It seems like there is so much to learn about the Philadelphia area. My muse, in the form of my SO, has been here all his life. He grew up in Philadelphia and then moved to King of Prussia at the tender age of 18 before the huge developments took over in the form of King of Prussia Mall and all that surrounds it. I constantly tease him about his North Philadelphia origins. I tell him that he actually grew up in Bucks County since his family was able to cross the street and change locations. To say he his a hard core Philly guy is an understatement. One of my favorite people, Susan, grew up not far from him and they went to high school a few blocks from each other. Philadelphia is indeed a small world. I love listening to them reminisce about life in Philly.
Allen and I were driving through Valley Forge Park recently. There is a huge building right on 422 near the park’s visitor center which has sat abandoned for quite some time. It was once a restaurant called Kennedy-Supplee and he wondered if something would come of it. It is quite an imposing building with architectural flair. The mansion sits silently staring at the traffic on the 422 corridor and Allen wondered about its future and past. After dinner, we were reclining on the sofa looking for a documentary to watch, Allen began to search for information on the old restaurant. He found a website called kophistory.org. It’s a local organization that seeks to preserve all of the history of the area. Of course, theis peaked my interest.
I started looking through the website and found some interesting information about the history of the Valley Forge area. It is well known as the Continental Army’s winter home under the supervision of General George Washington. Valley Forge Park highlights that history through the preservation of locations and information. There is so much more to the area than being the winter home of the continental army. Port Kennedy was an important Civil War era site.
Port Kennedy Village flourished due to limestone production, The Kennedy family established the village as one of the leading manufacturers of limestone in the US due to its proximity to the Schuylkill River, the canal, and Reading Railroad station. The village grew to include a three-story hotel, a blast furnace, a stone house, workshops, a Reading Railroad Station, wharfs, a Presbyterian Church with a cemetery and several homes. The village was named after John Kennedy who owned 14 kilns and several quarries in the area. The village eventually declined by World War I and 600 people were displaced and 160 structured demolished when Valley Forge Park expanded. The park grew to 1500 acres when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania declared the park should encompass the area that George Washington occupied including his army’s outposts. The mansion, railroad station, church/cemetery, and one house are all that remains of Port Kennedy.
Kennedy built his Victorian Italianate home “Kenhurst” in 1852, which he used to promote the use of lime based plaster. The property included a barn which was not only used for agriculture but for monthly livestock auctions. Kennedy was involved in agriculture and livestock through the Montgomery County Agricultural Society and the Montgomery County Grange. He was a community leader through his involvement with Port Kennedy Bridge Company, which developed a bridge connection between Port Kennedy and the Betzwood area, the Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank in Phoenixville, and the Upper Merion Township School District. Kennedy died of a heart attack in 1877 and the property was willed to his son. Kennedy’s widow, Margaret, continued to live there until her death in 1886.
The mansion has gone through several changes and owners. It’s future is yet decided. This is not a location that offers tours or entry, so, be aware of potential trespassing. Hopefully, I will be able to update this blog with news on this grand mansion’s revival.
1852-1860: John Kennedy built Kenhurst
1911 to 1936: J. Henderson Supplee (died as the last Civil War veteran in Montgomery County).
1919: Port Kennedy was acquired by the NPS through eminent domain in order to expand Valley Forge Park when the VF Park Commission received a 250,000 grant to condemn the village.
Port Kennedy Inn
1950’s: An apartment building
1960s: The construction of the 422 corridor divided the property
1976: Valley Forge State Park became Valley Forge National Historic Park
1978: The National Park Service acquired the property through eminent domain. The mansion was used as housing for park employees.
1983 (June 21): The Kennedy-Supplee Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1986: Kennedy Supplee Associates LP signed a 55-year lease with the NPS and began restoration.
1983-2004: The national historic landmark opened as a 130 seat restaurant called the Kennedy-Supplee Mansion Restaurant.
2004: The VF Park Commission drafted a ‘request for proposal’ to lease the national historic landmark
2005: The Kennedy-Supplee Associates entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy
2006: The VF Park Commission held an open house inspection for prospective bidders
2006: The Kennedy-Supplee Associates auctioned off all assets
2007: The VF Park Commission selected Piazza Management and Thomas Drauschak’s lease proposal as a restaurant, professional offices, special events, and conferences and catering. The company operates the Westover Country Club in West Norriton.
2022: Projected completion of the Kennedy-Supplee project