The Farmhouse History
People’s Light makes its home on a seven-acre piece of land with an impressive pedigree that stretches back hundreds of years. Native Americans called the property and the surrounding acreage the “The Dark Valley” due to the trees and undergrowth that once blanketed the land. In 1621, Welsh immigrants settled in the area, and in 1704, named it Whiteland Township after Whiteland Gardens in Flintshire, Wales.
In 1709, Governor William Penn signed 1,000 acres in East Whiteland Township over to the Malin family, whose forebears had recently immigrated to Pennsylvania from Cheshire, England and Armagh, Ireland. A nearby road (joining Conestoga and Lancaster Avenues) still bears the family’s name and marks the location of their homestead, Malin Hall. On September 15, 1777, the Malin family allowed General George Washington to use their home as his headquarters. His troops had just suffered a horrific defeat at the Battle of the Brandywine. They camped around Malin Hall and along Swedesford Road up to the White Horse Inn three-and-a-half miles away. Washington then prepared for an impending encounter with British General William Howe. Luckily, tumultuous weather forestalled the “Battle of the Clouds”, and the Continental Army packed up and moved on.
In 1790, the Malin family built the structure that we now call “The Farmhouse”. It served as a private boys’ school, the first school in East Whiteland Township. In 1820 or thereabouts, the structure was redesigned and the barn, now our Haas Stage, was erected. The frame portion of the house was added on during the Civil War. The Malin family held on to the property for over 227 years. In 1936, visual artist and U.S. Marine Corps sergeant C. Gager Phillips, Jr. bought the property, but as Phillips was only the second owner, he had to dig up the original land grants of 1709 to clear the title.
In 1979, People’s Light bought the property from Phillips and became the third owner in 269 years. People’s Light serves as one of Pennsylvania’s largest professional non-profit theatres. In our 8-9 play season, we present stories drawn from ancient times through tomorrow that have direct relevance to our communities and their concerns.
At People’s Light we enhance our stage work with a variety of Surround Activities that connect us with many Delaware Valley communities near our seven-acre Malvern campus. Arts Discovery extends our mission with school residencies, student matinees and a broad array of theatre classes for grades K through 12. New Play Frontiers explores our American identity by commissioning leading playwrights to create plays informed by meaningful stories of nearby populations, and simultaneously develops audiences with a stake in the work. Community Matters sparks dialogue about vital social issues with free staged readings and town hall-style discussions co-hosted by the Theatre and local service organizations. We serve 80,000 patrons, guests, students, and community members each year.
The Farmhouse and Bistro are a for-profit wholly owned subsidiary of People’s Light. We thank you for your patronage and want you to know that each time you visit the Bistro or have an event at The Farmhouse, you are indeed supporting the Theatre and its programs.