Wednesday, 01 February 2012 00:00


Written by  Laurel Anderson

Atop one of the highest points in Willistown Township, sits Rushton, a premier country property in our area. This magnificent Georgian manor house was named after 15th-century Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire, England, a distinguished estate frequented by Charles Dickens and the inspiration for his Haversham Hall.

  Built in 1933 by Atwater Kent, a prominent Philadelphia inventor and radio manufacturer, as a wedding gift for his daughter who was starting married life in Chester County, this grand estate has been home to only two families in 80 years. Another measure of this legacy property: the land on which Rushton sits has had just four owners since William Penn.

Heritage of Conservation

  Originally comprised of 180 prime acres of gently rolling hills, Rushton was one of the first local properties to go under conservation easement. Fortunately, surrounding properties, including neighboring Rushton Farm, the centerpiece of the Willistown Conservation Trust, followed and are now also under conservation easements, thus ensuring privacy and tranquility are protected in perpetuity.

  Now a manageable 25-acre estate, Rushton’s sunrise views from the east porch and master suite can never be changed or obstructed. Set on an east-west axis, the home’s broad southern exposure ensures afternoon light will continue to illuminate the big sky vistas from living room, dining room, library, family room, and bedrooms.

Historic Renovation

  When the current owner bought the property in 1994, he commissioned renowned restoration architect John Milner to undertake a thorough updating to modernize the home, while respecting its unique character. Exterior features were enhanced, such as adding the distinctive two-story portico on the south elevation.

  And interiors were modernized throughout. An industrial-style kitchen used mainly by household staff became a family-friendly gourmet chef’s delight. Internal systems were also completely updated during this top-to-bottom renovation.

  Combining Milner’s unerring sensibility and impeccable eye for detail with interior designer Bunny Williams’ classic style, the result was simply stunning. From the three-story entry to the folding pocket-style doors, every aspect of this seven-bedroom, seven-full-two-half-bathroom home is perfectly elegant, and yet a livable home in which to entertain and raise a family.

Arrival and First Floor

  The gentle curve of the driveway allows the view of Rushton to unfold as you drive past the Audubon Woods and approach the top of the hill to the artful symmetry of the Georgian façade. Grand and stately, with beautiful proportions, the house is a gem placed in an exquisite setting of level, terraced lawns, punctuated by a majestic cut-leaf beech tree brought from Newport by the original owners. The house has the permanent feel of an ancestral home, yet its more recent origin and renovations afford it modern amenities and conveniences.

  A striking three-story foyer, with Palladian windows, is movie-set perfect for the grand entrance of a bride down the stairs or welcoming guests to a stylish party. There’s even a bar tucked beneath the stairs and situated as a welcome station.

  A gracious fireside living room boasts large windows on three sides, the better to frame the country-side views. The mahogany-paneled library glows with the hue of the warm wood and southern exposure. Similarly, the dining room, with padded, fabric-covered walls, and casual family room echo the feel of well-proportioned, well-used space—not overdone, sterile or fussy.

  This home feels welcoming and livable, with obvious care taken in every detail. Decorative crown moldings, hardwood floors, coffered ceilings, ample built-ins plus tech and media upgrades, and a warm yet state-of-the-art kitchen (two SubZero refrigerators, two dishwashers, two sinks, Garland stove) and butler’s pantry are just a few enviable features.

Upper Floors

  Sharing the living room’s sunrise views, east-facing porch and three-sides of windows, the master suite is a private retreat with his-and-her baths and dressing areas large enough for desks and a daybed. All expected amenities are provided, plus another porch off one dressing room.

  The main hall is lined with four more bedrooms, with ensuite or Jack-and-Jill baths, each with modern upgrades, views of the grounds and distinct personalities.

  At the end of the hall, near a back stairway down to the mudroom, is a large laundry room (double washers and driers) and separate staff quarters with bedroom, bath, living room and kitchenette.

  The third floor has a large guest suite tucked under the eaves, with window seats perfect for enjoying the view from this higher vantage point. Another large room leads to the gym, with full-mirrored wall and equally large cedar closet, sporting built-in drawers and six bays of glass-fronted closets.

The Grounds

  A swimming pool with surrounding stone wall, tennis court, artist studio, gasoline and diesel station, and emergency power generator make for a self-sufficient property. 

Just 45 minutes from Philadelphia and Wilmington, this stunning property in Willistown Township is offered by Country Properties, Prudential, Fox & Roach. Price upon request. For information, contact Rob Van Alen, 610-347-2067, 610-212-5470 (cell); Web site. 


More in this category: Holly Hill »