Faunbrook History

Faunbrook was built in 1860 by William Baldwin and is believed to have been designed by Samuel Sloan, a noted Philadelphia architect. Smedley Darlington purchased the home in 1867 and moved in with his wife, five daughters, and one son.

Located less than a mile from town, Faunbrook stood in the midst of stately oak and chestnut trees with two ponds. The property was complete with swans, manicured lawns and dotted with statuary, gazebos, and fountains. Magnificent views were enjoyed from the wraparound porches. Faunbrook was originally topped by a weathervane depicting a "faun" which gave the estate its name. When Smedley Darlington moved his family to Faunbrook, he was a very energetic and colorful entrepreneur well on his way to becoming a wealthy man. The Darlingtons, known to be progressive Quakers, often sponsored fireworks displays on the Faunbrook grounds on the Fourth of July, and a special car on the street railway transported guests from West Chester.

"Oil fever" broke out in 1886 and Darlington became a promoter of numerous business ventures that paid him handsomely. When interest in oil ebbed, he shifted his focus to western land investments, organizing two banking institutions in West Chester and amassing a personal fortune of one million dollars.

During the same period he was also busy building political power, organizing the Republican Party in Chester County and earning for himself the epithet, "Autocrat of Chester County". The culmination of this involvement was his election to two terms in the United States Congress. News accounts reveal that the family enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Washington.

Darlington's power came undone during the depression of the 1890's and particularly as a result of the panic of 1897 when a considerable part of his fortune was lost. He died two years later and Faunbrook passed from his widow to their daughter, and finally to their son, Percy.

Faunbrook was featured in the first Chester County Day Tour in 1940 and in several others over the years. It has long been considered one of West Chester's most fascinating homes.

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