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.)
There is plenty of history behind what is now Hargrave House. And it began with William Penn, who asked England’s King Charles II for land in America as payment for a debt owed to his deceased father. The king granted him 40,000 acres in 1681, which eventually became known as Pennsylvania.
Eleven years later, Penn sailed to America and decided, as a way of enticing people to emigrate here, to offer land at a cheap price – 100 pounds ($166 in today’s U.S. dollars) would buy you 5,000 acres. During that trip, he established both Bucks and Philadelphia counties. He also made a treaty with the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians who are also native to our area.
Realizing the massive amount of land he owned was too large to manage alone, Penn sold about 20,000 acres to The Free Society of Traders, a wealthy group of Quaker merchants in England. The Society had offices in Philadelphia too, close to the Delaware River, in an area that later become known as Society Hill.
In 1724, The Society sold large tracts of land to Jeremiah Langhorne. Nearly half of his land was located in what is now Central Bucks County – Doylestown, New Britain and Warwick townships, to be exact. We’ll talk about that a little more in our next blog about Hargrave House’s history.
Doylestown is a treasure box filled with all kinds of interesting historical nuggets. We stumble on them now and again as we look into Hargrave House’s past and celebrate its 200th year at what is now 50 S. Main St.
J. Kurt Spence of Doylestown Historical Society pieced together our 200-year history through various sources. It’s much like detective work. One lead points the way to another. Property deeds, found in the Bucks County Courthouse, show land transfers, with some going back to the late 1700s. The records give the names and addresses of the buyers and sellers, description of the property and the purchase price. Sometimes maps were even attached.
Federal census information – gathered every 10 years since 1790 – is also culled. Where you were born, if you immigrated to the United States, when you were married, your occupation and your approximate personal worth were all recorded. (One of those curious historical tidbits from the 1930 census even notes whether a resident owned a radio!)
Other particulars came from old maps, tax records, newspapers, books, local publications, and, yes, the Internet also was used as a research tool.
Spence also credited the late Wilma Brown Rezer, an avid Doylestown historian, for providing firm groundwork in researching early Doylestown land transfers and history.
In the upcoming months, we’ll let you in on some more HH history – who some of its owners were, problems with a property line and renovations along the way. It’s a fascinating trip through time.
This year is an important year in Hargrave House’s history. We’re celebrating the building’s 200th anniversary!
According to historical research, the three-story stone building was erected sometime between 1812 and 1814. The house itself has had several owners with varied professions during that time period, including a doctor, a Bucks County judge, a family whose young son would grow up to be a noted Doylestown reporter, and a successful marble carver whose surname has graced the building in its most recent existence as a flourishing bed and breakfast.
Join us over the course of 2014 as we share some of what we’ve learned of our past and what that means to our future in Doylestown. We’re looking forward to having you celebrate with us!