This old house, definitely

Francie Chalfant led a group of Chadds Ford history buffs on a stroll through her historical home on July 15. The land was a direct land grant from William Penn and historical evidence points to the structure pre-dating Chadds Ford itself.

“My brother Jeff found this house, which had been empty for eight years,” said Chalfant, who, with her brother, grew up just down the street from the Ridge Road property. “There was water damage, but I could afford it.” Her brother is quick to add that the place was full of bat and mouse droppings.

The house is built into the side of a hill and the main floor is decorated with maps, letters, photos, drawings, and notations - Chalfant’s curated treasure-trove of the history of the house, Chadds Ford and the Brandywine Valley.

Jeff Chalfant points out the original ceiling beams that were uncovered.

“The house was a mess,” said Jeff Chalfant, describing the white stucco exterior and pink plaster interior. He was hands-on after the purchase, working on renovating the building to make it habitable. “Underneath the plaster and lath, there were the original logs and chinking.”

Other treasures unearthed included a piece of a newspaper from 1850, allowing them to conclude that was the year the logs had been covered. In addition to the clues the house held, Francie Chalfant did her own research.

“On library microfilm, I found the original 1699 land grant,” Chalfant took a brief pause, then said, “The original owner was John Chalfont.”

The revelation that her own ancestor had owned the structure was followed by more research. “The grant was made on Dec. 4 — there would have had to be a structure already here because they couldn’t have built this in the winter.”

Her theory that the structure pre-dates the land grant was confirmed by carbon dating which put the original construction date circa 1660. After

The logs with the original limestone mortar are a focal point for the home’s living area.

conferring with historians such as Peter Craig of the Swedish-American Society and Frank Eld, an expert on Finnish log cabin, the Chalfants determined that their structure was a German log cabin and that it was originally used as a trading post and storage facility for beaver pelts.

“See the bits of red in the rocks,” Chalfant points out as we walk down to the original stone basement. “They are garnets and are all through the rocks.” The clue hints that the stone’s origins might have been the Bethel mines in today’s Garnet Valley.

“Continual research, next is Kaolin,” Chalfant responds when asked about her plans for the future. The soft, white clay was available locally and used to create pottery. In addition to adding to the museum in the living area of her house, Chalfant rents the lower floors of the original structure to guests via Airbnb and owns and operates VanCortlandt Farms, a dried flower business in Spokane, Wash.
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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.



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