Wednesday, 01 July 2015 03:43

White Oak Farm

Written by  Laurel Anderson

A summer home in Glenmoore for the Main Line’s Montgomery family became a modern year-round retreat and family compound.

It was a case of love at first sight and it was not long before Father had bought some two hundred acres of Henderson’s land on Indiantown Hill, including the site of the old Indian burial ground. I have always thought it very uninspired of him to have named his land ‘White Oak Farm’ in honor of a big white oat tree on the very crest of the hill, instead of ‘Indiantown Hill Farm.’ … White Oak Farm was the great love of our young lives, and still is mine.
—Horace Binney Montgomery, from Return the Golden Years


White Oak Farm
Arriving on the long, winding driveway leading to White Oak Farm, it’s easy to see why this place was the source of so many fond childhood memories of Horace Montgomery, the second youngest of 11 children of Elizabeth Binney and Richard Roger Montgomery, co-founder of the Merion Cricket Club. During the early 20th century at this country retreat, young Horace and his siblings found berries to pick, woods to explore and streams to fish—a summer paradise.

The feelings of sanctuary and nature retreat remain on the lush 76-acre property set along the north branch of Indian Run, a tributary of the Brandywine River. The pleasures of berries, woods and fish are joined by modern amenities like a salt-water swimming pool, guesthouse and a thoroughly renovated manor home.

Saving the House

The good bones of the solid 1906 manor house attracted the current owners when they stumbled upon the ramshackled, abandoned property almost 20 years ago. Built of Pennsylvania granite and fieldstone collected by local farmers on stone-hauling day—in a ritual similar to an Amish barn raising when neighbors pitch in—the main structure withstood its interim uses as a rehabilitation facility and a home to forest animals.

Working with local architect Peter Batchelor and builder John Diament, the owners took the main house back to those good bones of stone walls and wood floors. The structure was transformed into a 21st-century, 5,000-square-foot, three-story home with four bedrooms, three-plus bathrooms for the owners and their three children. A new family retreat, but this one was used year round.

Making It Modern

White Oak Farm - Foyer

The conversion gave new life to this special family home, while preserving quality materials—such as the wood floors (there’s nary a squeak even today)—and details like the wrap-around porch, where the Montgomery family gathered to shell peas, sing songs and talk about books and where the current owners dine, relax and enjoy the koi pond. Modern windows brought in light to spaces graced with nine-foot ceilings, small rooms were opened up, archways and built-ins were added to make the space livable for a modern family.

The first floor has formal living and dining rooms, but it’s clear the family gathers in the large chef’s kitchen and family room with doors to outside decks and patios. A home office retains the cozy proportions of the original home, while a large mudroom and powder room add convenience.

Bedrooms with built-ins, modern bathrooms and a laundry room fill the second floor. The master suite has thoughtful details like a fireplace (one of four in the home), Juliet balcony, home office, walk-in closets and beautiful views of the property from its corner site. The large master bath has his-and-her sinks, cherry cabinetry, a pedestal tub, walk-in glass shower with bench, and separate water closet.

Third floor spaces under the eaves are at tree level, giving a cozy feel. An el-shaped room with built-in bench for enjoying the view is currently a sewing room, while a large bedroom with dormer windows fills the other end of the floor. A shared bath boasts big windows and another bench for gazing outside. Unfinished attic space could be converted or used for storage.

The Grounds

White Oak FarmThe home has been preserved and improved, as have the grounds. Outbuildings were reclaimed, repurposed and added. A two-car detached garage has a workshop, bathroom, loft space and indoor/outdoor kennel with fenced run. The 3,300-square-foot, single-story barn has ample room for farm equipment and storage of everyday items, boats or classic cars and could easily be converted to a working barn.

In 2009, a pool/guest house—complete with full kitchen, bath and bedroom/studio/exercise room—was added off the 20-by-40-foot salt-water pool.  A charming potting shed and old icehouse—perhaps a future sauna—plus emergency power generators add to the pleasures of the property.

You’ll also find a stocked koi pond with a waterfall, water lilies and irises; a large pond stocked with fish and perfect for paddle boating on an adjoining 13-acre parcel also for sale; an orchard with pear, apple and white cherry trees plus blueberry bushes; and acres of fields, streams, paths and woodlands.

The perfect spot for your year-round retreat.

This 76-acre property is available for $1,850,000. For information, contact Bill Cochrane, James A. Cochrane, Inc., 610-469-6100 or 610-476-4779; CochraneInc.com.