The earliest portion of Lachford Hall was built in 1738 by Thomas Minshall’s grandson, also named Thomas. He followed a double cell configuration, known as a “Penn Plan,” with one room built in front of the other in keeping with William Penn’s recommendations regarding size, shape, room arrangement, and orientation. The original house was initially occupied as separate living units, the 1738 portion by Thomas Minshall and his wife Agnes (nee Salkeld), and a 1777 addition by their son Jacob and his wife Ann.
In 1821, Enos Painter, Jacob and Ann’s son-in-law, combined the two eighteenth century sections into a single dwelling. By the time Enos Painter merged the two sections, he had already converted the kitchen of the 1738 [west] section into a parlor and his 1821 remodeling removed the wood partition walls so that there was interior access between previously separated halves.
Lachford Hall underwent a transformation from a Pennsylvania farmhouse, to its present appearance after John J. Tyler, Enos Painter’s grandson, and his wife Laura Hoopes Tyler were married 1881. With his mother’s approval, John Tyler renovated Lachford Hall into a summer residence. The Tylers’ changes included removing a greenhouse on the western facade, adding a large cross gable to the front of the dwelling, rounding the tops of the upper floor windows, and stuccoing the exterior stone walls. The stucco was meant to “finish” the building so that the changes in windows and rooflines would be covered. The new building reflected the “Country Villa” style as promoted by the then-popular designer A.J. Downing, whose pattern books promoted “romantic” styles that called for a move away from the symmetry and formality of earlier tastes.
Evidence of each generation’s renovations is easily spotted. Note the large stone threshold and how it is oversized in proportion to the entrance. The interior has been reconfigured numerous times, illustrated by details such as the current center hall plan with its 19th-century straight stairway, interior plaster work, and marble (coal burning) fireplace mantels that replaced the earlier 18th-century fireboxes. The cuts in the floorboards may be from the removal of earlier partitions and/or stairs. Earlier interior doors may also have been recycled during the Victorian “upgrades” with new hardware and sizing. With the introduction of interior plumbing and heating in the 20th century, Lachford Hall shows over 250 years of continuous use.
The Painter Library is a small but unique repository of 18th and 19th century manuscripts, letters, documents and books. It was constructed in 1863 by Jacob and Minshall Painter, bachelor brothers who had an unquenchable curiosity about the natural world. The high esteem in which they regarded their documents and volumes is evidenced by the unique fireproof vaults on each floor. The first floor contains bookcases where a portion of their large collection of books was kept along with a display of 19th century cultural items such as pottery, tinware, and memorabilia. The stove is from the 1860s period, as well as the several pieces of furniture. The second floor vault originally contained a categorized collection of loose documents and deeds; textbooks dating back to the late 18th century; books pertaining to the Society of Friends, including the writings of William Penn, George Fox, and other prominent Quakers; State and County Histories; a set of the Colonial Records of Pennsylvania; and other 19th century government publications. Most of this material is now housed in the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.
The primary industry in the early years of the property was the growing and harvesting of grains. Cows and pigs were raised primarily to serve the family. Enos Painter (Minshall and Jacob Painter’s father) decided to shift the farm’s production to beef and dairy cattle. To house his livestock, Enos began construction in 1833 of a massive, three-story addition to the western end of the existing barn. Built into a south-facing slope, this bank barn is believed to be one of the largest remaining in the Delaware Valley. The first floor sheltered animals; the second and third floors provided storage for hay and grain to feed them. The barn currently serves as the Arboretum’s Education Center.
This greenhouse was built in 1871 by Minshall and Jacob. An earlier lean-to structure stood on the west side of Lachford Hall. It was originally built as a pit house and the brothers referred to it as a grapery; forcing grapes in a greenhouse was popular at the time. The floor separating the two stories was added later, making it suitable for growing ornamental plants and specialty market crops.
This was the original source of water for the farm as well as a natural refrigerator. In the lower level dairy and other foods were kept in special containers that could be placed in the cold running water. The spring would often run dry in summer, so another, less convenient, springhouse was later built near the Rocky Run stream.
Actually a root cellar, this building was referred to as the Fruit Vault because it was built to store apples and vegetables that kept well such as cabbages, turnips, beets, parsnips, onions, and carrots. Constructed in 1858, it was dug into the side of a hill and built of stone covered with cement. Soil was banked around the vault to keep the interior cool.