Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

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

Leave a comment

Roundtop Farm – the Minshall Family Farmstead

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.


Minshall Painter around town

In 1857, when brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter inherited the property that is now Tyler Arboretum from their father, Enos Painter, they set about establishing a collection of over 1,000 ornamental plants for their own scientific study.  They even built the Painter Library to house their growing natural science collections and equipment, as well as their extensive and valued book collection.  The Minshall and Jacob Painter private collection was key in laying the foundation of the beauty that is Tyler Arboretum today.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PA

But Minshall Painter left his mark not only on Tyler Arboretum but around Media, PA.  Minshall is also credited with serving on the local school board and getting the Delaware County seat moved from Chester (City) to Media.  In fact, on Orange Street across from the intersection with Linden Street, you can find a sign that credits Minshall with naming the town “Media.”  However, it is not clear why “Media” was chosen – some report that it was because of the central location of Media borough in the county, while others report that the name may come from the biblical area of Medea.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PAPersonally, I feel the most valued contribution outside of Tyler Arboretum that Minshall Painter made to Media was being one of the founders of the Delaware County Institute of Science.  On September 21, 1833, a group of five individuals with an interest in science and natural history came together to establish DCIS.  Minshall Painter was one of the five founders and the first secretary of the organization.  He purchased a half block of land along South Avenue from Jasper to Front Street and secured the funds (much out of his own pocket) to construct the building that still stands today.  You can learn more about the history of DCIS from their website.  Admission to the museum is free and open on Monday, Thursday, and most Saturday mornings.

Minshall also recorded weather observations and was an enthusiastic genealogist – he compiled notes and collected deeds and other papers pertaining to many Quaker families of Delaware and Chester Counties.

Jacob Painter was not as active in the community as his brother Minshall.  As noted on this website from Swarthmore College:

Jacob Painter, while sharing Minshall’s scientific interests, was a student of language and a poet … The brothers acquired a printing press which they used to publish a number of essays on language, a system they developed for scientific nomenclature, and genealogical compilations. They were active in civic and Quaker affairs and members of Chester Monthly Meeting, attending Middletown Meeting until their resignation in 1842. While no longer formally members of the Society of Friends, they continued their interest in “liberal” Quaker concerns, including abolition and women’s suffrage, and collected classic Quaker texts.

My Minshall Tour around Media, PAAnd what about the Minshall House?  Located at the intersection of Providence Road and Front Street, the Minshall House (circa 1750) is believed to be the oldest house in Media, approximately 260 years old.  The house is located on the land Thomas Minshall purchased from William Penn in 1681, but there is no record that Minshall Painter (the great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Minshall) ever lived in the house.  The house is open for tours on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Minshall lived to 72 years of age, but his hard work and impact still lives on in Media, PA!