The First 300

Percy Clark’s Willoughby

Willoughby when it was the Clark family residence…now The Mary J. Drexel Home.

Percy Hamilton Clark (1873-1965) was descended from the Clarks who emigrated from England to Boston in early 1600s. His family had long resided in Germantown. A successful lawyer in Philadelphia, Percy married Elizabeth Roberts in 1904. Elizabeth was one of five children of Pennsylvania Railroad president George Brooke Roberts and his wife Elizabeth (Pyle Williams) Roberts. George was a descendant of one of the first settlers in the Welsh Tract, John Roberts, who settled in 1683 on a grant of land from William Penn. That became the family estate, Pencoyd, in Bala.

In 1908, Percy and Elizabeth Clark received property on the Roberts tract along Belmont Avenue. They commissioned a cousin, architect Clarence Clark Zantzinger, to design their home, to be called Willoughby. The gracious residence would eventually hold their growing family (eight children) and a large staff (houseman, cook, scullery maid, waitress, governess, a nurse, chambermaid and others).

They also built a handsome barn and chauffer’s cottage because this was to be a working farm: seven cows, one horse, and 400 chickens. Two gardeners, a farmer, and a driver added to Willoughby’s retinue.

John Clark remembers his parents as a “perfect team.” Father: patient, thoughtful, dedicated, an enthusiastic outdoorsman; Mother: outgoing, energetic, humorous, dedicated to others, and a good executive who not only ran the large household, but was an involved, loving mother. “There were never any serious ‘tiffs’ among us eight. We were very involved with our many Roberts cousins who lived nearby. There is still a strong bond between those who remain,” John recalls. Percy Clark, determined that his six boys should learn how to handle money, established a paper corporation, The Clark Brothers Chicken Co. Every day, after returning from the Montgomery School, the boys gathered eggs from the barn, which were then delivered (by the chauffer) to the neighboring relatives and friends.

In 1951, the estate was sold to The Mary J. Drexel Home. A tribute to Mary J. Drexel Lankenau by her husband, John, the facility provides a unique caring residence for older adults. It is part of the social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The charming Clark barn remains on the Belmont Avenue property.
1904 wedding photograph of Percy and Elizabeth (Roberts) Clark at the portal of the ancestral Pencoyd estate.
1904 wedding party of Percy and Elizabeth Clark.
In later years, the large clan gathers for Christmas dinner in 1946.