A Locally Sourced Utopia Takes Shape In Pennsylvania.
Building a new house on the bones of something very old raises the question: What does it mean to peel away a structure’s layers, reveal their inherent value, and put the bits and pieces back together in a modern way? That was the intent of this sprawling stone farmhouse, which grew organically from a hunting lodge dating to the mid-1880s.
The house, on 640 acres in eastern Pennsylvania, is more than a nod to the area’s agrarian vibe. It is one of 14 buildings—most of them old and smartly refurbished—that transform the farm into a small-scale manufacturing facility and entertaining space extraordinaire. There are stables, a dairy barn, and milking parlor; three food-production greenhouses from the University of Maryland; and a building where cheese is made from the owners’ 20 or so cows and a clutch of sheep and goats.
The reconfigured main house was an ad-hoc process of blending existing structural elements with salvaged and regional finds. Though it grew from 1,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet, “the original house was long and extended, like it is now,” says Matthew Kruntorad, project architect at Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle. “We started stripping away, then found a point where we had a good-quality skeleton to work with.”
Builder Howard Weldon of Burdg, Dunham & Associates in Hamilton, Mo., skillfully executed that improvisational vision. Parts of the stone walls and timber framing were preserved, along with a wood-paneled library. But it is sunlight, softly washing the patinaed materials, that sets up the alchemy. A grand glazed entryway, lit by a ridge skylight, opens the house to broad terraces in front and back. A large kitchen serves the steel-tube-framed orangery, which doubles as a dining hall. Upstairs, light also floods the glass-capped master bath, where a large window focuses a bucolic view of the dairy barn and farm animals.
“The challenge was finding the right components to add and using craftsmanship to incorporate all the materials the owners found,” says Weldon, who hired local Amish masons to re-create old finishes. Fitting new I-joists into old framing pockets was a piecemeal affair that involved grouting, shimming, and sometimes building a new wall in front of an existing one. A Philadelphia-based fabricator made the steel tube glazing systems for the orangery, entry hall, living room, and master suite. “The sharp corners of a standard aluminum storefront system didn’t fit the owner’s vision,” he says. Casework was made from planed oak timbers from a local barn.
“When you clean up sagging materials and put them back together with sharper joinery, you’re adding a modern sensibility while respecting what’s there,” Kruntorad says. Most of all, he adds, “the way the light comes in gives these worn elements a texture and quality that would be hard to draw.”