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

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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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Hargrave’s Business Partner Buys the Property at 50 S. Main St.

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.

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A Property Line Complication Sets New Boundaries

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.

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