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Rose Valley Historic District

Rose Valley Boro, Delaware County, PA


Kinbawn, circa 1888

Photo: House of the Democrat, circa 1911, Price Lane, Rose Valley Historic District, Rose Valley Borough. The historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Photographed by wikipedia username: smallbones, own work, 2015, [public domain], accessed via wikimedia commons, December, 2022.


The Rose Valley Historic District [†] is entirely located within the borough of the same name to the south of Media in Delaware County. Its name expresses its confinement in the valley created by Ridley Creek and by the smaller tributary valley carved by Vernon Run. Most of the early buildings are located near the principal roads, Rose Valley Road that connects to the county seat of Media via Manchester Road and Brookhaven Road that aims toward the Providence Quaker meeting. The same roads continue to the south to the old county seat at Chester. A web of smaller roads provides evidence of the gradual infill development of the district in the 20th century.

The valley was initially farmed and later was developed by millers who took advantage of the water-power sources for milling. The earliest buildings that are now a part of the Rose Valley historic district are located near Rose Valley Road between Ridley Creek and Brookhaven Road. Mainly agricultural in purpose, several date from the early-to-late 18th century but examples continued to be built into the mid-19th century. These share a common architectural vocabulary and palette of local materials with their forms rooted in the late Georgian vernacular. They are characterized by right-angle-square framed gabled roofs, moderate sized, small-paned sash windows set into deep stone walls built of the local stone rubble and stuccoed with cements made of the local yellowish creek sands giving the early buildings a characteristic warm yellow-hued color that unifies the district. A significant alternative is the handsome late eighteenth-century Georgian house, "Tod morden" that is built of carefully cut local green serpentinite stone with richly detail wood comices and large window openings infilled with small-pane sash.

The farmhouses, springhouses, and barns of the early village are typical of the eastern Pennsylvania agricultural land uses. The Rose Valley barns are moderate in size unlike the giant barns of central Pennsylvania. Bam examples include the late 1 Sth century stone-ended bank bam, now converted to a residence, that is the Todmorden barn; a smaller, stone ended early 19th century bam of the Chester County type with round columns supporting the forebay became the studio wing of the Alice and Charles Stephens house; the frame bam on stone foundations that was the home of the Kite family has been adapted as apartments. These farm buildings are typically located in the centers of land parcels as opposed to being immediately on the major roads — because as agricultural buildings, their focus was on the land as work-place. In addition there are three largely intact eighteenth century houses in the district, the previously mentioned "Tod Morden" farm house, Vernon house with its broad gable front facing Rabbit Run and the so-called Bishop White house on Old Mill Lane. Another early building is the Union Methodist Church which stands just north of the intersection between West Rose Valley Road and West Brookhaven Road. It is a vestige of the early farming community that began with an 1813 building and remains a focus of community activity to the present. When the industrial population grew with the mills, it was replaced by the present rubble stone building that was built in 1835 and renovated in the 1870s.' Its shallow gable roof proportions are not unlike the early mills but tall lancet windows along its sides and a short tower with Gothic crenellations at its top reflect its religious purpose. The building has been enlarged in the 20th century with a parish hall in the same vocabulary to the rear and is now surrounded by parking lots that contrast with its graveyard setting.

Rose Valley is constructed on an armature of the old roads that were part of the network between the old county seat of Chester to the south and the village of Providence and the later county seat, Media to the north. As such it represents parts of the early development of the Philadelphia hinterland showing the characteristic regional sequence from agriculture cluster to mill village to railroad suburb and eventually to automobile-based community. The agricultural remnants are scattered but include several significant farm houses and barns many of which were later altered to serve the needs of the Arts and Crafts Community.

In the early 20th century when William L. Price learned that the mill community of his youthful explorations was to be auctioned, he put together a financing scheme with several previous clients under the name of the Rose Valley Association. The association purchased Hutton's Mill and its water-power site, and the adjacent 75 acres including a number of mill workers' houses, the mins of the Rose Valley Woolen Mill on Ridley Creek, as well as barns, farm houses and other structures that were scattered within the property. Price moved himself and his family first to the Rose Valley Guest House and later to his own house, "Carmedeil," and would live there for the last fifteen years of his life. Rose Valley became the site of an experimental community which Price and his cohorts modeled on William Morris's "News From Nowhere." Most of the houses and several of the agricultural buildings were adapted as residences by members of the Arts and Crafts community while a rowblock of six units at the comer of Rose Valley and Possum Hollow roads was adapted as a small "Guest House," following the model of William Morris's News From Nowhere. Hutton's mill was adapted as the community Guild Hall, where the community could meet, discuss and debate its goals and which also served as a studio for artists with a kiln on the rear for potter William Jarvis.

These existing building were soon augmented by numerous new buildings including a new workshop for the production of fine furniture and wood carving that was constructed in the mins of the Rose Valley Woolen Mill. Over time these buildings marked an important architectural departure for Price who left the late Victorian roots of his teacher, Frank Furness (1839-1912), and moved toward the simplifications that could be found in vernacular architecture which became an international counter to late Victorian decorated architecture Initially Rose Valley represented Price's critique of railroad suburbs in which each house took a different style that was about individual ownership but not about its connection to a place. Rose Valley soon came to incorporate his new theories about design and place. By adapting the local regional palette of materials and applying them to all new buildings. Price could express the democratic principles of the community with a unifying architectural vocabulary that was shared by large and small houses alike but which also referenced the regional vernacular which he had begun to appreciate for its expression of its place. This became the subject of an article, "The Value and Use of Simple Materials in Homebuilding" in which Price noted first their economy - "they are cheap, readily obtainable, and third, they are beautiful." Then, recalling the ideas of the era's great naturalist John Burroughs, he added, "Burroughs says somewhere that a house should be built of materials picked up at hand and in a large degree he seems to me to be right. Not only for sentimental and practical reasons but because it tends to produce types - tends toward a pleasing homogeneity in local style that is altogether good."' This idea would be developed in large mansions on the Schoen family side of the valley, in small houses on the artists' side and most remarkably in the five houses of the Rose Valley Improvement Company.

The founder of the Rose Valley Arts and Crafts community, William L. Price (1861-1916) forms the intellectual bridge between the architecture of his teacher Frank Furness (1839-1912) and the later architects who shaped American mid-century architecture. Price came from a Quaker family headed by James Price who worked for the Provident Life and Trust Company during the years when the company hired Frank Furness in 1876 for its landmark offices at 4* and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia's business district. That project provided entree into Furness' office for two of James' children, Francis (Frank, circa 1855-1919) and William. Francis became the project manager for the bank project during the last parts of its construction, managing the payouts to the contractors and initialing a workbook for the project, "F.L.P" and later "F. L. Price." After Frank departed to open his own office. Will remained for an extra year until 1881 where he presumably had an experience not unlike Louis Sullivan's earlier in the decade." In the next decade the brothers formed a partnership as F. L. and W. L. Price and built an extensive practice of suburban houses for middle class families in developments sponsored by the Drexel Company at Wayne, and the Philadelphia suburbs of Overbrook and Mount Airy while also capturing many of the commissions for the great mansions of the industrial barons of the region, most notably that of steel manufacturer, Alan Wood in West Conshohocken (1891), Alan Reed, son of clothing retailer Jacob Reed, financier John G. Gilmore, and so on. An important hotel commission, the Kenilworth Inn, in Asheville, NC exposed the brothers to the large scale of resort architecture and by the 1890s they were also working in Atlantic City.

As the century ended, Frank fell victim to mental illness and Will formed a second partnership with another brother, Walter (1857-1951) that lasted until 1902. In the meantime he had encountered the English arts and crafts founder William Morris and C. R. Ashbee as well as the American political activists centered on Joseph Fels and the American Single Tax movement. This led him to begin to explore radical lifestyles, represented in the foundation of Rose Valley, PA and "Arden, DE both in 1901. In 1902 he formed a new architectural practice in partnership with an architect and developer, Martin Hawley McLanahan (1865-1929) who pushed the new firm into large scale projects characterized by reinforced concrete construction that was newly systematized by the American Society for Testing Materials, in Philadelphia.

Rose Valley was the constant in Price's life during this adventurous period and may be said to have been the place where Price envisioned the modem world. In its small houses. Price had the opportunity to break away from historical forms while building a community with his partner, McLanahan. This community also provided him the connection to regional artists George Harding and N. C. Wyeth, both of the Brandywine School who worked with him on the decoration of the Traymore Hotel. Near his childhood home in neighboring Wallingford in what is now Nether Providence Township, it combined the familiar with the opportunity to push into new realms of design that played a major role in shaping American architecture before World War II.

Rose Valley Arts and Crafts Colony and the Arts and Crafts Movement

On 29 April 1901, the Osborne estate was sold at sheriffs sale to Price and his associates including soap maker Joseph Fels and financier John Gilmore. They intended the creation of a shared production community that would be governed by the Rose Valley Association, which was incorporated by Pennsylvania statute on 17 July 1901 with the stated purpose of "the manufacture of structures, articles, materials and products involving artistic handicraft." To that

end, Price and his fellow associationers constructed a new furniture workshop in the mins of the Rose Valley Mills on Ridley Creek where water power could be captured to mn the machinery and created a community of artists and artisans who would share in the experiment.' At the beginning of the 20* century, the Rose Valley Arts and Crafts community was one of several intentional communities across the nation that became nationally known as responses to conflicts inherent within the industrial age. Rose Valley was among the best known because of the prominence of its founder, the architect William L. Price who was joined by other architects including his brother, Walter Price and John Bisegger, writers including Horace Traubel (1858-1919), literary executor of Walt Whitman, designers and artists, including photographer Henry Troth, potter W. Percival Jervis (1850-1910), Alice Barber Stephens and her husband Charles Stephens and others who were drawn into this project. With its own literary journel. The Artsman, its distinctive architectural style rooted in the regional vernaular, and its artistic production including furniture, pottery, and fine art. Rose Valley found an international audience.

Rose Valley had its beginnings in the social unrest triggered by the market crash of 1893 that signaled the rise of trusts and capitalist agglomeration.'* In Philadelphia, beginning even earlier in 1885, progressive activists had formed the Ethical Culture Society, a group that brought together soap manufacturer and philanthropist Joseph Fels (1853-1914), tract writer and Walt Whitman's editor, Horace Traubel, industrialist and financier and William L. Price's future client John Gilmore and others who sought the means to ameliorate the effect of industrial capitalism through such programs as Settlement Houses. Together they explored the ideas of Henry George (a former Philadelphian), whose Progress and Poverty (1879) had become the best-selling attack on capitalist landholding. George made the case that land should be held in common by the community and that community income should be raised by a "single-tax" on land use, giving the social movement its name. In 1896 and again in 1897 Philadelphia architect Will Price joined in the attempt to make Delaware a "Single-Tax" state following George's precepts. With the support of Fels, Price was able to acquire property and build the community buildings for a local demonstration of the Single Tax at Arden DE in 1901.' In the same year, again with the backing of Gilmore, Fels and others. Price formed the Rose Valley Association and began the transformation of an old mill village on Ridley Creek in Delaware County into an Arts and Crafts colony.

The Arts and Crafts movement's roots reached back to the middle of the 19* century in Great Britain where the first responses to industrialization were taken in word by John Ruskin, most particularly in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), and later The Stones of Venice (1851-18533), and in deed by William Morris whose Red House, built outside of London at Bexley Heath in 1853-1861 in association with architect Phillip Webb, led to a revival of craft values and practice that countered the culture of cheap and mass production. By 1876 the nascent Arts and Crafts movement had reached the United States in a variety of guises. As John A. Kouwenhoven pointed out in Made in America (1948), Europeans came to the Centennial Exhibition and saw the power of the machine and the new industrial and engineering processes and took those ideas back to Europe to become the basis for the Bauhaus; Americans simultaneously rediscovered the luxury of craftsmanship in the work that Europeans exhibited.' Two regional results were the formation of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum that collected the crafts of the Centennial Exhibition and the foundation after the Centennial of the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art where craftsmanship was taught to improve the skills of the Philadelphia workingman.' Among the students of the Museum School was William L. Price, and among its faculty was Charles Stephens (1864-1940), later a member of the Rose Valley community."

Another community form of the movement was a type of company town led by a single entrepreneur such as Hubbard and Stickley. They typically followed the industrial practices of the day, albeit with an overtone of ethical production and design. Thus Stickley's complex outside of Syracuse and Hubbard's Roycroft Inn and plant in East Aurora near Buffalo, NY were work-centered communities of the sort that were common across America in the late 19* century as for instance Pullman, Illinois, or Hershey in Pennsylvania. Others arrived at the idea of an intentional community where workers shared in the creative process and where production was personal and valued. Price's 1901 community at Rose Valley and Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead's (1854-1929) Byrdcliffe Colony founded 1902, outside of Woodstock, New York, are examples of the latter.These made the transition from the work-place and the private fashion of the individual home to a more integrated community that celebrated the fusion of craftsmanship and the artistic life. Byrdcliffe is best remembered for its splendid rambling central Whitehead house, called White Pine, that was part Adirondacks lodge, part California modern, with surrounding smaller camps, kilns, and shops." There, unlike Rose Valley, the scale of Whitehead's house and his ownership of everything made it clear that he was the center, the principal designer with others executing his schemes.

From the beginning Rose Valley differed from Stickley's and Whitehead's communities in its broader array of leaders including Will Price, his future business partner M. Hawley McLanahan (1865-1929) and the latter's father-in-law, the American industrialist Charles Schoen (1844-1917), as well as Walter Price (1857-1951), Will's brother and an important architect in his own right, and eventually artists Charles and Alice Barber Stephens (respectively 1864-1940 and 1858-1932). Each brought their own identity and values to the community as did several of the craftsmen, draftsmen from the Price firm and others who are remembered in the pages of The Artsman. In part this was certainly a reflection of the shared regional cultural heritage of the Quaker value of the individual.

Price's desire to create a community of association by interests that would draw artists as well as friends and relatives was very different than the English model industrial towns such as Port Sunlight (c. 1885-1915) built by William Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, to house his soap manufacturing workers on the border of Wales. Where Port Sunlight was connected to giant industry and was highly paternalistic. Rose Valley was on the one hand at least in part an extended family but it was also largely making itself up as it went along. How personal it was is evident in the early listing of residents who had joined the "Folk Mote" as they called their community government. These were listed in the "Chronicles of the Folk Mote" in the meeting for 12 December 1901 and included "freeman W. L. Price," "Dr. Caroline Smith, First Chairman, Susanna M. Price, teacher [Will's sister], Josephine DeMoll, mother of children; Carl DeMoll, her son, craftsman, Mary his wife, skilled in growing flowers [another of Will's sisters]; Clara Merrick, skilled in household economy and lover of children [a member of Will's wedding party and housekeeper for the Price family]; Will Walton who sings and draws houses with his hands to the satisfaction of freeman Price [and Will's cousin, working in the architectural office], Francis Day, artist, children's portraits; Mrs. Day; Walter F. Price, architect of renown and sketcher of promise [Will's brother and at the time his architectural partner], Mrs. E. W. Price, wife of W. L., raiser of children; Anna Margaret Kite, lover of children, kindergarten [another of Will's sisters and wife of Nathan], Nathan Kite, tiller of the soil [and with his wife, operator of the Rose Valley Guest House]."

It is telling that at the beginning of the community, only the family members and close associates were listed as members of the association even though there were other residents including the workforce at the furniture mill. Over time however, numerous artists joined the community including artists and illustrators Charles and Alice Barber Stephens and Elenore and her husband Charles Abbott, photographer Henry Troth, instructor in manual training, Harry Hetzel and others who gradually built houses and became active members of the community. Alice Barber Stephens for example designed the posters for the various musical performances; Troth provided a photographic record of the community; and John Bisseger, a draftsman in the Price office, did many of the drawings for The Artsman. Notably too, as the initial activities of the Arts and Crafts community concluded in the last issue of The Artsman a map of the community included the craftsmen such as John Maene, and T. Terjussen (the European craftsmen mentioned by Price in the article on the mill), who remained a part of the community after the closing of the mill. Members of many of the original families remain in Rose Valley to the present marking the ultimate social fusion of the community.

Thus in a sense. Rose Valley began as an extension of Price's own family but it also reflected Price's mid-1890s English trip where he met William Morris and several of the Arts and Crafts architects of the next generation, including C. R. Ashbee who would later visit Price in Rose Valley. This encounter energized Price and led him to try various forms of community activism over the next generation ending with his attempt with Fiske Warren, another Utopian activist for whom Price had designed a house, to create a single-tax country in Andorra in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. Begun in 1916 just before Price's death, it foundered in the war but remains connected to its Single-Tax roots as a low tax zone in modem Europe.

The Intellectual Roots of Rose Valley: Rose Valley was shaped by Price's encounter in the mid-1890s with the English founder of the arts and crafts movement, William Morris whose Utopian novel News From Nowhere (1890) envisioned late 20* century communities where work and nature were valued in an ever-greener and more natural world. Morris's tale describes populations moving to the country in villages with social centers called, as in Rose Valley, the "Guild Hall" and "Guest House." These buildings were unified in design, again like Rose Valley, with a consistent palette of materials including local stuccoes, red tile roofs and tile ornament, and the creation of places for shared experiences. Where buildings were built new or were largely rebuilt, the designs began to reflect the simplifications, broader surfaces and expression of materiality that characterized the simultaneous work of Charles Voysey and C. R. Ashbee in London and Charles Renie Macintosh in Glasgow.

The historical record demonstrates that Rose Valley was more than just the acting out of Morris's News From Nowhere because it was also intended to combat both the social isolation of the railroad suburb and the impact of Frederick Winslow Taylor's scientific management on the workforce that had been centered in Philadelphia in the 1890s where Price had seen its results. With the failure of the water-powered industries at Rose Valley at the end of the nineteenth century as steam engines and small electric motors changed the tone and noise-level of shops. Price and his colleagues saw the opportunity to rethink how products were made and to reassert the value of the workman as a creator — the core of the idea was to make a place where a person's work could become a focus of his life. Such a person was an "Artsman." This name became the name of the community journal that was published from 1903-1907. The physical setting of the Rose Valley community met the goal of providing workplaces with proximate housing in a beautiful place while also making it possible for those with jobs in Philadelphia to commute by rail to the city.

Rose Valley took a different form than Price and Frank Stephens' slightly earlier Utopian community, Arden, just across the Delaware state border. Arden was based on Single-Tax theories that held that all land should be held in common for the common good and owners were taxed on the size of their land rather than on the type or value of their use. Like Arden, Rose Valley began as a large property held by an association but the Rose Valley community was quickly forced toward more conventional real estate practices to pay off a short-term mortgage that was backed by Swarthmore College. As a result Rose Valley was less polemical, contrasting with the single-tax focus and more politically radical Arden that attracted Mother Bloor, the American Communist, Scott Nearing, the University of Pennsylvania professor whose demand for accountability for child-labor abuses by businesses operated by Penn trustees resulted in his firing from the Penn faculty, and later Upton Sinclair who used the royalties from The Jungle to build a cottage that he called "the Journal." Price intended Rose Valley as a place to develop a society where creative work was central, attracting successful artists and architects, potters, and bookbinders, wood carvers and other skilled craftspeople.

The different goals of the two communities resulted in different architectural characteristics. Because of the Single-Tax basis of Arden, the single tax on land meant that lots were tiny and houses tended to be inexpensive, often beginning as tents on platforms and then expanding as the personal economies of the families permitted. When Joseph Fels determined that Arden should be more permanent and less provisional, he commissioned Price to design a few houses that have the appearance of the new Rose Valley buildings but they are typically smaller and stand out against the rest of the community. Notably there are no large buildings of the sort built by Rose Valley's wealthier members, the Schoens, Jacksons, McLanahans, and Alice Barber and Charles Stephens. Thus Arden was tme to its Single Tax values — but it is notable that both communities shared the idea of open access to the land for all. Arden for example included large open greens in the center of residential neighborhoods and preserved its creek valleys as natural zones without buildings. Rose Valley does the same and adds the overlay of the shared path system that ensure that the owners of tiny houses would have access to the beauties of the Ridley Creek Valley.

The second focus of Rose Valley was the workshop that was constructed adjacent to the mins of Osborn's Mill. This was modeled on William Morris's "banded workshop" that relied on craftsmen working together "in the traditional manner," meaning in the manner before Taylor reshaped the manufacturing process into discrete steps that could be adapted to modem machinery. Traubel wrote:

Rose Valley is a cross between economic revolution and the stock exchange Rose Valley is not shutting one door and opening another Rose Valley connects in the open with industrial fact It is not a break It is an evolution Rose Valley is not altogether a dream or wholly an achievement It is an experiment It is also an act of faith. It is not willing to say what it will do It is only willing to say what it is trying to do Rose Valley pays a first tribute to labor. Labor is the social base. Our modem world had quarreled with this disposition of values. And many who do not share its quarrel still shrink from making a concession to labor Rose Valley knows and acknowledges the situation. Rose Valley is not under any illusions. It does not think it is doing singlehanded a work which is at last warning intercontinental allies. It is one figure in a movement much more portentous than any individual instance of devotion could shape or weigh. The carver carving wood is at work scripturing the daily life of man. To make the joint of a chair what it should be is an act as holy as hymning an abstract creed. Rose Valley does not say any contradicting formula is wholly wrong. It does not assume that its formula is wholly right. It is undertaking to prove to itself first of all that work may be made holy through the freedom of its workman. Rose Valley may fail. But its faith cannot fail.""'

William Ayres published a report on Rose Valley from the United States Bureau of Labor that described the workshop with large windows on one side of the shop toward the view and with a

"drafting table, and a power hand saw, circular saw, and mortising machine. Four men are employed in the furniture shop on a wage basis, Mr. Price believing that the essential end of cooperation can be attained better under the wage system than under any communistic system. The opportunity to work under pleasant surroundings is much appreciated by the men. An attempt is being made to develop individuality of execution among them. The result is a product as different from the so-called "mission" furniture as the latter is from the product of the ordinary factories. Glue is very little used, and is never depended on for strength The result is handsome and expensive furniture, the prices depending upon the time employed in making particular pieces.

Several points are important in that description. First, unlike the purely craft tradition. Price and his associates accepted the value of the machine as tool to lessen labor so long as it was directed by the craftsman "... tools with which a thinking man may work, shaping the product with his own volition." This would make it possible to "sense humanity" in the production. In this Price was in accord with Frank Lloyd Wright who had arrived at a similar position as recounted in his slightly earlier lecture, "The Art and Craft of the Machine" given at Hull House in Chicago in March of 1901." The shop's products were well received at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis and produced the decorative finishes for many of the major Price houses of the period, but within a year, the requirement to pay off the mortgage held by Swarthmore College and labor unrest in the shops led to the ending of the initial workshop production phase of the Arts and Crafts experiment.

As a result of the financial and labor crisis in 1906, the shop closed and the original lands were sold off The west side of Rose Valley beyond Rose Valley Road including the property for the shops had already been entirely purchased by Price's architectural partner, M. Hawley McLanahan and his father-in-law, Charles Schoen, a wealthy industrialist who had made a fortune in Western Pennsylvania, first with the invention of the steel box-car and later with the steel tire for cast iron railway wheels; the east side was sold off in smaller parcels to the community residents leaving only the Guild Hall and its water way as a communal asset. The community continued its shared activities including its shared recreational facilities on Ridley Creek and later its swimming pool, its theatrical programs at the Guild Hall centered on the Rose Valley Chorus that began in 1907 with a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado (starring Price as the Mikado) and continuing thereafter on a yearly basis, as well as art exhibits and efforts to maintain the arts and crafts base, but the banded workshop for all intents and purposes no longer functioned. These activities continue to the present as evidenced by the ongoing theatrical productions of the Rose Valley Chorus and the activities of the Rose Valley Folk who continue to own the borough hall.

Rose Valley Architecture:

If Rose Valley began as a comment on work, it also had as its purpose a comment on the new railroad suburbs that were springing up across the United States including Philadelphia's suburbs, several of which including Wayne, Overbrook and Pelham were largely designed by Price." Modeled on Bedford Park outside of London, Philadelphia suburbs such as Wayne, Overbrook and Mt. Airy typically became monocultures appealing to a single economic class who could afford their large houses and the commute and time to work. Price and his colleagues intended to create a different type of community where different property sizes would be available to those with differing resources but shared interests. This idea is central to Price's article "Is Rose Valley Worth While?" in the first issue of the Rose Valley journal, The Artsman, where he proposed that"... our fitness to associate together upon simple human terms should not be gauged by our incomes." Instead of the usual modem suburb Price and his cohorts intended the creation of a community that could incorporate the wealthy, the middle class, and the low paid artisan, "writers, musicians, craftsmen, art workers, and those who think the simple life with some human touch worth more than the strain and show and haphazard of your ordinary communities. Here the tiniest cottage may be built side by side with a more spacious neighbor." Incorporating the workers in the mill as well as rich industrialists, draftsmen from Price and McLanahan's office as well as the principals in the firm. Rose Valley has remained tme to its values to the present.

The visual expression of the social values was an architectural idea that Price described in an article "Choosing Simple Materials for the Home," where he argued for the creation of regional vernaculars using local materials so that houses would fit into their setting while eliminating the economic competition of suburbs. This vocabulary began with the stucco and Mercer tile ornamental panels of the Guest House that C. R. Ashbee, the great English arts and crafts architect, and friend of Will Price called "Rose Valley Architecture." It continued in a more subtle manner by incorporating rough bits of the local stone, rising toward greater abstract forms in stucco and tile on the gate posts scattered around the community.

Will Price's Rose Valley work also includes larger houses for the families on the west side of Rose Valley Road. In these he moved toward greater simplicity and connection to the landscape, making the houses very much parts of their setting in the choice of materials as well as in their shapes. Of these, McLanahan's house, "Cheerie Acres," is demolished, the Schoen house has recently been restored; the Stephen's house has been previously placed on the National Register and RoyLenCroft remains and is in largely original condition. It shared a feature with other large residences by Price of a broken axis just off the center that differentiated the family zones of the house from the support side. Its large canopy at the entrance and broad arched openings that open onto the landscape mark Price's beginning efforts at creating a larger scale modem house that he would explore across the country in the next decade.

Price's personal style reached maturity in the five houses of the Rose Valley Improvement Company. Where most of his earlier houses in Rose Valley were adaptations of existing structures, these were intended as contemporary designs and were made of more permanent materials that would attract those who were outside of the web of relationship and ideology of the initial community and would instead bring in new residents. Because they were not for specific clients. Price was free to design them in a more abstract mode resulting in a remarkable group of modem but modest scale houses that contrasts with contemporary modem ventures such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses that were usually much larger and for wealthier clients. In these houses Price sought to create for people of modest means an whose style would "point the way to the accomplishment of a plastic art whereby perhaps an indigenous expression, typically American is to become established.

In part because of its architectural innovation and its open spatial qualities that denoted its open society, the community continued to be attractive to artists. Just before the end of World War I, William Grey Purcell, the noted Prairie School architect, and his wife, Edna, acquired a property off Possum Hollow Road and connected the first Prairie School house in Pennsylvania." It is a remarkable, low, sleek house whose deep brown paint links it to its Pennsylvania woodland site while its sliding glass panels connect it to the landscape. It is perhaps the most successful Prairie School house in Pennsylvania, demonstrating that the style was more adaptable than it might ordinarily seem.

In the 1920s other architects joined the community and built houses including W. Pope Barney who built a cluster of houses on Wychwood Road including his own house, and Owen Stephens, the son of Charles and Alice Barber Stephens, who designed a Cotswold house for his own family near his parents. The most remarkable of the architect's residences is the immense Gothic "cottage" with rough slate roof and masses of chimneys that was designed in 1926 by Howell Lewis Shay of the noted Philadelphia skyscraperdesign firm of Ritter & Shay. Shay's splendid house is near the intersection of Rose Valley Road and Possum Hollow Road. In many ways it was at odds with the simplification of life of the original village, though its aggrandizement of country life was clearly intended to fit into the community. It represented Shay's income from the design of half a dozen skyscrapers in Philadelphia in the 1920s. The Depression and the end of the building boom of the 1920s caused Shay to sell his house but he remained in the valley and later built a second more contemporary house for himself in the 1940s that reflected his awareness of the new horizontality of contemporary design while avoiding historical convention. In the 1920s Shay had also designed a cluster of handsome Cotswold houses on Hilltop Road across Possum Hollow from the Improvement Company houses. This was the last important group of buildings in the community but over the next generation additional buildings have been fit into the community, varying between modem and historically based styles in a way that is visually effective. These include the handsome modem residences of architects Alec Ewing and Carl DeMoll's house on School House Land but also the early attempt at an energy-efficient house on the same street as well as a very stripped contemporary house at the bend of Price's lane built in the 1940s.

Rose Valley thus contains the homes of half a dozen architects who together shaped much of Philadelphia twentieth century architecture and with the arts and crafts community largely designed by Will Price and his cohorts, is one of the most comprehensive collections of important twentieth century houses. In this it rivals Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill with its houses by Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, and Mitchell / Giurgola and other suburbs such as Bryn Mawr, but with a higher percentage of architect designed buildings because of Price's involvement with the early community.

Landscape counterpart to the architecture

The landscape counterpart of the idea of the small cottages mixed with large estates is the open landscape of the community that is best represented by the path system that follows English models in the use of overland paths rather than being shaped by sidewalks along streets as in most suburbs. Here a network of informal paths connect clusters of houses to community resources with little regard to property boundaries or ownership (images 20a, 23a, 24a, 25a). These are well-known within the community and are taken by walkers who follow the paths instead of roads whenever possible. Their use require local knowledge because one route until recently crossed a porch and cut through hedgerows with efficiency but little regard to privacy. One result has been the general lack of fences that denote private land while the counterpart is the general lack of sidewalks that characterize the typical suburban developments beyond Rose Valley. New paths continue to be made and residents continue to cross each others property with abandon.

The communitarian side of Rose Valley has continued to the present as well. In 1923, the principal community asset, the Guild Hall, was sold to New York-based theater director Jasper Deeter who was attracted to Rose Valley by the availability of the Guild Hall, the strong community tradition in theater and its access to Philadelphia and New York. Deeter adapted the building to serve a repertory theater company that attained national renown over the next half century while relying on the actors and performers of the original Rose Valley performers including Will Price's own son, William Webb Price, who became a member of Actor's Equity. Others came to work and study and lived in various buildings including the Hedgerow House, an 1870s Victorian house on Rose Valley Road as well as in the Kite bam. Hedgerow Theatre provided a connection to another erstwhile craftsman, Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) who had worked for a time in another Fels-based single tax community at Fairhope, Alabama. Esherick's wife came to be associated with Dr. Ruth Deeter, Jasper Deeter's sister. This in tum brought Esherick to the Hedgerow Theatre where he used readily obtainable ash axe handles to create chairs for the theater lobby while also making the immense table in the lobby. The Hedgerow Theatre Company continues to the present and remains an anchor of the community.

The sale of the Guild Hall precipitated the shift to a borough form of government which was established in 1923 under the leadership of residents John G. Pew (by then living at Gothwood. and son of the founder of Sun Oil and himself the manager of Sun Ship in nearby Chester, PA) and the famed attorney Maurice B. Saul who had purchased the Schoen property and was himself the successor in the legal practice of John G. Johnson. Saul and Pew organized the vote for borough status and simultaneously organized the community to renovate the mins of the old mill and furniture shop as the new borough meeting hall. This survives to the present as the "Old Mill" which includes a large social meeting hall and the borough offices owned by the Rose Valley Folk, the successor to the original Folk Mote of 1901. This building with its picturesque tower adjacent to the mins of the original mill buildings was designed during the Depression by Price's son William Webb Price and Will Walton, both veterans of Will Price's office and long-time partners in the finn of Price and Walton. It continues as an important social space for the community and continues the pattern of self-government to the present.

Adapted from: George E. Thomas, Ph.D., CivicVisions, Rose Valley Historic District, nomination document, 2010, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Applebough Lane • Arbor Lane • Brookhaven Road • Buttonwood Way • Hilltop Road • Old Mill Lane • Old Mill Lane • Orchard Lane • Possum Hollow Road • Prices Lane • Rabbit Run • Rose Valley Road • Roylencroft Lane • School Lane • Todmorden Drive • Tulip Lane • Valley View Road • Vernon Lane