Pennsbury Manor was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Portions of the content on this web page was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2005, The Gombach Group.
By the mid eighteenth century the original manor house had collapsed before any sketches or paintings had been made of it. The present structure is based on Penn's letters and conjecture.
Pennsbury Manor is a two and a half story brick house in a style typical of the William and Mary period. The brick is set in an English bond pattern. The front, facing the Delaware River, is five bays across with a multi-paneled central door. The windows are casement opening out. Those of the first floor have brick arches above them and those of the second floor have leaded glass panels above them. Three jerkin-head dormers and two large chimneys are on the roof. A large frame section occupies the rear of the house. A one and a half story brick kitchen with a large chimney extends to the left of the main entrance. The interior is seventeenth century in style and furnished in period antiques, typical of the furnishings that Penn most likely owned.
Much of the plantation arrangement of the estate has been reconstructed. Today there is a bake and brew house, a smoke house, a plantation office, ice house, and stable. Some of these are conjectural. Penn's gardens with native and foreign plants have been replanted.
Pennsbury Manor is a reconstruction of the manor house built by William Penn as his home in the new world. The original manor house and surrounding tract of land was an expression of the personal taste of the founder of Pennsylvania. It was the environment where he hoped to spend a large portion of his life.
The site of Pennsbury was chosen by Penn's cousin and deputy governor, William Markham. The deed of July 15, 1682 was the first to be executed between Penn and the Indians. It was paid for in wampum, gilders, blankers, clothing, tobacco and other goods.
The house was planned by Penn and construction may have begun before his arrival in October, 1682. Unfortunately Penn was forced to return to England in 1684 and appointed James Harrison to be overseer. Harrison received voluminous letters detailing instructions for the completion of the house and laying out of the grounds.
Due to political affairs Penn was not able to return to the new world until 1699. Pennsbury was home for the Penn family while in America until 1701 when Penn had to return again to England. This was the last time he saw Pennsbury.
The estate was maintained for a few years after Penn's departure, however, by 1707 the house had begun to fall into decaying condition. During Penn's illness, attention necessarily was diverted from Pennsbury to administering the colony. The estate rapidly fell into total ruin and the estate was sold.
In 1932 Pennsbury was given to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and reconstruction of Penn's beloved home was begun. Around the original foundation were found bricks, nails, hinges, window glass, delft tiles, and pieces of casement. With these artifacts and a knowledge of contemporary architecture, the manor was completed by 1939. The house is furnished in seventeenth century antiques, similar to what Penn probably owned. Many of the outbuildings on the plantation have been reconstructed along with Penn's fine gardens. Architect for the reconstruction was R. Brognard Okie.