The two-story brick building at 725 Art Lane is one of Pencader’s oldest historic sites. Located just north of Chestnut Hill Road on the
edge of Rittenhouse Park, the beautifully restored dwelling is all that remains of an early manufacturing and agricultural complex that
took advantage of water power from the Christina River. Part of the original Welsh Tract grant, the land was inherited by a miller who
later sold it to a group of speculators and ironmongers. This group of entrepreneurs, with members from Philadelphia, Chester County and Great Britain, established one of Delaware’s earliest iron works along the stream. The venture proved unsuccessful and the highest bidder at the resulting sheriff’s sale was an ambitious miller who harnessed the waters to run a sawmill
and gristmill. Whether or not he also built the existing “Mansion House” is still uncertain.
The first mention of a millwright living in the vicinity of the house presently known as the Fisher’s Mill House is in a deed dated May 28, 1725. The land described belonged to James James, Yeoman, whose “pattent” for a large parcel of land in Welsh Tract was dated January 24, 1709. A section of this land was later granted “by Deed of Gift” to Samuel James whose occupation was listed as
The millwright James was selling a one and three quarter acre parcel along Christiana Creek which became the location of a
furnace and forge known as Samuel James’s or Abitinton Iron Works. Originally run by eight partners, it later would be split among
sixteen investors and renamed Abbington Furnace.
The business venture failed, and several sheriff’s sales ensued as the investors left one by one. At a sale held in 1768 by John Thompson Esq., High Sheriff of New Castle County, Andrew Fisher, miller, purchased 201 acres, which included the furnace. The price was 500 pounds for the “plantation and Tract of land” which may indicate the existence of a dwelling.