Chester County Day County Lines

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September 2013
Tour of Tours
Story and photos by Matt Freeman
When Chester County Day opens the
doors to magnificent area homes.
You might think, for an astonished moment, quadrant of the county--from Exton to Elverson,
that you were gazing upward at a Norman with a stop in West Chester. In this closeup preview
castle, or find yourself dreamily immersed in of just five of the many homes on this year's tour,
Asian art and a bonsai collection, or just catch you'll see the region's iconic and well-loved architec-
a view outside a more-familiar farmhouse window tural traditions on display as well as a pleasing--and
and be struck with a shock of recognition by how surprising--variety of homes that are interesting for
uniquely beautiful Chester County can be.
their own unique reasons.
This year's Chester County Day house tour takes
Plan now for this special first Saturday in
place on October 5 and focuses on the northwestern October. See details in our Events Section. | September 2013 | County Lines

September 2013
Tranquility, Inside and Out
WWhen he first saw the 150-year-old grist mill and granary on Lewis Mills Road near Honey Brook, Howard McNeal
says, "There was something about it that gave me a feeling `I've been here before.'" That was in 1965.
The McNeals had just lost their home to a fire, and sat on orange crates in the granary as they set about making
this their new home. It started out rustic--McNeal says it's thought that mill workers lived in the granary, and perhaps
some livestock as well--but McNeal added mouldings, chair rails and other refinements.
He also added period furniture, paintings and Oriental rugs. But more than that, McNeal made the property his own
with Asian art and decor. Having spent a year in Korea and a year in Japan during military service, McNeal acquired a
powerful love of Asian art. In the house are pieces of sculpture and ceramics that go back many centuries.
The front of the home is designed like a Japanese garden, and McNeal has a studio in the
grist mill where he teaches the art of bonsai. Scores of the miniature trees fill the backyard,
one of them thought to be 600 years old. And if they put you in a contemplative frame
of mind, well, that's the idea.
County Lines | September 2013 | | September 2013 | County Lines

September 2013
Down-Sized with Style
EEric and Lee Miller, who founded Chaddsford Winery in 1982, lived in a traditional Chester County
farmhouse when their children were growing up. But as retired empty-nesters, they wanted a low-
maintenance home and were "into simplicity," Eric says.
So they found a small row house on East Marshall Street in West Chester, shaded by tall trees, facing
Marshall Square Park. They gutted the interior and added a modern kitchen, making the house large
enough to be cozily comfortable while retaining a life-simplifying smallness for "right-size living."
Most of al they updated the decor, striving for a clean, modern, open look, with a focus on flow. The
old enclosed stairwell now has a modern, riserless staircase and a transparent wall making it an eye-catching
design element as you enter. A cooly minimalist kitchen has ample open space flowing around a central
island, and leads to an enclosed porch shaded by mature trees.
Not surprisingly, the former winemakers created a combination dining room and wine cellar in the lower
level. This wel -used space holds about a thousand bottles--even this is downsized from what he used to
have, Miller says--and gives the home a cheerful, convivial core. | September 2013 | County Lines

September 2013
Isabella Furnace
WWhen you turn into the drive on Bollinger Road near Elverson and Isabella Furnace emerges from the trees, you
may well wonder for a moment whether there's a medieval side to Chester County history. Isabella Furnace was an
iron furnace built in 1835, and the sheer size and mass of its immense buildings dwarf most other examples of early
industrial sites in the area. The vast stone buildings are perched on a large hill, and for a moment they powerfully
recall a cliffside fortress in Europe.
The furnace stopped operating in 1894, but was fairly well preserved, and one of its buildings was converted in
1972 into a large house that resembles a Second Empire mansion with a side-gabled rather than mansard roof. The
current owners, Ted and Debby Flint, bought it in 1985 and built an addition that joined the house to a charm-
ingly landscaped courtyard.
A large foyer at the entrance and a vast living room are traditionally but imaginatively decorated, and the addition
contains a more contemporary kitchen and dining room. The grounds house many other structures, some stupen-
dously massive, others more delicate.
Once the shock of seeing all that stone passes and you begin to wander the greenery of the surrounding grounds,
it becomes clear that a former industrial complex can, in fact, become a comfortably elegant home. | September 2013 | County Lines

September 2013
Winance-Hager House
LLocated on Grove Road in Warwick Township, the Winance-Hager House is the kind of 18th-
century home often described as "lovingly" restored, although in this case "zealously" might be
just as apt. Its owner, Wesley Sessa, also owns a business called 18th Century Restorations, and
he typically does various types of research--archaeological, architectural and genealogical his-
tory, paint analysis, even ground-penetrating radar--to keep the restoration true to the original.
While Wesley focuses on the historic aspects, his partner Heidi Rosato is responsible for the
home's warmth and livability.
Built in 1785 with an addition in 1805, the house includes doors, ironwork, paint and
woodwork that are mostly original or faithfully reproduced. Except for the newer front porch,
options for which Sessa is currently researching, and an addition on the north side Sessa added
after he bought the property in 2006, the house presents itself as it did in 1805.
A tenant house from 1835, also being restored, perches charmingly on a hillside below
the main house, and an equally charming and friendly mostly-black cat named Lorenzo can
often be seen playing about the grounds.
County Lines | September 2013 |

September 2013
Mercer Hill Farm
NNorth of Unionville on Doe Run Road, Mercer Hill Farm is, simply put, the classic Chester County horse farm. The
house (originally built in 1750) and barn sit amid the unspoiled former King Ranch country invariably described as
"rolling hills," but the hills roll a bit higher here than in many places and the landscape is dramatically varied.
Owner Richard Buchanan, of the architectural firm Archer & Buchanan, and wife Cynthia, both avid equestrians,
bought the property in 1999 in part because Richard's parents were downsizing their own horse farm and the new
couple wanted to keep farming in the family. In the years since, Buchanan has been doing projects every year to "make
it practical for our generation" without spoiling what came before. "Just trying to find ways to make the best of the
house and the opportunities it presents," he says.
Every room is furnished in an easygoing elegance--the house, as handsome as it is, nevertheless feels like a home
and not a museum. Among the improvements Buchanan made are a modern kitchen and a staircase that winds regally
to the second floor.
And the views from every window of those famous hills are another example of something that came down through
the years, deeply appreciated and lovingly preserved. A perfect symbol of Chester County. | September 2013 | County Lines