Grumblethorpe, in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the home of the Wister family. It was built as a summer residence in 1744 by Philadelphia merchant and wine importer John Wister. It eventually became the family’s year-round residence when they withdrew from the city during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. The stones for the house were quarried on the property and the joists were hewn from oaks in Wister Woods, also owned by the family. The original section of the Grumblethorpe Tenant House was built as a dependency.
With its strong stone and oak facade, Grumblethorpe was known as “John Wister’s Big House.” In the early 19th century, Charles Jones Wister gave the house its name, from the popular comical novel Thinks-I-To-Myself by Edward Nares.
In September 1777, the house was the scene of events in the Battle of Germantown. While the Wisters were staying in another home, British General James Agnew occupied the house as his headquarters during the battle. He was wounded and died in the front parlor, where his blood stains can still be seen on the floor.
The Wister family lived in the house for over 160 years. Diarist Sally Wister (John’s granddaughter) lived here from 1789 until her death in 1804. The house, which has been restored and refurnished to match the original period, now serves as a museum. The historic gardens are also being restored.
Grumblethorpe was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is a contributing property of the Colonial Germantown Historic District, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark.