James Logan was a central figure in early Philadelphia history. Born in Ireland in 1674, he came to Pennsylvania in 1699 as William Penn’s secretary. Unlike Penn, he stayed in Philadelphia, living in the city and later building a 500 acre country estate, just outside it. Stenton was built in 1720’s, and was home to the Logan family for 6 generations. Today, it’s owned by the city and managed by the Colonial Dames. Both the house and grounds are open for tours.
Over the years James held many positions in the colony, including: mayor, chief justice, and acting governor. It was during his tenure as acting governor that he was architect of the infamous “walking purchase.” In his efforts to expand the territory of Pennsylvania, Logan claimed that the Lenape had signed a treaty agreeing to cede as much territory as a man could walk in 1 1/2 days (some sources claim even this was a fabrication of Logan’s). The fastest runners in the colony were selected, and scouts were sent ahead to clear their path. Thus, Pennsylvania was able to claim a much larger territory than expected (one “walker” covered more than 70 miles), and the colony was increased by over 1,200,000 acres.
James might have been a Quaker, but he definitely appreciated the finer things in life. The woodwork in the public rooms of the house and the Delft tiles in the fireplaces are beautiful.
Stenton has been a museum for over 100 years, and during that time several archaeological digs and restorations have taken place. A 2017 restoration took the yellow lodging room back to its 1750’s splendor, using paint replication and re-created yellow wool textiles, as were described in a 1752 household inventory. A 1752 portrait of William Penn’s daughter-in-law, Lady Juliana Penn, provided the damask design. A local blacksmith fabricated iron curtain rods and brass rings, replicating those found during archeological digs at Stenton in 1982.
Kitchen: Love these displays of food remains found during archaeological excavations, along with period recipes from the collection. Turtle Veal, anyone?
My favorite part was this display of china, excavated and pieced back together, which really emphasizes how connected the colonies and early America were to the world-wide trade of the time:
Aside from his governing and shady land deals, Logan was also interested in scholarly pursuits, and interacted with many of the well-known men of the day. He was a botanist, publishing a paper on the reproduction of corn, and tutored John Bartram in Latin while introducing him to the teachings of Linnaeus (Botany in Early Philadelphia (pt. 1): Bartram’s Garden – Alligators, American Plants and a Riverside Trail). He was a huge book lover, with a personal library of almost 3,000 volumes, and became a mentor to Ben Franklin and his junto. The group respected Logan to the extent that they asked him to choose the first books they purchased for their subscription library (which would become the Library Company –The Library Company: Another Historical Treasure and American First). Today, Logan’s extensive collection is housed in that same library. He also collected antiquities, like this greek vase:
James died in the house in 1751, and there are rumors that he still haunts his old bedroom:
Both Generals Washington and Howe used the house as headquarters during the Battle of Germantown (at different times – obviously!). Washington is said to have slept in this room (the children’s room) during his time in the house:
After the battle, the British planned on burning the home to prevent the Americans from taking shelter, but it was spared, thanks to Dinah, a manumuted slave still living on the property (https://b487704c-b506-435b-8bda-5524d0a0559f.filesusr.com/ugd/29e2a6_658dc57b970c44a8909635352d3068b8.pdf).
By the time of the third generation, the Logans were still well-connected and involved in government, with George Logan a US senator and friend of Charles Wilson Peale and Thomas Jefferson. He infamously gave his name to the Logan Act, which even today criminalizes negotiations between unauthorized American citizens and foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. Siding with Jefferson and France against President John Adams, he attempted negotiations with revolution-era France, leading to Adams signing the act into law. Violation of this law came up recently in the Trump/Russia impeachment trial. George’s 1787 barn still stands on the property.
George’s wife Deborah was an amateur historian, and was responsible for documenting much of what is known about the family’s early history. She was elected the first female member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where her extensive diaries are kept. Much of her work is on view at the house.
Although most of the original 500 acres is gone, in the early 1900’s a colonial revival style garden was established that includes boxwood clippings originally from Mt. Vernon. In 1913 the completed garden was the site of the founding of the Garden Club of America.