“Try to imagine that you’re a twelve-year-old girl, an escaped slave,” Carl Glassman’s face was illumined only by the light he held in his hand. “You don’t know how long you’ll have to wait here, and you’ve been separated from your parents. You wait for the signal that will tell you it’s safe to walk out this tunnel and through the hatch at the end. You can’t see anything in here, not even the hand in front of your face.” In the dim light, I could see that both of my seven- and ten-year-old boys’ eyes were like saucers, their mouths hanging open. This certainly wasn’t your typical hotel stay.
When we planned our trip to Bucks County, I was aware that it has numerous lodging options, many of them historic and charming. I am, of course, a big fan of both historic and of charming, but sometimes feel when I’m traveling with the boys that I have to give inns a pass because they aren’t set up to accommodate children. But the Wedgwood Inn in New Hope, Pennsylvania is that rare thing: A family-friendly bed and breakfast. Not only that, it has a storied past that makes a stay there a living history lesson.
I knew the minute we arrived at the Wedgwood Inn that we were in for a treat. We were greeted at the carved wooden front door by Carl, who has run the inn since 1982 with his wife Dinie. He welcomed us into the comfortable downstairs, which is chock full of the inn’s namesake pottery and Bucks County memorabilia.
Please click on photos to see full-sized versions.
There are plenty of places inside and out to explore or play or to curl up with a book, including on the wrap-around porch.
Before I could do much more than blink, Matt and I were comfortably seated on the back porch with coffee and brownies while the boys played. They loved the lawn and two gazebos, the perfect spot for a long game of hide-and-seek.
The boys were also enchanted when Dinie appeared and took us up to our rooms on the top floor.
The Loft Four-Room Suite couldn’t have been more cozy. Not only were we right under the eaves, which the boys loved, we had more than enough room to stretch out comfortably, with two large bedrooms, a living room, and a full kitchen. I loved the homey knickknacks and tray of Carl’s homemade almond liqueur (which was surprisingly sweet and delicious). And you know what I liked? The fact that there was only one small television, which was tucked into a corner of our room – and which we never turned on.
In the morning, we enjoyed a huge breakfast that included fruit, yogurt, homemade pastries, and an egg casserole, all served on mismatched china. As with everything else about the Wedgwood Inn, the atmosphere at breakfast was friendly – Matt and I chatted with the other guests and watched through the French doors as the boys tore around the yard.
But the really exciting part of our stay came after breakfast when Carl took a break from his busy day to take us down in the basement of the inn so that we could see the tunnel he and Dinie discovered when they were renovating the building. We had already heard numerous stories about the inn courtesy of Carl – how the 1870 building sits on the spot of what was once a British fort, the very New Hope fort in fact, where the British prepared for the Battle of Trenton that we had learned so much about at Washington Crossing Historic Park the day before. The tunnel was believed to have first been used to store munitions and the remains of a Hessian soldier, complete with the gold buttons of his uniform, were found in the chimney of a fireplace in the basement.
And that’s not all: Carl told us about a secret staircase that empties behind a fake wall near one of the bedrooms and also how the tunnel in the basement ended in a hatch in the side gazebo that was built at the same time as the house. The boys had already found and examined the hatch and were eager to see the portion of the tunnel under the house. It’s believed to have been used to hide runaway slaves, including a twelve-year-old girl named Sarah whose ghost has appeared to children staying in the inn on several occasions over the past thirty years.
Standing in that basement made it easy to imagine Sarah’s plight, separated from her parents, awaiting the signal that would hopefully allow her to continue her journey to Canada and freedom. There’s nothing like a dark tunnel and a good ghost story to bring a history lesson home and I could tell that Tommy and Teddy both left with a different understanding of what it meant to be an escaped slave in hiding.
I’m pretty sure the boys wanted to hang around and see if Sarah might make an appearance, but unfortunately for us we had to head for home. And so it was that we reluctantly left that morning full of croissants and history, taking big hugs from Dinie with us. If you want to get to know both Bucks County and New Hope, the Wedgwood Inn is a great place to start, with its intimate ties to the history of the place and of course Carl and Dinie who not only made us feel at home – they made us want to come back.
Many thanks to Visit Bucks County and the Wedgwood Inn for our complimentary overnight – and for making us feel so at home!
- A real virtue of the Wedgwood Inn is its convenient location. You can walk to all of the attractions and restaurants in downtown New Hope, including the Bucks County Children’s Museum and the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. Washington Crossing Historic Park is a 10-minute drive and it’s 15 minutes to Fonthill Castle and the Mercer Museum.
- If you’re looking for things to do, don’t hesitate to ask Carl and Dinie, both of whom know the area intimately and are full of great ideas. And if your kids really want to swim, just ask: For a fee you can arrange to use a nearby pool and tennis club.
- In addition to the Wedgwood, Carl and Dinie own the Umpleby House next door and the Aaron Burr house up the street, both of which can also accommodate families. The Umpleby House has a detached carriage house behind it that would make a great place for a stay with kids.
- I’d like to give special praise to the Wedgewood for its immaculate condition – although the building is nearly 150 years old, I don’t think I saw a speck of dust. I would have been completely comfortable letting a baby crawl around on the floor in our suite.
- I feel I should point out that you can also get breakfast in bed at the Wedgwood Inn, should you want a little pampering. Perhaps you have children who would actually stay in bed long enough for this to happen – I certainly don’t.