In a previous post, I talked about my ancestors coming to America with William Penn. They constructed a house of river rock near the colony’s mill on Chester Creek in what is now southeast Philadelphia. The house, which still stands as a museum, is designated as the Caleb Pusey House.
In this article, I will explore some of the features of the house. I toured the house in 1992. As a descendant of one of the resident (Caleb Pusey’s step-son, Francis, was my 7th great-grandfather) I was allowed past the rope barriers to actually walk through the house.
Before the House
In the winter of 1682-83, Caleb Pusey was engaged in building a grain mill for the colony, powered by the water flow of Chester Creek. As a result, he did not have time to build a house for his family before winter set in. The family lived in a hole in the ground, covered by logs, through that first winter.
The house was constructed in the spring and summer of 1683. The photograph shows a distinct change in the roof line toward the left-center of the photo. The original house was the section to the right of that break. The hole where the family spent their first winter in America was immediately to the right of this photo. During construction of the house, the hole was filled in and became a garden.
One of the unusual features of the house is the sleeping area. The family slept together on the second floor of the house. However, there is no access to the second floor from the inside. Instead, each night the family would climb a ladder to the door visible on the right end of the house. Once inside, they would pull the ladder up and seal the door. This arrangement was designed to keep them safe from Indian attacks.
In the original house, there was no kitchen. All cooking was done outside, summer and winter.
Over the next few years, the section of the house to the left of the roof break was added. This section contained a cooking area and additional living space.
One feature I found quite interesting involves the arched opening on the front of the house. This opening is a firebox, in which a fire could be kept burning without affecting the home’s interior. Immediately above the firebox, inset into a counter space inside the house, is a large brass bowl. The bowl could be filled with water, which was then kept hot by the fire underneath.
As I noted in the previous post, Caleb Pusey was a close associate of William Penn. Penn had established his home further to the north. However, he often traveled south to visit his friend, Lord Baltimore. The Pusey house was about 1/2 way and he often spent the night there during his travels. A sign at the Pusey House notes that it is the only existing structure where William Penn is confirmed to have slept.
The Caleb Pusey House Today
The house today is a museum open to the public on a limited basis. Visit the museum website for more information.