Jamie Forsyth remembers that when she and her two sisters were growing up, they loved tossing pebbles in the creek behind their home in Horsham.
She is pleased that her 2½-year-old daughter, Sienna, will be able to have the same fun. Wissahickon Creek flows by an old stone mill across the road from the North Wales home where Jamie, 40, and her husband, Tim, 45, and Sienna live.
Their home was built in the style of an English country manor in 1880 on what was then a 200-acre horse farm. The nearby mill supplied grain for the animals.
Later, the property was a riding academy and day camp. In the 1970s, most of the land was sold for residential development.
The manor house and caretaker's cottage on two acres were eventually sold to owners who installed a swimming pool and pool house and added a two-car garage to the cottage.
Jamie, a nurse, and Tim, a project superintendent for a commercial contractor, were living with their infant daughter in a split-level in Horsham when the manor house went on the market in 2016. After nine months, the price was lowered, and the couple took the plunge, acquiring the formidable seven-bedroom home.
"We both love old houses, and this house had good bones," Tim says.
Inside, the residence, with its 11-foot ceilings on the first and second floors and nine-foot ceilings on the third, had been freshly painted. Walls were cream, with carved doors and trim painted a deeper buff. The parlor's sky blue walls and ceiling picked up the color in Dutch tiles surrounding the fireplace. Brass and crystal chandeliers hung from elaborate plaster medallions in the parlor, foyer, and family room. Original random-width oak flooring had been well-maintained.
Still, there was work to do. The Forsyths installed a new roof. Large ash and evergreen trees were trimmed, and smaller trees were removed from the pool area.
Tim and friends painted the stucco exterior antique white. Columns surrounding the wrap-around porch and window trim are a brighter white, with shutters and column brackets painted black. Tim and a plumber friend also remodeled the first-floor powder room.
He has a long "to do" list for the future, such as installing a ductless heating and air conditioning system and creating a master bedroom suite with modern closets. He would like to renovate the 20-year-old kitchen, combining the space with what is now Sienna's playroom, and add French doors opening to the patio.
"The kitchen is fine for the three of us, but not for entertaining," Jamie says.
She has furnished living areas with carpets and sofas from her former home and with vintage pieces, including a grandfather clock her great-grandfather built as an engagement gift for her great-grandmother. A mahogany drum table nearby belonged to her grandmother. The metal-lined bar in the dining room once belonged to an uncle.
Welcoming a new season, a bouquet of tulips graced the dining room table, purchased, along with the upholstered chairs, from Ashley HomeStore in Willow Grove.
Lettered candle holders on the parlor fireplace spelled out "Spring." They were flanked by a stuffed bunny, and bunny-embossed pillows were propped on sofas. Baskets and bowls filled with colored eggs completed the Easter motif.
Decorations were more elaborate in December, courtesy of the Norristown Garden Club, which included the manor house on the club's annual holiday tour. Club members lined the dining table with floral arrangements, and Tim helped them collect pine cones, which were crafted into ornaments for two Christmas trees.The Forsyths welcomed local carolers into their home and hosted a family holiday party.
For Easter, Jamie and Tim organized an egg hunt on their lawn for Sienna and neighborhood children. Young families now live in the homes that replaced the former horse farm.
"Neighbors have been so kind, acknowledging all of the work we've already done on the home," Jamie says. "I'm sure we'll always have a lot of work, especially with such a big property, but it's worth it."