Collen Brook Farm
The Smith ~ Lewis Center for Local History
On a flowing creek, encompassed by eight acres of open space of country-like beauty, is a charming 18th century farmhouse, “Collen Brook.” It has the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property has remained in the possession of direct descendants for nearly 300 years. Through the generosity of the Smith Family, Upper Darby Township acquired the home in 1989 as a living heritage for all to enjoy. It is situated at the end of a lane off Mansion Road at Marvine Avenue in Drexel Hill in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania.
In 1692, Ralph Lewis, a Welsh Quaker immigrant and a sawmill owner, purchased 150 acres of land on the east bank of the Collen Brook, a tributary of Darby Creek. He left the land to his son, Abraham, who built a house and barn about 1710. Then in 1794 Abraham's grandson, Abraham Lewis, III, built a stone addition to the original house. The original building was later enlarged to 2 1/2 stories as it is today.
Abraham Lewis III was the last male descendent of the Lewis family to live at the Collen Brook Farm. His daughter, Mary, inherited the land upon her mother’s death in October of 1829. This was eight months after Mary’s marriage to Dr. George Smith. Both Mary and George inherited property from their families and they were major land owners in this part of Pennsylvania. In the final years of his life, Dr. Smith owned 1100 acres of land in this area of Delaware County.
After moving into Collen Brook in 1829, Dr. Smith made a few changes to the building by adding dormer windows and a bathroom on the second floor of the west side.
The home is an excellent example of an 18th Century farmhouse. Each principal room in the house has a paneled fireplace. The sitting room fireplace displays an attractive hand-carved English wooden mantle. The kitchen, now part of the caretaker quarters, features a walk-in cooking fireplace with a window. During the recent restoration, a well (4' wide and 15' deep) was discovered in the floor. In keeping with the Quaker tradition, the house has a large dining room for family gatherings. The wide central hall possesses a graceful staircase with a window at the landing. Most of the exterior walls were stoutly constructed with 18" thick stonework. A root cellar, once used for storing food, exists under the dining room.
Portions of the original carriage house and barns are still present, lending themselves to the beauty of the setting. The homestead reflects the affluence of notable Quaker settlers.
There were several spring-houses on the property. The one dated 1782 remains across the brook. Further upstream, a pond was formed by damming the brook. Ice was cut from the pond and stored in an ice pit which was located under the present white house at the beginning of the drive.
During the 1930’s, 300 head of cattle roamed the farm and produce was grown on the property. In 1932, in keeping with Dr. Smith’s wishes, the land where Aronimink School now stands was sold to Upper Darby School District for public school use. Much of the land was sold for development during the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
The porch was restored and dedicated in 1994. The west end of the house was restored for caretaker quarters in 1996 and the 1794 side was opened to the public in June of 1997.
As you meander along the tree-lined lane and approach the homestead, you can envision life over the past 300 years. It is our hope that this treasure will stand eternally as an example of Upper Darby’s past. The Historical Society is committed to the preservation and restoration of this splendid legacy.
The Collen Brook Farm has the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The "Farm House Museum" is open to the public on Sunday's from 1 - 4:00pm, May through October. Educational programs and special tours are available by appointment.
Copyright Upper Darby Historical Society