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.
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.
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!
John P. Stilwell was born in Philadelphia in 1860. It was said he was a direct descendant of Azariah Stilwell, a Revolutionary patriot and member of Morgan’s New Jersey Rifle Co. At age 17, John Stilwell moved to Doylestown and went to work for Thomas Hargrave.
Stilwell married Harriet L. Biffert. The couple had two children: Susanna and Samuel.
Stilwell bought the house and lot where Hargrave House B & B now stands in 1914. The price tag: $3,800. He had previously been living on Clinton Street with his family. Shortly after the purchase, Stilwell hired a surveyor to determine the property lines of his lot. Interestingly, the surveyor discovered that a portion of a wooden frame addition that had been added to the rear of the original stone house was actually located on the Donnelly property to the north. This was the second time the property line had been questioned. About 30 years earlier, Donnelly acquired a small triangle of land from the Hargraves that increased the frontage of his property. That transaction occurred because a portion of Donnelly’s store may actually have been built on Hargrave property. The price for the small triangle of land remained the same as it had years earlier – $10.
Following Thomas Hargrave’s death, Stilwell became the sole proprietor of the monument business. An advertisement for “John P. Stilwell Marble and Granite Cemetery Work” describes highlights of the business: “Our Designs are New, our Material First-class and our prices Right.” The company grew to be one of the best-known and largest establishments in Bucks County.
Stilwell kept a journal that now resides in Spruance Library. The book lists sales of his monuments from 1903 to 1924. Handwritten in pen and ink, entries show that a typical sale was between $30 and $80 for a marble monument and lettering. Some entries, though, show sales of higher than $500.
The monument maker became one of Doylestown’s most prominent citizens, fostering many progressive projects to improve social conditions. He held membership and board positions with several organizations, including the county board of health, borough council, Doylestown Building and Loan Association, Salem Reformed Church, the Freemasons and the local gas and electric company.
In 1928, Stilwell left his South Main Street home to go to the Strand Theatre uptown. As he was walking, he had a heart attack and died the next morning. He was 68 years old. He left a will instructing that his house and lot be left to his widow. He was buried in Doylestown Cemetery.
After Stilwell died, his widow moved out of the house. Two years later, she rented it to a family whose son eventually grew up to be a well-known journalistic figure around town.
Time to get back to our long and varied history.
While Thomas Hargrave was one of the better-known owners of the property at 50 S. Main St., Thomas’s brother, John, was also an owner for a while. Thomas sold the house and lot to John in 1861 for $600. John made many improvements to the property. About eight years later, John sold it back to his brother’s family – this time with his sister-in-law, Mary, listed as the property owner. The deed was transferred to her in 1869. Payment was $4,500.
The Thomas Hargrave family lived in the house for several more years. The 1880 federal census shows the residents were Thomas (then 71), his much younger second wife Mary (46) and their three daughters: Kate (17), Annie (13), and Mary Jane (11). Both younger girls were in school. The eldest daughter was listed as an apprentice dressmaker. The family had a 29-year-old domestic servant, Jennie Kaisinger, living with them as well.
In the early 1880s, a property line problem arose. Neighbor John Donnelly was a tinsmith, and stove and heater dealer at the intersection of South Main and York (now West Oakland) streets. The Hargrave and Donnelly lots had a frontage on South Main of 50 feet. (Donnelly may have built his store too close to the Hargrave house, resulting in it being on Hargrave property.) The sale of land in 1883 was to clear up any confusion. The price for the small triangle of land: $10. After the sale, the frontage of the Hargrave lot was reduced to 44.8 feet while the frontage of the Donnelly lot was increased to 55.2 feet. It would not be the last time the property line was called into question.
After the death of her husband in 1894, Mary continued to live in her house along with two of her daughters, Kate and Annie. Annie worked as a clerk at a notions store at the turn of the century. Neither daughter married.
Mary was 80 years old at the start of 1914 and had been ill for several weeks. She died of bronchial pneumonia at the end of January and was buried next to her husband in Doylestown Cemetery. In her will, she declared that the house and lot should be sold and any profits be shared equally among her three daughters. Six weeks after the will was probated, the Hargrave sisters sold the property to the man who had been a partner in the monument business with their father – John P. Stilwell.
It’s the time of year where we all get our ghouls on – Halloween! This year, the merchants of Doylestown will be hosting their first ever Spooktacular Parade through town. Young children, and even pooches, are invited to join in on the fun.
The festivities start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. Costumed parade-goers should assemble at the Pine Street parking lot (at the intersection of Pine and East State streets). The parade will go down State Street, turn left onto Main Street and end right next to Hargrave House in the Doylestown Historical Society Park. Costume judging and handing out treats will take place there.
The parade is open to children ages 2 to 10 years and friendly, well-socialized dogs of all ages. Those participating are asked to bring two boxes of character adhesive bandages (such as Batman, Hello Kitty, etc.), which will be donated to the local nonprofit, B-Strong Foundation, for donation to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
The costume categories are funniest child costume, funniest dog costume, most creative child costume, most creative dog costume, and best child-dog team costume. Judges will be Mayor Ron Strouse, Discover Doylestown chairman Ron Martin, Doylestown Fire Company’s fire prevention officer Larry Browne, and cardiologist Dr. Doyle Walton.
Children are welcome to trick or treat in town after the parade, and dogs can visit dog-friendly shops for goodies too! Many businesses will have treats: Booktender’s Secret Garden, Busy Bee Toys, Chapman Gallery, Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown Food Co-op, Fabby Shabby Grab Bag Co., Hunting and Gatherings, In Full Swing Thrift Shop, LAD Hairdressing of Distinction, Life on the Leash, Monkey’s Uncle and Tres Bien Boutique and more.
Also, as long as we’re talking Halloween, don’t forget to stop by the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works this Saturday, Oct. 25, for Pumpkinfest 2014. It’s a great family event that is sponsored by CB Cares and benefits their alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention programs.
While in Philadelphia, Thomas Hargrave was in the marble and granite monument business with his brother, John. John would later become owner of the property. Thomas Hargrave’s son, William, also was in the business partnership with his father. William would continue in the marble business until his death in 1889. At that time, John P. Stillwell because a junior partner, and the firm operated under the name Hargrave & Stillwell.
While Thomas Hargrave owned the property, it is likely he added a two-story addition and porch to the rear of the main stone house. The stone cutting and monument pieces were located at the rear of the house.
Hargrave was 86 when he died in his home shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1894. Hargrave’s obituary notes that he was a staunch Democrat at the end of his life, even though when he came to Doylestown “he was just as strong an opponent of the Democratic party.” Hargrave’s allegiance to the Republican party was questioned just after the Civil War, when one of the leaders challenged his vote on grounds that Hargrave was not naturalized. “The unwarranted proceeding so angered Mr. Hargrave that he never afterward affiliated with that party not voted for any of its candidates. He always was the first man at the polls in the morning thereafter, and the first ballot that went into the box for many years was Mr. Hargrave’s straight Democratic vote.”
Hargrave was still active in the marble business until shortly before his death. For a man who was known for creating lovely and meaningful pieces of memorial sculptures, the monument that sits atop his own grave in Doylestown Cemetery is rather plain.
Visit our Facebook page, Hargrave House B & B, to see what it looks like.
On March 23, 1855, Philadelphian Thomas Hargrave bought the lot and house for $1,600. Hargrave, a marble mason by profession, had come to Doylestown two years earlier to open a second establishment of his large marble monument business. He later became one of Doylestown’s most prominent businessmen.
A native of Leeds in Yorkshire, England, Thomas Hargrave came to America as a young man. An expert marble cutter, Hargrave had no difficulty finding work. One of his first jobs was constructing ornaments for the building at Girard College in Philadelphia. He established his first marble business, said to be the largest in the city, at 13th Street and Ridge Avenue. Historical records indicate he displayed some of his marble sculptures in the 1847 Exhibition of American Manufactures at Franklin Institute. It featured a monument base and die with a figure of an infant in a sleeping pose. Two lambs were part of the piece, and the Italian marble headstone had a carved wreath of flowers, enclosing a name in raised letters. Documents of the exhibition describe the work as “well done” and worthy of the fine art label. Many of his most handsome monuments were erected in Laurel Hill Cemetery, a noted garden cemetery in the East Falls section of the city. Laurel Hill was also where a former owner of Hargrave House, Margaret Kripps, is buried.
Hargrave was married twice, with his second wife being much younger than he was. After their marriage in 1860, Mary Deschamps Hargrave gave birth to three daughters: Kate, Annie and Mary Jane. The federal census of 1870 notes that the Hargrave family lived on South Main Street in Doylestown. Hargrave was 60 years old and a marble mason by occupation.
More on Hargrave’s activities in our next installment.
In 1815, Judge William Watts purchased the house and lot for $1,000 and a swap of two other lots. Watts – a prothonotary, clerk of quarter sessions and associate judge for Bucks County – moved to Doylestown from Southampton when the new county seat was established here.
Dr. Thomas N. Meredith bought the property in 1819 for $1,500. Born in Doylestown, Dr. Meredith was a physician, as was his father. He married Rachel Burson nine years earlier and they eventually had 11 children. Historical research indicates he must have had some kind of financial problems, since in 1823 the court of common pleas issued a writ of execution against Dr. Meredith for failing to pay almost $2,000 in debts owed to Robert Jamison. He tried selling his house to pay off the debt, but was unable to do so. Later that year, the house was sold at a sheriff’s sale to Margaret Kripps of Philadelphia.
Kripps was the highest bidder on the property, buying the house and lot for $601. She was also a woman buyer, certainly not a common occurrence in the 1800s. She owned the house for more than 30 years, but there is no indication that she lived in it. She was single and lived her whole live in Philadelphia. Most likely she maintained landlord status and rented out the property.
When Kripps bought the property, it was still part of Doylestown Township. (The borough didn’t become established until 1838, when it incorporated.) As an interesting aside, township tax records showed that a year after she bought the property (1824), the value was worth $601 and a tax of 20 cents was levied. Later, in 1848, tax records show the value of the house and lot were worth $900, and Kripps paid a county tax of $1.40 and a state tax of $2.70.
In 1852, two years before she died, Kripps sold the house and one-quarter acre lot on South Main Street to William T. Eisenhart for $900. Eisenhart was a tailor, working in Allentown, Philadelphia, Reading and Pittsburgh before coming to Doylestown. It’s not clear if he ever lived in the house, but he opened his own business on South Main Street. He ran the tailor shop for about 13 years until he began to grow flowers and operate a truck farm. He only owned the house for about three years before he sold the property.
We’ll discuss the next property owner – one from whom Hargrave House takes its name – during the next installment of our history.
As we said in our last blog installment on the 200-year history of Hargrave House, the new county seat took its place at the crossroads in 1813. In January of that year, William Magill sold a portion of his property – Lot E – to David Carr Jr. The transaction was for $310. That lot was a quarter of an acre of land and part of the original Magill farm. Our historical research determined that Carr built the stone house that now hosts our bed and breakfast. After it was completed, he sold the building and property, unlikely that he had ever lived in the house.
The three-story structure was built in the Georgian style of colonial homes. The building was a simple box with side gables and windows in strict symmetry along with a center door – common at the time. Double-hung windows on the first and third floor had 6-over-6 panes, while the arrangement of the second-floor window panes were 9 over 6. As was typical, the upper windows touched the cornice. The roof was a hand-split, pine shingle roof, and the thick, stone walls were covered with stucco. Later additions included a small porch roof along the entire front of the house and a two-story wood frame rear addition. In the early part of the 20th century, the wooden shingled roof was covered with standing seam tin. (Town officials encouraged this action among homeowners after a 1914 fire storm caused several homes to burn.)