The Highlands Mansion and Gardens
Old Village Master Painters has had the pleasure to work on several projects at The Highlands including interior painting of the Mansion (forgot to take pictures!). We also did restoration work on the Gardener's Cottage (see below). A brief history of the Highlands is further down this page.
The Gardener's Cottage was built at The Highlands by George Schaeff c1844 and had fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
Old Village did a Renovation, Repair and Painting (RPP) project on this building . This required stripping all the old lead paint (we are EPA and PA Certified for abatement and removal) from the exterior of the building, a lot of carpentry restoration work, then applying a fresh coat of new paint.
Anthony Morris, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and politician built The Highlands in 1796 on 200 acres in Whitemarsh as a summer escape from the yellow fever that ravaged Philadelphia in the 1790's. Morris ran into financial difficulties in 1808 and was forced to sell the estate to Daniel Hitner. Hitner sold the Highlands, now 300 acres, to Philadelphia wine merchant George Schaeff in 1813.
George Sheaff bought the 300 acre estate in 1813 and made numerous improvements including the construction of the verandah on the north side, the addition of the portico on the main south façade, and the replacement of interior doors and moldings on the first floor.
By 1856, during John Sheaff’s ownership, interior plumbing was installed and in the 1870’s new plaster cornices and ceiling medallions were added to the main rooms.
The Schaeff family owned The Highlands for more than a century and made numerous improvements both to the Georgian mansion and to the landscape. After George Sheaff’s death in 1851 his heirs sold part of the estate and the youngest son, John, retained 59 acres including the mansion and adjoining outbuildings.
The last Sheaff passed away in 1917 and at the time the estate had fallen into disrepair, and was sold to Miss Caroline Sinkler (1860-1949), a native South Carolinian with strong ties to Philadelphia.
Through the efforts of Miss Sinkler, the property was restored to its former elegance and prominence as an historical treasure. Miss Sinkler’s niece, Emily Sinkler Roosevelt, and her husband Nicholas, purchased the property in 1941. The Roosevelts gave the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1957.
The Highlands today is a 44-acre historic site with a late 18th century Georgian mansion and two-acre formal garden. It was donated to the Commonwealth of PA in 1957 and has been managed by The Highlands Historical Society since 1975.