THE HISTORY OF AVALON, HOWARD M. JENKIN'S HOME
1717 Sumneytown Pike, Gwynedd PA 19436, Lower Gwynedd township, Montgomery County
THE JENKINS FAMILY HISTORY
Jenkin Jenkin came from Wales to this country around 1729 at the approximate age of 60 (born in Wales in 1659). His wife was born in 1690. He bought 350 acres of land in Hatfield. He died in 1745 at the age of 86 years, and she died in 1764 at the age of 74 years. Their son John Jenkins was born in 1719 in Wales, married Sarah Hawkesworth and had eight children. He was the progenitor of the Jenkins family in this country. He died in 1803 or 1804. His son, Edward (Howard M. Jenkins’ great grandfather) was born in 1758 and died in 1829. He married Sarah Foulke (born 1764, died 1828), whose ancestors, Edward and Eleanor Foulke came from Wales in 1698 and settled at Gwynedd. Edward and Sarah lived in Gwynedd and had six children, among them Charles F. Jenkins (Howard’s grandfather) who was born in 1793 and died at Gwynedd in 1867. Charles F. Jenkins married Mary Lancaster who was a descendant of Thomas Lancaster, a well known Quaker minister at Richland Meeting. Charles was trained in the mercantile business in his father’s store at Gwynedd, then worked in Philadelphia near Christ Church for twelve years. When his father died in 1830, he returned to his father’s store in Gwynedd. Their son, Algernon S. Jenkins (Howard’s father) was born in Gwynedd had a farm nearby and died there in 1890 (in a fall in his barn). His gravestone is in the Gwynedd Friends Meeting burial grounds (marked born 11/27/1816, died 7/9/1890). He was an esteemed business man and justice of the peace, interested in promoting the common welfare. He married Anna Maria Thomas and had one child, Howard Malcolm Jenkins born on March 30, 1842.
Howard M. Jenkins was an author, journalist and leader in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends. Elwood Roberts in his “Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania” (1904) wrote: “Plain and practical in his ideas, he knew how to solve the puzzling problems that arose, and his counsel was certain to be safe in the great majority of cases”. He was educated at the Foulke Boarding School in Gwynedd and assisted his father on the farm and in his business. When the opportunity arose in 1861 he joined his brother-in-law in purchasing the Norristown Republican. In three years it was merged into the Herald and Free Press. He later went to Wilmington, Delaware and established the Daily Commercial. In 1879 he moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania and became editor-in-chief of the Friends Intelligencer, which position he held until his death. He is the author of Historical Collection of Gwynedd, a township history found elsewhere on this web site.
On March 16, 1865, Howard married Mary Anna Atkinson, who was born on December 5th, 1843 and died on January 6, 1940. Her parents were active in Upper Dublin (PA) Friends Meeting. She was descended from Quaker settlers who left Lancaster Monthly Meeting in England for Pennsylvania in 1699. (The parents reportedly died at sea leaving three children aged 12, 10 and 8). Howard and Mary Anna Jenkins had seven children: Charles Francis born 1865; Anna M. born 1867; Thomas Atkinson born 1868; Edward Atkinson born 1870; Algernon S. born 1874, died 1878; Florence born 1876; and Arthur Hugh born 1880.
Charles Francis was the grandfather of Foulkeways resident Phyllis Jenkins Biddle who remembers visiting him at “Avalon” in her childhood.
When Howard Jenkins’ wife, Mary Anna died in 1940, their unmarried daughter, Florence, then 64 years old, was still living in the “Avalon” house. She sold the house and land in 1941 to B. Harold Gross and his wife, Gladys Gross. (Some old gas lighting fixtures still remained in the house at that time.) Mrs. Gross was a registered nurse, a rarity in those days. She and her husband ran a nursing home in the house, called “Gwynedd Rest Haven”. There were ten or eleven infirm or confused residents who mostly stayed in their rooms as there was no elevator.
Laura Foulke, the mother of Gwynedd Meeting’s life long member Thomas Foulke lived there in her last years.
The Gross’daughter, Bernita Gross Stanwood remembers a good relationship with Gwynedd Meeting. As a child she walked across the Meeting property to pick up the family’s mail at the post office. She says that her parents informed the Meeting that the 1857 School House, which had been sold by Gwynedd Meeting to a neighbor many years before, was up for sale. The old school house was subsequently bought by a Meeting member, repaired and given to the Meeting. Bernita Stanwood recalls that her father, B. Harold Gross, had a lovely formal garden on the grounds as well as specimen trees and a wrought iron fence bordering the back driveway. The driveway was constructed of white stone. From 1960-1965 Mrs. Stanwood and her husband and children lived in the house with her sister Janet Gross, and her brother Leonard Gross. At that time a door from the small “dressing room” (next to the master bedroom on the second floor) opened into the second floor hallway. From the stair landing Mrs. Stanwood was able to see through the door and window and across the yard to the Gwynedd Meeting House. The interior woodwork is mostly chestnut, a wood which is now impossible to obtain. The wide staircase is oak. In 1965 the Stanwood family moved to Malvern. Bernita’s sister and brother remained in the house until 1976 when “Avalon” was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Fogel.
Bernita Stanwood describes the original, attractive laundry room addition at the side of the house farthest from Sumneytown Pike. Next to it was a lovely little porch. There was a rain water cistern under the floor of the laundry room, with a hand pump inside the room. After Mrs. Stanwood’s parents, B. Harold and Gladys Gross bought the house from Florence Jenkins in 1941, they made the laundry room into a kitchen, keeping the nice cabinetry which existed. The former kitchen was put to other use.
The country house called “Avalon”, built in 1885, in a “Plain Victorian” style is constructed of
light tan Montgomery County sandstone. There are dormer windows on the third floor, the center dormer being quite large. This dormer is centered above a full length porch facing Gwynedd Friends Meeting. The large entrance door is on this porch and welcomes visitors with a leaded glass “A” for “Avalon” in the window design above the door. The entrance and porch look toward Gwynedd Friends Meeting where both father, Algernon S. Jenkins and son, Howard M. Jenkins were active Quakers.
Interesting features of the original kitchen were a dumb waiter which operated between the cool basement and the kitchen, and a pass-through window near the dumb waiter where dishes could be put on a shelf behind a door which opened to the dining room.
From the entrance door, the center hallway passes a large living room on the left with wide pocket doors and a Chestnut wood framed fireplace. On the right is a lovely dining room with similar fireplace and red and black tile design on the hearth. The center hallway parallels the staircase and exits by a large door to several steps and flagstone path to the driveway on that side of the house. The central staircase of oak leads from the front entrance hallway to a landing with leaded glass windows, and on up to the second and third floors.
On the second floor there are three bedrooms with large or grouped windows, with wooden slatted shutters on some. The master bedroom has an adjacent dressing room. Next to the master bedroom, at the end of the hall is the second floor bathroom. Across the hall is a small bedroom which is next to a servants’ inclosed staircase which parallels the main staircase and leads from the second floor down to the original kitchen. On the third floor there are three bedrooms, one large and two small, all with sloping ceilings. There is a small bathroom at the end of the hall. There are hardwood floors throughout the house with the exception of the bathrooms and the original kitchen room, now carpeted and used as a den.
The Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania by Elwood Roberts, 1904, p.38 to 42.
Fair Land Gwynedd by Phil Johnson Ruth, 1991 p.106 to p.108. Maps p.82 & p.110.
Phyllis Jenkins Biddle of Foulkeways Retirement Community, Gwynedd, PA
H. Mather Lippincott, architect, Jenkins descendant of Quadrangle Retirement Community, Haverford, PA
and Bernita Gross Stanwood of Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Written by Janet H. Henderson, 501 W. Prospect Avenue, North Wales, PA 19454 2/21/04