The First 300

J. Howard Pew’s Knollbrook

Lynhurst, designed by Frank Furness in 1890 for attorney I. Layton Register.

Knollbrook, a 13 acre estate owned by J. Howard Pew during his lifetime, sits high on a hill at Grays Lane and Mill Creek Road. It was built on land owned by John Roberts, the miller. In 1845, Samuel Croft, who also operated mills, purchased 35 acres to be used for farming. In 1883, he sold his acreage to his friend and attorney, I. Layton Register. Register built Lynhurst, designed by noted Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness, in 1890.

Giving about 5½ acres to each of his children, Register built Knollbrook for his son, Albert Layton Register. Completed by 1908, the home was one of the a few country houses built of brick and was unusual in having the regularity of Georgian design. Philadelphia architect, Lindley Johnson, planned the early Knollbrook.

Records indicate that J. Howard Pew rented the house before buying the 8.29 acre estate from Register’s three sons in 1917. The Pews soon brought in another architect, William Woodburn Potter, who planned the additions.

At first Knollbrook was a relatively small, block shaped colonial with typical center-hall design. In the following half century it was more than doubled in length and so embellished that it is now one of the outstanding Georgian homes on the Main Line.

J. Howard Pew, 1947 photo, became president of Sun Oil Company at age 30.

When Mr. Pew bought Knollbrook, the land was mainly open fields which had been pastureland for Register’s sheep. Some of the old sheep pens, stables and farm houses were still to be seen on the property into the 1970s.

J. Howard Pew was immensely interested in his property. He transformed the grounds into three immaculate terraces which drop with the hillside, complete with putting green and swimming pool. Courtyards were created with a fountain, as were paths, springs with little bridges, a rock garden, and a greenhouse.

At the time of Pew’s death in 1971, the estate contained 65 acres. Much of these holdings have been subdivided. Three other Register houses, Lynhurst, Gray Grange and Dove Lake Farm, are still in existance. The present owners of Knollbrook have renamed the estate, Camelot.

Knollbrook entrance, early 1970s.
Knollbrook today, nestled in foliage on its hillside setting, is barely visible from along Mill Creek Road.