STORY WRITTEN BY GENE PISASALE
Visitors to the Brandywine Valley know that the region holds many treasures, including its historic houses: long-standing structures many with rustic springhouses, some of which date back over 300 years. Driving the countryside, you can see these old friends on back country roads, where intersections are marked by the end of a stone wall built many decades ago, still standing as they signify a property line demarcated when our republic was young. This year the Chadds Ford Historical Society will be showcasing 16 local historic buildings in their 29th annual Candlelight Christmas Tour.
The tour highlights many dwellings which the public rarely gets to see, including the William Brinton 1704 House. Brinton was a Quaker who emigrated from England in 1684, later erecting his home from local stone quarried in Birmingham Township. The 13-acre property features a barn, carriage house and even an 18th century privy. The house still has many of its original leaded glass windows and a distinctive beehive oven where the family prepared meals.
Guests on the tour will also visit the Old Kennett Meetinghouse on Baltimore Pike, built in 1710 on land owned by Ezekiel Harlan, who’d acquired the property as part of a land grant from William Penn. The site has deep memories, including the opening shots fired at the Battle of the Brandywine. Soldiers killed in this initial skirmish are buried in the adjacent cemetery. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and still offers Quaker followers a chance to attend services on the last Sundays of June, July and August at 11 a.m.
The Pennsbury Inn just down the road was erected in 1714; the owners have a listing of every person who’s owned the property going back to its origin. Many of the proud craftsmen responsible for the structure left their signatures on the building, which will be part of the holiday tour this year.
The Christian Sanderson Museum was built in the 1840s, but it holds artifacts going back to the Revolutionary War. Locals know it as the former home of Chadds Ford “village historian” Chris Sanderson, who loved to share his deep knowledge of local history with anyone who would listen. His home was converted into a museum after he passed away in 1966 through the efforts of Andrew Wyeth along with friend and curator Tommy Thompson, who more than anyone was responsible for this hidden “gem” opening to the public. Visitors can view over 18,000 artifacts and items of Americana dating from the late 1700s to the 1960s. Tommy recently passed away, but his memory lives on and the museum will be decked out for the tour.
The Chaddsford Winery began operations in 1982, but the old farmhouse there has its roots in the 1700s. The location will be decorated by Lisa Vonderstuck of Brandywine View Antiques to resemble an 18th century tavern and tour ticket holders can get a five-wine tasting at the event. The winery is adjacent to the 300-year old Barns-Brinton House, which will also be decorated in holiday splendor highlighting its original Flemish bond brickwork and working fireplace.
All these locations offer guests a chance to enjoy beautiful structures made even more alluring with period pieces, Christmas ornaments and candlelight. The Tour is on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 1 to 6 p.m. A ticket allows people to get a map covering the route and visit the homes individually, or go on a tour bus bringing them to each location. For more information, contact the Chadds Ford Historical Society at 610-388-7376 or visit their website at www.chaddsfordhistory.org.
Gene Pisasale is an author and lecturer based in Kennett Square. His eight books and lecture series focus on local and regional history. His new work “American Revolution to Fine Art- Brandywine Valley Reflection” takes readers on an historic “walking tour” of the area delving into forgotten crossroads, an abandoned ghost town, monuments to fallen heroes, historic covered bridges, gristmills and other sites.Gene’s books are available on www.Amazon.com. He can be reached at Gene@GenePisasale.com or through his website at www.GenePisasale.com.