The Commonwealth bought 30 more acres around Pennsbury Manor. Thomas Sears, a landscape architect who had trained under Frederick Law Olmstead, began designing the landscape in the Colonial Revival style. He had worked with Okie before on numerous projects. Sears’ design was based partially on letters between Penn and his gardener, Ralph Smith. However, Sears also had his own ideas about what the garden should look like and what would appeal to modern taste.


Pennsbury Manor opened as a memorial park to the public.


The reconstruction of Pennsbury Manor began. However, not everyone agreed that Pennsbury Manor should be rebuilt. Some people believed the federal funds should go to save existing colonial buildings, others didn’t want the manor built on Penn’s original site because it would prevent future archaeological research.


Colonial Revival Design

After World War I, patriotic feelings inspired Americans to honor their own history. They wanted new buildings, furniture, and landscapes designed to recall their nation’s past. They also wanted a way of preserving what they thought as “pure” American culture. Many supporters were terrified of the “corrupting influence” new immigrants might have on their original traditions. Government leaders also saw this as a way of promoting national civic pride. 

The movement inspired people to look for ways to include colonial history in their lives, like their furniture. The Colonial Revival Movement also inspired people to rebuild colonial sites. Colonial Williamsburg- begun in 1926- became the most successful Colonial Revival site and a trendsetter for future reconstruction projects nationwide. But Colonial Revival designs didn’t accurately reflect historical examples. Instead, they presented a romantic ideal of the colonial period mixed with contemporary taste. Pennsbury Manor’s design is partly based on research, partly on the ideals of the Colonial Revival movement.



In 1935, Philadelphia architect Richardson Brognard Okie was hired to design the Manor House and outbuildings. Okie, well known as a Colonial Revival architect, was hired. Okie based his design on four major sources: Penn’s letters and inventories of Pennsbury, archaeological evidence, comparison with other buildings dating to Penn’s period, and Okie’s own expertise of colonial architecture.


Due to the success of the archaeological excavation, supporters began to seriously consider the reconstruction of the Manor House and outbuildings. Historian Albert Cook Myers was selected to do the needed historical research to supplement what the archaeological evidence was revealing.


A Historian’s Perspective

Albert Cook Myers was no stranger to William Penn when he began his research on Pennsbury. On the contrary, he had written several respected books on Penn. Myers helped with research for the reconstruction project for several years. But his objections to the project’s cavalier attitude to historical sources when designing the buildings caused him to withdraw his support. Myers claimed that Okie ignored historical evidence that would have made the reconstruction much more accurate:

“It is my…opinion, drawn from a lifetime of William Penn research that the Pennsbury reconstruction is a colossal archaeological, historical and arhitectural monstrosity of vicious error.”

(Albert Myers, May 1943)


Finding Pennsbury

…We are starting to excavate west of the house and I thought you would be interested in knowing about it. The corner of a very heavy stone foundation is beginning to turn up and many of the roof tiles are being found. A small fragment of what appears to be part of the lead tank has turned up in the cellar together with other objects of interest.

The garden wall is being undermined every few feet and supported with an eighteen inch concrete foundation. This will have to be done regardless of restoration plans or the wall will crumble from the bottom. It does not show as all the work is below the grade…

(Donald Cadzow to Albert Cook Meyers, July 1933)


The Warner Sand & Gravel Company, which bought the property in 1926, gave ten acres of land (including the site of Penn’s original house) to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Over 1,000 attended the ceremony.

The State Archaeologist Donald Cadzow began digging at Pennsbury. Over the next four years, Cadzow’s team would locate the foundations of the Manor House, Bake-and-Brew, and front garden wall. Artifacts found in the archaeological investigations included bricks, shingles, glass, and other building materials.


Local Quakers met at Pennsbury Manor. They decided to create a permanent memorial to Penn. This meeting started the movement to reconstruct Pennsbury.


The Bake and Brew House- the last surviving Penn building- was taken down.


None of the original manor house remained. Robert Crozier built a new home on the old foundations.

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