New Hope's 1870 Wedgwood Inn - An Inn for All Seasons

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Bucks County Town & Country Living
Winter 2001/02

Aaron Burr House

This New Hope Victorian B&B built on the foundation of an older home in 1860 has a history going back to the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton
by Joanna Wilson

Today, the Aaron Burr House in New Hope is a thriving Victorian inn replete with antique furnishings, lofty windows, and lustrous black walnut floors and trim. In 1804 it provided a one-week haven for Vice President Aaron Burr, who as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army, had bivouacked here. Burr hid from his enemies' trumped up charge of murder following his duel with Alexander Hamilton. Ultimately exonerated, he lived a full life and died at eighty. Many say his ghost lives on in this house.

An historical jewel, this two and one-half story Dutch clapboard was brought back to life in 1990 by veteran innkeepers, Carl and Nadine (Dinie) Glassman. It was the latest addition to their Wedgwood Collection of Historic Inns, which also includes the Wedgwood Inn and the Umpleby House. All three stand within a few blocks of one another.

The original Burr House is datelined-1860. But it was built anonymously on a foundation dating to colonial times. Across the road, between Bridge and Ferry Streets, explained Carl, whose contagiou_ interest in New Hope history never falters, is where General Washington divided his Continental Armyhalf would cross the Delaware River and the other half would bivouac at Washington Crossing. "It was called Flat Iron Triangle," he said. "A flat iron cannon stood on the spot, ready to fire if the Hessians crossed the bridge." A large rock now replaces that cannon.

Always interested in historic preservation, Carl and Dinie were in their late twenties when they left the workaday rat race (Carl is a licensed realtor and management consultant; Dinie had a career in social work administration) to pursue a dream. Carl saId with a chuckle, "We started out with a business plan on the back of an envelope. We didn't have a clue!"

Dinie took a job as front desk manager at an Upper Bucks hotel to gain experience; Carl continued at his regular job. When guests preferred the intimacy of a small inn rather the sterile accommodations of a motel/hotel complex, she referred them to the Logan Inn or the 1740 House. They became friends with Logan Inn owners, Carl Lutz and Arthur Sanders and Harry Nessler, proprietor of Lumberville's 1740 House. The three became mentors to the fledging innkeepers.

The Aaron Burr house was known as the Physicians' House. "We're the first non-physician owners since 1868," said Carl. Doctors' offices were situated on the first floor and the living quarters were on the second and third. This explains its unusual floor plan, with the living and dining rooms and kitchen on the second floor.

Floors, walls, bookshelves, and wood trim are constructed of 2,000 square feet of black walnut lumber, and are standout features. The last physician-owner treated a post World War II soldier and, in lieu of payment, accepted a grove of black walnut trees. Twenty years later, in the 1950s, he had these trees cut down, air-dried, and made into the beautiful hardwood you see today.

With the paperwork finished, the owners began what they called the "100 days" of "stern to stern" renovating, including private baths for each of the seven guest rooms, updating electricity and plumbing, and installing telephones, cable lines, some TVs, and accommodations for small business meetings.

The exterior of the Burr House boasts the deep soffits, ornate eaves and brackets of period homes. The roof is original slate. Interior touches include original high baseboards and ceilings, carved ornamental moldings unique to Carpenter Gothic, paneled doors, high ceilings and tall arched windows.

Unique features giving this Painted Lady her distinctive personality include brass ceiling fans, fireplaces, and private porches. Lace curtains cover the gracious seven-foot high windows on the first floor and four foot high win'dows on the second. The black walnut wood is polished to a lustrous sheen four times a year with linseed oil "... never polyurethane," said Carl.

A Victorian sofa in a rich wine color occupies the living room area, along with accompanying ladies chairs. Stately bookshelves hold reading material for guests. A working fireplace reflects the owners' own warmth and hospitality. Above the fireplace mantle rests replicas taken from pictures of the fifty-four caliber dueling pistols used by Burr and Hamilton. Pictures of the pistols also figure prominently on the Burr House letterhead and exterior sign at the door.

The dining area is located at the other end of this huge, open room. The black walnut wood table can seat sixteen. "One Christmas," Carl remembered, "Mary Lou Henner (of the TV show, "Taxi"), and her family stayed here. She's written five special diet cookbooks. We served Christmas Eve dinner using one of her menus."

Double-hung shutters cover the windows in the living/dining area. Colorful window swags pick up the colors in the Oriental rugs. A powder room off the living room is done in a whimsical 1950s style. Faux finishes, such as dragging, sponging and stenciling are used on all walls, including baths, for that special effect Dinie likes. Bathrooms have skirted pedestal sinks and wainscoting. Accessory tables and chests are marbletopped.

There are seven distinctively styled guestrooms at the Burr House. The first floor Room A-l or Fireplace Room was once the doctor's waiting room. A lace canopy covers the queen-size four-poster. The soft yellow walls, finished with a dragging technique, resemble fine fabric. A stoneworking fireplace adds to this room's charm.

Carl pointed out the magnificent four-story beechwood tree outside the window. The color of the " leaves is repeated in the tile backplates of a gorgeous Victorian wet sink of rich mahogany, with turned spindles. "It was a dry sink," he said, "but we cut out the center and inserted a bowl. We fO1Jnd it in a barn under a dozen old paint cans. It was so discolored, we put in sixty hours of labor finishing the piece."

Room A-2 or Autumn Leaves is a bright, sunny comer room with five large windows curtained with lace. The ceiling is sponge painted in muted shades of an autumn sky. Outside the window is the largest oak tree in Bucks County. "It's on the State Registry of Trees," Carl remarked. Walls in this room are a rich wine with a stenciled oak leaf pattern in gray.
Room A-3 or the Monet Room has a queen size bed with intricate scrollwork. This room has connecting doors to Room A4, and was once the doctor's office. Room A4 or Bay Window Room is the largest room on the first floor. Three
commanding windows connect to form a bay. Room-darkening shutters cover lace curtains. An oak armoire with a center vertical mirror is c. 1865. Walls are stenciled in a pattern taken from a French Victorian book. A unique English lady's dressing table c. 1890 has a center mirror with attached side mirrors that swing back and forth, allowing milady a view from all sides.

"Dinie likes to go for affect and comfort," said Carl. Mounds of pillows sit atop the beds. Collections abound, including green Wedgwood pottery. Catching the eye are hat stands about a foot tall, each topped with pillboxes or other period hats that belonged to Dinie's grandmother.

The second floor Room A-5 or Sleigh Bed Room was a 1900 addition, demonstrated by the lower ceiling. The king-size mahogany sleigh bed was built new with old dry wood. Maroon upholstered armchairs pick up the richness of the wood. On the wall is a unique painting by a Bucks County artist of a painted urn. Superimposed for a dimensional effect is a wreathe that appears to be sitting in the urn. This large corner room has six windows. A beautiful oak leaf pattern is stenciled on the ceiling. "We're in the sleep business," quipped Carl, "so we want the ceiling to be as interesting as the walls. On the inside of the cedar lined closet door is a whimsical 1950s battery operated tie rack that assists gentlemen matching color of their socks to their ties.

Room A-6 or Pine Paneled Room is the smallest. The closet and bed are both recessed into the wall for an interesting space-saving effect. "We had a lace canopy over the bed," Carl said, "but Dinie wanted something different. She painted a lace stencil pattern on the recessed wall over the headboard."

Room A-7 or Third Floor Suite holds a king size bed; a second bedroom a Victorian Wicker single bed. A private dressing room offers a traveling family extra space.

Breakfast at the Burr House lasts from 8:30 to 10:00. "We feel that people on vacation shouldn't have to rush down to one seating," said Carl. "We'll prepare a tray as early as 7:30 for people planning a long day." And for those who appreciate pampering, the staff offers breakfast in the room, an amenity not usually offered at inns.

A Continental Plus breakfast includes fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit salad, two types of. bread such as croissant and tea I bread, two types of local jam, of homemade granola or mueslix with yogurt, coffees and teas. Dinie shops at Rice's Farmer's Market, believing that fresh is best. On occasion, there is a hot entree or quiche.
On the inside of the cedar lined closet door is a whimsical 1950s battery operated tie rack that assists gentlemen matching color of their socks to their ties.

There is more to the Burr House than meets the eye. Literally. Some say that Burr's ghost still seeks refuge there. "We've had people say they feel someone staring at them from behind." Called Burr's sightless stare, this sensation has occurred in various places throughout the house. "Mostly," said Carl, "it happens on the second floor and in the stairwell down to the basement" For further information about the Aaron Burr House, call (215) 862-2570 or email Stay@WedgwoodInn.com.