The History of the HARMER-MORRIS-DETWILER-ZABRISKIE House
Perched on the hill at the corner of Butler Pike and Morris Road sits one of the earliest houses in the Wissahickon Valley. The original house was a two-story stone dwelling (the present kitchen wing) built sometime between 1682 and 1700 by William Harmer. Harmer purchased a 408 acre tract from William Penn in 1682 and thereon erected a stone gristmill, the first commercial venture in the Ambler area. Shortly thereafter he built the two-room house that still stands. Originally the house had an English medieval appearance probably with small casement windows and diamond shaped leaded glass. Harmer lived and prospered there until his death in 1731.
The house, mill, and property were sold to Morris Morris and his wife Susanna Heath Morris in 1733. Susanna was an important woman of her day and traveled extensively as a Quaker Minister. The Morris family continued to acquire property and expanded the milling business. They added the front wing of the house that is now the dining room. Their sons, Daniel and Samuel would each acquire additional mills, Daniel acquiring Phillip William's fulling mill (Ambler) and Samuel acquiring Farmer's mill at Whitemarsh. The family of Morris Morris continued ownership of the property until Daniel's death 1759. Samuel went on to build the Mansion at Whitemarsh called "Hope Lodge."
In 1759, the property now known as the Zabriskie house was sold to Miller, John Stevens, who owned it until 1771.
In 1771, the house, mill and property, now reduced to 84 acres, was sold to Joseph Morris, who recently wed Elizabeth Dawes of "Dawesfield." Joseph and Elizabeth enlarged the house to its present size in 1772.
The property was sold to Joseph Detwiler in 1775. During the Revolutionary War in 1777, General Greoge Weedon and the Virginia troops encamped on the property. Much on the woods in the area were felled by the troops to build shelters. The Detwiler family owned the property into the 19th century.
The property was sold to William Earnest in 1845. In 1871, the mill was sold to Edmund Plumly. The mill was finally razed in 1887. The house was later sold to the Brown Family and in 1967 was acquired by the present owner, Virginia Humphreys Zabriskie.
The following observation is from the web master and not the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.
My friend Ginny passed in February of 2004. The estate was sold and many alterations were made, most not in keeping with the property's historic significance.
Let's use the Historic Registry process to protect properties from the past that are clearly worth preserving.