Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Break from the Ordinary in Historic Columbia

Columbia, located in picturesque Lancaster County, is an area rich in history. Formerly known as “Wright’s Ferry, the small town was founded in 1726 by Colonial English Quakers from Chester County and was once considered as a choice for our nation’s capital.
For those itching to plan a day trip, Columbia doesn’t disappoint, especially for history buffs. There are historic structures to tour and old businesses to visit and even a national museum containing contents that have withstood the test of time.

View the Site of the Famous Wrightsville Bridge

The Wrightsville Bridge.

The summer of 1863 was a pivotal time during the civil war. The Confederate Army invaded Pennsylvania, captured York, and set its sights on Harrisburg and Philadelphia. To achieve their goals, the Confederates plotted to cross the Susquehanna River via the Wrightsville Bridge at Columbia. Upon learning this, Union forces made the fateful decision to set fire to the Wrightsville Bridge to keep the Confederate troops at bay. The fire quickly spread, completely destroying the longest-covered wooden bridge in the world.

Today’s Columbia-Wrightsville bridge, known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge, was built in 1930 and is heralded by architectural engineers to be one of the best examples of a multi-span, reinforced-concrete arched bridge from the early 20th century.

Learn about the History of Time at the National Watch and Clock Museum

The National Watch and Clock Museum, located at 514 Poplar Street, is dedicated to the history, science and art of timekeeping. The museum houses approximately 12,000 items from all over the world, from early non-mechanical devices like water clocks and sundials, to pocket watches, tall clocks, shelf clocks, calendar clocks, novelty clocks and today’s more modern timepieces.
clock museum
The entrance to the National Watch and Clock Museum.

The beautiful foyer of the Watch and Clock Museum 

Grand Statuary Clock by E. Farcot, Paris, late 1800s. 

antique clock
Ossippee Mantel Clock circa 1900.

train clocks
Railway time was created for a standardized system of timekeeping to avoid the confusion that resulted from having non-uniform local times in each town.

antique picture clock
The foxes eyes move in this picture clock, circa 1890, Germany. 

Old advertising clocks.
A short lecture and demonstration of the “Engle Monumental Clock,” is held several times a day at the museum, so be sure to inquire at the front desk for exact times. Once known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the clock, crafted by Hazleton resident Stephen Decatur Engle, took 20 years to construct and was completed by 1878.

The Engle Monumental Clock
View from the rear interior.

The mechanical marvel was displayed on tour throughout the Eastern United States for a total of 70 years and crowds paid between 15 and 25 cents per person to see it in action.
The National Watch and Clock Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from January to March and Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April to December.

Visit a 124-year-old Business
The beloved institution known as Hinkle’s has been serving Columbia residents for years. The family owned and operated business not only dispenses prescriptions, but also carries a range of items from toiletries, to gifts, cards and holiday decorations.
50s-era diner
Hinkle's has been renovated since I took this picture, much to the dismay of some.
The restaurant, often referred to as a “landmark among locals” is a throwback to the days of yore and elicits a tinge of nostalgia among those of a certain age.  Mike Clark, a writer and Columbia native, said the business has grown over the years. “When I was a kid in the ‘50s, Hinkle’s was a small pharmacy, with magazines and a soda fountain where you could order ice cream and cherry coke, which was my favorite.” Clark said it has since grown into the ‘town hub.’ “People from all generations get together there and talk. It’s like ‘Cheers,’ where everybody knows your name.”

The eatery, with its old-school lunch counter, reasonable prices and cozy booths in shades of teal, possesses that home-town feel of days gone by. Waitresses traverse a path between tables to serve customers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The array of items include homemade soups, sandwiches, omelets, steaks, and the popular “Shifter” sandwich. Once a favorite of the railroad workers who ran the switch engines, the “shifter” is comprised of ham and cheese, lettuce, tomato, sweet pickle and mayo.

Antiques Galore
antique market door


Columbia is known for its plentiful antique shops, many of which beckon visitors with “open” flags. A 20,000 square foot building located at 304 Walnut Street is particularly impressive. Named “Burning Bridge Antiques,” the business was once home to a carriage shop, a sewing factory and a hardware store. When Willis Herr and his sons heard rumors that the building was going to be razed to make room for a parking lot, they set about to save the historic structure. They succeeded, not only in saving the building, but also restoring it to its original condition. With its original pressed tin ceiling, wood flooring and American chestnut mill work, it’s a beauty to behold and is home to more than 250 vendors.
antique market stairs

Explore Early American Banking


historic bank

antique eyeglasses

The First National Bank Museum of Columbia tells a story about the 371st bank to be chartered in the United States. Brothers Solomon and Samuel Detweiler, who opened for business in 1864 with $100,000 capital, ran the bank from the first floor of their home located at 170 Locust Street.

When the owners died, the property was passed down to other family members who eventually willed it to the Columbia Free Public Library, who subsequently put it on the market four years later.

Nora Motter Stark’s parents purchased the 6,500 square-foot property and the rest is history. “When my father purchased it in the 1950’s, my mom thought he was crazy because it was considered to be a bit of a white elephant, which had been neglected for a few years. She was a little apprehensive, but my dad saw past all of that,” said Stark.

Today, she and her husband live in her childhood home and maintain a museum where the bank once operated.  Visitors can view the custom-crafted teller cages made of black walnut and the president’s desk crafted of the same material.
antique teller cage

bank vault


A room adjacent to the banking area is open to the public and guests can just imagine the Board of Directors conducting business around the large table which sits in front of an impressive fireplace festooned with tiles Stark believes may have been crafted by Henry Chapman Mercer.
First national bank museum owner

Tours are available by appointment and arrangements can be made by visiting the website at Many thanks to Mark Van Scyoc for the beautiful photos.

Tour an Old Glass Factory

glass grinding

The Susquehanna Glass Factory dates back to 1910 when Albert Roye installed a glass-cutting machine in a shed behind his yard and opened for business. Two years later, his brother joined him and today the company is still going strong, operating at 731 Avenue H, not far from that original shed.
glass grinding

The family owned-and-operated business specializes in customizing glassware, sand etching, color screening, laser etching and rotary engraving and offers factory tours on request.

glass polishing

Step into History at Wright's Ferry Mansion
Autumn at the Wright's Ferry Mansion.
Those visiting the area from May through October, can tour one of the first homes erected in the area. Situated near the Susquehanna River at 38 S. Second Street, This historic property tells the story of Susanna Wright, a native of Lancashire England who immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1714 and in 1728 settled in Columbia. Her two-and-a-half story limestone dwelling is known as the only Pennsylvania English Quaker House furnished exclusively to the first half of the 18th century.
Susanna was the daughter of John Wright, who established an animal-powered ferry as one of the first means of crossing the Susquehanna River. She was versed in Latin and Italian and fluent in French. The highly respected businesswoman was also a noted poetess and scholar and friend of early Pennsylvania luminaries like Ben Franklin.
Columbia's Wright's Ferry Mansion
Wright's Ferry Mansion (front view)
Curator Elizabeth Meg Schaefer, who authored the 304-page book titled, Wright’s Ferry Mansion, The House, said, “Wright was one of the first people in Pennsylvania to raise silkworms and, with her brother, grew flax for linen, hemp for rope and coarse cloth, hops for beer and ale and had a notable orchard. She was exceptional in her versatile intellect and the breadth of her knowledge and interests.”
Elizabeth Meg Shafer's book
The front of Elizabeth Meg Shafer's book titled, "Wright's Ferry Mansion," The House.
Visitors will pass through the Dutch door and step into the brick entryway where they can view the formal parlor, explore the clock room used for studying, entertaining and conducting business and marvel at the kitchen with its expansive hearth and squirrel-tale oven. Upstairs, guests will get a peek into the rooms where Wright and her brother slept and where she likely raised her silkworms.

Shaefer, with her encyclopedic knowledge of Wright and the mansion, invites guests’ questions and leaves patrons with a real sense of what it was like to have lived as a prominent proponent of colonial self-sufficiency in 18th-century Pennsylvania.

On a separate note, I had the opportunity to visit West Chester a year or so ago to view the works of historical artist Adrian Martinez. Among his collection is an outstanding work depicting Susanna Wright.
artist Adrian Martinez
Historical artist Adrian Martinez.
historical painting
Artist Adrian Martinez depicts Susanna Wright in this painting.
The Wright's Ferry Mansion is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from May through October.

These are just a few suggestions to make the most of a visit to Columbia, Pennsylvania where many historic gems await.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Art in the Picturesque Brandywine Valley

America has been in lock down for over a week now due to the spread of Coronavirus and, as such, many of us are suffering from a little bit of cabin fever. I work from home, for the most part, so I can't say a lot has changed for me, although April is generally when I get out and about to discover interesting places. I can't help but wonder when we'll all feel free to travel again.

That's not to say that I don't have a few stories sitting on the back burner awaiting publication. The one I'm sharing today is from a February trip to the Brandywine Museum of Art. When I visited, the historic sites were closed for the winter, but they are slated to open again in April. Those sites include the house and studio of N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth's studio and the Kuerner Farm where Andrew Wyeth created 1,000 of his paintings over a period of 77 years.

old mill
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is located in a converted, century-old grist mill. 


Floor-to-ceiling windows afford guests a view of the Brandywine River.

Who Is the Wyeth Family?
The Brandywine Museum of Art is not exclusively devoted to the art of the Wyeth family, but was created primarily for the purpose of displaying the work of the Wyeths, who produced three generations of artists spanning the 1900's. 

Newell Convers Wyeth, otherwise known as N.C., was born in Massachusetts in the late 1800's. After attending art school in Boston, N.C. studied with Howard Pyle, who became a renowned illustrator as improvements in printing technology led to an increase in publishing. N.C. illustrated 20 children's literature classics, including Treasure Island, Robinson Caruso and Tom Sawyer. He later settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and he painted murals and worked as an art teacher. Sadly, N.C. perished in a car accident in 1945.

Andrew Newell Wyeth was born in 1917 and like his father became known for his art. Andrew developed a preference for landscapes and portraits, and preferred to work with egg tempera, or watercolor. The talented artist drew inspiration from the rural countrysides of Chadds Ford and the fishing villages of his summer home in Seacoast, Maine. Andrew died in 2009.

Henriette Wyeth Hurd studied under the tutelage of her father N.C. at their Chadds Ford studio and home. She was known for her portraits and still life paintings. Henriette died in 1997.

N.C.'s daughter Carolyn Wyeth also demonstrated a talent for art. She studied with her father for a period of 19 years and taught at the family's Chadds Ford studio. Carolyn drew inspiration from the land surrounding her and has been described as "eccentric" "excessive" and "private." She died in 1994.

Andrew's son, James Browning Wyeth, also known as Jamie, inherited his grandfather and father's talent for art and became a renowned portrait artist gaining acclaim for a portrait of the late president John F. Kennedy. James also drew inspiration from rural America, painting the people and the countryside. Jamie is now in his 70's.

The Collection
The Brandywine Museum of Art, located on the banks of the Brandywine River in  Chadds Ford, PA opened in 1971 and features more then 4,000 works in six galleries. The collection is comprised of works from some of America's first artists, many of whom made their homes in southeastern Pennsylvania and specifically Chester County. 

One of the main focuses of the collection is on three generations of Wyeth artists: N.C. Wyeth, three of his artist children--Henriette, Carolyn and Andrew--and his grandson Jamie Wyeth. The historic properties located nearby (mentioned above) include the N.C. Wyeth House and Studio, the Andrew Wyeth Studio and the Kuerner Farm. All are open for seasonal tours starting in April and provide insight into the creativity of the Wyeth family whose many works of art were inspired by their surroundings.

A Few from the Collection

still life painting
Thomas Hart Benton, Still Life, 1951

Thomas Hart Benton was recognized as one of the leading American Regionalist painters, whose subjects depict the everyday lives of average people, with an emphasis on rural America. Notable in the painting is how the flowers appear to wilt before the eyes of the beholder and the ripples in the drapery add movement to the "Still Life." Another interesting note on still life is that American still life paintings originated in Philadelphia.

grandma Moses painting
Grandma Moses, Sugaring Off Maple, 1943

Anna Mary Robinson, also known as "Grandma Moses," made a name for herself as an artist who, in her 70's, gained the attention of New York art dealers, with her self-taught depiction of daily life while growing up in the 19th century.

Chalfont painting
Jefferson David Chalfont, "Which is Which?" 1890

This trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) painting challenges the viewer to decide which stamp is real and which is a painting. Over time, the real stamp faded, making it easier to distinguish between the two.

Pyle painting
Howard Pyle, "She Saw Herself for What He Said and Swooned," 1909.

Howard Pyle, also mentioned earlier, is considered one of America's most influential artists during the "Golden Age of Illustration," ranging from 1880 to about 1925, when photos then replaced illustrations in magazines. 

Norman Rockwell painting
Norman Rockwell for the cover of Country Gentleman. "The Fiddler, 1921.

Norman Rockwell is another artist who rose to prominence during the "Golden Age of Illustration." He is best known for the illustrations he created for the Saturday Evening Post, but he also drew for other magazines as well, including Life and The Country Gentleman.

N.C. Wyeth painting
N.C. Wyeth, Portrait of a Dog, 1933

The Wyeth family dog is pictured here, along with Andrew and his friend David Lawrence.

Jamie Wyeth
Jamie Wyeth, First in a Screen Door Sequence, 2015

One of the more contemporary works in the collection is a depiction of Andy Warhol, created with "found objects" by Jamie Wyeth.

Miss Olsen painting
Andrew Wyeth, Miss Olsen, 1952

This work portrays Anna Christina Olsen, Andrew Wyeth's neighbor, who developed a degenerative muscle condition that rendered her unable to walk. 

Andrew Wyeth painting
Andrew Wyeth, Maga's daughter, 1966

The above portrait depicts Andrew Wyeth's wife Betsy, who served as his business manager and meticulously recorded details of his many works.

Wyeth painting
Andrew Wyeth, Snow Hill, 1989

Part fantasy and part memorial--this piece is said to be set atop Kuerner's Hill near Chadds Ford. Depicted on the left are the railroad tracks where Andrew's father was killed in 1945. Wyeth once joked about the painting stating, "These are all people I painted in the past, celebrating my death.When I worked with them, I raised hell with them mentally and emotionally. They wish they were dead so they wouldn't have to pose anymore."

Betsy's pumpkin
Carolyn Wyeth, Betsy's Pumpkin, 1935

Carolyn Wyeth, the second child of N.C. Wyeth, taught art in Chadds Ford and Rockland, Maine for more than 30 years. She was known for her feisty, non-nonsense demeanor.

Carolyn Wyeth painting
Carolyn Wyeth, Portrait of Frederick Rabottini, 1939
Weymouth painting
George Weymouth, "Eleven O'Clock News," 1966

George Weymouth (1936-2016) continued the American realist tradition of the Wyeth family by painting landscapes of the Brandywine Valley. He was also known for his portraiture. Through his friendship with N.C., he was introduced to Andrew, who encouraged him to try the tempera medium, which he eventually adopted as his primary medium. 

Hurd painting
Peter Hurd, "The Ranch at San Patricio," no date.

New Mexico artist Peter Hurd visited Chadds Ford to study with N.C. in the 1920s. Hurd began experimenting with egg tempera, an ancient medium, which became popular for a time in the '20s and '30s. He taught both N.C. and Andrew the technique, but it was Andrew who adopted it and later mastered it. Hurd later married Henriette Wyeth.

Wyeth family photo
The Wyeth Family
Temporary Exhibits
Votes for Women: A Visual History is planned to run until June 7, 2020--if not longer due to the Corona Virus.  

Visitors will view a film of the women's struggle to secure the right to vote. Artifacts and ephemera dating back to the suffragette movement are also on display.

purple suffragette capes
Capes in the National Woman's Party Colors, 1913-1920

Suffragette sign
Screen shot of the film that offers details of the era.

Suffragette ephemera
Rose O'Neill, "Better Babies" poster, ca. 1915-1920.

Womens right to vote poster.
Rose O'Neill, "Vote for Our Mothers," ca. 1915-1920.
suffragette signs
"She's Good Enough to be your Baby's Mother and She's Good Enough to Vote," sheet music, ca. 1916, Written and composed by Alfred Bryan and Herman Paley."What's the Matter with Uncle Sam?" sheet music, 1913. Written and composed by Mrs. Charles H. Toby.
The Brandywine River Museum is also featuring another exhibit called Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein  which highlights voters rights.  The 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, included 2,000 participates who set out on March 21 along the "Jefferson Davis Highway." By the time they reached Montgomery, the marchers numbers had grown to 25,000.

When 24-year-old Stephen Somerstein heard what was taking place, he jumped on a bus from New York, arriving in time to document the final leg of the march to the Alabama state capitol.

Selma photos

Selma singers
Stephen Somerstein, Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement singing, "We Shall Overcome" on the platform in front of the Alabama State Capitol.

bystanders at the Civil Rights march
Stephen Somerstein, "Woman waving to the marchers from her front porch."
Somerstein captured photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent activists such as Rosa Parks, James Baldwin and Joan Baez. He also snapped portraits of his fellow demonstrators, as well as the anonymous bystanders who had gathered along route to observe the progress of the march.

The Selma exhibit is currently slated to run through June 21, although it may be extended due to the Corona virus shutdown.

Additional Amenities 
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is also home to a museum shop offering art, gifts like jewelry and apparel, along with books, art supplies and more.

museum gift shop

An onsite restaurant called the Millstone Cafe offers seasonal, locally sourced foods like salads, sandwiches, quiche and homemade soup.

museum cafe
The Millstone Cafe offers soups, salads and more.
On nice days, visitors can hike the trails surrounding the property where they'll discover a variety of native plants and sculptures. 

If you go:

Be sure to visit their website first since the museum is currently shut down (3.24) due to Coronavirus.

The museum is located a 1 Hoffman's Mill Road, Chadds Ford, Pa. Hours of operation can be found at Admission if $18 for adults, $15 for seniors age 65 and over and $6 for students and children over six. Admission is free for children aged five and under.