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Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation research files


Held at: Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation [Contact Us]Jeffords Mansion, Ridley Creek State Park, Media, PA, 19063

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"In the mid-1960s, the state of Pennsylvania purchased 2,490 acres of farmland in Edgmont Township, Delaware County, to create Ridley Creek State Park. At the same time, a group of people interested in historic sites and the American Revolutionary period joined together to preserve, protect and register the old houses within the new park. They called themselves the Bishop's Mill Historical Society, after a nearby mill village known in the 20th century as Sycamore Mills.

"Nearly eight years later, in January of 1973, the Society gave birth to the Bishop's Mill Historical Institute (BMHI) with a more ambitious goal. It would establish a colonial farm or "plantation" as a museum of Pennsylvania folk life and as a tribute to the hard-working colonial families who built America. Through the museum/farm, BMHI could demonstrate how local colonial farm and mill people lived, what they learned and how that had been applied 200 years later.

"The abandoned Lower Rawle farm in Ridley Creek State Park was an ideal site for the museum, with an 18th century farmhouse, stone cabin, springhouse and two barns. Significantly, the property had been a working farm for well over 250 years and was within a community of other 18th century farms, as well as near the mill village.

"By November 1973, a long-term lease with the Bureau of State Parks for 112 acres, including the Lower Rawle farm, provided BMHI with its plantation. The large stone farmhouse and outbuildings were intact although modified over the years and in deteriorating condition. Financial support for the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation project came from the Bicentennial Commissions of Pennsylvania and Delaware County in addition to funding from the private sector. With this support, stabilization of the buildings and actual restoration began. 30 acres of farm land was cleared, livestock was purchased, and extensive archaeological, research and educational programs went into operation. Each act of restoration and reconstruction was supported by accurate historical records, research and documentation. By the spring of 1974, the farmhouse kitchen had been made operational. The restored springhouse was dedicated in April 1975. The restored wagon barn was opened to the public in April 1976. From 1976-78, work was concentrated on restoring the farmhouse interior. In 1978, the existing 19th century animal barn with 20th century improvements was demolished. In its place arose a reconstructed 18th century version. The privy was constructed in 1991.

"During the early years, visitors were invited to witness this "museum in the making". The concept of creating a facility dedicated to the "ordinary people" of the Revolutionary era - and at the same time allowing visitors to observe and even participate in the process of creation - was unique. Guidelines for furnishing the farmhouse were established with the help of 18th century Chester County estate inventories. The collection consists of antiques, reproductions and replicas of Chester County pieces primarily from the collection at the Chester County Historical Society.

"Most recently the Plantation's buildings have undergone yet another restoration effort. The farmhouse and stone cabin were restored with the help of funding from a Community Development Block Grant from Delaware County Council. The wagon barn reopened at the end of the 2010 season after extensive restoration funded by a second Community Development Block Grant from Delaware County Council. Work on the stable barn and springhouse was completed early in 2012 through funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a Community Development Block Grant from Delaware County Council." Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation is still operational as of 2014.


Quoted text from: Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. "About the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. Accessed December 17, 2013.

This collection consists of various secondary-source materials gathered by Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation to support the organization's research and work. It includes academic articles and newspaper clippings, research papers and narrative histories, maps, transcripts of primary source documents, and printed materials. The collection covers topics relating to life in Colonial life in America, such as clothing, cooking, crafts, industry, and religion, especially as relevant to historic reenactment. There is also some local history research.

Two large segments, topic files and bound reports, make up the bulk of the collection. The topic files are arranged alphabetically and contain many types of materials as enumerated above. The bound reports cover historical practices and activities for reenactment research, heritage plant life, local history, and other topics relevant to Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. Many reports were written by Villanova students; others were written by students of other local universities, Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation employees and interns, or others.

This collection also includes: copies and transcripts of colonial residents' documents, such as estate inventories; three VHS tapes (on sex in the American Revolution, lace making (tatting), and 18th century fire making) and four audiocassette tapes (on house building, cheese making, bread making, and crop husbandry); and maps (all copies) of the local area. Of special interest are research materials compiled by local historian Tobi Graham on the Pratt Family, Quakers, and Slavery/Servitude. The Tobi Graham materials include slides, photocopied maps, photocopied academic articles and printed materials, black and white photographs, research report, and note cards.

Also available on-site are bound photocopies of relevant printed materials, mostly rare books.

Materials collected by Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation over time.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation directly for more information.

Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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