Building Tradition at Olde Bulltown

An authentic stone house vernacular is still strong at this community of new old houses in Pennsylvania.

Complete with a berm and nestled into its sloping site, the Brown House mirrors 18th-century Chester County homesteads that were added to over time. Mixed materials were used in constructing stone, log, and wood-framed sections.

At Olde Bulltown, the emphasis is on traditional building practice and authentic details dating from the 18th and 19th centuries—proving that they still do build ’em like they used to. Stoltzfus Enterprises, a custom builder, has taken on community building in Elverson, not far from the Main Line and Philadelphia.

They were able to acquire portions of the historic Thomas Bull property, including the barn, and saw a chance to re-construct a village on a vernacular plan closely resembling the town of Warwick, founded by Thomas Bull and inhabited by his descendants well into the 20th century. The old village had slowly faded as gristmills and general stores closed. The historic Bull Mansion is adjacent to the village entrance. So far, 37 homes have been constructed; Thomas Bull was a stonemason who used Chester County fieldstone in his buildings, as does Stoltzfus.

The core of the new village incorporates residential adaptations of such mercantile buildings as a blacksmith shop and schoolhouse. “Clients appreciate the traditional architecture and the finishes and furnishings selected,” says Merle Stultzfus. “Some have restored period homes in the past; others couldn’t see themselves in the midst of renovation.”


Construction materials are mixed at Pleasantview, in the tradition of old houses: one wing of the stone dwelling is wood-framed and covered in clapboards while the rear extension is brick. The house resembles the 1785 Bull Mansion—not a replica, but as if it were designed by the same architect.

Interior details at Pleasantview reflect traditional housebuilding, from the solid, extra-wide paneled doors and board wainscot to the turned balusters and acorn finials on the Georgian-inspired staircase. Even the hardware is authentic to the period.

The Brown House

Log and chinking was used to build the Brown House’s center section, or “hyphen,” mimicking construction of an old summer kitchen. The west side of the house is built of fieldstone taken from the site. Another section is covered with beveled cedar siding.

Refined craftsmanship is evident in the Brown House sitting room with its French doors and built-in bookcases. Floors are quarter-sawn oak with a hand-rubbed, tung oil finish. Windows have 16”-deep sills and wells have chamfered corners.

Historical hardware in the Brown House includes this authentic 18th-century 10” box lock by James Carpenter, which was reconditioned. The front door is hung on fire-rolled, wrought-iron HL hinges. The interior of the log section is finished to resemble whitewash.

Tags: Jay Greene new construction OHJ April 2015 Old-House Journal Patricia Poore Pennsylvania stone houses

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