It's been three years since my husband (then fiance) left New York City to become Bucks County residents. Two months after we became official Bucks County homeowners, we got married. We recently celebrated our third wedding anniversary.
We created a fun little tradition shortly after we got hitched: my husband and I take turns planning our anniversary date. It's fun because ever other year I get to kick back and be surprised, and then I get to be the surprise-er (if that's a word), which is really fun too. This year happened to be my husband's year. For previous anniversaries, we had taken off for the weekend for little trips. But this year marks our first “Bucks County celebrated” anniversary.
Well, my hubby did a great job. We started with a pre-dinner cocktail at the Boat House. We sat outside and enjoyed the scenery for a drink before heading on to dinner. I will give you a couple hints: It's a BYOB, it has been around since the 1700s (in its current reincarnation since the 70s), and is “très romantique.” Did you guess?
The Inn at Phillips Mill brings a little bit of old-world French romance to the Delaware River. A BYOB, this stone house is easily overlooked if you aren't in the know (my parents tried to go once and couldn't find it). If you are Main Street in New Hope, keep driving up the river, and it will be on the right just after the 202 bridge.
Here's a little history (courtesy of www.livingplaces.com):
Over the years, the mill was owned by many people, and for many uses. The mill village was established around the 1743. The Phillips' Mill was built in 1756 by Aaron Phillips as a water powered grist mill. It also served as an informal community center for the local farmers and their families. It is an urban legend (as told to me by current proprietor Joyce Kaufman) that the mill supplied wheat for George Washington's army. The mill was operated for over a century. In 1894, an artist named William Lathrop was drawn to the mill when his friends settled there and sold him a portion of the property. Lathrop's home and the mill studio emerged as the intellectual center of a growing community of artists, whose rigorous discussions of aesthetics, philosophy, and politics became well-known. Besides Lathrop, artists such as Daniel Garber, Edward Redfield, John Folinsbee, and Walter Schofield formed the New Hope School, a group who exhibited together in the US and Europe.
The mill was also used as a playhouse, a community center, and later became the Holmquist School for Girls, beginning in 1917. Miss Karline Holmquist, a pianist trained in Paris and Berlin, established the progressive school with six students and five teachers. The famed anthropologist Margaret Mead was once a student there. It's teaching philosophy, which was made famous many years later in the publication “Eight Year Study of Secondary Education,” changed our educational system and became the foundation of current teaching. Miss Holmquist focused on balancing a classical intellectual education with the fostering of creative and artistic talents and energies, which was easily facilitated in the artists' colony. In 1949, dues to lack of funds, the school was merged with another local school for boys, and became what is now known as Solebury School.
In the 1940s, the property again found a new use. It became Phillips Mill Teahouse, run by a local artist's wife. After two other unsuccessful restaurants came and went, Brooks Kaufman, an architect, and his wife turned it into the Inn at Phillips Mill in 1972. Brooks was attracted to Bucks County out of his love for the many stone buildings that checker the landscape. The three dining rooms, all charming, are distinctly different. There is a “dining room,” a “family room” and an enclosed glass porch. There is also summer garden dining for al fresco lovers.
It is the type of place where you feel like dressing up, which was appropriate since we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. Though, it seemed like the establishment has its fair share of regulars; the entire garden was full on a Wednesday evening. Romantic candlelight, old fashioned white china and a decidedly French menu made for all the makings of a “soir romantique.” The decor is charming; French posters, country furniture, and actual dining tables (as opposed to mass produced restaurant style tables) adorn the many rooms. Dining there feels more like dining as a guest in a friend's home than at a resaturant.
For appetizers, we enjoyed a seafood tar tar of fresh fish and a crabcake, which we thoroughly enjoyed. My husband seems to order lamb at every possible opportunity, and this was no exception. Whereas he had ordered a very unsatisfactory lamb dish at elsewhere recently, he was very happy with his dish. Perhaps our favorite part of the meal our dessert: creme brulee!
The Phillips' Mill Community Association is responsible for the preservation of the Mill, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Proceeds from the art show and other fundraising efforts include a photo show, drama productions, and membership to help maintain the building.
Today, some 500 artists living within a 25-mile radius of New Hope are invited to submit their work for the annual Phillips' Mill art exhibition. The Mill is known as a prominent showplace for regional artwork. Patrons finance generous awards for the best in oils, watercolors, graphics, and sculpture. The exhibition traditionally opens the third Saturday of September and runs through October.