The last piece of the intriguing puzzle from the Sarobia saga has yet to be divulged: what happened to the multitude of twenty-dollar gold coins that were allegedly found completely covering and glued to the bottom of all the dresser drawers in the tower house?
The housekeeper, wife of the property’s caretaker, was reportedly cleaning the furniture where Blossom Farley had lived until his death, when the cache was discovered.
Farley had been a past president of The Philadelphia Numismatic Society, a group dedicated to collecting all sorts of currency.
A previous entry in this series about the 20th-century American Impressionist artist, who was the last-living student of James Abbot McNeill Whistler (painter of Whistler’s Mother), gave some final details about Richard Blossom Farley‘s ultimate demise.
Prior to when the gold pieces were discovered, the bank that I presume was handling the painter’s estate had carted away so many coins from artist’s residence in one day, the bumper of The Corn Exchange‘s Ford station wagon was dragging on the ground as the vehicle pulled out of the driveway.
Jack, my informed source who was a best friend of the caretaker’s son, was present at the time, working with him on some cars in the barn nearby. He says he clearly remembers the incident like it was yesterday. Corncobs, the bank’s logo, were emblazoned on both front doors of the transport vehicle. The car kicked up quite a cloud of dust as it exited the property.
Farley also had an underground house which he built by himself on the premises, carrying rocks in a canvas sack like a paperboy used, large stones found from all over, using them along with cement provided by Robert Logan to form the supportive structures.
Also a competent rock mason, the multi-talented artist would dig a good-size hole in the ground, pour cement for the floor and build the walls around it with what he brought back from his daily trips around Sarobia.
Once the shell hardened, the jack of all trades filled the void with leaves, twigs and debris, covering the final construction with a canvas; atop which he poured cement around glass bottles that served as a skylight. Once the roof had set, he dug out the inside through an access he had provided prior to the last step, removed the tarp and voila: a room was completed.
From my source’s account, fifteen rooms resulted, built in a maze-like fashion, completely furnished with personal items belonging to Farley.
“How about this?” Jack said during one of our talks about the eccentric artist. “What if Blossom had glued twenty-dollar gold pieces to the bottoms of drawers in the furniture left behind throughout the underground house?”
Well, that’s something we’ll never know unless the bulldozed-over and dirt-filled dwelling is ever excavated and inspected. The architectural masterpiece was closed up as a safety precaution prior to Neshaminy State Park’s opening to the public.
Kids had snuck down into the home and set tires on fire. The glass-covered roofs were beginning to cave in also. As far a Jack knew, the remains still contained furnishings at the time everything was covered over.
I was out there recently and had brought my flashlight this time, taking a look inside. As seen in the photo below, beer cans are mixed in with dirt and sticks at the bottom of an opening down into the underground house, presumably the main entrance.
The beer certainly didn’t belong to Farley, as he had died in 1954, prior to the implementation of aluminum cans and pull-tab tops.
To put a close to this discussion, the gold coins ended up in the possession of a clever, unscrupulous individual with whom the caretakers had consulted about what to do with their discovery.
The housekeeper and caretaker were Germans who had immigrated to the US. During the time the woman found the booty, owning gold was against the law. Being an extremely nervous lady, she didn’t want to be arrested if they were ever investigated for harboring the missing coins.
Their son was friends with a boy who lived downstream on the Delaware River in one of the old riverfront homesteads near Andalusia. The trusted friend’s father was a wealthy accountant who was asked by the caretaker’s wife as to what they should do with their new-found wealth.
Never mentioning that the family could have kept the gold as numismatists, he offered to take the coins off their hands by giving them the face value f0r each, which was $20.00 apiece. Surely they were worth at least ten times that much in the early ’50s.
In her paranoiac state of mind, the housekeeper gladly accepted the offer, thinking she had made a great deal. After all, they hadn’t cost her anything other than the sweat from her brow.
The crafty accountant ended up with quite a treasure trove; assuming minimally, one hundred were in the collection based on the previous description of having completely covered the bottoms of all the dresser drawers where the coins were found glued.
Today, a single $20 Saint-Gaudens, gold, double-eagle coin on ebay sells for up to $1,600.00.
As provided by Robert Logan’s will, the caretaker was given lifetime rights to the gatehouse in which the family lived. After he died, on the day he was buried, the state informed the widow she had ninety days to move out, as the staying-rights were only drawn up for her husband. The house was utilized as the park’s administrative office afterward until a new one was built, at which point the dwelling was demolished.
Having spoken to Jack last week, I asked about the housekeeper’s outcome. He told me she moved in with her daughter and died a short time later.
Thus, this ends the Sarobia story, at least for now; or until I unearth something new. Thanks for stopping by and for your continued support. Happy New Year belated.