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Adam Everly's "Emlenton"

From Country Retreat to Suburban Plan

The inscription below reads, "Mr. Adam Everly's Residence on the west side of the Schuylkill river back of the canal locks, opposite Fairmount in 1864." On the edge of the picture border it reads, "Demolished in 1883."

This watercolor by D. Kennedy from 1864, found in the Collections of the Historical Society depicts the same scene of Everly's estate as the one created by Taylor. That two artists took an interest in the same building from almost the same view is interesting. This area would have been prime real estate, opposite the new Philadelphia Waterworks which was both a technological marvel for its day and a tourist attraction. Although the precise location of Everlys house on his land has been lost (see below), we surmise that its settingprobably with a view of the waterworksmade it notable to travelers and artists alike.

The inscription below the Kennedy watercolor includes the legend, "Demolished in 1883." This
notation is useful, but problematic. Few documents about the construction of Everlys retreat survive. Most of the evidence we have is in the form of maps of the area, made to varying degrees of accuracy and with varying purposes. Unfortunately, these differences have led to conflicting information about Adam Everlys Emlenton. The property was considered a Country Seat far beyond the edges of the city in 1831 when it was purchased by Everly (Philadelphia Deed Book AM 15 p. 467). The estate came to be called Emlenton after the Emlen family, large landholders who sold the land to Everly, and had owned many large tracts of land in the city. But they were not
its first owners: the 1750 Scull and Heap map (see left) shows only a handful of buildings in all

of West Philadelphia, but the one nearest to what will become Everlys land is in the hands of the Drexel family, another great Philadelphia landowner.

Adam Everly had served as a private in the War of 1812 (PA Archives 6th Series, V. 8, p. 360), but, as evidenced by Tax Records and Everlys Will, housed at the Historical Society of Philadelphia, he made his fortune afterwards. Like many he invested in real estate, and is listed as either the grantor or grantee in many deeds also on file at HSP. For many years, he maintained a home in the city, and is listed in City Directories at 1204 Arch Street from 1850 to 1865, the year he died (for 1857 and before the house is listed as 354 Arch Street, as it would have been known by the old numbering system) (McElroy 1850, 1855, 1857, 1858, 1865). But the key to entry into the elite class was a country estate to which he could retire. Emlenton and its more than 24 acres provided the perfect retreat.

He purchased the land in 1831 from Joseph Lloyd, who had recently married into the Emlen family and now controlled the assets of his wifes late husband, Samuel Emlen; the selling price for 24 acres, 116 perches was $3,000 (Philadelphia Deed Book AM 15 p. 467). It seems that Everly bought the land alone and proceeded to build the house from the watercolors himself: Blockley Township tax assessments for only ten years later listed the property as being valued at $15,000, a jump that could only be due to new construction on the scale of a mansion house (Blockley Township 1841, p. 2).

An earlier artist must have taken an interest in Everlys estate as well, for the caption to Taylors drawing reveals that it was not made from life, by after a work made for Ferdinand J. Dreer in 1835, copied by Taylor in 1861. From these facts, we can conclude that Everly built his mansion between 1831 and 1835 when an unknown artist drew it for Dreer.

As noted above, the particular placement of Everlys house is a matter of debate. The 1836 Lewis map (above left), entitled Plan of a Basin and Location of a Rail Road shows the house near the intersection of Haverford Road and Thirty-Third Streets, the southwestern corner of Everlys property, oriented on an angle. The next documentation we have for the area is the 1848 map (above center) entitled Plan of the Proposed New Borough of MANTUA (Sidney 1848) which places the house in the same location, but on the North-South axis, perpendicular to the river and Thirty-Third Street. Only two years later, the 1850 Rea and Miller map (above right) places Everlys mansion house much closer to the center of his land, far from the streets. Each map had a different motivation in its creation, and in each case it was most likely to sell potential investors on the depicted plan: a railroad or a newly developed Manuta. Accuracy as to the standing buildings was secondary.

Later maps, such as the 1878 Scott survey, do not show Everlys house clearly at all, despite the notation on the Kennedy watercolor which states that it survived until 1883. We must consider the possibility that Kennedy or a later owner of that drawing wrote the wrong demolition date on it. If Everlys house was demolished shortly after Taylors sketch, and therefore before the 1878 Scott map, this might explain the intense interest in the property as Taylor worked. Alternatively, since his drawing was made from an earlier one rather than from life, it may be that the old mansion was gone before 1861 when Taylor begin to draw, and that Kennedys later sketch was made from Taylors or another. More research might prove decisive, but it may also be that the details are lost to time.

Either way, we know that Everly must have loved his country estate because in his will he ordered that no sale partition or alienation whatsoever be made of my said estate in West Philadelphia called Emlenton or any part thereof for at least a period of ten or fifteen years after the decease of my wife (quoted in Philadelphia Deed Book, GGP 93, p. 106). Accordingly, it was not until 1885, fifteen years after the death of Mary, wife of Adam Everly, that his family began to carve up the land.

Click here to continue the story, and learn more about the transition from Everlys country estate of Emlenton to todays neighborhood of Mantua

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