Now up for sale, the former horse farm originally was part of a 500-acre parcel owned by William Penn and deeded to William Mordaint in 1681.
During the Revolutionary War, the British army camped along Swedesford Road in 1777. Today, the property is minutes from bustling Routes 202 and 76 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
As the property changed hands more than 20 times over the years, portions were sold. A real estate agent bought the remaining 4.8 acres for $65,000 in 1960. The land abuts a park.
Emmens bought the property for himself and his family in 1995, when he was president and CEO of Astra Merck, a pharmaceutical company. The firm is now called AstraZeneca, and is in Chesterbrook, a five-minute drive away.
Recently he became president and CEO of EMD Pharmaceuticals, and relocated to North Carolina. The house and land are on the market for $887,500.
"This was considered a place in the country," Emmens said. "Now it's almost impossible to get five acres in Tredyffrin Township."
Meg Sweeney, sales executive for ERA Diamond Realtors, said it was unusual to find such a property so close to a major hub of commerce and shopping.
"And what's particularly unique is how successfully the present owner blended old and new as he renovated various structures," said Sweeney, listing agent for the property.
For example, she said, Emmens used cedar shake roofing, and stucco, which are similar to the original building materials.
The barn, or a portion of it, dating from the late 1700s, was the first structure built on the property, Emmens said.
In those days, the barn was always built first. The family would live with the animals and tools while they constructed the house.
The massive barn boasts its original hand-cut timbers, stone walls, and animal stalls. An open three-story-high timber roof covers the upper level (accessible at ground level in the rear). Here, the original framing of beams, cut from trees on the property, displays sturdy mortise-and-tenon joints, and the original wide-plank floor remains strong enough to hold four modern cars.
Along the way, someone covered the barn roof with shingles, hiding the original cedar shakes, Emmens said.
The main house was built six years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. It was pretty much unaltered until 1960 when a family room, two bedrooms and a bath were added on one side.
Emmens' addition at the rear of the house incorporates a large master bedroom with walk-in closets, a fireplace, deck, and tiled bath with a jetted Roman, or platform, tub and stall shower. A new country kitchen on the first floor features a stone fireplace; hardwood floor; U-shaped, granite-topped breakfast bar; colonial-style birch cabinets; double ovens; microwave; and grill-top and pop-up exterior vent.
New three-quarter-inch hardwood flooring was laid on the first floor of the older part of the house. On the second level, the random-width pine flooring is original.
A cottage overlooking the stream was previously quarters for the horse farm's groom, and was originally built as a spring house, cooled by the stream, for food storage. It now has two bedrooms, two half-baths, a shower room, a fireplace and a new kitchen.
"Besides the structural renovations, Matt did a tremendous amount of landscaping, including planting about 60 trees," Sweeney said. "Sitting back from the road, abutting a park, the property is perfect for someone who wants privacy but doesn't want to give up entree to major highways and commerce."
Emmens said the house was in "amazingly good condition" when he bought it. Even so, he said, he has invested more than $1.3 million in Upper Stream Farm, including the $450,000 purchase price.