NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Historic Association invites everyone inside for its 56th Annual Holiday House Tour on Saturday, December 1.
An anticipated winter tradition, this year’s self-guided walking tour will explore six private residences and six public buildings in the borough.
The tour also includes entry into the Half-Moon Inn, home to the Newtown Historic Association. Once inside this beautifully restored 18th-Century building, tour goers will enjoy period musical entertainment, hearthside colonial cooking demonstrations and refreshments of mulled cider and cheese.
Midway through the tour, respite can be found at several of the borough churches which will be hosting lunches at a reasonable cost. After the tour, dine at one of the restaurants and get a head start on holiday shopping by visiting the shops along State Street.
The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advance tickets at $30 each can be purchased at the Newtown Book & Record Exchange, 102 S. State Street, and on-line at the association’s website, www.newtownhistoric.org/housetour. On the day of the tour, tickets will be sold at the Half-Moon Inn, 105 Court Street and at the Stocking Works, 301 South State Street, Newtown.
In the event of major snow, the tour will be held on Sunday, December 2. Please, no picture taking or high-heeled shoes permitted in the houses.
For additional information, call 215-968-4004. All proceeds from the tour benefit the Newtown Historic Association and its programs dedicated to the preservation of Newtown’s historical heritage.
Garrett B. Girton House (1883) >> 117 S. Congress Street (Owner: June Hilbert). After selling their house on Washington Avenue, Garrett B. Girton’s wife Maria purchased a lot on South Congress Street from Samuel J. Bunting on November 14, 1883. By December 15, 1883, the cellar walls were ready for the frame. An insurance policy purchased by Girton in 1884 noted that the house had a piazza (porch) in front of house 22 feet by 8 feet, vestibule included in piazza. On May 2, 1884 William B. Warner, of Norristown, formerly a resident of Newtown, purchased the house. This is one of three or four very similar houses built by Girton on South Congress (110 and 115) and East Washington Avenues. The houses all have slightly different ornamentation, but all have the central double window in the center of the second floor, bracketed cornices and a vestibule.
Stenton & Congress Hall (1836) >> 35 S. Congress Street (Owner: William & Meg Newell). The Federal style brick house, built in 1836, has been known as Stenton and Congress Hall over the years. The impressive west façade features a semi-elliptical roofed entrance porch with fluted Doric columns which frame a central double louvered door that is surmounted by a wide semi-elliptical fanlight. The central hallway is flanked on the left by a large family room, which was originally two rooms (see the different fireplace surrounds), and on the right by a dining room and front parlor. The original “keeping room” is the oldest of the three sections of the house, dating to 1796. This house was featured extensively in the March 2010 issue of Philadelphia Magazine.
The Parsonage (1864) >> 203 Washington Avenue (Owner: Paul and Jennie Schottmiller). This elegant early Victorian Gothic house was built as a Presbyterian Manse on land willed to the Presbyterian Church and was used for that purpose for 100 years. The Parsonage has remained largely unaltered since that time. Its stately exterior is accented by intricate carpenter’s face and double front doors with leaded glass insets. Retaining most original interior and exterior details, this home’s interior has ten foot ceilings and is highlighted by massive crown moldings and elaborate plaster ceiling medallions. The kitchen has an interesting brick bake oven with the original iron door. Enjoy the views of the beautiful walled patio paved with vintage slates from 19th century Newtown sidewalks.
The Briggs House (1886) >> 319 E. Washington Avenue (Owners: Dr. James Coane and Marty Moss-Coane). This wonderful rusticulated ashlar brownstone reveals embellishments on the eaves reflecting the Japanese influence introduced to American late Victorian styling by the Centennial of 1876 in Chicago. The slate roof has single and double window dormers. As you walk up the path to the home note the large and welcoming wraparound porch and the lovely stained glass windows added by the owners to replace ones that were removed in 1941. You will see several panels reminiscent of the period throughout the house. Look for work by local artists – Bob Beck and David Graham and see Dr. Coane’s collection of musical instruments. See the wide and gracious staircase and exit through the charming and efficient kitchen. The Coanes are only the third owners of this house, quite amazing in a dwelling over 120 years old.
Carver and Stapler Double House (Built c. 1873 to 1874) >> 314 E. Washington Avenue (Owner: Nancy Freudenthal). A construction date of 1873-1874 is suggested by the fact that the January 20, 1874 Doylestown Democrat announced that the western half of a new double house belonging to Carver and Stapler in Newtown (no street given) had been sold. The Newtown Enterprise noted that Thomas Buckman moved to one of Carver & Staplers’ new houses on Washington Avenue and Samuel C. Case moved from State Street to a new house on Washington Avenue in the March 14 and 20, 1874 Newtown Enterprise, respectively. This is a modification of the Second French Empire style of architecture. Instead of a full Mansard Roof with slate siding on all four sides, the builders of this house focused architectural details on the façade. The front of the house boasts dramatic dormers with double round arched windows, heavy molding and brackets and carved gable trim. The slates of the roof are variegated colors and the roof is supported by a bracketed cornice. The roof is actually basically a shed roof with an articulated false front. Each half of the house has a one story projecting bay.
Minno House (2008) >> 428 East Washington Avenue (Owner: David and Susan Minno). This is one of several houses built by Toll Brothers to complement the Victorian period houses on Washington Avenue. These features include a wide cross gable, Victorian style 2/2 windows and a frame entrance porch as well as a one story projecting bay window on the gable end. What separates the look of this house from the original houses of the 1860s is the fact that there are five windows spanning the second floor when the older houses of this similar size and configuration only have three windows.
Newtown Fire Association (Circa 1901) >> 14 Liberty Street. In 1824, the first Newtown area fire brigade was initiated as the Washington Fire Company. This was replaced by the Winona Fire Company and, finally, by the current association in 1889. The present building, erected in 1901, is home to “Old Washy,” a water pumper built in 1796 and a relic of the original company. The style of the building echoes the Colonial Revival style of the older building. Note the arches with ball pendants and the ball finials on the roof above the corbelled cornice trim.
Friends Home and Village Paxson Hall (Built 1897) >> 50 South Congress Street. This Victorian Romanesque structure was built of locally quarried stone by Judge Edward Paxson in honor of his parents, Thomas and Ann Johnson Paxson. It was named Paxson Hall and is located at the Friends Home campus of Friends Home and Village Retirement Community of Newtown. Paxson Hall contains 20 private rooms for residents and this building is the centerpiece of a campus that offers independent living apartments for seventeen additional residents.
The Half Moon Inn/Court Inn (Circa 1733) >> 105 Court Street (Owner: Newtown Historic Association). The Half Moon Inn (Court Inn) is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Newtown. The second floor houses a research center, a double-faced hanging tavern sign painted by Edward Hicks portraying William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians and at Penn’s Landing at Chester, and the Barnsley Room of Newtown History. The Half Moon Inn has served as the headquarters of the Newtown Historic Association since 1962 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tickets for the tour and gift items may be purchased in the Museum Shop.
Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church (Built 1832) >> 100 East Washington Avenue. In 1766 a Parish of the Church of England was established in Newtown, and we know that they had erected a brick building, but that congregation disappeared – perhaps during the War of Independence, when feelings towards anything “English” ran high. The earliest document pertaining to the organization of this parish is a small subscription book begun on June 4, 1832. A total of $1,341 was raised and the work of constructing this brick Gothic Revival church started. In 1885 a frame tower was erected at the front of the church and this tower was replaced in 1904 by the present brick structure. Above the altar is a copy of the 1485 Italian Renaissance sculpture by Andrea Della Robbia, “The Coronation of the Virgin”. It was cast from a first generation copy owned by the Boston Museum for the church’s centennial celebration in 1932. This shows Mary being crowned as Queen of Heaven, supported by angels and surrounded by five saints. On top of the coronation scene there is an arched pediment featuring cherubs. Beneath the main scene are three panels showing the Annunciation on the left, the Nativity on the right and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the center.
Newtown Library Company (Founded 1760, Built 1912) >> 114 East Centre Avenue. (Owner: Newtown Library Company). On display are books bought directly from Benjamin Franklin, a chair owned by William Penn, the original library sign painted by Edward Hicks in 1824 and other library artifacts. A Jonathan Laidacker mural in the Children’s nook is a more recent addition to the library attractions. The Library will be presenting a short video presentation from the Rodgers family that featured their trip to the Christmas Markets in Europe.
The Stocking Works (Originally Built 1889) >> 301 South State Street. (Ticket Sales and Free parking for Tour guests). Ground was broken for a brick knitting mill, two stories high with 20-inch thick brick walls — all for $5,200 — in June 1889. After the tenure of the stocking manufacturer, the building was used by a stained glass company, a bobbin factory and then, during and after World War II, by the Lavelle Aircraft Corporations. Recent years have seen a renovated, creatively developed building emerge that retains the flavor and style of the old, but is updated to provide for today’s needs. The new design has brought gratifying awards as well as being an honored asset to the community.