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      OLD BUCKS COUNTY INNS AND TAVERNS whitw logo
BY KATHLEEN ZINGARO CLARK
What do dinosaur bones, underground tunnels, and skeletal remains have in common? All were found bobbing around in a stew of surprises that surfaced while I researched the history of Bucks County’s inns & taverns.

Finding colorful characters and stop-you-in-your tracks stories would be a delight for any researcher with a sociological bent.  But villainous outlaws gunned down in shoot-outs, well-patronized brothels, and illegal moonshine were decidedly not subjects I expected to find while exploring Bucks County’s past.  Such is the stuff of film and fantasy, not a region that had been agricultural for most of its existence. 

The early days, dotted with the progressive developments of pioneering, canal building and stage travel gave rise to public houses, taverns, and stagecoach stops.  Virtually interchangeable, these establishments provided shelter, sustenance and surroundings full of news and camaraderie for those who ventured by choice or trade into the wilderness.

These brave souls encountered the likes of proprietor Madge “Big Mac” Featherstone, a three-hundred pound brawler, who reportedly whipped her patrons into good behavior, and Samuel Runk, an irascible tenant tavern-keeper who retaliated against his cheapskate landlord by creating a mocking tavern name which he streaked in pitch tar onto a dilapidated shutter and suspended as his outdoor advertising sign.

Tuscany in New Hope, PA as seen in American Public House Review
TUSCANY IN NEW HOPE

We’ll never know how many canal boatmen took their respite at New Hope’s legendary “Bucket of Blood” (now Tuscany) which was conveniently located next to a brothel.  Nor will we ever know the patrons who assisted escaping northbound slaves hidden in hollows at the Bucket or at Yardley’s Continental Tavern, but snatches of lore remain for us to ponder.

During the Revolution, numerous Bucks County establishments saw action of one form or another.  Prisoner soldiers were held overnight at the Bucksville House, for example, and General Washington reportedly dined at Taylorsville’s Old Ferry Inn before his successful Battle of Trenton.  His men, on the other hand, surely in rule-breaking mode, are said to have taken libations at the Red Lion Inn in Bensalem. 

Following the war, officers found easy tavern license approval and subsequently were among our earliest community leaders.  Their establishments had transitioned through years of multi-purposing, having provided shelter and food for the traveler, in addition to serving as gathering spots for community and municipal purposes.  While traveling songsters, musicians and other erstwhile entertainers made good use of the early tavern, tax collection, elections, and even dog licensing would come to take place there.


Do you appreciate the taste of a good birch beer?  McCoole’s in Quakertown, one of five early hostelries established between Philadelphia and Bethlehem on “the Pike,” reportedly served a famous “secret formula” drink in colonial times believed to be the forerunner. Think violent criminals are an element of modern times?  Tell that to the 18th century victim of murder whose remains were found a century later bricked up inside a hidden chimney flue of a former Springtown Tavern. Know what happened to the massive vertebrae fossil embedded in a wall near Wrightstown’s now gone Anchor Inn in the early 1700s?  Tell me, please.

Many of Bucks County’s early watering holes have not only survived, but like McCoole’s Red Lion, thrive. Some have become landmarks, such as Newtown’s Brick Hotel, while others, Springtown and Carversville Inns come to mind, have become known for their reliable fare and warm cozy ambiance.






Settled first, some of the oldest establishments can be found in Lower Bucks.  Langhorne Hotel and Bristol’s King George II Inn, for example, have served the public and presided over traveler’s comings and goings for at least three hundred years. Others in the county, such as the Hulmeville Inn, the Finland Inn, and the ever popular Pineville Tavern, continue to serve locals in the old tradition. Whether hosting community sports teams, keeping the glow of neon beer signs, or serving home-made favorites, such old-style establishments continue to attract those who find comfort in the familiar. 

Destination places, such as Kintnersville’s Cascade Lodge, established as a resort in 1939, and the Spinnerstown Hotel, near the Quakertown turnpike exit, today attract patrons seeking something special. The Cascade, for example, provides fine fireside dining, picturesque country views, and table-side preparation of fresh rainbow trout scooped up from their underground springs.  Spinnerstown Hotel and Restaurant, meanwhile, offers Meet the Brewer events, 13 beers on tap, and a full menu that ranges from unique appetizers to home-made deserts.

Fortunately preservationists and history lovers abound across Bucks County, helping to maintain the sense of place modern day travelers seek.  In addition to the taverns and restaurants mentioned, the county has many charming Bed and Breakfasts. Bensalem’sSalem CreeksideInn and the Bucksville House in Upper Bucks are two original colonial inns that have been reborn to provide guests a comfortable get-away in distinctive surroundings.
 
Nostalgia lovers may understandably wish places like Pt. Pleasant’s Gobbler’s or Penndel’s Flannery’s were still around, but we can thank the enterprising souls in our midst that other notable Bucks County’s establishments will rise again and enhance Bucks County’s reputation as a special place to live and visit. Odette’s in New Hope, the historic Black Bass Inn in Lumberville, and the Elephant Hotel in Bedminster all plan to reopen their doors following significant renovation or restoration.

Not surprisingly, the historic county of Bucks may have one of the largest concentrations of old inns and taverns in the country.  While many have become private homes or enterprises, a large number have stayed true to their roots, remaining community gathering places and fulfillment stops for those with a hunger to fix or a thirst to quench. 



Kathleen Zingaro Clark© - Author of Bucks County Inns and Taverns, 2008

To learn more about this subject, signed copies of Bucks County Inns and Taverns are available from the author at

 www.HistoriaProductions.com.
  

Copies are also available at local bookstores and gift shops.


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