ROSE VALLEY, PA – July 16, 2015 The Rose Valley Centennial Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the “magic” of Rose Valley, has just agreed to accept Thunderbird Lodge, a building inextricably tied to the history of the Arts and Crafts movement in America, as a gift from the Olmsted Family Trust. Thunderbird Lodge has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.
Thunderbird Lodge is central to both the geography and the culture of Rose Valley. The Rose Valley Centennial Foundation plans to partner with the Rose Valley Museum and Historical Society and other Rose Valley organizations to create a museum and center for the study of the local Arts and Crafts heritage in the years ahead.
Architect Will Price started a utopian community of artists and artisans in this former mill town in 1901, setting up a workshop for craftsmen in a former mill and renovating existing millworker’s housing in the Arts and Crafts style. Among those who were attracted to Price’s Rose Valley were Alice Barber Stephens, a highly successful illustrator and artist, and her husband, Charles H. Stephens, a painter and collector of Native American art.
In 1904, Price created work spaces for each of the Stephens by converting a 1790’s stone barn into two large studios and also constructed a fieldstone and stucco appendage to serve as their home. Price designed the fireplace in Mr. Stephen’s studio in the shape of a Thunderbird, an icon of many Indian nations, and incorporated the Thunderbird design in Mercer tile into the stone wall facing Rose Valley Road. The building has ever since been known as Thunderbird Lodge.
Following the Stephens’ deaths, Thunderbird Lodge became the home of Allen Olmsted and his wife, noted social activist Mildred Scott Olmsted. Mrs. Olmsted was the sister of Adele Saul, who already lived next door in Rose Valley with her husband Maurice.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Olmsted were nationally known for their work on civil liberties, civil rights and world peace. When Mrs. Olmsted died in 1990 at the age of 99, her will provided that, if her descendants no longer wanted to live in the house, her trust would offer Thunderbird Lodge to a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to maintain it as an historical landmark in perpetuity.
The Olmsted Trust offered the property to The Rose Valley Centennial Foundation and, after many hours of due diligence and intial planning on how it could fund and utilize Thunderbird Lodge, the Board of the Rose Valley Centennial Foundation agreed to accept the gift of the two-acre property.
The Board is continuing to develop plans for funding and maintaining Thunderbird Lodge as well as developing a program for its eventual improvement. This may take many years to complete. Over the decades the Olmstead family has been an excellent steward of Thunderbird Lodge. As a result, It is in far better shape than many of the other historic structures in Delaware County that other municipalities and charitable organizations have managed to save and sustain.
About the Rose Valley Centennial Foundation
The Rose Valley Centennial Foundation is governed by a 12-member board of directors made up of Rose Valley residents. It was founded in 2013 to assist in perpetuating the “magic” of Rose Valley now and into the next century by supporting initiatives that beautify our natural environment, keep our history alive, build on our unique sense of community, and promote resident participation and volunteerism. Its first project was the creation of the Rose Valley Heritage Garden and Veterans Memorial at the Gatehouse ruins on Old Mill Lane. That project, which was completed with funds raised by RVCF, was dedicated last fall. It brought together many of Rose Valley’s existing organizations and will be further improved this summer with two additional Eagle Scout projects.
photos by C Brian Killian all rights reserved.