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.
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.
Like games of strategy? Then come on out to Doylestown’s First Saturday Chess. You could learn a few moves while having loads of fun, too!
During summer months, the event is held right next door to Hargrave House in the pocket park behind Doylestown Historical Society. Pop in anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month (Aug. 3 is the next one). Chess sets are even provided. And it’s free and open to all ages.
If you’re a fan of cinema, you definitely should check out this year’s offerings of the New Hope Film Festival. It’s running now through July 21, and there are even a few Doylestown connections.
In its fourth year, this year’s festival boasts a record 108 entries from 17 countries … and a documentary from Antarctica, to boot! According to D. F. Whipple, chairman and CEO of the festival, the goal is to provide an outlet “to nurture filmmakers who have been overlooked or underappreciated in other channels.” That said, with that many selections, there’s bound to be something for everyone’s tastes.
Most of the films will be shown at the New Hope Arts Center at Stockton and Bridge streets in New Hope, but four will be shown Tuesday, July 16, at The County Theater here in town. The headliner is “Pechorin,” a Russian cinematic piece based on Mikhail Lermontov’s classic Russian novel, “A Hero of Our Time.” The movie took Best Feature Film honors at the 2012 London Film Awards. You can visit The County Theater online for a synopsis and to view the trailer. The evening also will include the short “Saving Bella” by Doylestown-native Alyssa Achuff, which focuses on the friendship between an 80-year-old dementia patient and her 6-year-old granddaughter.
On July 21, history buffs can view the documentary “Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer” at New Hope Arts Center. William Edgar Geil was the first man to traverse the length of the Great Wall of China and chronicle his journey in the early 1900s, becoming somewhat of an expert on the subject albeit almost unknown in his hometown. A trailer for the film is posted on the website of the Doylestown Historical Society, which houses the William Edgar Geil Collection.
“Dr. William Edgar Geil (1865-1925) Doylestown’s Evangelical World Explorer”
On Thursday, May 28, the Doylestown Historical Society will hold a private opening of an exhibition on the life and work of Dr. William Edgar Geil, a Doylestonian, who explored China, Africa, the Holy Land, and other far-off places. He wrote nine books about his travels and lectured widely in America, England, and Australia. In 1908 was the first person to traverse the Great Wall of China, an 82-day history-making event. In 1912 he and his wife built a large, 30-room concrete mansion about a mile south of Doylestown on Route 611 with a Chinese pagoda behind it. He visited China four times. In Africa he lived among pygmies and cannibals.
The exhibition will be open to the public beginning Saturday, May 30 – Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
The Opening will feature a keynote by William Lindesay, founder of “The Friends of the Great Wall,” speaking from Beijing, and in person his staff member Piao, who will bring greetings to the Society.
Professor Arthur Waldron, University of Pennsylvania, prominent China specialist, will also be a speaker.
The exhibition was curated over several months by Marilyn Gustafson Arbor, daughter of Walter R. Gustafson, a local rare book dealer, who preserved Geil’s collection of papers and memorabilia for more than forty years. In 2008 Gustafson’s heirs donated the collection to the Society.
The Society is located at 56 South Main Street, Doylestown. Telephone: (215) 345-9430. Soylestown Historical Society web site can be found here.
Coming to town for this amazing exhibit? Stay with us.
Have you ever heard of Dr. William Edgar Geil? If you haven’t, you are missing out on learning about a fascinating life. One of the amazing things he did was be one of the first individuals to transverse the ENTIRE Great Wall of China.
Here is a link to a New York times article written about him.
His extrodinary life will be on display at the Doylestown Historical Society starting Sat. May 30th, and running every Saturday from 10 – 4. Or, if you can’t make it during this times, visits are welcomed through appointment.
After Geil’s widow died and 1959, the collection was auctioned to a rare books dealer in our area , Walter Gustafson, who also persevered it and left it to his heirs. In 2007 , they decided to donate the collection to our Society in accordance with his wishes to maintain it- and in his memory. Doylestown Historical Society‘s historian Tim Adamsky then discovered on-line “The International Friends of the Great Wall,” and contacted its founder , Wm. Lidesay, a Brit living in Beijing.
In June 2008, Lindesay came to Doylestown for a week to see where Geil had lived. The Doylestown Historical Society lent him the Chinese part of the collection to display in Beijing’s Imperial Museum this fall. See his attached article in China Daily.
The Doylestown Historical Society is now doing an exhibition on Geil curated by Marilyn Arbor , an accomplished curator -as well as a loving daughter of Walter Gustafson.