A Short History of Hope Lodge
Hope Lodge was built between 1743 and 1748 by Samuel Morris, a prosperous Quaker entrepreneur. Morris acted as a farmer, shipowner, miller, ironmaster, shopowner, and owner of the mill now known as Mather Mill. Hope Lodge is an excellent example of early Georgian architecture, and it is possible that Edmund Woolley, architect of Independence Hall, offered advice in building. Samuel Morris owned the estate until his death in 1770, when it was inherited by his brother Joshua. Joshua in turn sold the property and dwelling to another Philadelphia merchant, William West.
The Wests lived at Hope Lodge from 1776 to 1782. The house was then known as Whitemarsh Farms and as Whitemarsh Estate. The Wests were in residence during the Whitemarsh Encampment, a six-week period of the American Revolution when the Continental Army camped in the surrounding fields after the Battle of Germantown and before encamping at Valley Forge. During that time the house was used as headquarters by George Washington's Surgeon General, John Cochran.
After William West's death, the house was sold to Henry Hope, a wealthy English banker. (Hope's family later gave its name to the famous diamond.) Never intending to live in Whitemarsh, Hope purchased the property as a wedding gift for his ward, James Watmough. It was the Watmoughs who named the site Hope Lodge, in honor of their benefactor.
Two generations of Watmoughs owned Hope Lodge before it was sold to Jacob Wentz, their tenant farmer, in 1832. The Wentz family remained in residence for ninety years and were the first of the owners to concentrate their attention primarily on farming the property rather than on business in Philadelphia. Lack of funds prevented them from installing gas lighting and indoor plumbing in the late 19th century, and thus the 18th century integrity of the structure was retained.
In 1921 the Wentzes sold the property to Keasbey and Mattison, a development company whose plan was to demolish the structure and extend a nearby limestone quarry. To save it from destruction, William and Alice Degn bought the property in 1922. Early historic preservationists, they carefully restored the house and added their collection of 18th and early 19th century furnishings. They did not install a central heating system in the main house because of its destructive piping; rather they added a wing onto the existing summer kitchen for a winter residence. Both of the Degns loved flowers, and they created a beautiful rose garden on the south side of the house.
After Mr. Degn's death in 1940, and Mrs. Degn's death in 1953, ownership of the house was transferred to the Hope Lodge Foundation, and in 1957, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Today, Hope Lodge is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the Friends of Hope Lodge, a non-profit support group formed to assist with operations at the site.