Sedgwick is a stone colonial home by builder and developer Ashton Tourison in approximately 1909 in what was known as Sedgwick Farms Estate in the Mt Airy section of Philadelphia. We have spent the last 10 years remodeling and restoring her. We have some years to go…
In approximately 1904, after 20 years building dozens of houses in what is now called East and West Mt. Airy, and noting the development of the new "Suburban Homes" in West Mt. Airy in a development called "Pelham," Tourison saw the potential to build an equally beautiful neighborhood in the farmlands on the EAST side of what he called "The City's Main Road to the Country," otherwise known as Germantown Avenue. To that end, he purchased 125 acres between Chew and Stenton, from E. Mt. Pleasant Ave to Gorgas Lane, and advertised his plan for Sedgwick Farms as "stone-built homes, planned on an architectural idea that makes each different from the other, yet in perfect harmony with all."
Along with creating timeless beauty, he provided "practical houses" embracing core values of space, air, light, comfort and good taste. He claimed that after 50 years as a developer, he has learned that these qualities are "what a man wants in a home." Tourison also recognized the human need to have a home distinct from his neighbor's, and therefore had his architect son Bart create a variety of designs, mostly in the form of Tudor Revival, Neo-Georgian, Victorian and Colonial Revival.
- Take a tour of Tourison by Elise Rivers, Esq., M.Ac.
Photos below include before, during, and some (not nearly enough) afters. Updates will be made on a ongoing basis.
Prior to purchase
The house didn’t exactly show well and was not well maintained (putting it mildly). It had alot of poorly done updates over the years and we wouldn’t realize until much later just how much neglect it had seen. We considered walking away from the deal, but maybe we were tired (we had looked at 80+ houses) I really think it came down to I felt sad at what the house had become when we first saw it, whatever the reason we bought it. We have a lot of days that we probably regret that decision, but there’s no turning back now. And, while every update over the years was poorly done, much of the details still remained. One of the things that fascinated us was the decorative wainscoting that ran all through the house (even to the third floor, something that was unusual. My understanding was always that the “fancy” was for the public spaces). So began a 10+ year journey, where almost every free minute and every spare dollar as gone back into this project. I am hoping soon to see the light at the end of the tunnel (even if it’s way in the distance). I’d like to be able to enjoy the hard work one day.
UPDATE: While we had discovered many years ago that the house was built by Ashton S Tourison, thanks to the research and efforts of a local woman who put on a very informative talk on the history of Sedgwick Farms and the Tourison family we now know that the house was one of the homes featured in Tourison’s brochure for Sedgwick Farms. More on that later when I can get over to the historical society and hopefully the link to the video she mentioned.
The front of the house was barely visible through the overgrown yews. And while the exterior seemed to be in decent shape as we spent time in the house and started cutting back those yews, we’d soon realized that not all was as it seems. Crumbling steps and poorly repaired rotting wood would be the first indicators of what would become. Over the years we made some tough decisions to remove certain things, such as the pergola, that were beyond saving. The “modernized” sunporch, or “the white box” as we called it (a sad update to what was once a beautiful glassed in sun room) was an easy one, it had to go. Turns out it was leaking, rotting and full of mold. We will be leaving it an open porch and hope to have it finished sometime in 2019. We still have a ways to go on the remodel of the front porch, we are salvaging and reusing what we can save. Unfortunately the leaded glass around the front door was beyond salvage, and cost prohibitive to recreate. Instead we have updated with restoration glass and are happy with the compromise. The amount of work still needed to the exterior is a list too long for this write-up and we have much to do still.
The living room was a very dark and slightly depressing space. While we hated to paint the trim we made the decision to paint the majority of the trim white in the room. It took three days to primer and paint everything. There was a coating a soot from the fireplace and the old stain kept bleeding through the primer. Regrettably we couldn’t salvage the Moravian tile around the fireplace as it had been many layers of paint and damage over the years. We hope to someday get the fireplace in working condition, but that is in the nice to have column for now. We recently learned that there was a mural in this room above the fireplace (and possibly all around the room) that has long since been lost.
Paint: Flint by Benjamin Moore
The dining room has received mostly cosmetic work to date. We have some work to do in the future to repair some areas that were damaged over the years. From what we can tell it seems a last minute change may have been made to the end of the room where the bump-out is. The basement shows signs that a fireplace was originally intended, instead the room was extended out over a crawlspace and french doors were installed. It was left to leak at some point leaving it in bad condition and will require extensive work in the future.
Paint: Flint by Benjamin Moore
First Floor Half Bath
The tiny little bathroom under the stairs was a little underwhelming. A remodel uncovered alot of previous rot and damage to the floor joists and a poor attempt at repair. Repairs were made to the floor joist, new tile and heated floor, fixtures. Exposing the ceiling (which actually exposed the staircase) gave the room extra height and allows a peek into the underlying structure often not seen by most people.
Countertop - Marble slab from Philadelphia Salvage
Wallpaper - Graham & Brown Vintage Flock in Black
Entry and Stairway
Probably one of the things that sold on us on this house was the amazing stairs and all the original details. Despite the clear lack of care and poorly done updates the house had suffered over the years the details remained, most if in good shape. We removed the back stairs and in their place there is a closet on the 2nd floor landing and a coat closet on the first floor (something that was painfully lacking). We are still in the process and restoring the woodwork around the palladian window.
Paint - Graphite by Benjamin Moore (accent walls), French Grey by Sherwin Williams
Master Bedroom and Bath
In the master bedroom the carpeting was removed and the original wood floors were refinished. The ceiling was torn down, all new wiring and recessed lighting was installed. The radiators were in terrible shape, dirty and layered in paint. We sandblasted, repainted and re-installed. The fireplace mantle that was not original to the house was is poor condition and was replaced with a new one that aligned a little closer to the third floor mantle. Dividing the master bedroom from what was the master dressing were pocket doors, the decision was made to remove them to install a single french door to provide better layout to the new master bath (and a quieter door).
Paint (Bedroom) - Chelsea Grey by Benjamin Moore
Paint (Bathroom) - Mt St Anne by Benjamin Moore
2nd Floor Hall Bath
With the original bathroom long gone, replaced by builder grade everything, the hall bath was taken down to the studs. Reconfiguring the back stairs and a large space behind where the sink was allowed for the laundry to be relocated here and still have room for a linen closet. Reclaimed lath from the bathroom walls now cover the wall behind the toilet and the side of the new bath tub. Original mouldings were salvage and placed back into the room. A vintage sewing machine base topped with pieces of the floor joists salvaged from another area of the house create a base for the new sink.
Third Floor Bathroom
The third floor retained some of it’s original tile, tub and sink. While we did manage to save alot of the original tile, it was not enough to reuse it. Much of it was cracked and missing (replaced by cheap square tiles that didn’t match). After gutting the room and seeing the ceiling height gained in the dormer area we decided to leave that exposed. We added the beams, made from the long leaf yellow pine we were able to salvage from the front pergola. Luckily the sink was in very good condition and was able to be reused, the tub will require a reglazing, but was in overall solid shape. The doorway to the bedroom was moved back into what was a very small “hallway” allowing the linen closet to be incorporated into the bathroom.
Wallpaper - Graham & Brown Vintage Flock in White
Details and Buried Finds
Over the years in pictures
Some favorite photos taken over the years. It’s been inspiration to not only ourselves but to quite a few photographer friends over the years who created some amazing photos.