Skip to content

Rambo House

March 15, 2012

Rambo House, Swede Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania

Here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming post (I’ve got a lot of work to do before I’m ready to share it with you).

Above is Rambo House, a hotel once located on Swede Street in Norristown, Pennsylvania, across from the County Courthouse. Nathan Rambo, a onetime owner of the property, is a cousin (something removed) of mine.  I pulled his will and the inventory of his belongings for a research project.  In trying to build the context for his properties, his community, his life and times, I discovered a fire insurance survey for Rambo House.

Rambo House

Cor. Swede & Penn Sts.,

(Opposite Court House)

Norristown, Montg. Co.

House Large & Commodious

Well Ventilated,

Good Stabling


Careful Ostlers,

Table Well Supplied,

And the Bar always Stocked with the

Best Brands of

Liquor and Segars.

Fire insurance surveys are wonderful research tools, providing detailed descriptions of a building from top to bottom.  To read the  Rambo House survey, click here for a downloadable pdf file or simply scroll down.  The image and this document is all that is left of Rambo House.   It was demolished in the 1970s.   (A bill for wallpaper discovered in my research, allowed me to suppose that Nathan Rambo’s residence, across the river in Bridgeport, probably also featured wallpaper in its public rooms.)

Franklin Fire Insurance 0/23260

Survey made and reported to the Franklin Fire Insurance Company of Philadelphia for Nathan Rambo of his three story brick dwelling & tavern house with back buildings on the northwest side of Swede Street on the Lot North corner of Penn and Swede Street, Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Building 51 feet front by 34 feet deep

Back building 22 feet wide by 30 feet deep

Cellar under front house divided by walls into three parts (A roadway in basement 10 feet wide for carriages to pass through into Tavern Yard not dug out under)

Ground floor, joists of Basement floor 3 by 8 inches, 18 inches apart

3 small windows 3 lights each. Steep stairs up to first floor. Basement story walled with stone.

Basement, divided into three rooms and Roadway. 8.6 feet high in the clear. Ceiled, plastered & painted. W. pine floor narrow. Washboard. SW office, 2 windows front, 12 lights: 8 by 16 inches and one window back 12 lights: 10 by 16 inches, all double hung on weights. Double paneled Shutters 1 1⁄2 inch thick. Iron strap hinges and bolts.

Out door front 2 inch thick knob lock. Two lights over in square head. Large closet with two doors. Board partitions across office with double doors in knob lock. Hatchway door over cellar stairs. Middle office same. NE office has no partitions, is otherwise alike.

4 in. Grecian moulding finish

First Story – One Room, 10.6 feet high in the Clear. Ceiled, plastered & painted. Yellow pine floor narrow, washboard. Five windows front and 4 back. 12 lights: 10 by 18 inches, double hung on weights. Double panel shutters 2 inches thick. Iron strap hinges and bolts. Middle window front with 2 small doors under to open (shutters down the whole length) onto a piazza 3 1⁄2 feet wide the length of house. Resting on cast iron brackets every 4 feet. Three wooden joists 3 by 4 inches with yellow pine floor. Iron Railing 36 inches front and sides. Heavy pattern. Two doors two inches thick, knob lock, to steps down to Bar Room.

Door to back part 2 inches thick. Knob lock. 4 inch Grecian moulding finish.

Second story – front part 9.4 feet high in the clear. Ceiled, plastered and painted. White pine floor narrow. Washboard. Divided by entry 5 1⁄2 feet wide through the middle of house the whole length. Five rooms front and four back with back entry, one window to each room, 12 lights: 10 by 16 inches double-hung with weights, double-paneled blinds 1 3⁄4 inch thick. Iron strap hinges and bolts. Door to each room and back entry 2 inches thick, knob lock, transom over, one light hung on pivots.

In Back Entry is Close Winding Stairs to Third Story. Stair door 1 1⁄2 thick, knob lock, large closet under stairs, large door, door from back part double, 2 inches thick, knob lock.

4 inch Grecian moulding finish to this story.

Third story front part 8.83 feet high. Ceiled, plastered & painted. White pine floor, narrow. Washboard. Divided as below into 2 entries and nine rooms. Eleven windows, 12 lights: 10 by 14 inches hung and Blinds as below. 10 doors 1 3⁄4 inch thick. Knob lock and pivot transom over. Close winding stairs in entry. Two stair doors. Knob lock 1 1⁄2 inch thick. Narrow closet.

3 1⁄2 inch Grecian moulding finish.

Garret beam nothing Peak 9 feet high. Double pitch.

Rafters 3 by 5 and 6 inches — 18 inches apart from center to center, Supported by Purluns[?] The whole length 8 by 6 inches resting on end walls and 5 truss. String piece 8 by 7 inches, Main braces 8 by 6 inches, 2 posts 8 by 6 inches cross brace 8 by 6 inchyes and back braces 4 by 6 inches Pinned together with iron bolts. Covered with slate 7 2/3 inches to the weather. Not floored. One window in end, 12 lights: 10 by 12 inches, with blinds as below. Walls of front and back are 1.3 inches thick in basement stories, through residence 9 inch walls. Walls in basement, between the offices and roadway 9 inches thick. All of good hardburned brick, the front pressed brick laid in white mortar. Marble facings to the basement front. Partitions in 2nd and 3rd Stories are lathed and plastered studding. Doors are all paneled in back part. Cellar 7 1⁄2 feet deep. Walled with stone. Ground floor, 3 windows, 3 lights. Winding stairs to basement above joists 3 by 10 inches, 16 inches apart from Center to Center.

Basement, kitchen, one room. Ceiled, plastered and painted. White pine floor, narrow. Washboard. Out door 1 3⁄4 inch thick, knob lock and lights over. Door from foot of stairs going up and at head of stairs door 1 1⁄2 inch thick, knob lock. Four windows, 12 lights: 10 by 14 inches, hung and shutters as front. Dresser closet, 4 doors large shelved closet with door, large dumb waiter box, and brick oven projecting into room, about 6 feet square.

3 inch Grecian moulding finish.

First story – 9.4 feet high in the clear. One room, 4 windows, 12 lights: 10 by 16 inches hung and shutters as front. Door from front, and out door 2 inches thick. Knob lock. Dumb waiter, range large, dresser closet 4 doors. Shelved closet, large door. Wooden mantle.

4 inch Grecian moulding finish.

Second story. 8 2/3 feet high in the clear. 2 rooms. Ceiled, plastered & painted white pine floor narrow. Washboard. Back room larger? 3 windows, 12 light: 10 by 14 inches hung and blinds as front. Door from small entry 1 1⁄2 inches thick. Knob lock. 4 wardrobe closets large doors, wooden mantle. Bath room small, one window and door as before. Bath tub hot and cold water pipes. One window in entry as others. Hatchway through ceiling to garret above.

Roof double pitch. Peak 6 feet high. Rafters and slate as front. Tin gutters to roofs and tin conductors down front and back. Partitions are lathed and plastered. Studding – Doors are all paneled. Walls are all of brick. Well-burned, 9 inches thick.

An old house adjoins this on South West side.

L.E. Corson

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2012 10:38 am

    Great post and wonderful blog!

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      March 15, 2012 11:09 am

      Thanks for visiting! Your site is a wonderful way to tour a remarkable area. Was in Colorado at the National Historic Landmark Chautauqua last year and had a great time exploring.

  2. March 15, 2012 11:00 am

    This building sounds incredibly sturdy. Do you know why it was demolished?

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      March 15, 2012 11:07 am

      It was demolished to make way for One Montgomery Plaza. You can see the County Court House across the street One Montgomery Plaza, Norristown, PA, including view of County Courthouse across the street

      • March 15, 2012 4:48 pm

        Ugh. Seeing what came before doesn’t cast a good light on what was chosen to take its place. What a stunning difference.

      • Sabra Smith permalink*
        March 15, 2012 4:53 pm

        I don’t mind that as much as the loss of an entire block of structures facing a different side of the Court House that were torn down to make way for a parking lot and desolate “plaza.” I”m sure the intent was that would become a social gathering space, but it looks more like a bunker entrance. Gone is the opera house, early 19th century newspaper offices, 18th century former residential structures (I have fire insurance surveys for some of those as well, that featured locally quarried marble front steps, etc.) and more. Luckily, Norristown still has many amazing architectural treasures and hopefully it will find a way to preserve the best of them over time.

  3. June 26, 2012 6:42 am

    According to a directory listing, my 3rd great grand uncle, Clinton Rorer, lived in Rambo House in 1892 while he was sheriff of Montgomery County. Thanks for the details and image of the house!

  4. August 23, 2012 6:26 pm

    This is Great! Do you have any old images of the 500 Block of Haws Avenue? I am looking for blueprints or Builder name of the 540 — 555 Houses

    • August 28, 2012 11:05 am

      Bob: I do not have anything from that part of town — but you might find a treasure at the Historical Society of Montgomery County (Norristown) or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (center city).

      • Ivy turley permalink
        May 6, 2015 7:50 pm

        I have a souvenir plate from the Rambo house. It is in excellent condition brown and white w sketch of bldg. on front. On back very nice short history and details. Do u know of anyone who would b interested ?

      • May 6, 2015 7:54 pm

        If you would be willing to donate it, you could see if the Historical Society of Montgomery County might be interested. Do you have any idea what year it dates from?

  5. Diane Naile Berg permalink
    January 9, 2014 3:51 pm

    According to my aunt’s genealogy research, my (I think) 3 times great grandfather, Fred Naile (born 1813), kept this hotel. He is listed as the hotel keeper for the Rambo House in the 1860 census. His wife, Julia, also lived there along with another Fred Naile (born 1777). It would be interesting to know if this is true, he was probably just someone who worked there but is listed as a “hotelkeeper” for occupation.

  6. Karen Naile Montana permalink
    December 3, 2015 6:29 pm

    Diane, Fred Naile is also my 3rd Great grandfather who was married to Julia Ann Saylor. The other Fred Naile who was born in 1777 was our 4th great grandfather. I would love to get in touch with you as I have been doing extensive research into our Naile family. You can contact me at I would assume we are 2nd or 3rd cousin 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: