Home Sold on Oakley Ave
Listing office: Keller Williams Real Estate-Langhorne
The residential area of historic Eddington is comprised primarily of detached single family homes on small, city-size lots; median lot size is about 0.15 acre. Most were built from the 1920s through the 1980s.
Historic Sketch †
This section of Bensalem Township took its name from Richard Gibbs' estate, Eddington. But the area has had several other names through the years. A writer in 1831 called it "Jugtown," Morris's map drawn in 1850 termed it "Oakgrove," and one map even referred to it as "Dunksville," in honor of Dunken Williams, founder of Dunk's ferry.
The Gibbs' estate, dating back to 1770, passed to the Rodman family through marriage, and now is the site of St. Francis Vocational School. The estate took the name Eddington from a town in Richard Gibbs' native England.
As we travel along the Bristol Pike near Lavender Avenue we sight another of the milestone markers and come to East Coast Cycle Center, site of the Eddington post office for several years until fire destroyed it in 1963.
"Doc" MacKenzie was the town doctor; he lived in the house that is now Chez Nichole Restaurant. He made house calls and would take your tonsils out right in his office. A true country doctor!
Can you imagine Street Road (called Buck Road on the 1891 maps) as a two-lane blacktop road where children could roller skate and play bike tag without worrying about being hit by a car? That's the way it was in the 1940's. The intersection of Street Road and Bristol Pike is entirely different today from the way some people remember it. Try to picture it this way: on the four corners were the Eddington Store, Kate McElwee's Bar, a large stone house, and the real estate office of Richard Fechtenburg.
Between the Eddington Store and Kate's place, Street Road continued east toward the Delaware, with a small road leading down to the Eddington railroad station. Until the beginning of World War II the post office was in the store, but then it was moved to the railroad station. In those days the cost of mailing a letter was three cents and a post card, only a penny. The postmistress, Mrs. Wink, would get your mail for you after you gave her your name. There was no home delivery, but mail came in twice a day.
One of the big events, the Eddington Carnival, took place at this intersection. There were rides, games of chance, and plenty of delicious food. This was the scene of other social events, as well.
The Eddington Store was built in 1895 and was called the Vandegrift Store for many years. It was owned by the Fechtenburg family from 1915 to 1960, when it was torn down to make way for I-95. Claus Fechtenburg was a Lutheran minister, born and educated in Denmark. He and his family traveled through many states after their arrival in America, finally settling here in Bensalem. The pastor's son Rudolph took over management of the store, operating it with his wife Helene until it was sold to the state in 1960. The other son, Richard, became involved in real estate, managing his own agency until his death in 1960.
During the forties people wouldn't even look twice at Carrie Abrams driving her horse and buggy down Street Road to the store for supplies. Carrie and her family lived on Hulmeville Road, about where the Cecelia Snyder school baseball field is located now. Two houses stood side by side and from the front porch of one of the houses Jake Abrams would sit in his rocker and wave to passing cars. Imagine doing that today!
There was a village known as Trappe in northwestern Bensalem Township, at the intersection of Lincoln Highway, U.S. Route 1, and Street Road. It was named for a Frenchman, a very early trapper and hunter, who made his home on the bank of Poquessing Creek, and operated bear traps along the stream. The village was later known as Nottingham.
There have been many changes over the years on Street Road starting at Route #1, traveling east toward the river. Nottingham Village and Stanwood Gardens sprang up to help ease the housing shortage. Keystone Racetrack added color and excitement to the area-as well as many traffic jams. Then came small shopping centers.
The intersection of Street Road and Hulmeville Road marks a section which has undergone more change than any other part of Street Road. In the beginning there were farms; then came the only airport in the township, the Flying Dutchman, privately owned and operated by Ernest Buehl. The airport was succeeded by the Brookwood shopping center.
At the edge of the airport, turned shopping center, are the grounds of St. Francis Vocational School, lovingly referred to as the "Hut." All Eddington was saddened when the magnificent clock tower and building were torn down. It had been a landmark in Eddington since the day it was completed in 1888. During World War II people would climb up the tower to serve as airplane spotters.
Street Road runs nearly to the Delaware River, stopping short at State Road. At this junction is Hillcrest Dairies.
In former days we would have admired many beautiful mansions as we traveled from Cornwells on State Road. Very few of these homes, which have become a part of our history, remain standing.
The first, known as Ackley Place at Eddington, was owned in early days by the Gibbs family. The house, which was a landmark on the river although it faced on State Road, was built by Reeve Lewis. A fish house by the waters edge was the place where fishermen gathered with the day's catch. The estate took on the name Ackley when a man of this name bought it. The house is gone and the property is now owned by Schutte-Koerting Company, a division of AMETEK.
Next was Bellespoir, built by a member of the duPont family. It changed hands many times, eventually to return to the duPont family. The house has been demolished and the area is occupied now by the duPont plant, formerly known as the Penn Salt Company.
Nearby is the Clock House , so named because of a round window resembling the face of a clock in the center of the second story. The exact date of its construction is not known, but a penny dated 1738 was found there. Once owned by Dr. Louis V. Rousseau, ownership was transferred to the State in Schuylkill, also known as the Schuylkill Fishing Company, in 1887. The house was sold to Publicker Commercial Alcohol Company in 1943 and has since been torn down. During the rafting days on the river, a light was kept burning in that window to warn travelers on the Delaware of the dangerous rocks near the front of the house.
Next along the river is Vandegrift's Wharf, now the property of the Columbus Country Club, and Mount Pleasant, once known as the Vandegrift residence. This mansion belonged to Richard Bache, son-in-law of Benjamin Franklin, in 1794. It contained 260 acres, and was called "Settle" after the town in Yorkshire, England, where the family had lived. Some claim this is where Franklin erected one of his first lightning rods. His sister is supposed to have lived in the house at one time and one of Franklin's chairs was kept on the porch overlooking the river, waiting for a visit from its owner. The plantation was later subdivided and John Mathews Hummel assumed ownership of the mansion, along with some of the surrounding land. The mansion is privately owned and being remodeled.
The other house on the property, formerly a carriage house, was occupied by Otto Grupp Jr., a man who loved Bensalem Township and worked very hard to preserve its history.
The next property was called Brander, named for Eleanor Brander, who eloped to America from Scotland with John Austin. The Philadelphia Gun Club made Brander its headquarters in 1890 and has continued to use the property. The club was organized in 1876 as an outgrowth of the Holiday Shooting Club; its first home was at Riverton, New Jersey. It moved to Andalusia in 1887, remaining there until its move to Brander. Its membership has included many Bensalem neighbors, as well as many well-known Philadelphia sportsmen.
The original owner of Heart's Dale, the next estate along the Delaware, was Henry C. Fox. One approached the mansion through an archway of tall trees from the side of the property facing land. The view from the river was of the beautifully-kept broad lawn. At one time Lawrence Lardner lived at Heart's Dale. In 1984 it was owned by the Philadelphia Council of Boy Scouts of America, who purchased the property from Major Charles Smith, a Philadelphia banker, and established its Sea Scout Headquarters there in 1935. The property is now known as Dale Base, honoring Commodore Edward C. Dale, who helped to organize the Sea Scouts.
Next comes Dunk's Ferry, founded by Dunken Williams, whose story is in an early chapter of this book. Between Dunk's Ferry and Sarobia is Riverview, once a beautiful Victorian mansion. The grounds of this estate are now part of Neshaminy State Park.
A landmark at the corner of Dunk's Ferry Road and State Road, is a monument marking the place where General Cadwalader and his troops crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776. This monument at the park was erected by the Bensalem Bicentennial Commission; it was a favorite project of Otto Grupp.
The park property is the former site of the Logan family's estate, Sarobia. The park runs from Dunk's Ferry Road up to Neshaminy Creek, where the marina is located. Harry Leslie, the present park superintendent, has been responsible for many park improvements and he has allowed one of the buildings to become the home of the Historical Society of Bensalem Township. Also located on the park grounds is the building housing the Playmasters, a local theatrical group.
Along the Neshaminy Creek from State Road to Bristol Pike is a very haunting street named, of course, Haunted Lane. For a short time the road became Totem Road, but then it reverted to the more picturesque title. Several of the homes along the lane are said to have "extra visitors" from time to time. We have this on the authority of one of the owners!
There was a very pretty lake, known as Lake Louise, along this road until a few years ago. It was a favorite spot for ice skating and fishing. In the winter it was crowded with skaters and it became a gathering place for local residents. In the summer you could hear all kinds of fish tales about the ones which were caught and those which got away.
Nearby was the body of water known as "Sonny's Sandpit." In the summers of 1946 and 1947 the sandpit, also known as Vandegrift's Lake, was the scene of the Aqua-Drome Races - hydroplanes with outboard motors. These races were exciting and drew large crowds. One of the local participants was Fran Williams, who won many of the races. Both Lake Louise and the Sandpit are sites of industrial parks now.
Just north of Street Road was Christ Episcopal Church, a small building which had to be demolished to make way for I-95. The congregation moved to a new building on Street Road near Hulmeville Road in 1960. The original building was one of the earliest churches in the township. The others were Bensalem Methodist on Hulmeville Road, Eddington Presbyterian on Bristol Pike, Bensalem Presbyterian on Bristol Road, and Bensalem African Methodist Episcopal on Bridgewater Road.
Eddington also is the home of the Eddington Farm Barn and the Livengrin Foundation. Both are on Hulmeville Rd. and were owned by Standish Forcle Hansell who died February 14, 1983. The barn was converted into a museum of Americana by Mr. Hansell. The farm had been in his family for four generations and had seen several different types of farming: raising Belgian horses, dairy farming, and raising vegetables. The idea for the museum came during the Second World War. The United Service Organization and Red Cross had asked permission to use the barn for entertaining troops and since that time it was used by many other organizations. There are between ten and twelve thousand items housed throughout the barn. Several sections of the structure are more than two hundred years old. Cornwells Golf Club is located on the 135-acre property, as well. The Livengrin Foundation is located on the old Brice farm on Hulmeville Road.
A short distance to the north on Bristol Pike is the old Eddington schoolhouse and next to it is one of the most popular places in the township for candy lovers, the famous Warner's Candies. It is known as "the sweetest spot on Route 13" and even features candy which is sugar and salt free.
Warner's Candies occupies a building constructed some two hundred years ago. Washington's troops encamped a few miles away before their march to Yorktown, and Revolutionary soldiers probably passed by the door of the Warner's building.
In the colonial days the sap of maple trees was the chief source of candy, we are told. Maple sugar parties were held and later on taffy pulls became popular. Warner's makes candy with that old-fashioned goodness, using modern methods and ingredients imported from many corners of the world. For instance, chocolate comes from the African Gold Coast, coconut from the Philippines, pineapple from Hawaii, cashews from India, and Brazil nuts from Bolivia. Sugar, pecans, and peanuts are obtained from the southern states of the United States, and fresh butter and cream come from Bensalem area farms. Put them all together and you'll be back for more!
Just above the candy shop is Eddington Presbyterian Church with its beautiful stone tower.
Traveling up Hulmeville Road from Street Road, we pass the Cecelia Snyder Middle School, Benjamin Rush Elementary School, and the Robert Shafer School across the street. Above the intersection with Park Avenue is the Bensalem Library, Senior Citizens building, Bensalem Rescue Squad, the township buildings and Water Authority. Small shopping centers have sprung up along this road.
The Bensalem Methodist Church is across from the Bensalem High School. Going further north we find the site of Livengrin and Resurrection Cemetery. The cemetery office is in the beautiful old White farmhouse.
† Source:Traveling Through Bensalem: 1692-1984, Historical Society of Bensalem Township, 1984
School District: Bensalem Township