NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Historic Association celebrates the beauty of the season by opening the doors to seven private homes and five public buildings.
Now in its 57th year, the Newtown Holiday House Tour takes place on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Presented as a fundraiser for the Newtown Historic Association, the tour will give visitors the opportunity to peek inside several of Newtown’s unique private residences, all dressed for the holidays.
The streets of the borough will be alive with the sounds of the season as tour-goers make their way to the seven homes on this year’s tour. Besides the private homes, there will be several public buildings open for visitors. All sites are within easy walking distance from the town center.
The $30 cost of a tour ticket 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.
Advance tickets can be purchased at Newtown Book & Record Exchange, 102 S. State Street and on-line at the Association’s website, www.newtownhistoric.org/housetour. On tour day, tickets can be purchased 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 8.
Photography and high-heeled shoes will not be permitted inside the houses.
For additional information, call the Newtown Historic Association at 215-968-4004. Proceeds will benefit the Newtown Historic Association and its programs dedicated to the preservation of Newtown’s historical heritage.
Featured on this year’s tour are the following homes:
Chantry House (1885), 319 Centre Avenue
Owned by David and Sandra Chantry, this late 19th century Victorian wears a wonderful paint scheme adapted from historic colors in the Roger Moss book “Victorian Exterior Decoration”. The gable walls have fish scale design and the south façade gable has a decorated brace. As you enter, notice the handsome stairway. All the painted interior woodwork is original to the house. Note the pocket door and red oak floors accented with black walnut and white oak strips. The kitchen and sunroom were designed by the then owners, John P. and Susan Clarke, and added in 1986 with the kitchen updated in 2003. The home is decorated with a midcentury feel with built in bookcases in the library and a china cabinet in the parlor, designed and built by the owner. Also featured in the playful, colorful décor are collections of vintage china as well as needle art and painted furniture created by the owners.
Bancroft House (Circa 1924), 541 E. Centre Avenue
While expanded at a later date, this house owned by Ernest and Rebecca Bancroft began its existence as an American Foursquare style house that appears to date from the first decades of the twentieth century. The American Foursquare House was, as the name suggests, a roughly square building. They were topped with a pyramidal or hip roof. The roof was punctured by dormers on the slopes to provide light in the upper level of the house. Like many of these houses, this house has different exterior finishes on the first and second floor. The first floor has traditional horizontal siding while the second floor has variegated shingle siding. The house is currently flanked with hip roof wings and the façade now has a wrap around, hip roof, porch. This house has had extensive renovations by the owners over the past two years expanding the house greatly.
Francis Murray House (1770), 35 Court Street
Owned by Charles and Stacey Bancroft, the imposing pre-revolutionary home built by Benard Taylor was considered to be the most “elegant mansion” of its time. This stuccoed colonial period house dates to Bernard Taylor’s ownership after 1770. In 1790 the house was purchased by General Francis Murray who was a major in a Pennsylvania regiment in the Continental army, and whose commission was signed by John Hancock. The main block of the house is four bays wide with a Federal style doorway protected by an entrance porch in one of the middle bays. The house is crowned by a projecting heavy cornice supported by paired brackets and two gable room dormers. The house renovation by local builder, Michael Hutchinson began in 2007 and completed in 2008. The front rooms (living room, dining room and sitting room) remained intact with only cosmetic changes. The back of the house received a major addition that included the kitchen and family room. The house also received a new porch on the side which was an original feature from 1770. The living room and dining room originally had doors which became windows sometime in the 1920's - presumably during the depression era. The windows were removed and doors were added on to the porch. The kitchen was originally the dining room and was fully renovated in 2007.
VanArtsdalen House (1866), 109 North State Street
Owned by Richard and Dawn Wyatt, this house was was built by John Firman in 1866 for Mary VanArtsdalen of Upper Makefield for $3,950. It is a classic example of Newtown’s Victorian Gothic influenced vernacular architecture. The style is defined by the presence of a wide central cross gable with a central pointed gothic window providing additional space on the third floor. This house has a substantial projecting cornice supported by paired brackets. The cornice brackets are replicated on a smaller scale on the cornice of the entrance porch. The brackets provide a counterpoint to the Greek Revival square columns and dentil frieze elements of the porch.
Thomas VanArtsdalen House (1881), 414 E. Washington Avenue
Like many houses in Newtown, this house was built by Garret B. Girton. He began construction of the house in December, 1881 on a lot he purchased in his wife’s name from Watson and Buckman. Girton occupied the house himself for a short time. He moved in March 1882 and sold it to Thomas M. Vanartsdalen of Northampton Township in September. The Newtown Enterprise noted that Girton would commence building a house on adjoining lot (now 418 Washington). In form, this house resembles several other houses Girton built at 418 Washington Avenue and on South Congress Street. They all have an atypical double window in the central bay of the second floor. Each has a projected bay that encompasses the main entrance. The roof of this house is a hip roof punctured at the eaves with gable dormers. The front dormer with its solid bargeboard trim and variegated gable design highlights the house. The house has a traditional Victorian period front porch with decorative cut out spandrels at the top of the columns and a bracketed cornice. The house is owned by Josh and Emily Phillips.
Twyning House (1834), 113 Penn Street
Built in 1834 by Stephen Twyning (Twining) for his bride Sarah, this home at that time had three bedrooms, a front parlor, a back kitchen/great room with a walk-in fireplace and bake oven, and a ten-foot by twenty-five foot front piazza on the east end. In 1898 Thomas Gumpper purchased the property and added an east wing which replaced the old piazza and consisted of two bedrooms and bath upstairs and a dining room and “modern” kitchen downstairs. Mr. Gumpper also added a magnificent Victorian porch, but this was removed by later owners. The present owners added a kitchen/breakfast room renovation in 2013. They completely gutted both rooms and installed new appliances and a long island. To do so, they had to cover over the basement stairs and do structural work to remove a wall so that the island is accessible from both sides. The house is owned by Doug and Susan Turner.
Robert Pidcock House (1888), 422 E. Washington Avenue
Owned by Richard and Lynne LaBerge, this house was one of several similar structures built by Newtown’s master builder Garret B. Girton in 1888 on a lot purchased from Watson & Buckman. The house is a three bay wide house with a central entrance. The entrance has a projecting bay with double doors. There is wide front porch supported by square columns connected by arched spandrels. The majority of the windows are narrow, 2/2 sash. The exception is the twin narrow 1/1 windows situated directly above the entrance bay. This feature (as well as the entrance bay) is found on the house two doors down (N. 414) and on several houses Girton built about this same time on South Congress St. The house is crowned by a projecting cornice supported by curved brackets.
Also on the tour are the following public buildings:
Newtown United Methodist Church
Built 1896 at 35 Liberty Street. The Newtown United Methodist Church began as a “station” on the circuit out of Bristol. The traveling preacher would stop and hold services twice a month. By 1840, the Newtown United Methodist Church had a membership of 22 women and 11 men and was named as a regular preaching appointment. Services were held for a time in the “Free Meeting House” (now the Newtown Theatre). At the June 4, 1842 Quarterly Conference, a committee was appointed to look into the matter of erecting a house of worship. In 1846, the building now known as Wesley Hall (named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement) was built at 35 Liberty Street as the original church. The architecture and design of the interior was very simple and plain, in part, because of the Quaker influence.
By 1896, the congregation had outgrown the original building and the present sanctuary was erected. It was dedicated on Sunday, November 22, 1896 on the corner of Liberty and Greene Streets. The present church is essentially the same as it was in 1896, and the stained glass windows are the originals placed in the church at the time of its erection.
The Half Moon Inn (Court Inn)
Circa 1733 at 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 south portion of the Half Moon Inn (Court Inn) was the original cottage of Margaret and Joseph Thornton built in the 1730’s. The large cooking fireplace with bake oven opening in the east jamb and hand-hewn exposed framing members are the original remaining evidence of this early one and one-half story frame building. Joseph Thornton built the Half Moon Inn in 1733 as a tavern. It was a popular gathering place during court sessions when Newtown was the County Seat (1725-1813). The south portion serves as the reception area for the Court Inn and as multipurpose room. 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.
Newtown Fire Association
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 tour will feature two new additions to the Newtown Fire Association. 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. On the south side of the building is a newly built display area for various pieces of equipment. This was just completed in the fall of 2008. Please note the arches doorways on the north side of the building also just finished in 2008. Newtown Fire Association took delivery of a new 2008 Pierce Velocity Ladder Fire Truck at the end of September 2008.
Newtown Library Company
Newtown Library Company (Founded 1760, Built 1912), 114 East Centre Avenue. Owner: Newtown Library Company. This Colonial Revival brick building features a front gable with a broken pediment and large cornice modillions. A fanlight is set above the front entrance flanked by massive pilasters. The front door is surmounted by an elliptical fanlight and flanked by sidelights. The third oldest library in Pennsylvania was founded in 1760 and incorporated on March 27, 1789. The collection of books was kept at the homes of the librarians until after the county seat was moved to Doylestown in 1813. At that time, the books were housed in various buildings until 1912 when the Company dedicated this building. The 1979 addition allowed for the expansion of the library’s collection with dual level stacks. The Library is staffed by 30 volunteers and is open over 45 hours per week. Newtown Library invites the community to join in on our many programs and events. 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
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.