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.
We have so many wonderful little shops around town – anything you can imagine, really. And we’ve got one as a new neighbor, right around the corner from us, to which we’d like to extend a heartfelt welcome. Cowgirl Chile Co. Jewelry just relocated to 4 W. Oakland Ave. Laura Rutkowski handcrafts her own designs of jewelry, but you’ll also find an eclectic mix of women’s accessories, vintage items, artwork, hot sauces and lots of other cool stuff. Stop by their grand reopening this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for some goodie bags and live music. Your own zest for life may just mirror the boutique’s own celebration of cowgirl spirit.
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!
The holidays are past us. Perhaps you’ve just put away the last of the Christmas decorations. Time to settle in to what could be a few long and cold winter months. (We don’t even want to HEAR an utterance of the recent polar vortex weather oddity!) A good way to chase away those winter blues would be a visit to Michener Museum’s exhibit on actress-princess Grace Kelly. If you haven’t yet gone, you better hurry. The exhibit closes Jan. 26. Step through a portion of her world via film clips from some of her best onscreen roles, home movies from her growing-up years in Philadelphia and, of course, those spectacular designer gowns she wore. (Don’t we all wish for a 21-inch waist?) Call ahead for tickets.
December happens to be one of our favorite months here at Hargrave House. Doylestown is all gussied up for the holidays – from the stately Christmas tree set up in Starbucks’ parking lot at State and Main, to the snowflake ornaments adorning streetlamps, to the larger-than-life dreidel at Hamilton and State streets. It’s just so pretty to walk through town! We also love the long-standing tradition Mercer and Michener museums have of jointly hosting their holiday open houses on the same night. Make sure you set aside a few hours Tuesday evening, Dec. 10, to sample some of their seasonal spirit and maybe check out a few things you’ve never seen at the two cultural institutions. It runs from 7 to 9 p.m. And don’t forget to throw an evergreen branch into the bonfire near Mercer’s log cabin as part of the annual “burning of the greens.” The symbolic gesture allows you to “wish your troubles away” in hopes of a better new year to come – a perfectly pleasant idea!
Have you gotten your tickets yet for the Grace Kelly exhibit at Michener Art Museum? Don’t delay. We hear they’re selling fast and furiously. “From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly – Beyond the Icon” opens Monday. The art museum, celebrating 25 years, will be closed to the public Saturday and Sunday while it gets ready. (There is a special members-only reception on Sunday.)
The museum also has additional programming to complement its exhibition, some with advance registration. “Adorning Grace: Jewelry Fit for a Princess” will be held Nov. 3 and include talks, demos and displays. On Nov. 7, join the lecture series for “Grace Kelly: Beyond the Icon.” And on Nov. 12, the curator’s lecture will focus on Bucks County Playhouse, which is celebrating its 75th year and where Kelly made her stage debut. BCP is the subject of another exhibit opening at Michener the same day.
We’ve also noticed some of the businesses in town have caught Grace Kelly fever. Cowgirl Chile Co. Jewelry’s display window features the many faces of the beautiful 1950s actress. Across the street, L.A.D. & Co. Hairdressing of Distinction offers Grace Kelly cuts. And The County Theater on Nov. 13 plans a 3-D showing of Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder.” It’s part of their “Grace Kelly & Hitch Series.”
So, make your plans to visit – the exhibit runs through Jan. 26 – and keep us in mind for your overnight stay.
All set for the Labor Day weekend? We are, though it’s hard to believe that summer has flown by so quickly! Still, even though it might be the unofficial end, there are plenty of fun things going on around town that will keep you busy.
What’s the next fun thing? How about the Doylestown Arts Festival? It’s a week earlier this year – scheduled for Sept. 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s the biggest festival of the year, with lots of visiting craft artisans, musicians, and food and drink to fortify you as you walk around.
Not into the whole arts scene? Not to worry. Stop by Sunday and you can watch the inaugural Thompson Bucks County Classic, a New Hope to Doylestown bike race featuring 150 professional cyclists. Riders hit the finish line at West Court and Main streets between 2:30 and 3 p.m.
Need more fun? Visit the Polish-American Family Festival and Country Fair nearby at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. You’ll get rides, crafts, dancing, historical re-enacters, Polish food and more. It’s the last of two weekends, running from noon to 8 p.m. both days.
Whew! All that fun is tiring!
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.