President's House

President's houseThe man who may have built this home was Abraham Martin (1793-1880). In 1834 Martin purchased 24 acres and a stone dwelling from the estate of James Moyes. It is not clear whether the house of 1834 is the same as that at 3400 today or whether it was on a portion of the 24 acres different from the 10 plus acres he sold in 1866. 

Martin was active in the American Sunday-School Union. His biographical sketch (from Union records) reports that he managed an “infants retreat” in Germantown prior to 1851 and Martin’s mortgage for the house in 1850 calls the place “The Retreat”. Hotchkin in his book ANCIENT AND MODERN GERMANTOWN (published in 1889) describes the “infants retreat” as a boarding school for children whose parents were “absent or traveling”. Hotchkin describes the architecture of the house as Greek Revival, “old-fashioned” and either stuccoed or painted white, in the popularized American custom of a Greek temple. Later the house was used as a boarding and day school by Mary Spafford.

Philip Guckes purchased the property in 1870 and erected a brewery along a narrow creek at the rear of the parcel. The path of the creek is now followed by Warden Drive. Guckes apparently failed in business since he lost his house, brewery, and land at Sheriff’s Sale in 1883. 

This property was purchased by William G Warden in 1888. He was a major figure in Philadelphia finance and industry and at this time he was developing large tracts of land in East Falls. The School House Lane Company was owned by the Warden family and John H McClatchy. When purchased by Warden the property extended back from School House Lane more than a quarter mile. More than half of that land was used for the laying out of Vaux Street and Warden Drive. The 9.24 acres purchased by Warden in 1888 was subdivided so that when members of the family sold it in 1925 only about 3.5 acres remained. 

It was occupied by various members of this family during this time period. Barbara Warden, daughter or granddaughter of William Warden, who purchased the property in 1888, married William J. Strawbridge (related to Justus C Strawbridge, founder of S & C) in 1909. In the Social Register they are listed as living here in 1910 and 1911. William died August 13, 1911 and Barbara continued to lived here through 1917. In 1917, she moved with her two children to Chestnut Hill. The School House Lane Co was the deed holder until 1925 when John McClatchy was listed as the owner. 

In 1927 McClatchy sold the 3.3 acres of property to Percy C. Madiera. He engaged the prominent Philadelphia architectural firm of Mellor Meigs & Howe to alter and add to the already large residence. Over $114,000 was spent on the property according to the old ledgers of this architectural firm. This amount of money probably effected sweeping changes in the house and grounds, though the precise details cannot be known as the plans apparently have not survived. The Madiera family lived here only twelve years. During this time, they suffered a spectacular burglary in 1930. The family moved to Haverford in 1939.

In 1944, David Johnson Matlack purchased the property, there is some indication that he rented the house for a few years prior to his purchase. Matlack , a Penn graduate (1913) and Philadelphia Textile School alumni (1922), was a partner in a yarn manufacturing company located in Manayunk. In 1970, Emily and David sold the house to the college. It was not until 1985 that the college approved of a program to renovate the home so that it may be used by the college's president and his family.

Details


  • Address: 3400 West School House Lane

  • Built: 1850s

  • Architect: Unknown

  • Past Names: “The Retreat”, Matlack House