About a mile north of New Hope on Route 32 is a sharp S curve. Stopping for a few seconds at the fairly recent stop sign, I feel like I’m entering a time warp. On the left is the Phillips Mill, built in or prior to 1756 when Aaron Phillips paid his half brother William Kitchen for an interest in 100+ acres property along the Delaware River and the Grist Mill powered by Primrose Creek. The Phillips family owned the property for four generations.
Across the road is the Inn at Phillips Mill. I believe originally there was a barn on the site. There were several attempts to turn the building into a restaurant. In 1972, an architect, Brooks Kaufman and his wife created the current Inn at Phillips Mill. Diane and I ate there once, probably in the mid 1980s. We sat on a patio outside, don’t remember what we ate, and didn’t know it was a BYOB. Graciously our server brought complimentary wine. Although it gets mixed reviews, I think we will return soon, after three or four decades.
We have frequently gone to the annual art exhibit at the Mill. Several years ago as we got ready to leave, I asked Diane about her favorite painting. She pointed to “Canal Ice” by Roy Reinhard. Outside I looked Reinhard up on the Internet — an established New Hope artist. I went back inside for another look, and another Bucks County oil painting joined out collection. What continues to draw me to “Canal Ice” is the lighting. It looks so different in the sunlight, on a cloudy afternoon or early evening. Some years we’ve also gone to the student art and the photography show at the Mill.
My current interest in the Phillips Mill community is related to a Sunday tour we took last October, sponsored by the Friends of the Delaware Canal. Their Faces and Places fundraiser had a tenth year anniversary last year. We had never attended. But when we saw the email invitation to explore Phillips Mill and the New Hope artists, we signed on.
The tour started at the Black Bass in Lumberville. We boarded the “orange” van with friend and guide Jerry Taylor. On the drive south, Jerry narrated some of the associations with the New Hope school of painters, the Pennsylvania Impressionists. The first artist mentioned I’d never encountered, Martin Johnson Heade. In the 1850s, his family ran the general store across River Road from the Black Bass. Heade studied with the Hicks of Newtown. Many of his paintings were landscapes, flowers, still life. He moved from Lumberville and is sometimes associated with the Hudson River School.
Down the road we passed a Fern Coppedge house but I’m not clear which specific house and I thought she had a house in New Hope. Research needed. Further on, off River Road, at Cuttalossa creek, is the Daniel Garber property. Years ago the FODC had a meeting in the Garber’s studio. Garber was one of the original Bucks County Impressionists. Unfortunately the Cuttalossa Inn, restaurant and waterfall has closed. But we can go back and explore the area. Another “famous” local was Charles Child, an artist and twin brother to Paul Child — yes Julia Child had a Bucks County connection.
Edward Redfield was another New Hope Impressionist who lived along the canal. Actually in three different houses north of Centre Bridge. I’ve always wanted to walk the canal there to identify the Redfield houses. A project.
Our first stop on the Faces and Places tour was the Lathrop house at Phillips Mill. I was amazed. It’s the house just north of the Inn and been in the Lathrop family for over a hundred years. In 1896, George Morley Marshall bought up much of the Phillips holdings. He was a prominent surgeon at the Pennsylvania hospital. On my next visit I’ll check for any memorial plaques. Marshall invited his boyhood friend and artist William Lathrop to visit. In 1903 Lathrop purchased the miller’s house and acreage from Dr. Marshall. We had hoped to hear about the Lathrop legacy from William’s grand-daughters Nora and Jillian. But it was a cool, rainy day and they sent a great-granddaughter. She told William’s story. Several weeks later we took a canal walk passing the Lathrop house; one of grand daughters was sitting on a chair on a porch.
Next to the Lathrop house is the Inn at Phillips Mill. Recently we’ve wondered if it still operated. A week ago we went to the Mill Art show, the 90th. I checked out the Inn menu and made a reservation for early November. It has mixed reviews but the historic interior with a fireplace in one room was a draw. The cuisine is French and they are still a BYOB.
Behind the Inn was the next stop on our Faces and Places tour — the Morgan Colt complex, a medieval village. In 1912 Colt moved to Bucks County. Initially he planned to live on a house boat on the Delaware Canal but eventually bought property adjacent to William Lathrop. Colt was a craftsman not just a painter. He converted a piggery into a house, Tudor style, and constructed several other English style buildings for his studio, woodworking shop and iron forge. He imported roof beams, windows and other architectural features from Europe. He also used poured concrete for buildings similar to Henry Mercer in Doylestown. Our guide to the Morgan complex was Eleanor Miller, daughter in law of a more contemporary New Hope artist, R.A.D Miller.
Eleanor was a delightful guide. She reminded us of our New Hope friend Ragna Hamilton. Of course In the small world of New Hope, Eleanor knew Ragna and Rodney and their friends and Phillips Mill actors, Jim and Anika. Phillips Mill became a community center hosting the annual art show, an amateur theatre and other community events.
We entered the Colt complex through decorative iron gates forged by Colt. Eleanor and a son live in Morgan Colt’s studio. Although much of the tour was in the outside gardens, we got to go in the main house. Amazing. I don’t know how we missed knowing about these buildings. In the gardens were several “plain air” painters. Their works would be auctioned off later in the day.
Next we travelled up the hill behind the Mill. One of Marshall’s daughters (the original art colony purchaser) married the painter R.A.D. Miller. The couple were given revolutionary era homes on the hill. We visited one, currently owned by Daniel Dorian. French, artistic, eccentric, he gave us a tour of the property with a peak inside the historic house.
Since then I purchased Dorian’s book, “Peripatetic: A Memoir.” It’s subtitled, “ A French-American Citizen’s Perspective on His Jewish Heritage, War, Love and Politics.” A fascinating story.
From the back cover:
”Jewish parents, the war, the German occupation, the round up of Jews, the risk of being sent to a concentration camp, and then Daniel’s exile to a small village in the center of France. The young man’s return to a newly liberated Paris, an addiction to poker, private Latin lessons with Einstein’s best friend . . . His unusual tour of duty during the Algerian War .. . His tryst with a painter who encourages him to emigrate to America.
Early years in New York City Bohemia, honing his skills at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, a poetry recital tour in major US universities . . . an affair with a black jazz singer and coping with the hardships of miscegenation.
He co-hosts a popular hit parade show with one of WMCA’s Good Guys before becoming a foreign correspondent, covering the Cold War, the Johnson- Kosygin summit meeting, the race riots, the Apollo flights, the tumultuous conventions in Chicago and Miami where he is beaten and left for dead in the ghetto.
Brando, Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Bardot, Sammy Davis Jr., Dali, Rockeferrer, de Gaulle, RFK, are some of the people he interviews, sometimes befriends, as a journalist.
This is the story of a man lucky enough to have had an orchestra seat to the major historical events that shaped the second part of the twentieth century.”
“Peripatetic: A Memoir” is a book I will reread. Our next stop was the Mill where we heard a history of the Mill. Although the annual art show was open, there wasn’t much time to look. The vans returned us to the Black Bass. Unfortunately there was a bit of rain but it didn’t stop us from enjoying wine, appetizers, and dinner. Diane and I left after dessert before the auction of the paintings done earlier in the day.
In November we made dinner reservations at the Phillips Mill Inn. We sat next to a gas fire, enjoyable waitress and very good meal. We shared escargot. I went for Elk chops. A bit tough but tasty. The Inn is run down but we were told chef and owners had been there many years. Recently we met Eleanor Miller at another Friends of the Delaware Canal event and she said the Inn was closing. She is involved with others in an attempt to buy up the mill complex and restore it. We can hope.