Finding History Hidden In Plain Sight

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Chapter 6. We find the home of Robert Evans!

One day in 2014 we were out walking along Penn Oak Drive, and as we approached the new house under construction I looked at the house next to it. I said to Andrea, "Hey! Lookit the top window in that house!" "What about it?" she asked. "Look at the window on the right! The small window at the top! It's Robert Evans' house! We've found it!"
The house has so many additions on it we walked past it a hundred times and never noticed the little window at the top.
From the back, up the slope near the rude bridge, just as the magazine article stated.
You can see how different this looks from the pictures in the magazine, but now that we know it's the right house it jumps out at you.
Looking down the driveway from Penn Oak Drive. The house has been practically swallowed up with additions.

A few weeks after we found the house, my sister, Cindi-with-an-eye, called me and said she was nearby. The doctor she works for was throwing a party at his house. Guess where the doctor lives. In Robert Evans' house! We spend two years wondering where the house is and my sister comes up one time and she's IN the house. I love that about my sister.

We'll never see this view of what used to be the front of the house again...
... because a swimming pool now occupies the space.

Another mystery! Where is the barn to the house?

Historian Phil Johnson Ruth took this photograph around 1990. He included it in his book Fairland Gwynedd, published in 1991. As far as I can tell, it is the only photo in the book he took himself. The caption reads, "The ground-level barn on the Robert Evans homestead near Gwynedd Corners. Contemporary photo by the author."

It is now the year 2018. We have been looking for the barn for years to no avail. Where is it?? It must be near the house, but how far away? We have looked everywhere. It turns out we are NEVER going to find it. Thankfully, Phil took this picture!
In this fuzzy aerial photo from 1995 there is no Penn Oak Drive. The Evans house has an arrow pointing to it. What is the building in the circle? It has to be the barn. The roof line seems to match with the color photo. There are no other structures nearby and the area is still heavily wooded.

Notice the path that leads to the house. This is the path over the rude bridge we couldn't find, mentioned in the 1927 magazine article.

This is part of a MUCH larger photo of the area that can be found here.

1995 2018 Composite

In May of 2007 a swimming pool was deemed to be more important than a 300 year old barn. Oh well, at least we "found" it.
The location is now completely obscured at ground level in all directions.

Chapter 7. We find the home of Thomas Evans!

This is from The North Penn Community, page 87. It's one of those historic postcard books.

With no effort on our part, we get a picture of the Thomas Evans house just by looking at some postcards in a book. Time for a walk up Sumneytown Pike.


Here is the house, near the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Upper Valley road. This side faces Sumneytown Pike. Compare to the postcard. The stucco has been removed, and so has the porch. The brick chimney and the dormer are also gone, leaving a gap in the window spacing. You can still see where the porch roof was attached to the building.

Another view of the front. The back of the building is still stuccoed and is white, as in the Sliker postcard.

In his will, Thomas Evans granted his house to his son, Owen. Owen's son Samuel inherited it from Owen in 1757. Samuel lived in it for years and was a school teacher in North Wales. My guess is that the original part of the house is from the left side to the door. It was much smaller 200 years ago before George Heist added the tavern.

So going back to page 1, what is "Evans Run?" It's a creek! Who would have thunk it? The text under the postcard above wrongly states that it's the Wissahickon Creek. It actually merges with the Wissahickon about 1/2 mile away.
Andrea at Evans Run where it goes under Sumneytown Pike. The Thomas Evans house is in the background. Today the creek is named "Haines-Dittingers Creek." It is 3.3 miles long but only runs under one major road, Sumneytown Pike.

The bridge Andrea is standing on, which spans Sumneytown Pike behind her, was built in 1848 by Robert Scarlett during the construction of the turnpike.

The homes of the other two Evans brothers, Owen and Cadwallader, have been located on the 1877 map. The properties are listed as "E. Evans" and "Bellows," just as Howard Jenkins wrote in Historical Collections Relating to Gwynedd.
(Note: the Owen Evans in the Meredith House was the son of Thomas.)

Here is the link to the Gwynedd Meeting history pages written by James A. Quinn.

The path over the rude bridge to Robert Evans' house has been paved. The impenetrable foliage has been replaced with grass, and there IS a house at the top of the hill. Thankfully, we couldn't see this house during our search, or we would have thought it was the Evans house. Robert Evans' house is BEHIND us in this photo.

The paved path over the bridge in this view veers off to the left, but it doesn't go anywhere. It just ends. Prior to 1999 it led up the hill to the state road, now known as Dekalb Pike, Route 202. The strip of land the path once occupied is currently owned by the owner of the house in this photo, which was built in 1917.

Turning around, we see the path leads directly to the Robert Evans house! In 2011 when we found the bridge it led to and from nowhere. If this paving had been there in 2011 we may have found the house on the first day. When we found the post office we were only about 50 feet from where the path once was. This picture was taken in 2018.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.