Monday, June 4, 2012

The Joseph Ball House -- Epilogue

Ball House, July 2007
I wasn't really planning on doing a third post (after Part 1 and Part 2) about this house, but there just ended up being a few things that either I didn't get to, or that came up after the other posts were put up. Mostly, they deal with the 20th and 21st Century history of the house, which for the most part consists of conjecture and reminiscences. However, since those reminiscences we've gotten seem to have some good information, I thought I'd put this all together in one last post.

The first thing I wanted to touch on was the physical structure of the house itself. As was pointed out in Denis' comment on the first post, the house as it is now is strictly a fieldstone structure. However, until recently there was a frame addition situated on the east end of the house (the right side as you're looking at the front). I haven't seen a picture of this addition, nor do I really know any more about it, such as who might have built it and when. It was apparently removed some time between five and ten years ago, presumably for structural/safety reasons. The picture above comes from Google Street View, and shows the house with the addition removed. The picture is shown to have been taken in July 2007, which gives a timeframe for its removal. The house apparently remained open like this for several years, before modern siding was used to cover the end of the house.

I don't know when the house was last used as a private residence, but it was certainly prior to the construction of the apartments in the late 1960's. The best information I've seen on the more recent uses of the house came from a comment by John M. on the last post. I thought his comment was good enough to warrant reposting here:
When I moved into Arundel in 1971, to my best recollection, the Ball house was unoccupied. By the late '70s a day care center located in the building. My daughter worked there one summer (mid 8os). she recalls there was one section of the house which was off-limits to everyone because the floor sagged. (termites?)The frame section was removed between 2000 and 2010. Several years passed between the removal of the frame section and the installation of the siding over the open end. Plans were at that time to restore the house and convert it into a community center.
I thought that was interesting to hear that the house had actually been put to use after it ceased to be a farmhouse. And after looking back at the census records of the Ball families in the 1800's, that daycare wasn't the first time there were a bunch of kids running around in that house. If anyone knows anything more about the past or the future of this 18th Century relic, we'd love to hear it.

The (maybe, but probably not) last thing I wanted to mention about the Joseph Ball House has to do with the property it once anchored. As noted in the first post, the southeast part of the property became the John Ball farm in the 1850's. At this point, I'm unable to say with any certainty exactly who lived where in the first few decades of the 20th Century, but one or both of these farms may have stayed in the Ball family for a while. There were several members of the family living right in the Milltown area -- like John's son Harvey and Reuben's son Irvin -- but I can't pin down exactly which houses they occupied. I do know that in the 1930's the John Ball farm was acquired by Marvin Klair, and that the remnants of it (the plot between Limestone Road and Old Limestone Road north of Milltown Road) is still owned by his son Irving.

As for the main part of the farm inherited by Joseph Ball in 1747, most of it is now developed. Much of the northwestern part of it may have been sold off earlier, and some would have become Camp Mattahoon in the 1930's. The aerial pictures below show quite clearly what happened to the rest. In the older shots (from 1954 and 1968), the red circle indicates the location of the Joseph Ball House. The land around and to the north of the house seem to be cultivated, even as late as 1968 -- only a year before construction began on the apartments. If you match up the open areas in the older pictures with the newer one, you'll see that they perfectly line up with the development of Arundel. That's a pretty clear indication that anyone living in Arundel lives on land worked by the Balls since at least the mid-1700's.



  1. This is the best piece of family information on my Revolutionary patriot and 5th Great-grand father. This is cherished and I was able to visit and remains what it might have been like for his daughter Rebecca to have played in the house and front yard.

    Again, SCOTT PALMER you are a blessing to my heart.

    When Joseph Ball was born on September 23, 1740, in New Castle, Delaware, his father, William, was 34 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 22. He married Hannah Bracken in 1760. They had seven children during their marriage. He died on July 25, 1821, in his hometown, having lived a long life of 80 years, and was buried in Wilmington, Delaware.

    1. Thanks, Becky, for the information and the kind words. I love hearing from the descendants of the men and women who built this area. Somehow it helps to make them seem more like the real people they were, and less like simply names on paper (or a screen). For your sake and for ours, I'm so glad that this house is being preserved.