Since learning of its impending demolition, the Upper Dublin Historical Commission has been working to preserve a building connected with one of the founding families of the area. The building, on Limekiln Pike, is currently owned by the Lulu Country Club. Formerly used as a residence for the club groundskeeper the building is vacant and is suffering deterioration from deferred maintenance.
The Historical Commission encouraged the club and Upper Dublin Township to make efforts to correct some of the problematic conditions and now that the roof is sealed and other repairs are complete, the building is secure for the time being.
Much of the early history of the family has been lost, though it is known that Thomas Fitzwater sailed from England with William Penn,* who granted him a tract of 1,000 acres, which Fitzwater added to with later land purchases. Fitzwater’s rich limestone deposits became one of the most important area sources for limestone (the others located in Lower Merion) and led to construction of the first road “into the wilderness” from Philadelphia. Ordered by William Penn, the road began at the Port of Philadelphia and terminated at a Fitzwater limekiln. This road, then and today, was known as Limekiln Pike. According to Suzanne Hilton, author of Yesterday’s People: The Upper Dublin Story (1975) some of the limestone from these quarries traveled along Limekiln Pike for use in building Independence Hall (built 1732-1753). The inn along Limekiln Pike, she wrote, “served the needs of mule cart drivers carrying lime from Fitzwater’s kiln to Philadelphia for the making of bricks eagerly sought by the Colonists for the building of dwellings.”
The photograph above (note the sheep visible to the left of the house) comes from Fort Washington and Upper Dublin (Fort Washington Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, 2004). The caption states that the picture was taken in 1896 and that the old Fitzwater Mill is located across Limekiln Pike from the property. Charlotte, whose husband Robert Potter died in 1884, was the owner of the house at this time, which had once been owned by her grandfather, John Fitzwater. Research has been unable to determine an exact date of construction. The July 14, 1898 edition of the Ambler Gazette reported the following:
The Fitzwater Homestead
While it is somewhat difficult to say where was the original Fitzwater homestead, yet it is certain that Mrs. Robert E. Potter now lives at one of the old homes of the family. This is where John Fitzwater lived [who ran the mill at Sandy Run], and on the west side of the turnpike, a short distance from the store _____. Here is a large smooth _____ with a modern porch. Though the house has a new appearance, it has only been modernized, the walls being of the olden time. A large stone barn stands in the rear. These buildings are on the south side of Sandy Run. This is part of the very old grant of 1695, made to Matthew Perrin, of 500 acres, and the subsequent history of which is told in the account of the Stont farm. It is part of these tracts which in 1768 Samuel Noble and Chas. West by deed of partition conveyed to Aquilla Jones and Elizabeth, his wife, parents of Isaac Cooper Jones. In 1808 Isaac Cooper Jones sold 90 1/2 acres to Thomas Livezey and John Fitzwater. The latter conveyed his right to Livezey who was a justice of the peace. At a different time, Livezey conveyed the property to John Whitcomb. The latter was landlord of the old hotel at Fitzwatertown, standing where the present one stands, and which was on this tract. In 1832 Whitcomb sold to Robert McAdams, who held the tavern til his death, in 1846. His daughters, Julia Ann and Jane, came into possesssion in 1852, who that year conveyed to Robert E. Potter, whose wife had been Charlotte, daughter of John Fitzwater.
In September 1898, the Ambler Gazette
featured an item about the death of Charlotte (or “Lottie”) Potter’s brother, John Fitzwater of Philadelphia. The funeral was held at Charlotte Potter’s home (“a large number of friends of the deceased attended the funeral”) and the burial followed in the nearby family plot on Twining Road. The digitized collection of the Ambler Gazette begins in 1886 and is a wonderful resource for those interested in local history.
Charlotte Fitzwater Potter was the youngest child of John Fitzwater. (She was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Fitzwater.*) The 1870 census shows 28-year-old Lottie married to Robert Potter, who is listed as a druggist. Living with them were five children, Charlotte’s mother, Mary, and Charlotte’s brother Jacob, listed as “innkeeper.”
In 1900 the census for Upper Dublin Township lists Charlotte F. Potter as age 64, a widow, who had given birth to 10 children, with seven living.
Based on a preliminary evaluation of architectural evidence, the smaller portion of the structure appears to date from the 18th century and the larger portion facing Limekiln Pike was probably built in two campaigns during the early or mid-19th century. Since the historic photo was taken, the house has lost the front porch and the addition, visible on the left portion of the house.
To view photographs taken during an early Historical Commission inspection of the site, please see below or visit the Fitzwater Potter House portfolio
. The Historical Commission, which is pursuing additional research into the history of the property, believes this building merits preservation and is working to develop a viable plan for adaptive reuse.
UPDATE: Success! The house will be preserved under an agreement with the Lulu Country Club and Upper Dublin Township. The site has been separated from the county club parcel and the house offered for sale. Here’s to the next owners, with hopes they will pursue a thoughtful rehabilitation of the building, earning the thanks of local residents for preserving this part of our local heritage.
*In 1682, Thomas Fitzwater of Hanworth in England sailed with sons Thomas and George and servants John and Henry, aboard the ship “Welcome” with William Penn. Fitzwater’s wife Mary and two of his children, Josiah and Mary, died at sea. According to “The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania” by W.W.H. Davis (1876) Fitzwater became a member of the first assembly, drafted and signed the first charter. He died in 1699.
* Yours truly is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Thomas Fitzwater.