Primitive Hall
a pictorial tour

Front View of Primitive Hall
Frontal View of Primitive Hall

Built upon the brow of a gentle hill in Chester County's West Marlborough Township, Primitive Hall is a handsome manor house which stands today much as it did when it was constructed by Joseph Pennock in 1738. The house dominates a tract of land more modest than the 1,250 acres of which it was the focus nearly 250 years ago, but the quiet countryside of farms and rolling fields is even today an appropriate setting for this sturdy structure.

The bedroom in much the same Quaker style it was in when Pennock slept here.
The Hall, now owned by the Primitive Hall Foundation, a non-profit organization whose Board of Trustees comprises descendants of Joseph Pennock, is a huge house of generous proportions. But it is simple in its plan.

The structure, which faces south, is 52'2" wide at the front and 40' deep along the sides. A unique adaption of the William Penn town house plan (it is actually two Penn-plan houses connected by a center hall), the house is made up of four three-story brick sections, one in each corner of the building. All four sections are connected to the large center hall which runs from the south front of the house to the back. Each room has a corner fire-place, and the four west rooms -- two up and two down -- share a chimney, as do the four east rooms. There is a west cellar and an east cellar, but the earth beneath the brick-floored center hall is unexcavated.

China Cabinet
A china hutch houses photographs and other ancestrial valuables.
At the north end of the hall, which is constructed without a center arch, there is a wide open-well, closed-string staircase which rises from the first floor to the attic. The stairway balusters are finely turned from the first floor to the attic landing, but from the landing to the attic they are plainer -- simple flat cross-sections of the lower turned balusters. Another generous feature of Primitive Hall is the number of large windows, most of which each contain 30 panes of glass in double sashes of 15 panes each.

Although much work was done to restore the exterior of Primitive all during the five decades from 1920 to 1970, restoration of the interior of the house began in earnest in January of 1973. With great care workmen preserved the house's original woodwork, replacing sections of wainscoting only where it had disappeared from the staircase wall, matching the design and character of the new wood to the original yellow pine and poplar woodwork.

Spinning Wheel
A spinning wheel still in working order.
The walls were repainted with buttermilk-based paint that faithfully reproduces the effect of the original whitewash. The floors, their random planks worn and scarred, were renewed with scrub brushes, sandpaper and flax soap. Fireplace mantles and panelling, chair rails and wooden clothes pegs were restored in those rooms which had them originally.

Included among the house's furnishings are a six-foot long panelled settle with a leather seat that can be opened to form a bed, a drop leaf oval table that is one of the largest to be found in the area, a wainscot armchair and side chair, a slant top desk with magnificent interior detail, and a large storage chest.

Carved Bricks
Pennock descendants have engraved their initials and dates into the bricks outside, though today's visitors are encouraged to sign the log book inside!
The last of Joseph Pennock's descendants to own Primitive Hall was the late Stewart Huston, who in 1920 began the process of faithful restoration which spanned many decades. In 1960 the house and property were transferred to the Primitive Hall Foundation, which completed the restoration work in 1974 and whose members and Board of Trustees continue to maintain the building and its grounds as a historical monument for the benefit of the public.

Primitive Hall, whose interior had remained unfinished since 1738, was finally completed in 1976 -- a fitting tribute to the Nation's Bicentennial.

Historians, architects and many others who have come to know Primitive Hall consider it one of the lesser known but most important houses in Pennsylvania. Few buildings anywhere so faithfully retain their original character as Primitive Hall -- not only the character of brick and mortar, but the sense of 18th Century solitude and strength.

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