The earliest settlers, the Swedes, built relatively small houses along the creeks and rivers
in the area. They brought the log cabin form, which was known throughout northern Europe,
as an easily built and very sturdy building technique. Construction depended on timbers of
large size which were readily available throughout the Delaware Valley. The first log cabins
were one room, often with a corner fireplace but rapidly a two room plan evolved where the
corner fireplace was at the junction of an interior and exterior wall, which allowed less heat
to escape through outside walls. This plan was so successful that William Penn
recommended it to early settlers.
The English colonists brought over two different approaches to building their houses. From
the beginning, city houses and country houses built by the wealthy, acknowledged the
Georgian style then popular in England. They were often elaborate with large entry halls and
stairways, downstairs and upstairs parlors for receiving guests and often kitchens off the
back of the house in attached ells. These houses were designed to establish their owner's
presence in society by following certain aesthetic rules, and including the details, of
Georgian architecture - the socially dominant style in Great Britain. Some houses were
large and elaborate such as Stenton, the home of James Logan, Penn's administrator.
At the same time other houses were being built that were less stylistically sophisticated and
relatively unadorned with the carved woodwork and elaborate door and window treatments
of Georgian architecture. Often out the country, the owners lacked the desire or affluence or
both to build a "high style" home. Many of these are now called "farm" houses like the
Thomson-Neely House and the Moland House in Bucks County and are more related to
earlier homes found elsewhere in the colonies and vernacular homes in England.
Houses on S. 4th St, Philadelphia