H.H. Furness, Lindenshade, and Subrosa

If you’ve ever walked down Furness Lane to its end, you might have noticed a red-brick building to the right that doesn’t look like other buildings in the neighborhood. When my wife and I first walked by the building, I thought it might have been an old schoolhouse. It turns out this building was built in 1903, several decades before the Heatherwold subdivision existed. Here’s a photo of the exterior taken in September 1962, and some photographs taken of the interior (looking toward the south and the north) at the same time, including an an elaborate door leading into the building.

All of these photos were taken many decades after the building had last been used by the man who built it, Howard Horace Furnace (1833-1912). The Wikipedia article on Furness is illustrated with a photo of him sitting in this building. He was a world-renowned Shakespeare scholar, and the building housed his collection of resources on Shakespeare, which was donated to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania in 1932. Here’s another photograph of Furness in the building, taken from the Penn Libraries webpage.

This library building is all that remains of Furness’s sprawling home, Lindenshade, which was constructed in 1890 and demolished in 1940. The main building was situated at the corner of Furness Lane and present-day Lindenshade Lane. Furness and his wife, Helen Kate (Rogers) Furness, were Philadelphia residents (222 West Washington Street), but after she died in 1883, Furness made plans to build a summer home in Wallingford, and he built Lindenshade. During the first few years after the house was finished, Furness continued to spend most of his time in Philadelphia and passed the summers in Wallingford. In 1894, he decided to move permanently to Wallingford and started working on the transfer of his 7,000-8,000 books on Shakespeare to Lindenshade. He built the library building on Furness Lane to house this collection. James M. Gibson, a biographer of Furness, describes the building in a 1986 article: “Constructed of brick and iron, with a cement floor and an asbestos ceiling two feet thick, the new rectangular wing stood along the north side or rear of the house. Access from the house to the library came through a wide, rectangular opening guarded by an iron sliding door that closed automatically in case of fire.” (There are more details on the construction of the library building near the end of Gibson’s article.) Furness died while working in the library on 13 August 1913.

The land used for the construction of our Heatherwold neighborhood in the late 1930s was Furness’s large sixty-seven-acre estate, which was sold sometime after his death in 1912. Here’s a map of Furness’s land from the Atlas of Delaware County, East of Ridley (1909-10). (I found this atlas in the reference section of the Media-Upper Providence Library.) On the map, there’s a driveway leading from the train tracks into the property, and the stone gate marking this driveway can still be seen at the far eastern edge of the Wallingford Station platform.

Here’s a photograph of Lindenshade soon after it was built in 1890 and some photographs (one, two, and three) taken sometime before it was demolished in 1940, just a year after the houses of Heatherwold had been built. Here’s a 1938 ad for the Heatherwold development,where houses could be purchased for $6,250 in 1938. (I found this advertisement on the Nether Providence Historical Society website.) And here’s an aerial shot of the neighborhood taken in December 1937, not long before the development began. A few large homes had already been built near the southern end of the subdivision, just east of Lindenshade. I also found some aerial shots taken in July 1939 and September 1939 after the subdivision had been built. Lindenshade would still have been standing at this time, and you can see parts of it between the trees in the lower right of the July 1939 photograph.

Furness was brother of the noted architect Frank Furness, who designed many buildings in the Philadelphia area, including the Furness Library on the Penn campus, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Wilmington (Del.) train station, and (presumably, but not confirmed) the Wallingford train station. Lindenshade is also attributed to him.

H.H. Furness’s daughter Caroline Furness (1873-1909) married a zoologist at Penn named Horace Jayne (1859-1913), and they had a summer home called “Subrosa,” just off Turner Lane—in what is now Furness Park. The house was built around 1896 and was located a hundred yards or so east of Lindenshade. You can see it on the map from the Atlas of Delaware County. There are a few remains of the house left. Here’s a photograph of some Subrosa masonry my wife and I saw when we were in the park in November 2011.

One last interesting fact: Caroline Furness Jayne was an ethnologist who is best known for writing a book on string figures (Cat’s Cradle, and so forth) titled String Figures and How to Make Them: A Study of Cat’s Cradle in Many Lands, which was published in 1906 and reprinted by Dover Publications in 1962. (I used to own this reprint; I was interested in string figures when I was a kid, and I taught myself many of the figures in the book.)