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Elkins Estate

Elstowe Manor - Photos by Kris Catherine

The Elkins Estate is an American 42-acre (170,000 m2) estate located in Elkins Park, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The estate contains seven buildings, the most notable being Elstowe Manor and Chelten House, mansions designed by Horace Trumbauer.

Elstowe Manor was built in 1898 at the location where "Needles", the former family summer home of William L. Elkins, had stood. Elkins, a Philadelphia businessman, was integral in the formation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the forerunner of SEPTA

The 45-room manor was built in the style ofItalian High Renaissance. The unique interior features, such as the ornately carved wood and gilded molding, marble columns and accents, frescoed ceilings, gargoyles and the like, were crafted in Europe and shipped to the United States, where they were assembled on site.

Grand Hall - similar to that of The Breakers and nearby Lynnewood Hall

Ornately carved and painted ceiling

The interior was designed by renowned French interior decor experts Allard et Fils, which accounts for the distinctly French feel in some of the rooms. The home is anchored on either side by a large library and drawing-room. Between these are two wings, one containing a breakfast room and dining room and the other a billiard room and den, with a separate wing leading to a large gallery. These wings all lead to a grand staircase in the center of the house.


Drawing Room



Breakfast Room

The second floor has nine bedrooms, three dressing rooms, and seven baths. The third floor and raised basement are servant quarters. With the mansion, Trumbauer also designed the wrought-iron gates at the entrance to the estate along with a small gatehouse, a powerhouse, and an eight-car garage.

Second Floor Hall


Chelten House - Second House on Property

In 1896, Elkins commissioned Trumbauer to build a home on the estate for his son, George W. Elkins. This mansion, Chelten House, was built in the Elizabethan style. The house was situated on a large, balustraded terrace which allows for outdoor living space. The first floor of the house is built of local Wissahickon schist, while the second and third floors are half-timbered with panels of pebbledash. The interior space is fashioned with a stuccoed Gothic tracery ceiling with Tudor-style paneling. Stables are located directly behind the house.

Grand Hall & Staircase

Room in Chelten House

Kitchen in Chelten House

Stables of Property

In 1932, William H. Elkins, grandson of William L. Elkins, sold the Elstowe manor property to theDominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci. Chelten House was owned by Philadelphia cigarette manufacturer Stephen X. Stephano. After the death of his wife, Penelope, he sold Chelten House to theDominican Sisters in 1948.

The Dominican Sisters operated both buildings (known as the Dominican Retreat House) as a women's religious retreat and preserved the grounds and historical integrity of the buildings. Thousands of women and men attended retreats, days of prayer, and other spiritual programs for 75 years. Women would come to pray, meditate and find a place of refuge and reflection. At its peak, as many as 14,000 women and men came to the Dominican Retreat House in one year. The dedication of the sisters to preservation of the historic mansions on the estate was extraordinary and today, in 2013, the original features and architectural details remain intact. It was described as the most significant example ofGilded Age architecture in the region by John Gallery of the Philadelphia Preservation Alliance.

On January 24, 2013, the Dominican Sisters and the conservancy reached an agreement in which the conservancy would vacate the premises and relinquish control to the sisters by January 30, 2013. The sisters regained possession of the property and sold the property to Landmark Developers in August of 2019 who plan to turn the property into a boutique hotel.

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