WENDELL & SMITH/DEVELOPERS OF OVERBROOK FARMS

 

HISTORY OF OVERBROOK FARMS

 

1912 MAP OF OVERBROOK FARMS: SEE THE HIGH RESOLUTION MAP

 

NOW AND THEN:  SEE SELECT HOMES AS THEY APPEARED IN 1910, AND AS THEY APPEAR TODAY

 

DRAWINGS: SEE INFORMATION ON EFFORTS UNDERTAKEN TO MATCH DRAWINGS TO OVERBROOK HOMES AS BUILT

 

OVERBROOK FARMS DATABASE: SEARCH THE DATABASE FOR MODERN PHOTOs OF OVERBROOK HOMES, AND OTHER INFORMATION, WHERE AVAILABLE

 

LINKS

 

"We are learning the value of environment in our home making.  American men work hard, and when they rest, they want restful surroundings. 
They want quietness. Those who are cooped up in their offices all day want an evening in the country, away from the noise and heat and feverish
unrest of the city, to give them strength for the next day’s battle. --
Wendell & Smith, in an 1899 pamphlet entitled "A Little Talk with the Home Seeker",
courtesy of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

 

 

Built in the late 19th century and early 20th century, Overbrook Farms in northwestern Philadelphia is one of the city’s earliest suburban developments. The community was developed by Herman Wendell and Walter Bassett Smith, well known high-end speculative developers in the Philadelphia area. 
A number of regionally well-known architects were commissioned to design homes in Overbrook, including William Price. Today, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia retains 21 of Price's drawings for homes in Overbrook Farms   

 

There is no known resource that reconciles these drawings to the homes built in the development. This project attempts to matches these drawings to present day homes, and provides other resources related to Wendell and Smith’s development of Overbrook Farms.

Wendell and Smith's drawings, advertising photographs and modern-day photos have all been combined into a single database so that homeowners, historians, and other interested persons can easily access information about Overbrook Farms homes.

We hope this will be a starting point to understand the practices of developers at this time. One question that we would like to explore is how the home designs were presented to buyers.

Patterns among home types may provide other insights. The homes on the East end of the development are older and tend to be grander. The west side has more homes which are identical, indicating that they were chosen from stock designs.

Finally, the distribution of twin homes seems to say something about the arc of the development. The twins seemed to fill in around earlier single homes. Whether this is because of a general trend or because of change in the means of Wendell and Smith's clientele is an interesting question.

We have not answered these questions yet, but trends are clear from the map and the assembly of data in the database should make it easier to find answers.

Use the tool bar to the left to navigate the site's resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The enthusiastic response to [Overbrook Farms] is seen by examining a map of Overbrook Farms in 1912, which gives the owners of the different properties.  All the lots had been built upon with the exception of Sherwood Road near 66th Street, and certain sections of Woodbine Avenue and 63rd Street."
---
George Magee Jr. in "Overbrook Farms," Published by the Overbrook Farm Press in 1936, page 75

1912 Map of Overbrook Farms, prepared by Wendell & Smith. Courtesy of the Radnor Historical Society Architectural Drawing Collection, on loan to the Athenaeum of Philadelphia with the support of the Pew Charitable Trust thorough its Museum Loan Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This web site was prepared by Patrice Frey and Adrian Seward, Graduate Students at the University of Pennsylvania's Historic Preservation Program. Special thanks to Bruce Laverty of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia for providing research guidance and making available materials related to Wendell & Smith.