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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Samuel Dennison House

The Samuel Dennison House in 1986
A lot of the historic houses and locations of Mill Creek Hundred featured on this site lately have been in quiet, secluded, out-of-the-way places. That doesn't mean that all of them are, of course, and Limestone Road, being one of the oldest roads in the area, has more than a few old homes still lining its path north to the farmland of Pennsylvania. Several of these sites have already been featured, like the Harmony School, the Mermaid Tavern, the Aquilla Derrickson House, and the McKennan-Klair House. This time, we'll take a look at a house a slight bit younger than these, but still no youngster at 135 years old -- the Samuel Dennison House.

The Dennison House is located just north of Papermill Road, about 130 feet back from the west side of Limestone Road (it once sat closer to the road, until Limestone Rd. was widened and realigned in 1964). It's a 2 1/2 story, five-bay house built of local fieldstone, although it is plastered everywhere except the front. It was built in the "Georgian I" style, with one large room on either side of a central stairhall. An ell protrudes from the north half of the rear of the house, and was probably built at or about the same time as the house, which was erected in the centennial year of 1876. The builder of the house, Samuel Dennison, was by no means a newcomer to the property. In fact, he and his family had lived there for more than 50 years before he upgraded to his big, new, stone home.

The original Dennison owner of the property was Samuel's father, Robert Dennison (c1787-1845). Robert grew up and began farming in Chester County, before moving to Mill Creek Hundred sometime around 1820. After spending several years leasing various farms, Robert purchased a 96 acre tract from Richard Chambers in 1824. Robert (along with wife Lydia and children Mary, Samuel, James, Rachel, and John) was a bit of a minority in MCH at the time -- he was a Baptist. After their passings in 1845 and 1868 respectively, Robert and Lydia were buried at what must have been their home church, London Tract Baptist in Chester County (I don't believe there was a Baptist church in MCH at the time).
Datestone reading "S & E D 1876"

Upon Robert's death, the family farm was briefly sold, but then quickly re-acquired by his son Samuel Dennison (1812-1899), who had lived on it since the age of 12. When purchased by Samuel and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Harlan, the property contained a log house and a frame barn, probably built by Robert soon after arriving in 1824. In this log house, Samuel and Elizabeth raised six children -- five boys and one girl. It wasn't until until most of the boys had reached manhood that Samuel went about replacing the (at least) 50 year old log home of his father. In 1876 (commemorated by a datestone in the gable), he erected the stone house we see today, presumably removing the log house.

Aerial view of the house today

It doesn't seem, though, that Samuel put off building his new home because of any prior lack of financial success. In fact, he seems to have done quite well, purchasing several other tracts in the area. One property just north of his (which he had owned for at least 20 years), on the west side of Limestone Road south of Brackenville Road, was sold in 1888 to his son Robert P. Dennison. It also seems likely that Samuel purchased the old Simon Hadley farm for son Harlan.

In 1894, the 82 year old Samuel finally sold the family farm to his son John W. Dennison (1847-1900), who, like Samuel, remained there the rest of his life. When John died in 1900, the house and farm went next to his son Frank G. Dennison (1880-1955). The last Dennisons to work the land, Frank G.'s sons Frank, Jr. and Howard, continued to operate it as a poultry farm, as established by their father. The property was finally sold out of the family in 1977.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • While there's no way to prove it one way or the other, it's at least within the realm of possibility that this property could have been part of the Walter Thetford property mentioned in a previous post. Robert Dennison bought the land from Richard Chambers, whose family was based to the west in the area of White Clay Creek State Park. The Chambers' also owned land just to the south of Dennisons.
  • This National Register of Historic Places nomination form has some more detailed information, especially concerning the architecture of the house, as well as more photographs. The form was completed in the mid 1980's in conjunction with roadwork being done by DelDOT. To the best of my knowledge, the house was never accepted by the National Register.
  • Runks has more information about the Dennison family.


  1. Samuel Dennison was buried in London Tract Baptist Cemetery in Kemblesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania. His last name was spelled Denison in his grave marker. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39576948

  2. This property was sold to build a nursing home recently. Fortunately they kept the house and restored it, which is very good to see since technically they weren't required to by the looks of it.

    1. Yes, you're right. The Summit has been there about 3 years now, and they did a fantastic job of restoring (and just in keeping) the old house. I went back in the Fall of 2013 and took some pics while there were in the process of restoring it. In the Index, it's under "Dennison House, Status Update". Next time I'm in the area maybe I'll take some shots of what it looks like now. This site is a really good example of old houses being saved and re-purposed for the 21st Century (from a farmhouse to a Senior Living Facility).