Plank House

A House – A Home – A Piece of History

In 1807 a father, Benjamin Hickman Sr., transferred to his son Benjamin Jr. 1 3/4 acres of land.  On that land Benjamin Jr built a house.  It was a small 2 story “Hall and Parlor” Plank house. It  consisted of 4 rooms: a kitchen, the Hall, a living room, the Parlor and 2 bedrooms. Today many would call this a starter house. It was constructed of 12 inch by 3 inch sawn oak planks that were separated by dowels and dovetailed at the corners. The house was covered in plank siding on the front and stucco on the other sides. The house became a home and was happily lived in by several families for almost 200 years.

As the years passed and the families changed from the Hickman’s to the Matlack’s to the Brown’s to the Nield’s. The home saw many changes. From it’s view onto West Chester Pike, it watched the area grow. Think of all the stories it could tell us of the changes in commerce along the Pike. Its neighborhood is still known as Milltown and the old waterworks building reminds us of some of the industry.  It saw the trolley come by its front door and watched as the milk runs took some of the best of our area to market every day. It also saw the Pike widened, the trolley discontinued and the Sheaf of Wheat tavern, just across the pike, converted to an office building. As change came to the area so too did it come to our little home. Over the years it saw modernization such as electric lights, central heat, indoor plumbing and additions. As the industry of the area moved away from agricultural the land our little home resided on was needed for other uses. In 1989 the land was sold but happily the house was saved.  It was donated to the Township who had it dismantled, its pieces numbered and put into storage. Now our little house started a new chapter in its long life.

A group of concerned citizens raised the money to reconstruct our little home. It now resides in Historic Goshenville, at Rt 352 and E. Boot Rd., right next door to the East Goshen Blacksmith Shop. Everyday many of you probably drive right past and again the house bears witness to our changing times.  When the home was reconstructed a decision was made to take it back to its original 1808 configuration.  The Township maintains the home and the Historical Commission acts as its stewart.  In preparation for our upcoming bicentennial in 2017 we the members of the Historic Commission decided to work on displaying our home as it would have looked at that time.  How you may ask do we know what might have been in the house?  Well here in Chester County we are blessed with some fabulous records. We started by researching the will of our first home owner, Benjamin Hickman Jr. and what a wonderful source that is. It provided us with a list of items that existed in the home at the time of his passing.  They paint an interesting picture of the industry of the home. Some of the items included: 2 spinning wheels, a rocking chair, a clock and tools of the wheelwright trade. Our next challenge was to find some of these items. In keeping with the history of our little home we want it to be as welcoming and hands on as possible. So we are working towards reproductions not antiques. If you would like to join us on this project we would love to have you. A Volunteer Information Sheet is posted on the Township website or you can call the Township at 610-692-7171. A member of the Historic Commission will contact you.

Plank House Reconstruction 1999