The First 300

Joseph Sinnott’s Rathalla

Rathalla’s spectacular facade.
Joseph Sinnott, c. 1902.

In 1889, Joseph Sinnott, owner of the Philadelphia distillery, Moore and Sinnott, purchased 40 acres in Rosemont…land once part of the Ashbridge estate called Rosemont Farm. By summer of 1891, a 32-room house designed by Philadelphia architects, Hazlehurst and Huckel, was ready for occupancy. The house was named Rathalla which in Gaelic means “home of the chieftain upon the highest hill.”

Joseph Francis Sinnott had come a long way from his arrival in 1854 as a 17-year-old immigrant. He had been born in County Donegal, Ireland to a family that could trace its roots back for 700 years…when the first “Synnots” arrived with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century (during the reign of Henry II). One descendent, Susan Synnot, came to America in the 17th century and married George Nixon. Their grandson, John Nixon, gave the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence at the State House on July 8, 1776.

Sinnott joined the distillery firm of John Gibson’s Son as a 20-year old bookkeeper. After a brief stint as a private in the Civil War, he began to move up in the business. In 1884, Gibson retired and Sinnott and Andrew Moore took over. With Moore’s death in 1888, Sinnott became the owner of one of the largest distilleries in the country.

When Sinnott and his wife moved into Rathalla, they had six boys and three girls ranging in age from 27 to 13. In addition, there were seven servants in residence: cook, assistant cook, two chambermaids, seamstress, laundress, and groom. Mr. Sinnott died in 1906, his wife in 1918. The house stood empty until its purchase by the Sisters of the Holy Child in 1921.

In 1980, the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The main hall of Sinnott’s estate.