and most of the six-panel interior doors.

8. However, the stylistic evidence of this woodwork may be ambivalent. For example, the details of the raised panels of the shutters and doors could date from the last quarter of the eighteenth century, but they could easily date from the second decade of the nineteenth century. The one extant mantel in the house only emphasizes this point; it is representative of a very simple type of mantel that was favored in Lancaster County from about 1770 to ca.1820.

Photo showing the smoke house and its location to the mansion. This small white structure is the oldest building on the property.

In understanding the mansion of Locust Grove as it was completed about 1811, the following are important considerations:

1. The orientation of the house to the Susquehanna River bespeaks a new sensitivity to landscape so often encountered in the Federal period. It may also suggest something of the economic orientation of the Haldeman family to River trade at this time. It is likely that the terraced gardens could be contemporary to the Federal period.

2. The piazza that originally adorned the River front related to others in Lancaster County at this time. It is likely that the piazza shown in early photographs was the original. Similar piazzas survive at Jasper Yeates' country seat, Belmont (late 1790's) and the Kennedy House near Cap (ca.1812). The facade did not possess a pent eave.

3. The four bay facade with door to the side was not an innovation for Locust Grove. Indeed, this feature had been used locally at least as early as the mid-1760's in the brick mansion in Lancaster built by John Miller, and later occupied by Jasper Yeates. Another possible source for this design is the mansion at Hopewell, near Brickersville, built for the ironmaster Peter Grubb (ca.1774-1775).

4. Both the facade elevation and the interior floor plan are those of a townhouse, and not necessarily logical for a house in the country. This may reveal something of the urban orientation of the Haldeman family at this time.

5. The extreme size of the entry hall may have been inspired by similar rooms in other houses in Lancaster County, including the Grubb mansion at Hopewell, the William Wright House in Columbia, and the mansion at Mount Vernon Furnace in West Donegal Township, built for the ironmaster Henry Bates Grubb (ca.1811).

Whereas many of the conservative aspects of the mansion of Locust Grove might be emphasized, there are important aspects which reveal a sensitivity to high-style Federal taste as manifested in the greater Philadelphia area in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Among these features are:

1. The flat panels used in the reveals of the windows in the more formal rooms.

2. The delicate moldings used in the chair rails.

3. The staircase.

Without question, the staircase is the most elaborate and sophisticated element of interior woodwork of the Federal period now surviving at Locust Grove. Its basic design is very closely adapted from a plate in the "Young Carpenter's Assistant", published by Owen Biddle in Philadelphia in 1810. The design of the carved brackets is taken almost literally from a plate in Owen Biddle. In this context it is interesting to note that there was a Lancaster printing of Owen Biddle's pattern book.

No stairways derived from this design source are now known to survive from Philadelphia. However, the staircase at Locust Grove is one of three evidently adapted from this source in western Lancaster County. The others are located at the William Wright House in Columbia and the mansion at Mount Vernon Furnace (ca. 1811). It seems likely that all these staircases could be the work of a now unknown builder working in the area between Donegal and Columbia. Certainly, they indicate a strong cultural orientation to Philadelphia taste. It may be noted that this design source for the staircase at Locust Grove has not been known before.

Unfortunately, the major gap in analyzing the Federal period architecture at Locust Grove is the loss of the mantels from the major rooms. The very fact that the Baker Company considered these mantels worth removing in the 1930's implies that the mantels were of a quality possessing some value. Of all the thousands of Haldeman papers at Hagley, one document might possibly refer to the fittings for the fireplaces at Locust Grove. "See a xerox of original." This 1810 bill to Jacob Haldeman from Jonas Metzger a stonecutter of Lancaster Borough, details three "Marble Chimney pieces" and other stones bought in Philadelphia. Two facts imply that these pieces of marble might have been intended for Locust Grove, which was probably being enlarged in 1810. First, although Jacob Haldeman then lived near Harrisburg, the transaction was conducted through a Lancaster stone cutter, implying that the stones may have been intended for a house in Lancaster County. Second, the reference that the payment was actually received form a brother of Jacob Haldeman could mean that they were intended for Henry Haldeman at Locust Grove. Whatever the case, these chimney pieces would have constituted liners for the external facings of the jambs of the fireplace; they were not marble mantels per se.

It is to be hoped that further research might locate some of the mantels that were removed. Tentatively, it seems likely that the most important mantels equaled the architectural quality of the staircase. The mantels could have been adorned with composition ornaments in the neoclassical taste made by Robert Wellford of Philadelphia. The mansion at Mount Vernon Furnace, with a staircase so similar to that at Locust Grove, contains Wellford type mantels in its principal rooms. It is also possible that the mantels were locally made products ornamented with gouge carving. Comparable examples might be seen in the Cameron Mansion at Donegal.

In summary, the Federal period brought Locust Grove to its finest architectural development. Those in the future should endeavor to restore it accurately to its Federal period appearance. – John J. Snyder, Jr. (HMPS Records).


Note: The Haldeman Mansion Preservation Society is not responsible for the authenticity or accuracy of information in this report. The opinions and statements within this report are those of the author and reflect his knowledge and opinions at the time of its writing in 1967.

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Basic Background information pertaining to Locust Grove and the Haldeman Mansion

I. Title of Property. Although this has been traced before, I have re-checked all he references. The most important new discovery, which corrects an erroneous date given in the deed, is the advertisement from the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) for the Sheriff’s Sale of the property on July 10, 1767. This gives the earliest known written description of the property.

Owners and dates of Transfers.

Oct. 28, 1738 – Warrant for land from Thomas and Richard Penn to John Galbraith

July 3, 1744 - Patent on Land

Dec. 29, 1757 - John Galbraith to James Galbraith

March 8, 1760 - James Galbraith to Patrick Work

July 10, 1767 - John Barr, Sheriff of Lancaster County – the seized

property of Patrick Work to Samuel Scott of Rapho Township. Deed dated Sept. 2, 1767, recorded July 11, 1768. Price – 1950.

April 1777 – Samuel Scott by will to nephew and brother

By November 5, 1785 – Heirs of Samuel Scott to John Haldeman. Several transactions.

September 7, 1813 – John Haldeman to his son, Henry Haldeman

Oct. 2, 1855 - sold out of the Haldeman family from the estate of Henry


1899 – purchased by Benjamin F. Hoffman

1934 - sold from the Hoffman family to the J. E. Baker Company


Haldeman Family

Three generations pertaining to Locust Grove.

A. John Haldeman

John Haldeman was born in Rapho Township on June 2, 1753, the son of Jacob Haldeman (1722 – 1783) and his wife Maria Miller (1726 – 1800). Despite his Germanic family background, John Haldeman was a Presbyterian. He married on February 24, 1778, Maria Breneman (1760 –1835), the daughter of a prominent and wealthy Mennonite preacher, Melchior Breneman (1726 – 1809). They were the parents of six children who reached maturity.

Through several transfers, John Haldeman acquired the Locust Grove property by 1785. Family genealogical sketches state that he built the stone mill there (long ago destroyed) in 1790. He completed the distillery there about 1800. In addition to being a landowner, miller, and distiller, John Haldeman was a land speculator in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. He was associated with Philadelphia merchants in the China Trade, and he as a Director of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. He sat in the

legislature in 1795.

John Haldeman rebuilt and enlarged Locust Grove into its present general form in 1812, evidently as a gift for his son Henry. In September 1813, he transferred the Locust Grove property to his son Henry and moved to Columbia. He died in his brick mansion at Columbia on September 5, 1832. He is buried at the Haldeman Family Graveyard, near Bainbridge.

It is interesting to note that John Haldeman sat for a portrait by Jacob Eichltz about 1810. This portrait is still owned by direct descendants.

B. Henry Haldeman

Henry Haldeman, the son of John and Maria Breneman Haldeman, was born at Locust Grove, December 18, 1787. He married Frances Stehman (1794 – 1826) about 1811. Henry Haldeman died while visiting his brother, Jacob Miller Haldeman in Harrisburg, on March 21, 1849.

As a landowner, miller, distiller, and sometime river merchant associated with his father and brothers, Henry Haldeman passed his entire life at Locust Grove. It was stated that during his lifetime, Locust Grove was supplied with books on general literature, a pair of globes, and other evidences of refinement”. (See Ellis and Evans, p. 882.) No personal or business papers for Henry Haldeman are known to survive, and thus the details of his life remain obscure. Even his will casts a mystery over his life, for he forbade the taking of an inventory.

Henry and Frances Stehman Haldeman are buried in the Haldeman Family Graveyard near Bainbridge.

C. Samuel Stehman Haldeman

The son of Henry Haldeman and the grandson of John Haldeman, Samue Stehman Haldeman was born at Locust Grove on August 12, 1812. In brief, S. S. Haldeman was one of the most noted philologists and naturalists in America in the mid-nineteenth century.

Although Samuel Stehman Haldeman is often associated with Locust Grove as being the key figure in that property’s entire history, accurate history proves that this is something of an overstatement. The following facts should be kept in mind.

1. Samuel Stehman Haldeman was not the owner of Locust Grove; the property belonged to his father.

2. Most likely, Samuel Stehman Haldeman spent only the first fourteen years of his life at Locust Grove. In 1826, he left the family home to attend Dr. Keagy’s Academy in Harrisburg.

3. In his adult life, Samuel Stehman Haldeman was only a visitor to

Locust Grove. His own home, completed by 1835, was a large Greek Revival Mansion that stood near the foot of Chiques Rock. (This mansion was demolished in the early years of the twentieth century.)

4. Consequently, Locust Grove is best regarded as the birthplace and childhood home of Samuel Stehman Haldeman.

Samuel Stehman Haldeman died in September, 1880. Almost all the lines of his descendents are not extinct.