Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Roundtop Farm – the Minshall Family Farmstead

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If you saw my post back in August 2013 about Touring the historic buildings, you might remember the end of the post (reproduced here):

We joked that we may meet again investigating Roundtop Farm in Ridley Creek State Park, which we learned was the original Minshall family farmstead (until I make it there, I’ll have to enjoy exploring the images in flickr)!  I also found a 1993 Masters Thesis from the University of Pennsylvania titled “Preservation in Ridley Creek State Park : documentation of the historic farmsteads.”  The thesis is available online as a free download and has more information on the Roundtop Farm home of the Minshalls, especially the case study section that starts on page 89 of the thesis (p. 193 of the PDF file).

I went searching for the Roundtop Farmstead not long after I took the Tyler Historic Building Tour – and I walked right by the building twice before I was able to find it!  Although the ruins are only approx. 20 feet off the hiking trail, it was the thick vegetation that blocked the view.  But now, in the winter months with all of the “green” missing from the trees and low plants, I had no problem finding the building – at least, what is left of it.  (At the end of this post, you can find my directions on how to find Roundtop for yourself!)

Roundtop Farm

Roundtop Farm became part of Ridley Creek State Park in 1978 in a property exchange between Tyler Arboretum and RCSP.

According to the thesis by Jeffrey Barr, the original portion of the house is believed to have been constructed in 1711 by Jacob Minshall (the second owner of the Tyler property).  Jacob’s son, John Minshall, inherited the property in 1734 and is believed to have built the additions on to the barn.  Unfortunately, it is only the house and ruins of the barn that are left standing, but Barr’s thesis has some impressive detail from his research on the chain of title of architectural records to speak about the layout of the structure and additions over the years.  I strongly encourage you to check out the link above and read for yourself!

And you can click here to view a slideshow of my images!

To find Roundtop, you can travel one of two pathways: (1) Start on the Painter Trail (formerly called the Red Trail) in Tyler Arboretum, take the turn in the trail that crosses in to Ridley Creek State Park, keep walking and Roundtop will appear on your left; (2) Park at the Sycamore Mills/Barren Road entrance at Ridley Creek State Park, and follow this map I created in Google (no log-in necessary) to find the house.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… when you reach Roundtop, do NOT enter the ruins.  Be incredibly careful and respectful of this historic structure, and keep your distance (just use the “zoom” on your camera like I did to snap some incredible photos!).

PLEASE ALSO NOTE… I made my trip to Roundtop and took these photos in mid-January, before the recent flurry of flurries we have been receiving.  I don’t know how many trees are down and how much damage Roundtop has sustained from the recent ice storms – please be safe and wait until the snow clears and you can journey on the trails once again.


Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at

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