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Front of farmhouse, below, after additions with two automobiles parked in drive, 1941. Virginia Werden. Photograph Collection. Barnes Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, PA

Fidèle’s House … Forever Green Kirsten Werner, Natural Lands

When I looked out the window at Ker-Feal this morning, God went over the head of all artists in my estimation: He had made a picture of wide fields and luscious hills covered with an immaculate white; and holding the fields and hills together in the composition was a beautiful network of white lines made up of lacy patterns of branches of trees and twigs of bushes. ~ Letter from Albert C. Barnes to Mrs. Owen J. Roberts, March 30, 1942


OST PEOPLE WHO KNOW OF ALBERT BARNES think of the extraordinary art collection he left in trust for the public, first at his Lower Merion home and then later moved to a modern museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The world-class collection includes over 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and so much more. But few know about another residence in Chester County, home to a different type of collection. Here’s a short version of that story. BARNES’S EARLY YEARS The son of a Philadelphia letter carrier, Albert C. Barnes grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Kensington, and later in a slum area known as “the Neck.” Excelling in academics, he went on to earn a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and then traveled to Germany to study chemistry. 28

County Lines | February 2019 |

At 30, he went into business with fellow chemist Herman Hille. Together, they created Argyrol, a silver nitrate compound that was used to treat ophthalmic infections and to prevent newborn infant blindness caused by gonorrhea. Barnes’s fortune grew when he sold the A.C. Barnes Company, which trademarked Argyrol, just three months before the stock market crash of 1929. Dr. Barnes used some of the proceeds from the Argyrol sale to amass the priceless art collection he displayed in Merion, Montgomery County, known as The Barnes Foundation. This collection was relocated to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia in 2012 where it is displayed in the same “wall ensembles”—mixing paintings with metal work and other objects—as Barnes created in Merion. KER-FEAL Dr. Barnes and his wife, Laura Leggett Barnes, acquired an 18thcentury farmhouse in Chester Springs, Chester County in 1940

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