Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 16
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: Winter 1978 Volume 16 Number 4, Pages 67–75
The Restoration of Waynesborough
Two hundred fifty years after Waynesborough was built as a keeping room with two sleeping lofts above it, Orrin Wickersham June came to Paoli in search of the house as General Anthony Wayne knew it.
He found it nearly three years later, after a restoration job which would run to nearly a million dollars today. As a result, Waynesborough is a mecca for collectors of Wayneiana and lovers of American history.
The Junes bought Waynesborough from William Evans Wayne, 3d, ending a family line which began with the General's grand"`father, for whom he was named. But had June's first wife lived to see the restoration, she would have continued the solid line of Waynes who inhabited the 20-room house through 250 years, as Jane June was a direct decendant of Hannah Wayne Van Leer, Anthony's sister.
Actually, June had been collecting Wayne memorabilia for years before Waynesborough was offered for sale in 1965. He met William Evans Wayne through a New York dealer in historic letters and autographs, Mary Benjamin. Wayne wanted to know who had been buying the documents he had offered for sale through the years; Mary Benjamin provided the liason.
What June found in 1965 was a tangle of ivy threatening the colonial fieldstone of the Waynesborough road house. A Victorian wrought-iron fence shielded the three-section house from the road.
Heat pipes pierced colonial ceiling moulding and radiator connections had been drilled through the floor. There was layer-upon-layer of Victorian wallpaper and a montage of paint colors beneath it.
The first decision that had to be made was what to restore. As it stood, the house was a continuing history.
Waynesborough was actually built in three sections, the first built in 1715 by General Wayne's grandfather.
After fifteen years, in 1730, the cramped keeping room, which served as living room, dining room and kitchen, was expanded to the east. Upstairs, the partitioned "lodgin chamber" and "inner chamber" joined a hallway of larger-sized bedrooms and dressing rooms.
By this time the house had water piped into a second-floor bathtub and sink, the flow regulated by a windmill at the rear of the property. When the windmill was going, the water could be tapped; this meant that servants carried only enough hot water upstairs to warm the bath, not fill it.
Downstairs, the growing affluence of the Waynes showed in the blue parlor, the green room, the music room and formal dining room. Instead of the "tight-winder" staircase of the old wing, a skirt-wide staircase ran from the end of the center hall. Stout wooden beams fell into iron troughs to secure the solid doors at both ends of the hall.
Sixty-two years later, in 1792, the General was to complete the third section of Waynesborough when he added the "new kitchen" wing and converted the original keeping room into his bookroom. Wayne's library was considered enormous in colonial times. (It is also the Junes' library, lined with old volumes, including some of Wayne's own over-200-book collection.)
June's decision was to restore the house to that of 1800, as it was four years after General Wayne died at Presque Isle. This was his house, the house he had made. The evidence of seven generations of Waynes therefore had to be peeled scrupulously back to the house as it was, and the house taken down to the bare bones of plaster and wood to reflect it as the General knew it.
"We have written, documented evidence," June reported, "manuscripts, bills, letters of the 18th century. These were most valuable for the restoration of the house.
"We have bills for work done in the house and for the daily running of the plantation. It was a fine working plantation in the l8th century...with a tannery, a spring house, carriage house and barn. We know that Anthony Wayne's father, Isaac, ran a fine tannery. People of money came here to buy.
"There were large grain and potato fields, an enormous head of cattle, horses, three slaves. Anthony Wayne also had a body servant. He treated them all well. When he ordered shoes for the family, he ordered shoes for the slaves too.
"Waynesborough was the only house in Chester County with a wine ramp - slates to roll the barrels down to the basement. There are three bulkheads to the basement, two with regular stairways. I have bills to Wayne for port, madeira, brandy, whiskey. They all drank wine in their water in colonial times to purify it, but they didn't drink nearly as much whiskey as people do now!"
Among the papers and documents used as a guide in the restoration of the house was a list of the personal property belonging to the estate of General Wayne at Waynesborough, prepared for a sale of "Waynesborough's contents in l803. It included:
The list continues over several long pages. Blankets and sheets were valued about the same as chairs, books at about 50 cents each. The Wayne cupboard yielded 17 cups, 12 saucers and 55 plates. There were 12 wineglasses and five tumblers, lamps, beds, "cloathes", a $30 clock and two medals among the household effects. (The gold and silver medals awarded to General Wayne were estimated at $30 in 1803; in 1978 that gold Congressional medal sold at auction for $51,000.)
This household inventory was only one of the many crumpled, crumbling treasures unearthed when June took over the restoration of Waynesborough. Priceless papers painting pictures of everyday life in the mansion were found unsorted in boxes, or wadded up in corners. The stack of papers came from the attic and carriage house as well. Each was painstakingly ironed out, photocopied, and filed.
Particularly interesting were the bills for Waynesborough's first major redecoration project, in the 1820's, when the Marquis de Lafayette was expected to visit. Gold draperies were ordered (and a scrap of the fabric was tucked away in a desk drawer, to be found 140 years later). A monumental fourposter bed was installed in the guest bedroom. But the touring French general did not stay at Waynesborough, as he had when he arrived to aid the Continental Army, and the Marquis had called Waynesborough home while his own quarters at Valley Forge were being readied.
Because the house was to be restored to Wayne's era, some earlier paints or simplicities were bypassed. But everything that was unearthed and researched — room layouts over the house-wide floors, paint colors, stairway locations — has been documented. Neither Waynesborough's file cabinet of notes, bills, diaries, and even small children's autograph books, nor the results of painstakingly thorough archaeological digging into the house's own structural history is likely ever to be lost again. Samples of the paint, stray nails, and sketches have been sealed in plasticene bags, room by room, and are now sealed in Waynesborough's walls.
If June can be called the producer of present-day Waynesborough, Henry Judd, chief restorationist of the United States Park Service, has to be billed as director. He supervised every detail of the restoration.
It was he who found a 78-year-old Lancaster stonemason, retired to Denver, Colorado, and persuaded him to tackle Waynesborough's ivy-choked face. As the ivy was hand-scraped from the exterior, he repaired the original masonry job and prepared replacements. These were quarried in the quicksand area of Waynesborough Country Club, where Waynesborough's original stone came from. The elderly mason knew the colonial trick of splitting the stones into building blocks by heating them and dropping them into water. They cracked smoothly open to reveal brilliantly colored geodes, and were used flat side out to show the garish colors, though soon the iron ore oxidized and the colors quickly faded into the browns and blacks seen today. Victorian dormers and chimneys were replaced with those of the colonial era. Down came the ivy, to uncover the old window leading to the colonial bathroom in the rear.
The former head carpenter of Winterthur similarly came out of retirement at age 83 to reconstitute the original woodwork and windows, handcarving little pieces of moulding, cutting out ogee brackets that had been damaged when the heat pipes were run through the house. He fitted those little pieces of wood perfectly; once the dental, serrate, Cove moulding was painted, one couldn't find the seam.
Probably the only room on Waynesborough's first floor not to change function over the centuries is the formal dining room behind the formal blue parlor. General Wayne connected it to his new kitchen four years before he died.
The new kitchen was doubtless the most exciting peeling-off of history in the entire house. There was only one way to find 1792 in this room with its east and south windows: scrape off the improvements. Stairs on the inside wall were dismantled. Dados, high wall panels installed in 1902, were lifted off other walls. Then the plaster was scraped off until the colonial grout coating was uncovered.
Where the stairway had been were now markings of the 1792 stringers and joists forming a tightwinder, only going in the opposite direction from the later steps. June gleefully traced the tight winder to the vegetable cellar beneath there he unearthed the bottom stone step exactly where it should have been.
The dados converting the old kitchen into a "modern" butler's pantry came down, and unblocked the original fireplace, a ceiling high china cupboard, a precious 1792 window with glass panes still intact, markings of chair rails, and even cleverly fitted under-window single drawers. That restoration is a tribute to the detective work knowingly and patiently put in by Henry Judd.
Second only to the excitement of finding the General's kitchen in plaster was another discovery: the stub of the original 1792 newal post jutting through the stripped underside of the stairway at the end of the center hall. It had been replaced "`simply cut off - at some time, but there was its stub, run through with a spike as a wedge against the floor boards. From it Judd could read the three colors used in the hall, one-two"`three in layers, from top to bottom.
Judd also read the colors and tracings of the original moulding throughout Waynesborough, since in the eighteenth century houses were built with the walls going up first, the floors then laid wall-to-wall. The interior walls were then set up on top of the floors; then the interior woodwork was placed on the walls. The last thing done was to plaster the walls — just the reverse of how it's done today. The result is that the original woodwork is marked in the plaster. This gives the ability to trace a moulding silhouette against a door jamb by its painted outline.
Even when a chair rail was removed, its painted outline re"`mained.
In a renovation that began with the stonework, June now has also restored the museum rooms of Waynesborough to the 1800 period.
If you start at the front door, a part of the 1730 section, of Easttown's designated National Historic Landmark, you'll see the blue room on your right. "This was always the best parlor, the formal parlor," according to June. "From l840 to 1930 it probably was never used except at Christmas and for weddings or funerals. The eighteenth century used its rooms a lot more. Anthony Wayne cut a passageway from the blue room to the formal dining room behind it so guests wouldn't have to go through the cold hallway to dinner in winter."
Across the entrance hall is the green room, sitting room, or second-best parlor, depending upon the era. In l867 it was merged with the former family dining room behind it, the fire"`place wall was ripped out, and the ceiling breached with railroad iron rails. Colonial doors were replaced with black walnut ones, ornamented with sterling silver knobs. The two-in-one room was then large enough for Sunday musicales. Then in 1902 all the fireplace wall was restored, except for a passageway to the now smaller music room behind it. June completed the restoration of the wall with a facsimile of the colonial bookcase.
That every generation changes the nomenclature of rooms June has illustrated with the myriad uses of the small room on the second floor over the entrance. Probably the only use it was never converted to was the bathroom to be found at that location in many a center-hall house today. He has suggested that the room was probably the nursery at first, since it is right next to the master bedroom, and it has been used as a trunk room at times, and after 1860 was used as a sewing room. In 1900 it was a dressing room off the Lafayette bedroom.
Waynesborough's 1965 rescue, when its floors were sagging pre"`cipitously, was the second in the then 250-year history of the house. It was nearly lost at Wayne's death in 1796. Letters scattered throughout the nation's museums and among collectors tell the story of its problems.
It seems that Wayne's aging mother apparently forgot the payments made regularly by the General on the 50 pounds in gold she had loaned to him to outfit his Pennsylvania regiment. His attorney urged him to write to his mother, who by that time had moved from the mansion Polly Penrose Wayne presided over to the Newtown Square home of her daughter, Ann Wayne Hayman.
The Haymans were to inherit the house. The General wrote to his lawyer, urging him to search the desk at Waynesborough for the record of payments. It was found, and Waynesborough remained for the General's family, though it took his son Isaac a lifetime to pay off all the debts.
From the original, less-than-500 acres purchased by the first Anthony Wayne from Jonathan Edwards, William Penn's Pennsyl"`vania proprietor, Waynesborough grew with additional lands purchased from Penn's three sons, John, Thomas and Richard. With 1100 acres, it encompassed what is now Waynesborough Country Club and spread as far west as Grubb Road in Willis"`town Township, north to the Lancaster Turnpike in Paoli, and east along Sugartown Road. Because primogeniture — willing the estate to the oldest son — was not in practice in the northern colonies, however, the great plantation of this area was gradually divided and subdivided among ensuing children so that today Waynesborough contains just over ten acres.
William Evans Wayne 3d, from whom June purchased Waynes"`borough in 1965, was a decendant of Anthony Wayne's daughter, Margaretta Atlee. The General's son, Isaac, outlived his four children. By his will, Waynesborough was left to his grand"`nephew, William Wayne Evans, with the request that Evans change his surname to Wayne to continue the family line. This was done, and three generations later William Evans Wayne 3d would die after selling the mansion. Wayne 3d also had no survivors, though there are two nephews, Richard and Anthony Wayne Ridgeway.
But apparently the earlier Waynes approve of Waynesborough's restoration. While it was undergoing its 196O's transition, there were guests for dinner one night. A terrible crashing of glass caused women guests in the dining room to throw up their hands. The men in the room heard nothing. A second shattering of glass sent maids in the kitchen scurrying to find the problem. There was nothing broken.
June went to see Wayne in his Paoli apartment, complaining,"I thought you told me there was no ghost."
"Ah, the women have heard her," Wayne replied.
It seems that the Hannah Wayne of about 1862 was on a ladder in the old lodgin chamber, storing some household items in the attic She had poked a candle through the ceiling trap door to see what she was doing as she climbed halfway into the small opening. The candle tipped over: Hannah was wedged in the opening, struggling against her blazing clothing.
In desperation she kicked at the windows, splintering the glass. But the windmill wasn't running; there was no water to be tapped. All the men were away in the fields. Although the women in the rear garden heard Hannah's screams, they couldn't get there in time.
"We don't hear her anymore," June recently mused, "We believe she thinks this house is happy now."Top
Interviews with Orrin Wickersham June
Page last updated: 2010-04-16 at 20:05 EDT