Underneath Linden Hill's grand architecture, a wealth of family-friendly details abound.
In addition to the main house and the gardens and orchards of its grounds, Linden Hill also boasts a 10-car garage, an aviary, a wood shop, a two-story guesthouse with an attached garage, a turreted two-story caretaker’s house, a cottage, and a barn.
The owners of Linden Hill estate, in Gladwyne, have hosted numerous galas on their 50 acres, but a party they threw this summer surely stood out. A black-tie, sit-down dinner for 200, it spilled out of a huge tent onto abundant gardens and a series of terraces and then down to poolside tables. Come evening, select guests were invited to spend the night in a seemingly endless array of bedrooms. (The official count is eight in the two-story, 14,000-square-foot home, but a guesthouse and several caretakers cottages are also on the grounds.) The night echoed the soirées once offered by Campbell Soup heir Jack Dorrance, who entertained at Linden Hill for more than 50 years. But this was different—it was a 21st-birthday party for one of the owner’s five children. “Making the house soccer-ball friendly [was] always a priority,” the owner notes. “This is a house we all live in comfortably.” But, she admits, at first sight the property seemed intimidating. “We were impressed by its landscape and historic architecture. But it seemed very dressy.”
Their assessment was right on the money, according to Karen Nagel, an architectural historian with the Lower Merion Township Historic Commission. “It certainly is unique,” she says. “It’s laid out like a village and offers a wonderful blend of colloquial and formal elements.” The Commission lists some 1,000 properties as worthy of historical protection, she adds, but few are as large as Linden Hill, and less than two dozen join Linden Hill in the Commission’s “Architectural Hall of Fame.”
Regal gold fixtures abound in the master bathroom.
Philadelphia architect Edmund B. Gilchrist designed the estate between 1928 and 1931 for stockbroker Rodman Ellison Griscom, modeling it after the distinctive architecture of Normandy. Nagel praises its design as “the epitome of Main Line architecture of this period, one highly influenced by World War I. American architects, serving as soldiers, returned from Europe with memories of French architecture and attempted to re-create these styles in America.” The dramatic entrance sweeps alongside four grazing Percherons, through wrought-iron gates, past a few turreted outbuildings, and into the porte cochère. A sense of grandeur prevails in the U-shape of the home and in original exterior fixtures such as copper lamp stanchions and imposing planters.
Inside, a foyer with marble floors and a sweeping staircase serves as an entertaining space, with the dining room on one side and the salon on the other. From here, two curving wings spread, one to the butler’s pantry and kitchen, the other to an orchid-filled solarium and the family’s bedrooms. Everywhere, ornate moldings, original cremone hardware, and pecan paneling give testimony to the home’s heralded roots, as do the extra-high ceilings. Says the owner, “I’ll probably never find something like this again.”
Surprises await, though. Interior designer Sally Metcalfe has offset these other-era hallmarks with a contemporary palette of ivories and beiges, punched up by sunny yellows and ice cream pastels. Furniture leans away from the expected period items, offering instead rustic pieces from the couple’s previous residence, a Chester County farmhouse, tossed with a smattering of midcentury accents picked up at the flea markets of Paris. In the living room, the owner, a freelance interior designer, has assembled a colorful array of contemporary glass to “brighten up and play off against the traditional woodwork,” she says.
The dining room exemplifies the home’s luxurious wood paneling and extra-high ceilings, as well as its abundant sunlight.
Metcalfe’s chief mandate for this project: lighten up. And so custom-designed wallpaper patterned in a golden pineapple motif drapes the entrance hallway, while the kitchen’s cherry cabinetry is relieved by apple-green wallpaper that echoes the verdancy visible through wide French doors. In other areas, rough-textured, burlap-hued wall covering adds to the informality.
The master bedroom features a raised ceiling and walls coated in a delicious mint green, and a dressing room showcases animal-print carpeting and crystal doorknobs. One bedroom is a symphony of lilac; another sports a sophisticated red toile de jouy. Recently redecorated bathrooms gleam all white in the sun that pours through the house.
“There are so many things I will miss about Linden Hill,” says the owner. “I will miss the gardens. But what I will miss most is raising a young family in such a warm, magical, and inviting environment.” For more information, contact Lisa Weber Yakulis, Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty, 25 Morris Ave., 610-517-8445