Topically arranged, this material reflects issues familiar to any homeowner and to those that families such as McIlhenny's could easily afford. While most of the material pertains to McIlhenny's 35-room townhouse on Rittenhouse Square in center city Philadelphia, other family residences are also documented. The family estate, known as Parkgate, was in the Germantown section of the city on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Johnson Street, and showcased the art collection acquired by McIlhenny's father. Several of the "home maintenance and repairs" files that include papers from the 1940s pertain to work done at Parkgate. Of particular note are the window repairs that involved the installation of stained glass in casement windows. The studio of Nicola D'Ascenzo, who also served as an adviser of stained glass to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, did the work. References to Bonnie Wintersteen's homes at 8440 St. Martins Lane in the Chestnut Hill area and in Villanova are also included in the "home maintenance and repairs" files. McIlhenny and his sister sold Parkgate in 1951 to Frederick R. Mann, the City Recreation Commissioner. A public elementary school now occupies the 6340 Wayne Avenue site.
Upon selling the family home, McIlhenny purchased the first of three buildings at 19th Street on Rittenhouse Square, some of which extended back to Manning Street. McIlhenny purchased 1914 Rittenhouse Square in the fall of 1950 and five years later bought building number 1916. In 1972 he purchased number 1912. While the purchase of each building is documented here, most of the material pertains to the renovations McIlhenny made to each, which included the demolition and rebuilding of 1916. Philadelphia architect and personal friend George Roberts oversaw the renovations performed by builders J.S. Cornell & Son. Correspondence documents Roberts's input, while itemized estimates and invoices primarily detail the work of the latter. Estimated at $87,000, the renovations made in 1951 and 1952 to number 1914 alone came to more than $100,000 and included installing a garden fountain in addition to other outdoor work. Also documented in detail is the interior decorating McIlhenny commissioned in the early 1970s. While the Philadelphia firm of George Doan Inc. handled many of the staff offices and living quarters, Denning & Fourcade of New York City, appear to have furnished McIlhenny's private rooms as well as those used by his guests, including the ballroom. Catering to McIlhenny's tastes, both firms made use of antique furniture and decorative pieces, as well as custom-made items, including fabric wall coverings and draperies. Specific commissions of the New York firm include designing two mirror frames based on illustrations from the "Palaces of Leningrad" and purchasing an antique, cane-back chaise percee to be fitted over the modern lavatory. Documentation of McIlhenny's staff, although limited, also suggests his style of living. For example, in the papers regarding his request to hire a non-U.S. resident, McIlhenny points out how almost impossible it is to find a chef or cook in Philadelphia, and that his chef at Glenveagh is most suitable for the job because he has been trained to prepare foods according to McIlhenny's "particular taste and service." The payroll records in the "Financial" series offer additional employee information.
Subject file titles were assigned during processing except for the "Home maintenance and repairs" folders. The folder subtitles within that set also represent original filing, except for the "utilities" folders, which were added during processing and consist of a sampling of invoices.