The Rose Valley Museum & Historical Society
| Architecture & The Crafts |
| Architecture |
Will Price died in 1916 at 55. It has been argued that, had he had as long a career as his contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), Price might also have been a giant among the world’s architects. There is certainly much about his later work like the Atlantic City hotels and the Chicago Freight Terminal to indicate a radically modern direction. And modernism exists in his earlier work, but it is now more difficult to see or understand. The houses he built before founding Rose Valley are made from the same hodge-podge of materials as any other turn-of-the-century American architect used for the show places of rich clients: cut and rough stone, cedar and slate shingles, Gothic and half-timber wood work, red brick and buff stucco. All of this historicism hid modern systems like electricity, steam heat, and interior plumbing.

When Will Price came to Rose Valley there were twelve small houses, two old mills, and an historic stone house once occupied by Bishop White. Price rehabilitated some buildings; slip covered others and, eventually, put up completely new houses. The old bobbin mill was given a quaint rustic porch. A farmhouse above the Bishop White house was encased in stucco and tile and expanded to become the grandest house in the valley, “Schönhaus.” An unpretentious cottage went up on Price’s Lane, “the house of the democrat.” The latter is one of the most important buildings of the American Arts and Crafts movement.

Before it was built, Price published designs for this house in several influential magazines with a national circulation like Ladies’ Home Journal. Along with other Arts and Crafts proselytizers like Gustav Stickley, Price sought to convince Americans that they didn’t need to “keep up with the Joneses.” He admonished both rich and poor to “…dispense with the plush albums and tea-store chromos and self-playing melodeons and comic operas and the daily installment of wood-pulp which calls itself the modern newspaper. Resigning these luxuries, they will get what in return? They will still have the necessaries of life and some of the comforts.” He wrote a book called Model Homes for Little Money in which he made an effort to distill his idea about how anyone’s home could have everything it needed to live the art that is life without costly materials and elaborate detail. The mere consideration of the quality of housing for the average person was a modern notion. Earlier architects may have designed small houses, but they were for the relatively rich. If and when housing was contemplated for anyone else, it was usually in terms of cheap, exploitative development.

Price thought houses would be modern if they fit the life one lived. He was very much against copying historical styles because no one lived like Roman emperors or French royalty. He thought beauty would come not from the architect’s design but from the fitness of purpose, place, and materials. The most eloquent example of this in Rose Valley is Thunderbird Lodge, the studio house of Alice and Charles Stevens.

The structure grew from an existing stone bank barn. The second floor of the barn became a studio for Charles while the first was shaped into another for Alice. The name of the house derived from Charles Stevens’ passionate interest in Native American artifacts. His collection eventually became the core of the University of Pennsylvania museum collection. The fireplace in the upstairs studio is said to have the form of a Thunderbird, a symbol that also appears on the studio exterior, this time made of Henry Mercer’s Moravian tiles
Traymore
Traymore
Schönhaus
Schönhaus
House of the Democrat
The House of the Democrat
House of the Democrat
Stone Bank Barn
Stone Bank Barn
Thunderbird
Thunderbird Inside
Thunderbird Lodge
Schönhaus
Price described the house: “ The old barn standing near the road was converted into first and second floor studios, the old timber roof being rebuilt for the upper studio, and large windows and fireplaces being built into the old walls. The house rambles off from the fireplace and off the studios and is connected to them by an octagonal stair hall. It is built in part of fieldstone so like that in the old barn that it is almost impossible to tell old work from new. The upper part is of warm gray plaster, and the roof of red tile. All of the detail is as simple and direct as possible, and the interior is finished in cypress stained to soft browns and grays and guilty of no finish other than wax or oil.”

Citing the way the house fit its site, the way the pergola helped integrate the building and gardens, the use of local materials, and the references to indigenous architecture, magazines compared it to the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright who was then just beginning to develop his signature Prairie School style.

Thunderbird lodge later became the home of the Olmsteds: Judge Allen and Mildred Scott Olmsted, both well-known social activists. He was instrumental in the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union, and she was a tireless proponent of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Tileth
Italianate at Rose Valley
Rose Valley Houses Today
| Rose Valley Crafts |
CLICK HERE to view works from the Rose Valley Shops representing work done by the three ‘shops’ that operated under the aegis of the Rose Valley Association: Price & McLanahan’s Furniture Shop, William P. Jervis’ Pottery Shop, and Horace Trauble’s Rose Valley Press, printing The Artsman. Work in these shops met the standards of the Rose Valley Association and was marked with varying forms of the Association’s seal, a wild rose superimposed by a “V” and circled by a buckled belt.
Will Price and his extended family along with Hawley McLanahan and his family were the first members of the Rose Valley Association. They made plans for a social center with lectures, plays and concerts, a library, a museum, and a school for children, who, in the words of Hawley McLanahan, would be taught “through the hand to the brain.” They intended to convert waterpower into electricity for use in the craft shops and the community, and to plant trees to beautify the public and private spaces. All income beyond the stock and fixed expenses would be devoted to the general improvement of the property.

Some income was to be generated by craft production. Although there were many artists and craftsmen among the members of the Rose Valley Association, they did not necessarily make the handicrafts that were marked with the Rose Valley seal. The Association intended to rent space to non-resident artisans who would be allowed to use the Rose Valley seal: a rose with a “V” superimposed and circled with a buckled belt that symbolized fellowship. The firm of Price and McLanahan was the first to lease property from the association, converting the burnt out textile mill on Ridley Creek into housing for a furniture shop. As it happened, the only non-residents were ceramist William Percival Jervis and most of the woodworkers. The furniture, Jervis pottery and of course The Artsman, printed at the Rose Valley Press, bore the Rose Valley seal.
Rose Valley Cottages
Rose Valley Shops Logo
| The Furniture Shop |
Rose Valley Furniture Shop
Rose Valley Furniture Mark
Modern Arts and Crafts movement historians believe the furniture to be the most important part of the Rose Valley experiment. Ironically, Price was having furniture custom made for use in the houses he designed before Rose Valley was founded. Those designs are indistinguishable from the ones used at the shop in the old mill. Even pieces bearing the Rose Valley seal could have been made at Edward Maene’s Philadelphia workshops.

Unlike the studied plainness of the furniture manufactured by Gustav Stickley and Elbert Hubbard, Price designed furniture in a highly decorated Gothic style. Rich American homeowners had a taste for such dark, elaborately carved furniture that began in the 1870s and continued throughout the 1920’s. Like Rose Valley furniture, much of it was hand carved. How, then, could Rose Valley pieces be so closely associated with the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement?

William Morris wrote the primary tenet of the Movement: “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Certainly Rose Valley furniture was both useful and beautiful. But Will Price too was quite a wordsmith and his writing in The Artsman left no question about how he thought his products embodied the ideals of Arts and Crafts philosophy. Still, Price ran into the same problem that had confounded Morris. Arts and Crafts philosophers made much of the democratic and socialist nature of their utopian visions but, in practice, the production of objects meeting their standard of handcraftsmanship was an expensive and, therefore, an elitist proposition. A mass-produced dining table from Gustav Stickley cost $66 in 1904, putting it well beyond the reach of most Americans; A grand, hand-carved Rose Valley table cost $150. Even so, the Rose Valley order book and the photographs of furniture in the process of being built suggest that the furniture shop was very busy during the few years (1901-1906) it operated.
Furniture
Table
| Jervis’ Pottery |
William Percival Jervis William Percival Jervis was a nationally known master
potter. Before coming to work in Rose Valley, he managed the Avon Faience Company and worked at the Corona Pottery. He produced The Encyclopedia of Ceramics and wrote Rough Notes on Pottery, A Book of Pottery Marks
and English Potters and American History.

He rented a studio in the Rose Valley guildhall where he created many highly praised pieces marked with the Rose Valley seal. The fanfare that greeted Jervis’ arrival at Rose Valley came at the height of the popularity of art pottery. The process of making artistic pots had become closely identified with the Arts and Crafts way of life, and Jervis announced that his pottery would be simple as befitted the simple life. Even though Jervis may have commuted to his studio from Philadelphia, the idyllic environment of the Valley suited his artistic sensibilities. He wrote:
“Before I came here I had heard something of the Rose Valley Association and of the charm of the place itself, but I had never imagined there were men fortunate enough to pursue their work under such conditions as I found. To lift up your head and look at tree-clad hills instead of brick walls; to hear the murmur of waterfalls instead of the roar of trains or clanging bells of cars; to know that around the hill the river broadened into delicious reaches amidst the shade of the overhanging forest, where birds were encouraged and protected, instead of shot, and where the bright fronds of the fern still showed green amid the reds and crimsons of trailing vines—I think that anyone to whom such things appeal would feel as I do: that work would become a religion, a pleasure. And be sure that when work is a pleasure all that is in a man, be it much or little, is brought out.”

Indeed, some of his pottery designs incorporate the green fern fronds that so attracted Jervis. The glazes he developed at Rose Valley where praised by none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany who pronounced them to be the finest he had ever seen.

Although Jervis produced hundreds of pieces while at Rose Valley, very few are known today. He claimed that the Rose Valley mark would be “impressed in the clay or printed in color.” on his pots. Evidence suggests that much of Rose Valley ceramics was not marked at all. Perhaps these pieces once had a paper label “printed in color,” but no example of the color label is presently known. Other pieces have raised nubs arranged in a circle, which are thought to be represent the stamens of the Rose Valley rose while other pieces are inscribed “W.P. Jervis” or bear a handmade version of the seal. He left his pottery studio in Rose Valley in 1905.
Jervis Signature
Pot
| Rose Valley Press |
Rose Valley Press Horace Traubel
Rose Valley Print
Horace Traubel was a nationally known writer, poet, journalist, editor and publisher. He is best known for his apostolic friendship with Walt Whitman and his nine-volume biography about the poet. He was one of Whitman’s three literary executors and founded ‘The Conservator,” a journal dedicated to keeping the work of Whitman alive. He married Anne Montgomerie, in Whitman’s home in 1891. When he and his wife came to Rose Valley, they stayed at the Guest House. He was enchanted with the utopian nature of the community, and returned to Philadelphia to establish the Rose Valley Press. From 1903 to 1907, that shop published a monthly magazine called ‘TheArtsman,’ subtitled, “The Art That Is Life.” Three individuals are listed as editors: William Lightfoot Price, M. Hawley McLanahan, and Horace Traubel, but it is probable that Price did most of the writing and Traubel did most of the editing. Traubel was so skilled in setting type that he often composed editorials by handsetting type at the case.

The Artsman became the voice of Price’s experiment just as The Craftsman was the voice of Gustav Stickley’s experiment. The first issue contained cuts made from Price drawings of two chairs and a table. These illustrations are not referred to in the text so they serve primarily as advertisements for the furniture shop. The text, written by the three editors, is a manifesto in which the men’s hopes for Rose Valley were succinctly set down. Price wrote: “What does Rose Valley hope? It hopes that some men, released from the deadening influences of monotonous unthinking toil, may see such possibilities in life as will make them put their shoulders to the wheel and strive to lift society out of accustomed thought or habit.”

In addition to issuing The Artsman, the Rose Valley Press produced two bulletins about the products of the shops and several announcements of cultural events in the valley. After 1903, Traubel began to use the Rose Valley Press imprint on The Conservator even though Innes & Sons in Philadelphia did the presswork. The press also offered its services for general printing and produced a brochure for the School of Industrial Art in Trenton, New Jersey.
The Artsman
Artsman Layout
The Rose Valley Museum & Historical Society