By Celia Caust-Ellenbogen
Happy New Year! This beautiful card comes from the archival materials at the Historical Society of Whitpain. We have learned a lot about Normandy Farm recently, since it falls in the collecting area of both the Historical Society of Whitpain and the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.
Ralph Beaver Strassburger (1883-1959) was a prominent businessman born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he entered the Navy as a young man, and later entered the diplomatic service during World War I. He married May Bourne, daughter of the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, in 1911. He likely used his father-in-law’s wedding gift to purchase the property Normandy Farm in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, which he named after his French honeymoon destination.
In 1921 Strassburger entered the newspaper business, combining two local papers into the Norristown Time Herald. An avid historian and genealogist, he published his family history in 1922, and a book on Pennsylvania German Pioneers in 1934. Strassburger was also well known as a Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder. After his death in 1959, Normandy Farm remained in his family until 1994.
Michael and I drove past Normandy Farm twice on our way to the Historical Society of Whitpain! We accidentally put the wrong address into the GPS–we first went to the historical society’s restored one-room schoolhouse, the Franklinville School, instead of their meeting space and library at the historic Boxwood House. Both sites are worth a visit, so be sure to add a day of history in Whitpain to your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2012!
The Historical Society of Whitpain’s website is http://histsocwhitpain.org/. The Franklinville School is at 1701 Morris Road, Blue Bell, PA 19422. But if you want to use their archival collections, remember to use the address for the Boxwood House: 1098 W. Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.