The First 300

Charles Wheeler’s Pembroke

The Wheeler villa, built in 1873. Many years later, it was destroyed by fire.

Charles Wheeler’s Pembroke, in Bryn Mawr, originally looked out over 100 acres bounded by Fishers Road, Morris Avenue and New Gulph Road. The Wheelers were among the first of the prominent families to build in Bryn Mawr after several seasons of staying at the Bryn Mawr Hotel.

Wheeler, president of the Pascall Iron Works and a founder of the Central National Bank, hired Quaker architect Addison Hutton to design his summer house which was built in 1873. As it first appeared, it was a square Gothic villa with large verandas and a porte-cochère…a modest summer cottage.

Wheeler died in 1883, and in 1890 his widow decided to move to Bryn Mawr year round. Her family wrote of the many excursions out from Broad Street Station to Bryn Mawr in the fall and winter season when partygoers journeyed for an evening at Pembroke. Reports are that guests took whole passenger cars and festivities began as soon as the train left the station. Coaches would meet the formally attired guests and drive them the mile to Pembroke where they would enter the large hall and find a roaring fire.

Perhaps influenced by houses on the Isle of Wight in England, where Mrs. Wheeler spent July and August, she expanded the house into a vine covered, picturesque old English manor.

Around 1903, her son hired Wilson Eyre to redesign the billiard room, this time in the style of a Tyrolean chalet. Extensive gardens were highlighted by formal elements near the house and natural features moving down the hill towards Morris Avenue.

The family began selling off parcels of the land as early as 1910, but the house remained for many years until it was destroyed by fire. Its gate lodge survives along Fishers Road, and dotted over the former gardens and farmland are houses designed by Walter Durham.

Pembroke’s charming gate house is now a private residence.