|The Springer-Cranston House today|
The first owner of what would become the Springer-Cranston House was a miller named John Reece, who also happens to have been the first owner of the millseat that would eventually be occupied by the Kiamensi Woolen Company. I have to admit another instance of "not-understanding-the-report" here, as the National Register form both states that Reece's house was a one-story, 24x18 foot structure, and talks about a second floor and stairway placement. Either I'm missing something, or perhaps it was some sort of a one and a half story with only a partial second floor. In any case, it's possible that this first incarnation was built as early as the mid 1760's, as Reece purchased the land in 1762. It was certainly up before Reece's death in 1795, though, and it originally faced Stanton Road.
The house next went to Reece's son, also named John. This John, in addition to selling the millseat to Mordicai McKinney, made the first major renovation to his father's house. He added (expanded?) a second story, and changed the orientation of the house, now having it face south (toward the railroad tracks, which were not there yet). Interestingly, the original doorway, now filled in, is still visible on the west end wall of the house. The house next went, sometime between 1816 and 1822, to John Springer. Springer would make the next major change to the house. He added a 20x24 foot extension to the east end of the home, thereby creating a four-bay configuration with a central stairway inside. He also moved the service and kitchen functions from a separate (or possibly attached) frame wing where they had been since the days of John Reece, Sr., to a basement kitchen built under the new addition. And since the new section was built on a slope, the basement had exterior access on the east side. (As a side note, Reece's original service building or wing also likely housed his seven slaves, a function for which Springer had no need -- although he did have one young black male servant.)
|North elevation, or rear of the house|
In 1833, the property was bought at public auction by the local patriarch of a family that is deserving of their own post (and will get it at some point), the Cranstons. Simon Cranston, who lived in the house off of Rt. 4 and Stanton Road, purchased the property to set up his sons as local landowners. Specifically, this house went to James Cranston, who made the last of the major changes to the house (his brothers Benjamin and Joseph received other portions of Springer's estate). James, it seems, did not like the basement kitchen arrangement, so he had built a two-story, stone service wing on the southeast end of the house (today covered in plaster). James occupied the home until about 1876, when he sold it to his son, Edwin. It was Edwin who donated the land for the adjacent Marshallton Methodist Church. The descendants of Edwin Cranston would live in the house until 1987, when it finally passed out of the family. So, not only are the Cranstons responsible for much of the development of the area over the last 170 years, they also did a fine job of preserving this beautiful, evolving home. (Here are some more pictures of it.)