Ury House -- 1940
Cosily around the radio in one of the five heated rooms in their 23-room mansion sit the four Crawford sisters, dreaming of the past glory of Ury House.
Up to the border of the 62-acre estate in Fox Chase crowd little row houses. To the doors of the obstructing mansion come suave speculators, sympathetic "developers," all the high-pressure real estate promoters.
Smiling, but firm, the sisters to each say:
"We prefer to sell," explains Miss Jean Crawford, "to one who knows how to live in this house as it should be lived in, like a gentleman."
They'll put no ax to Ury House." declares Miss Jessie. And Miss Sarita and Miss Alice nod in agreement.
The door closes again, the sisters retire to their heated rooms, and their memories.
Today a gracious mellowness still prevades the rambling, pillared house, but not age. Ury House carries its age lightly.
Small wonder the Crawford sisters are family-proud and house-proud. In a city of historic homes, Ury House holds up its head with the noblest.
The Crawfords revel in the story [of Ury House's Swedish origins]. Miss Jean, fine featured, dark and comfortable in her wine-red woolen dress, is the most positive of the sisters. She usually is spokesman, although Miss Jessie may be persuaded to talk in the older sister's absence.
They especially glow over the period beginning 1774 [sic], when a somewhat more civilized, and certainly more scintillating era, dawned for the old blockhouse. In that year it was rebuilt by Miers Fisher...
Nowadays there is little entertaining at Ury House.
"I can assure you," said the less-cautious Miss Jessie, "that this is not a comfortable winter home."
"It just isn't right that there aren't more people here."
And on second thought she added, "Our life is really very sheltered."
Miss Jean ushered us through the magnificent old rooms and pointed out the various oil portraits of ancestors. Under such auspices it would not be nice to speak of the cost of coal--but she did admit:
"It would take more than 100 tons of coal to keep both furnaces going. And, of course, everybody knows the taxes on real estate within the city limits are simply outrageous."
The sisters operate only one of the heaters, and during the discussion of taxes and ancestors you could easily see gusts of breath in the cold rooms--but you could not write your name on the mahogony tables.
The Crawford sisters are practical in their pride and work over their home without help of servants. There is only one caretaker and his wife to look after the grounds.
"A man needn't have a great deal of money to make this a comfortable home." Miss Jean pointed out. "A few new curtains..."
And some coal, we thought, as we buttoned our overcoat at the neck.
Of the persent Crawford family there were nine--five sisters and four brothers. One sister died, the brothers married and moved away. Misses Jean and Jessie, Sarita and Alice are staying on--indifinitely.
One handsome brother, Henriques, won the Croix de Guerre during the war as a lieutenant in the Air Corps. He is in Chicago. Another brother, Joseph, is vice-president of a small railroad with its terminus in Nashville.
Yes, you may buy the place--for $100,000. But difinitely the sisters would not like to see Ury House torn down to make room for $6000 model homes.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.