5267 Germantown Ave., 215/843-4820
HOURS: Tues., Thurs., and Sun. 1–4 p.m.,
last tour 3 p.m. Apr.–Dec.
COST: $5 adult, $4 student and senior, $3 pp for groups of 10 or more, $12 for family, free under 6
With a name straight out of a Harry Potter book, Grumblethrope was originally called “John Wister’s Big House” because it had multiple stories. Built as a summer home in 1744 for wine importer John Wister, the stone and oak structure is a classic example of 18th-century Pennsylvania German architecture.
Until the 1950s, generations of notable Wisters lived here, during which time they made various contributions to American literature, horticulture, historic preservation, and astronomy.
Owen Wister, author of a novel about the American West, The Virginian, spent many summers in the home. Sally Wister, a teenager living in the house during the Revolution, kept a fascinating diary that has since been published. Charles Jones Wister, who is credited with naming the house Grumblethorpe after a place in the humorous 19th-century book Thinks I to Myself, was known for his scientific knowledge and for crafting intricate scientific tools. For decades, Charles kept a weather record, which is still used by forecasters to mark record-setting temperatures in Philadelphia.
Period furnishings and many of the Wisters’ belongings are on display in the home, now maintained by the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks.
The home even played a role in the Battle of Germantown while the Wisters were out of town. General James Agnew was staying in the house, and after being wounded in battle, he died in the front parlor. His blood stains can still be seen on the floor—providing great fodder for ghost stories.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition