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Mary Wood Caretaker House

Mary Wood Cartaker House.JPEG

This is known as the Mary Wood Park Caretaker House and was originally built in 1860/61 by William Teal to serve as the home of the person who maintained the grounds of Mary Wood.  Mary Wood owned the entire block between East 5th Avenue and East 6th Avenue and between Harry Street and Hallowell Street.  She lived in a large house next to the Caretaker House on East 5th Avenue. 

In 1919 the entire block was donated by Mary Wood after her death via her will.  Her large house (known today as the Mary Wood Park House) was converted into a borough community center and for over 100 years has continued this mission.  Many groups including the Conshohocken Historical Society regularly meet in this building.

            The same cannot be said of the Mary Wood Park Caretaker House.  It was, for the most part, left to its own devices and became a private residence after Mary’s death.   And as the Mary Wood Park Commission (a fairly new town advisory body) has recently discovered, the Caretaker house is in dire need of maintenance.  No-one has lived in the house for several years and, despite many good ideas concerning how the borough could use this house, a recent analysis has estimated that it would cost at least $336,000 to repair this building.  This includes foundation repairs, mold remediation, and a French drain system just to name a few items.  This expenditure would take money away from other Parkhouse Commission priorities which include repairs to the Mary Wood Park House itself.  On the other hand, it will cost only $20,000 to demolish the Caretaker House.

            The Conshohocken Historical Society realizes that you cannot keep all old buildings standing forever and our only real request (which seemed to be accepted by the Mary Wood Park Commission at their recent meeting) is that the old hitching post in front of the Caretaker House be moved to the front of the Park House.  So, unless something changes dramatically over the next few weeks, the Caretaker House will soon be no-more.

            The Caretaker House does not have any real “history” associated with it so protecting it as a landmark could be a stretch.  No treaties were signed in this building, no world-shattering events occurred in this house, and George Washington never slept in this house.  However, like all houses, there is a history associated with this building, even if it is only the history of the families who occupied this house. And to that end, we have discovered in our archives two items which talk about the history of the Caretaker House.


            The first article (see below) was hand written in 1962 and entered into a Conshohocken Art League Contest by Mini Willis Harrison who lived across the street at 133 East 5th Avenue.  She talks about not only the house itself but also the families who occupied this house.    There is also a note at the end (not from Mini) about another resident of this house.


Entered in Letter Contest of Conshohocken Art League September 1962

The Little House in Mary Wood Park


It is a land mark and should be taken care of as well over 100 years old and then some.  It was the first house built in this (5th Avenue) section, by whom built no one is left to tell, but was on the ground of the Isaac Jones Farm which one time covered more than half of Conshohocken.


It was surrounded by corn and wheat fields and then in a lonely spot. 


More than a hundred years ago a man by the name of Von Thenen lived there with wife and two girls.  A man long dead was sent there as a boy of 12 years on errands.  For years it had no improvements – a pump out back, coal oil lamps, candles and stoves.  I remember when it had four large apple trees in back and as children we were allowed to go with a basket and pick up apples. 


It had in my time many residents.  Some of the men worked on the grounds, others were renters.  Three boys were born there, one named for the late Alan Wood.  Three women died there but there were no weddings, but I seen two brides go out of the front door.


In later years it required some conveniences.  Electric lights, heater and bathroom, and had other renovations inside.  It has lately been painted out-side and at present is rented and belongs to the Mary Wood Park – owned by the Borough and left to it by the late Mrs. Mary Yerkes Wood (Mrs. Alan Wood).  It seems like an old friend to me as I have lived across from it for more than seventy-five years and have seen Mary come and go.  It should be taken care of as so many of the fine old landmarks in Conshohocken have been destroyed.


The little house at one time had a back porch which when became old, was torn down which accounts for having two back doors. 


May it stand for many more years.


Minnie Willis Harrison

133 E. 5th Avenue

Conshohocken, Penn



J. Alan Moore of Harry Street, Conshohocken, of records Dept. of Montg. County Court House told his grandmother Sylvia (nee Colon) Moore lived in the little house in the Park.



            The second article (see below) was a letter from an unknown author describing the “Little House in Mary H Wood Park.”  It was sent to the Conshohocken Recorder in October, 1962.  The Conshohocken Recorder was then the Conshohocken based newspaper.  It should be noted that the writer mentions building a borough hall in Mary Wood Park.  This apparently was a proposal being considered in 1962 but fortunately never materialized.


The Little House in Mary H. Wood Park


To the editor of The Conshohocken Recorder:

Most towns and villages are proud of their landmarks and preserve them.


Not so with Conshohocken.  They prefer to destroy and eliminate anything of age.


The last spot marked for destruction is the little house at 130 E. Fifth Ave., in the Mary Wood Park.  I have proof it is 100 years old – how much older I do not know.  I have never been able to ascertain who built it or when – no one left to tell.


It was built on part of the Isaac Jones farm which then covered most of the present Conshohocken and 100 years ago was surrounded by corn and wheat fields.  The first house in this vicinity, and in 1860 was occupied by Frank Von Thenen, his wife and two daughters.  He was a boss at the old Fulton Furnace a good mile or so away.  Who was the next occupant, I do not know, but since I can remember it has housed a number of families.  In 1884 it was occupied by a widow and two daughters, relatives of Mrs. Mary Y. Wood, who left the entire block to the borough for a park.  She died in 1918. 


I knew her quite well – she was a kind and generous neighbor.  Four apple trees grew in the rear of the house, were prolific bearers and supplied many of the neighbors with apples.


I feel sure Mrs. Wood never intended her beautiful estate to be covered by various sized building, her beautiful rose gardens destroyed and valuable trees torn out.  She also left $100,000 to take care of it and later $25,000 more was added to it by a relative of Mrs. Wood.


A burgess of Conshohocken once lived in the little house and a number of other families.


A granddaughter of Mr. Von Thenen  lives in Conshohocken.  Also one in Norristown and one in New Jersey.  A grandson lives on Butler Pike, but the name of Von Thenen has passed out.  The trees in the park are badly neglected.  Many need trimming.  The hawthorn tree has died and never been replaced as have others.


A dead tree stands on the Fifth Ave. side of the park.  Unsightly to say the least and if it fell in a high wind could do considerable damage as cars are always parked there.


East Fifth Ave. has always been a quiet residential section.  What sane person would want a borough hall placed there?  The borough may need a borough hall, but the main street is the place for it.


The borough is 110 years old and no borough hall that you would want to point out to a visitor.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been handed to the borough fathers, and it is a safe bet had some Conshohocken business women been in their shoes we would have had a borough hall. 


The J.C.’s have done much to improve the town and are to be highly commended.  The good pavements, curbs and fine trees are the result of property owners who have taken pride in their town.


A Resident


Published in the Conshohocken Recorder October 20, 1960

(Update of May 26, 2024 – The following story was originally published on the web site “More than the Curve” on May 15, 2024.  The Mary Wood Caretaker House was subsequently demolished on May 23, 2024).

Conshohocken 19th Century House Scheduled to be Demolished Soon.

Authors – Mike Poniatowicz and Peggy McAvoy

If you ever used Mary Wood Park between East 5th and 6th Avenue in Conshohocken you will notice facing 5th Avenue just down the street from the Mary Wood Park House the following building:

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