Ashbridge House & Farm Buildings
Montgomery Avenue, Rosemont
At the center of Ashbridge Memorial Park in Rosemont is a collection of historic farm buildings, an enduring reminder of the land’s agricultural heritage. William Thomas and his son Rees Thomas III built the most prominent of these buildings, Ashbridge House, in 1769. The farmhouse bears a date stone of 1769 above the front porch roof with the initials “E” for William’s wife, Elizabeth, and “P” for Rees’ wife Priscilla. Originally part of a 625-acre farm, the buildings passed through a succession of owners and continued to operate as a farm until the early twentieth century. In 1940, Emily Ashbridge left the buildings and land, then known as “Rosemont Farm,” to Lower Merion Township “for the express purpose of creating a public park for recreation purposes.” In addition to Ashbridge House, the farm buildings include an upper barn, lower barn, and chicken coop. Ashbridge House is designated a Class 1 historic building and the farm buildings are Class 2.
Lower Merion Township recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit ideas from private developers, architects, and anyone else who would be interested in restoring and maintaining these buildings in conjunction with an appropriate use. While the township has clearly demonstrated an interest in reviving the building through a potential public/private partnership, no use has yet been identified. Also, the RFP focuses primarily on the barns and chicken coop, without addressing the future of Ashbridge House. The deadline for proposals is in early 2013 with local residents eager to see the proposed ideas and concepts.
In the meantime, Ashbridge House and its farm buildings continue to deteriorate, impacting the historic integrity and increasing the future expense of restoration. The condition of these buildings also speaks to the continuing challenge Lower Merion Township faces with the preservation and maintenance regarding its ownership of more than 40 historic buildings.