The name Kennett originates with Francis Smith who came to this region in 1686. He was a native of Devizes, in Wiltshire, England, in which there is a village called “Kennet.” The name is first mentioned in court records in 1705. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Kennett was a small village located where the road from Chester to Baltimore intersected with the road from Lancaster to Wilmington. It was at this intersection that the Unicorn Tavern was built in 1735 by Joseph Musgrave, the largest landowner in what is now Kennett Square. In 1776 Musgrave sold his property to Colonel Joseph Shippen, the uncle of Peggy Shippen, who became the wife of Benedict Arnold.
Travelers found the village a good place to stop, including Baron Wilhelm van Knyphausen and General Sir William Howe, who stayed for one night before marching to the Battle of the Brandywine against George Washington at Chadds Ford in 1777. By 1810 there was a village of about eight dwellings, five of which were log, but it was not until 1853 that a group of citizens petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions of Chester to form a borough. After several petitions and objections from farmers, the court granted the articles of incorporation and Kennett Square held its first local elections in 1855.
Antebellum Kennett was an important region in the Underground Railroad, and many prominent citizens of Kennett Square and the surrounding region played an important role in securing freedom for runaway slaves.
It was in Kennett Square that the grain drill was invented by Samuel and Moses Pennock (patented on March 12, 1841), and improvements for the corn sheller and harvester (1857), and the first four-wheel road machine (1877). Their business, S & M Pennock & Sons, eventually grew into the American Road Machinery Company. Other local inventors included James Green, inventor of a hayknife, Bernard Wiley, inventor of the famous Wiley Plow, John Chambers, inventor of the asbestos stove plate, and Cyrus Chambers, who patented a machine for folding papers and a brickmaking machine. It was on the Chamber’s property that the first circular saw in Chester County was built in 1835. Another large business was the Fibre Specialty Manufacturing Company, later known as NVF, which built its first plant in Kennett Square in 1898 as is now closed.
Kennett Square’s most famous citizen was Bayard Taylor (1825-1878). A resident of Kennett Square, this nineteenth-century author, diplomat, poet, and journalist published over forty books, including Views A-foot, Eldorado, a translation of Faust (which Mark Twain called the best of all English translations), and local favorite, The Story of Kennett. Bayard Taylor died in Berlin while serving as Minister to Germany.
Our walking tour will start one block north of the Town center at State Street and Union Street where there is a municipal parking garage...
The Brosius House
119 East Linden Street
Edwin Brosius built a pottery at the corner of Broad and Linden Streets around 1844. The Brosius home serves as a fine example of the Federal style, having been updated later in the century. The more modern Italianate details of the structure are seen in the ornate bracketed cornice and the iron porch with the balcony above. An added wooden porch protects the center doorway with its sidelights and transom on the south elevation.
District Court and Old Ben Butler
southwest corner of East Linden and North Broad streets
The official opening of the former municipal building was April 17, 1939. The materials were taken almost entirely from the old high school building. The building was completed by WPA labor. In 1861 Bayard Taylor presented the home guard of Kennett Square with a cannon cast at the Pennock Foundry at State & Willow Streets. It became known as Old Ben Butler. The cannon was fired to hail Union victories in the Civil War. The District Court moved to this location in 2004.
The Walls House
219 East Linden Street
At the turn of the 20th century the house served as parsonage for a church next door. Later it was the home of Dr. Orville R. Walls, a graduate of the Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee in 1936. Walls was a general practitioner in Kennett Square from 1937 to 1964.
Bethel A.M.E. Church
301 East Linden Street
Early records show that a number of free blacks had owned land in the town of Kennett Square from as early as the 1850s. The African Methodist Episcopalian Church was officially founded in 1894. Meetings were held in Taylor Hall at the southwest corner of Broad and Cypress Streets in the 1890s, until a church could be built. A lot was purchased on East Linden Street and a building was erected and dedicated in July, 1895. The structure underwent extensive renovations in 1973, although the fine example of a federal steeple is still evident at the south end.
New Garden Church
309 East Linden Street
On September 4, 1824, the Union African Methodist Episcopalian Church purchased one acre of land from Joseph Broman for $50 at Buck Toe Hill in New Garden Township. A log building constructed on the site was later destroyed by fire, and was replaced by a stone building. In 1904, property was purchased on East Linden Street and a new building erected with the stone from the original church. The new church was dedicated on February 18, 1911.
The Vincent Barnard House
315 East Linden Street
Vincent Barnard (1825-1871) was a local naturalist who came to Kennett Square to work for Samuel Pennock, and whose daughter Joanna, he married. At the time of his death he had a two- acre botanical garden containing numerous rare and indigenous specimens of trees and flowers.
TURN RIGHT ON WILLOW STREET. TURN RIGHT ON STATE STREET.
The Kennett Square Inn
201 East State Street
Built between 1820 and 1839, this structure is a combination of a two-bay Penn plan on the west side and a four-bay federal plan on the east side.
TURN LEFT ON BROAD STREET. TURN LEFT ON APPLE ALLEY.
120 South Marshall Street
Built before 1908 in the Queen Anne style by Harry K. Hicks, this home is characterized by its eclectic mix of contrasting materials and patterns: the use of stucco, clapboard, decorative shingles, and half-timbering. Verandas and turrets were also common architectural elements of this style. Noteworthy details include a slate-hipped roof, conical roof porch, and Chinese lattice work on the porch railing and the classical columns supporting the porch roof. Also of note is the gallery above the front porch and the applique work on the gabled detailing. Hermann Schmaltz, a native of Germany, came to America in 1884. In 1903, he settled in Kennett Square, where he owned and operated a hardware, plumbing and heating business, and later moved into the Hicks house. Today it is home to Borough offices.
TURN RIGHT ON MARSHALL STREET.
Sharpless Lewis House
211 Marshall Street
Most of the original features of this Stick style house are intact, although the stucco on the second floor was originally wood. Automation of wood working allowed for mass production of decorative elements.
Eli & Lewis Thompson House
221 Marshall Street
This circa 1882 Gothic house has wooden posts and scrolled brackets trimming the first floor porch. A barn which is approximately the same age as the house occupies the property as well. Eli Thompson was the father-in-law of William Swayne who built his greenhouses across the street (where Barber’s Florist is now located). Swayne was not only a successful florist, but along with Harry Hicks, built the first mushroom house in Kennett Square in 1885.
222 Marshall Street
This home is Queen Anne/Gothic stick style built about 1880. A gambrel-roofed cross gable has a decorative pendant and a window with a Gothic arch. A one-story shed roofed porch has chamfered posts and open brackets.
TURN RIGHT ON JUNIPER STREET. TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH BROAD STREET. WALK OF THE EAST SIDE OF THE STREET.
219 South Broad Street; northeast corner of Juniper Street
This house was built by Samuel D. Chandler, a local pharmacist, in the Second Empire style. Note the three distinct slate patterns in the mansard roof - diamond, brick, and fish-scale. The detailed and carved cornices are similar to the closely related Italianate style. The appliques on the dormers and between the cornices are noteworthy for their presence. The porch was probably added later. The chamfered posts with scroll brackets and arched form are identical to details on other porches in town.
Presbyterian Parsonage (Manse)
213 South Broad Street
Built in about 1884 in the Stick style, this brick house is an excellent example of its type and appears to retain nearly all its original exterior features including roof and porch trim. Note the drop-finial at the apex and bargeboards with unique bulls-eye detail at the porch eaves, the Gothic window beneath the apex detail, and the type of bonding used between brick courses. It was used as a parsonage for the church next door until the 1960s.
The Presbyterian Church of Kennett Square
211 South Broad Street
In the early 1860s when Kennett Square numbered between 500 and 600 people, the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church organized on East Linden Street. At this time, there was but one Presbyterian living in the town but the services attracted a small group of people. In 1865 a brick building was erected at a cost of $6,200. The major portion of the present stone church was built between 1909-1916. The building was further remodeled in 1928, after a damaging fire.
CROSS THE STREET AND WALK BACK DOWN THE WEST SIDE OF SOUTH BROAD STREET TOWARDS JUNIPER STREET.
United Methodist Church of the Open Door
210 South Broad Street
This church is now home to Methodists but in the past has been a Lutheran Church and before that, an Episcopal Church. Note the variety of patterns and character of the slate roof, modified buttresses, and gothic windows.
216 South Broad Street
The McMullen-Walton House was built in 1869 by Joseph McMullen, a Burgess of Kennett Square. The decorative trusses in the gables are a common architectural detail in town. This one is in the form of a rising sun. The sun design was a popular symbol for a rising country from 1860 to 1890.
307 South Broad Street
This house dates to the early 1900s when A.W. Gregg, a physician, lived at this address. This is a two-and-a-half story brick house in the Queen Anne style, notable for its large and irregular shape. The large, exceptionally detailed gable-roofed dormer on the facade contains a recessed porch trimmed with cornices, dental brackets, and lattice work. Bulls-eyes and panelling trim the gable ends. Note the upper balcony and lamp black used in the mortar. The gable also uses the sun motif.
Isaac Pyle House
312 South Broad Street
This 1870 house and has beautiful filigree ironwork and a “circus tent” tin roof. The striped circus- tent-style metal porch roof was a popular decorative effect.
Kennett Square Academy
313 South Broad Street
This large building is three stories high above a raised basement, and has a flat roof with projecting cornice. Stucco now covers the exterior brick walls. Built in 1870 as Swithin C. Shortlidge’s Kennett Square Academy for Young Men and Boys and Kennett Seminary for Young Ladies and Girls, this is a historically important building within the district. A Harvard graduate, Shortlidge operated the school here for 12 years and then Reverend A. S. Vaughn of New Jersey took over, giving it the name Hofwyl Academy.
Mary Phillips House
318 South Broad Street
Now apartments, this 1871 Gothic-inspired houses was the boyhood home of Hall-of-Fame baseball pitcher Herb Pennock. Pennock was born in Kennett Square on February 10, 1894 and began his 22-year big league career at the age of 18, winning 241 games, most with the powerhouse New York Yankees of the 1920s.
332 S. Broad Street
This house was built in 1858 by Thomas Pyle for the Woodward family. When it was built, it looked similar to the Colonial houses across the street at 323 and 325 S. Broad Street. Over time, it grew with the addition of rooms and embellishments. In about 1888, the exterior got a drastic facelift under the guidance of a Dutch architect who had recently come to town. At this time, the tower, circular porch, and Victorian gingerbread were added. It is three-and-a-half stories high and has a mixture of brick, wood, stucco, and half-timbering for wall construction and features windows in a variety of sizes, shapes, and pane configurations. The main roofs are gables, and a bell-shaped roof tops a three-story tower at the corner. There is a gambrel roof on the rear wing, and a hip roof on a one-story wing at the side. A porch across the facade extends to a round pavilion at each corner of the facade; Tuscan columns rise from a stone balustrade to support the porch roof. A recessed porch on the second-floor side, and a gallery above the main entrance on the facade are just a few of the unusual architectural features.
402 South Broad Street
This house was built in 1879 by James Gawthrop, the founder of the James Gawthrop Company, a coal and lumber business. An eclectic combination of Queen Anne and Stick styles, it is one of the more unusual houses in the Historic District. Particularly interesting is the six-sided turret with the original cap. The main roof is gabled and a hip-roofed dormer projects from the tower. Note the Gothic window in the gable peak on the facade, and the cross gable filled with lattice work above the entrance. Heavy turned posts connected by a wooden balustrade, support the roof of the wrap-around porch.
TURN RIGHT ON MULBERRY STREET. TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH UNION STREET.
Catherine Reed House
401 South Union Street
Once the home of Catherine Reed, a seamstress, this one half of a brick duplex appears to be in fine traditional mid-19th century condition. Each side is two bays wide making the entire building four bays wide. A gable roof has its ridge line parallel to the street and has two interior end chimneys. The entrances in the central bays are topped by transoms. A wooden balustrade connects the heavy turned posts with solid brackets which support the flat roof and its wraparound porch.
341 South Union Street
This stucco house was originally brick and had an iron gate around the property. This house was built by Emma Taylor Lamborn, a sister of Bayard Taylor. It was here that their mother died in 1890. Note the ocular window. The original brick sidewalks still remain.
316 South Union Street
This is a brick house with wrap-around porch. Note the bonding mid-way between the second story and the barn in the rear of the property.
306 South Union Street
This is a large Victorian house built in the Queen Anne style. Of special note are the beautiful tulip-shaped porch railing, stain glass windows, and three-story tower with conical slate roof. There is a large carriage house in the rear alley.
Lydia Walton House
231 South Union Street
This house was built about 1860 by John and Lydia Walton. Support of women’s leadership positions was evident with the 1869 election of Lydia Walton to the post of school director. Since 1908, as stipulated in her will, $40 annually has been distributed to buy shoes and mittens for needy children in the borough. The dimensions and two-room-deep design of this traditional Penn Plan house were originally made by William Penn to take in the breezes of country air and provide good ventilation. A double row of dental moulding trims the cornice. Next door, at 233 South Union Street, is the former site of The Walker House, home of James Walker, who played a role in the Underground Railroad in antebellum Kennett Square.
Samuel Pennock House
222 South Union Street
Cypress Lawn was built in 1864 by Samuel Pennock, founder of the American Road Machine Company and inventor of the snow plow and various road grading machines. The house has a Queen Anne porch which was added later.
Dr. Sumner Stebbins House
221 South Union Street
Dr. Sumner Stebbins was a noted doctor, temperance orator, and abolitionist. His wife, Mary Ann Peirce, was the daughter of Joshua Peirce, who, along with his twin brother, began the planting of the arboretum known as Peirce’s Park, which later became part of Longwood Gardens. Another noted resident of this house was William Marshall Swayne, an artist and sculptor. In 1878, he completed a plaster bust of local author Bayard Taylor, which is now prominently displayed in the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library. Another of Swayne’s outstanding works was a bust of Abraham Lincoln. This Victorian home was built in 1845. The house is three bays wide. The porches and back addition were added in 1855. The gabled roof with its ridge line is parallel to the street. Most of the windows are six-over-one, double-hung wooden sash. The main entrance is in the side bay and has a fanlight. A wooden balustrade connects heavy chamfered posts with brackets that support the roof of a one-story porch across the facade. A matching one-bay wide porch shelters a second entrance at the side.
Samuel Martin House
209-211 South Union Street
Samuel Martin is reputed to have lived in the house to the right (Dr. Stebbins house) with his wife Rachel Mercer while this one was being built. He started his career in Kennett as a school teacher and went on to build many of its houses and a school.
208 South Union Street
This Queen Anne style house dates from about 1907, and has one of the most outstanding porches in town. Also of note is the octagonal tower and gable-roofed dormers with multi-pane windows.
204 South Union Street
This house dates from about 1907 and is in the Queen Anne style. Note the hexagonal dormer with peaked roof which faces the street.
Garage Community & Youth Center
115 South Union Street
This car garage, built in 1923, was vacant when a local business leader and youth pastor set about renovating the building to provide services for young people. The Garage Community & Youth Center is the only place in Kennett Square that is open just for middle and high school students.
northeast corner of State Street and Union Street
The intersection of State and Union Streets. Here, on September 11, 1777, 12,000 British and 5,000 Hessian troops gathered prior to marching east for what later became known as the Battle of the Brandywine. On the northwest corner was the site of the oldest building in Kennett Square, the Unicorn Tavern, and on the southeast corner was the site of Bayard Taylor’s birthplace. On the northeast corner was the original site of Evan P. Green’s mercantile store, and later the Chalfant Block. The structure was razed in 1996, and the present building constructed as the national headquarters of Genesis HealthCare, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the tower of the office building are three faces of the original workings of the Kennett Town Clock.
200 North Union Street
This Federal-style house dates from 1820. It has a dormer with a segmentally-arched roof and brick dentals trim the cornice. The windows can be opened from the bottom and act as a walk through.
220 North Union Street
A fine example of Queen Anne architecture attributed to the firm of Frank Furness, the ornate north aspect date stone is inscribed WSC 1884. Note the elaborate corbeled brickwork on the three chimneys restored in 1987.
M. Ellen Taylor House
233 North Union Street
This Queen Anne/Stick style house, built in 1876 on land deeded to her by her father Joshua, has a gable roof with large cross gable on the facade tops. Fish scale wood shingles cover a two-story bay window at the side and the cross gable. Ellen was Bayard Taylor’s first cousin.
234 North Union Street
“Robinhurst” was built in 1859 in the Federal style, and was once the home of Charles Pennock, local banker and well-known ornithologist. He was an eccentric who suffered amnesia, disappeared, and resurfaced in Florida under an assumed name. He eventually returned to Kennett. Behind the house is a large wooden carriage house with lacy barge boards and a steep gable roof.
Joshua Taylor House
315 North Union Street
Fairthorn is the oldest house in the historic district, and was the home of Bayard Taylor’s grandparents. The house served as the setting for his novel The Story of Kennett, written in 1866.
TURN AROUND AND WALK BACK DOWN NORTH UNION STREET TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE PARKING GARAGE ON LINDEN STREET.