History Unlocked-Feb 2017, Society Founding
Polecat Road House – The Historic Landmark that Started It All – Part II
By: Karen Kendus
In the last installment of History Unlocked, I discussed an important landmark found within the borders of Concord Township called the Polecat Road House. The preserved building standing there today looked rather different than the building donated to Concord Township by Arters Brothers Realty Company. The house in question was in grave disrepair and according to one Daily Local reporter of the day, in a condition where “winter’s savagery” could do it in. As a result, a group of dedicated volunteers with a desire to preserve this 18th century structure established Concord Township Historical Society, which has lasted 50 years, without any sign of slowing down.
In November 1965, Arters Brothers Realty Company acquired the Polecat Road House and surrounding pr
operty. Arters Brothers planned to build a housing development named Fox Valley, which you can find today along Polecat Road. In July 1967, Arters Brothers transferred the Polecat Road House and the one acre upon which it sat to Concord Township for $1. Concord Township supervisor, Sam Upperman, saw a need for a separate group dedicated to preservation of the house. Through his contacts and friendships with fellow township residents, Mr. Upperman gathered a group at his home on the evening of January 30, 1967 to “discuss the organizing of an Historical Society.” Sixteen Concord Township residents formed the original Concord Township Historical Society. They chose office positions that night with Mr. Upperman as their president.
The first order of business for the newly formed Concord Township Historical Society was to review the property and raise funds for the preservation of Polecat Road House. Concord Township Historical Society had several arc
hitects look at the structure first. They dated it no later than 1750, which was crucial information. The records from the time are incomplete, and the actual date is still unknown. Unfortunately, even though the house had occupants only two years before the Township received it, the house itself was crumbling. The roof needed to be replaced. As with many old houses, the floor needed replacing in some areas, but reinforcing and leveling in others. The double fireplaces were plastered shut. The winding staircases on either end were missing pieces in places and would also need to be replaced. A portion of these funds was collected at the annual St. John’s Concord Episcopal Church house and garden tour, sponsored in 1967 by the Historical Society. The estimate for renovation at the time was $5,000. By 1978, the Historical Society had spent more than $16,000 on the restoration, all donated in the name of historic preservation, by way of selling funnel cakes, holding pig roasts and colonial suppers, selling prints of the house, and of course collecting membership dues.
Renovations on the Polecat Road House were completed over the course of several years. Based on tax information for William Trimble at his death, the Polecat Road House was renovated according to how we believe it looked when it was first built. The doors were placed back at the ends of the house. The dormers were also removed. The fireplaces were restored to their previous glory, and the wall separating each half of the first floor was removed. Due to their hard work and continued maintenance of this property, Concord Township Historical Society has cared for Polecat Road House for the past 50 years. Note wooden insert at the edge of the two fireplaces in the photo at right – this is what remains of the wooden partition that separated the two families that lived in this building.
In the years since 1967, Concord Township Historical Society has grown. Today, the Historical Society continues to offer tours of the museum located in the first floor of the Pierce-Willits House, at 659 Smithbridge Road, and sponsors a number of additional events throughout the year. This year marks their 50th anniversary.
It takes an incredible group of people to realize the need to preserve our history, and turn it into a thriving group of volunteers, fueled by donations. I am proud to be part of this incredible organization, with its own rich history. In the coming months, History Unlocked will include a plethora of topics relating to the history of Concord Township to help celebrate Concord Township Historical Society’s 50th anniversary. Each article was researched using the materials collected and categorized by Concord Township Historical Society members since their inception. Please check back next month for our next History Unlocked article and stay tuned for upcoming events.
Note: CTHS has replicas of the Polecat Road House for sale for $35.00. Contact them for how to purchase.
Brice, George. 1967. “Concord Township Historians Begin Restoration Project.” Daily Local News, 11 October: 16.
Concord Township Historical Society. 1967. Meeting Minutes. Taken by G. DeNenno, unpublished.
Indenture. 1967 July 3. Delaware County Recorder of Deeds. Media, PA.