March Into Doylestown History This Month

Who is looking forward to warmer weather? We certainly are! It has been a cold, long winter, and we are more than ready to see some green plants pop up once our mounds of snow finally disappear.

As we inch closer to spring, we look forward to catching some programs celebrating Doylestown’s history. The Doylestown Bookshop and Doylestown Historical Society have partnered to put together presentations to be held each Saturday in March at the locally owned independent bookstore.

For a full schedule, you can check the websites of both groups, but here is a small sampling of what will be offered:
— March 7: Hear about Maplewood, a subdivision in Doylestown that sprouted up to accommodate returning WWII vets. It will be an upcoming exhibit at the DHS house.
— March 14: Learn about the legacy of W. Atlee Burpee, the man who founded a garden seed empire and cultivated some hybrid plants that are still popular today.
— March 21: See the celebrated “Tops of the Town” poster produced by Doylestownian Kevin Jameson and hear how it originated.
— March 28: Sing along with Jessie Barth and Lori Rosolowski as they lead a vocal tribute (with a twist!) to noted lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, whose former farm in Doylestown is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

We hope you will take advantage of some of these interesting programs. As always, let us know if we can provide help with any of your lodging needs.

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Coping With the Cold: Some Tips to Help You Through Winter

Brr! As we write this, we’re experiencing frigid winter weather that we haven’t seen around these parts for decades. We awoke to -2 degrees F this morning. We’re in for more snow overnight, and another dosing of the white stuff at the weekend. Spring can’t come soon enough!

We’ve culled some resources on the Internet to help you stay safe and warm during these cold spells. Fill up your mug with whatever hot beverage you choose and give a read to these all-important tips:

The CDC gives you suggestions on how to stay safe and healthy in your home, while traveling and during emergencies.

Since we’ve experienced a number of polar vortexes that are usually confined to the north, what better resource than CBC News to share five tips for keeping warm during a Canadian winter, eh?

Blogger and outdoorsman Michael Lanza shares 12 pro tips on how to stay warm outside during winter weather. (Warming your gloves and boots before you put them on gets our vote for feeling warm and toasty!)

Lastly, readers and editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac offer up some tried-and-true advice on coping with Old Man Winter’s chill. We can personally say we’ve tried the tip about microwaving rice, covering the warm grains with fleece and placing the bundle around your tootsies. Trust us – your feet will thank you as the warmth spreads all around them!

Spring is coming. Keep a positive attitude. Only 32 more days … and we are keeping a day-by-day count!

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How Do I Love Thee? Here Are Some Starters

Reds in every shade and hue seem to surround us right now. It must be because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Thank goodness we like that color!

You can easily pick up a Valentine’s gift for your honey without ever leaving the center of town. Lovely cards – sweet and mushy, or belly-laugh funny – can be purchased from The Paper Unicorn. They’ve got a wide selection of heart-y sentiments from which to choose.

Next stop? How about Nuts Plus? Pick up some sweet treats – chocolate kisses or heart-shaped sugar cookies that have love messages written on them (you Cutie Pie, you!)

Of course, what would the day be without flowers? Head on over to Doylestown Flowers & Gifts. Their bouquets are striking and are almost sure to guarantee a love connection for the sender!

Lastly, make your way over to one of Doylestown’s fine restaurants to keep your sweetie happy. We’re sure many have special menus planned for that special day. In fact, some – like the Knight House and 86 West – supply a complimentary rose and glass of champagne with their meals for lovers on Valentine’s Day.

Even if you plan a quiet night at home, with popcorn and a romantic movie (we’re partial to anything with Hugh Grant in it), cozy up to your darling and enjoy the love. Like The Beatles said: It’s all you need.

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A Michener Tale and Six Degrees of Separation

It’s snowy and rainy and cold outside, and the all-knowing groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, just predicted six more weeks of winter. Brr! On days like these, we just want to curl up with a cup of hot tea and a good book, and wait out the bad weather.

If you’re not aware, Hargrave House has its own small collection of books available for your reading pleasure. In fact, we have a shelf devoted to noted author James Michener, who was reared in Doylestown. One of his high school buddies, W. Lester Trauch, lived at Hargrave House with his family in the 1930s (see our blog dated Nov. 24, 2014). The two men formed a lifelong friendship and kept in touch even when Michener’s post as a lieutenant during World War II took him halfway across the world. It was during this time that Michener wrote what became his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, “Tales of the South Pacific.” Trauch, who was then a court reporter for The Daily Intelligencer in Doylestown, had the distinction of reading a rough draft when Michener asked him to review it.

“He didn’t have the money to have it typed beautifully the way a manuscript should be,” Trauch recalled in an article that appeared in The Morning Call in 1997. “It was written on the back of naval orders and on envelopes. He didn’t have access to paper in the Pacific. A lot of it was typed on both sides of the paper. It was a hodgepodge. After he left, I put the manuscript down and told my mother, ‘If the house catches fire, grab this because it’s irreplaceable.’ “

The book ended up being adapted as a Broadway musical, “South Pacific,” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and later as a Hollywood movie. (Hammerstein has ties to Doylestown as well, living less than a mile away at Highland Farm for 20 years until his death in 1960.)

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Love is in the Air …

In under a week, we’ll be entering February, and you know what that means – only a few weeks until Valentine’s Day! This year, Feb. 14 falls on a Saturday, making the timing of a sweethearts’ weekend getaway to Doylestown nice and leisurely.

Need some ideas for a romantic date? We’ve got some for you. A stop at our neighbor, Cowgirl Chili Co. is in order. Your honey would love a handcrafted heart necklace, or any other jewelry item that jewelry artist Laura creates.

Perhaps creating something special on your own is more to your liking. Right across the street at Paint ‘N Pottery are some adult BYOB craft classes that weekend. Try your hand at fused glass or canvas artwork, bringing your own snacks and beverages to the class.

Don’t forget to visit Raymer’s Homemade Candies. You’ll have trouble figuring out what to choose – salted caramels, rich truffles, chocolate-dipped fruit … Maybe an assortment would be the best choice!

You might need a good dose of relaxation after all that activity. Check out Serenity Day Spa & Wellness Center for their “Couples Retreat” package. The two of you can start off in the Roman steam room or Finnish sauna, move on to a relaxing massage by the fireplace and end the day with pedicures.

Finally, review your busy day over a glass of wine or a heartier spirit at Pag’s Pub and Wine Bar. The lovely atmosphere features a European-style bar, with more than 40 wines from all over the world. The pub has 24 draft beer choices and 50 selections of whiskey, bourbon and scotch available.

Of course, with so much to do around town, you’ll need a romantic place to stay. That’s where we come in. Five of our seven rooms have jetted tubs and fireplaces – a cozy hideaway from the hustle and bustle of life. So make Hargrave House your escape destination during that special lover’s weekend – or any other time you need a dose of romance!

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‘House & Home’ Explored in New Mercer Exhibit

A visit to Doylestown wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Mercer Museum, one of the town’s best attractions. Starting Jan. 24, museum-goers can drop in on a new exhibit, “House & Home.”

Visitors can experience just what the American home represents – from colonial times up to present day – in a series of artifacts, photographs, film clips, construction materials and “please touch” elements. A companion exhibit features items from Henry Mercer’s early investigations into “old houses.”

Also take advantage of a variety of programs that provide more details, including uncovering the life story of your own home, the significance of Levittown and another mid-20th century suburban community, and an insider’s look at several home renovation and building projects in Doylestown Borough.

The exhibit ends March 15. Most programs are included in the museum admission price.

The museum is open daily: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Information: (215) 348-9461 or www.mercermuseum.org.

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Businessman Jonathan Rudolph Turns Property Into Bed and Breakfast

In 2001, businessman Jonathan Rudolph purchased the property at 50 S. Main St. as part of a multi-entity land transfer from the Elfman estate. That purchase allowed for other transactions to occur. The neighboring Elfman house would become home to Doylestown Historical Society. The barn at the rear of the property would eventually house a meeting room and research center. The area between the stone house and barn, later acquired by Doylestown Borough, would be turned into a public park.

With plans to turn the old house into an inn, Rudolph took on a major renovation of what had become a run-down building. Work began in November of 2001. The old frame addition, with uneven ramshackle floors and an enclosed porch, were demolished and removed. The original basement had plaster on earthen walls and a dirt floor. Walls were underpinned with engineered, cantilevered steel beams for a new three-story addition that consisted of six inn rooms and a kitchen.

The original stone house also was gutted, leaving only exterior walls, studs, and hand-hewn beams in the process. During the demolition, workmen stumbled upon an old squirrel’s nest that was hidden behind a wall. In the nest were several buttons from a Civil War uniform. Those buttons are now on loan and displayed at Doylestown’s Civil War Museum on Broad Street.

Work was completed the following year, and in October 2002, Doylestown’s only full-service bed and breakfast opened for business. It was originally called the 1814 House, but subsequently was named the Old Hargrave House.

As 2014 is set to end, our 200-year history lesson comes to a conclusion as well. There has been a lot of activity at 50 S. Main St. over the years. At this point, the future is an open book. We hope you’ll join us as we continue to chronicle the happenings of Hargrave House Bed & Breakfast.

 

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Stone Mason, Then Builder Buy Hargrave House Property

Ten years after the death of stone mason John P. Stilwell and five years after the death of his widow, the estate sold the house and lot to Robert and Anna McKenney for $6,000 in 1935.

The McKenney family lived in Newtown. He was also a stone cutter in the marble yard, working as a mason for about eight years before retiring at the age of 68. While work proceeded at the marble yard behind 50 S. Main St., it is unclear if the house was rented. The 1940 federal census does not list anyone living there.

In 1943, two years prior to Robert McKenney’s death, building contractor John H. Elfman purchased the house and lot at 50 S. Main St. The price tag was $8,800. Our Facebook page has a few views of the building (looking rather shabby) during that year. The photos were taken by James M. Kane, assistant librarian at Bucks County Historical Society. Just eight years before, Elfman purchased the house next door that became his family home. That house is now home to Doylestown Historical Society.

Elfman never lived at what would become Hargrave House, but he served as a landlord and rented out the building. He remodeled the old house. On the first floor, a physician, Dr. Louis F. Hinman, rented office space from 1952 until at least 1964. The upper floors were relegated to apartment space.

When Elfman died in 1983, his widow, Jean, retained title of the house and land. Four years later, the ownership of 50 S. Main St. was transferred to the Elfman’s granddaughter, Holly E. Faus.

Jean Elfman died in 1995 and was buried beside her husband in Doylestown Cemetery. Six years later, the property was sold, bringing us into a new millennium.

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Hargrave House is Home to a Budding Journalist

When stone monument maker John P. Stilwell died in 1928, his wife, Harriet, moved out of the house at 50 S. Main St. and rented the property to the Trauch family. According to the 1930 federal census, Ira E. Trauch, a baker, and his wife, Mary, who worked at a laundry, rented the house for $37 per month.

The oldest son of that family was 23-year-old Lester. He had recently graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown and began working for the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Co. at the edge of town. Later that year, he took at job as a court reporter for the town’s newspaper, The Daily Intelligencer. Trauch, who was nicknamed “Scoop,” would work for that news publication for more than 50 years. He eventually became an associate editor and creator of the popular “Man About Town” column.

While John Stilwell was active in his marble business when he was alive, his wife was an active member of the Doylestown community. She was instrumental in establishing the first Doylestown Emergency Hospital, working for many months on Village Improvement Association committees that steered its opening. She also was busy as a member of Salem Reformed Church, the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the American Legion and the Doylestown branch of the Needlework Guild.

Sadly, both her children preceded her in death. Son Samuel, an assistant district attorney, died of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 34, leaving behind a wife and two children. Then daughter Susanna died in Philadelphia at the age of 43.

In 1934, a year after Harriet Stilwell lost her last child, Harriet died at the age of 77. She had been in ill health for two years, and she died at the home of her daughter-in-law on East Court Street. Her will stated that the house and lot at 50 S. Main St. were to be sold.
The marble business would continue with the next owners, but it would be five years before another sale of the property took place.

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Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrates 100th Anniversary

It’s a beloved tradition that continues at the end of every year in Doylestown.

On the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, adults and children gather at the center of town – the plaza by Starbucks at State and Main streets – to await Santa’s arrival by antique fire truck, heralding the official start to the Christmas season.

Santa then helps the community count down to lighting the beautifully decorated tall evergreen tree chosen to grace the town square for the holidays.

And this year is even more special. It’s the 100th anniversary of the tree-lighting ceremony.

The event takes place between 6 and 7 p.m. Nov. 28. Central Bucks West’s marching band and choir bring their own brand of seasonal music to the family-oriented festivities. The night is sponsored by the Doylestown Business and Community Alliance.

After the lighting, check out the new Christmas Cottage down the street at the Hamilton Street parking lot. A tree crashed through the roof of Santa’s House last winter, causing severe damage. The new version will be unveiled this season.

With snowflake lights already illuminating town byways, our holiday season is ready to head into high gear. Doylestown is a great place to visit any time of the year, but it is especially wonderful during the holiday season. Enjoy it all!

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