New Hope, Pennsylvania, is a unique gem that offers visitors the best of all possible worlds: the upscale amenities of a major metropolis set against the quaint, picturesque backdrop of a historic village. There are only four real streets in New Hope, but what you'll find in the area is a breathtaking blend of refined antique shops, chic boutiques, elegant galleries, gourmet dining, delightful inns, and an enclave of celebrated artists who draw inspiration from the region for their creations. New Hope's refreshing atmosphere perfectly complements the ideals embraced by Greta Parker.
A Historical Site
About a 45 minute drive north of Philadelphia, New Hope lies along the banks of the Delaware River--famous to many Americans for its role in the American Revolution. Very near present-day New Hope is the spot where, on Christmas night in 1776, General George Washington crossed the River (with the help of local men) and did battle in Trenton. He again traversed the area on his way back from Valley Forge.
Of course, there's more to New Hope than its Revolutionary War ties. The original inhabitants of these rolling hills, the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans, were the first to be entranced by the area's beauty. English settlers discovered it firsthand in the 1600s, when England's King Charles II deeded 1,000 acres to William Penn. By the early 1700s, the area was thriving, thanks in part to its identity as the half-way point between New York City and Philadelphia on the famed Old York Road. Ferry service was established in 1722, and inns sprang up to accommodate travelers who rode horses and stagecoaches between the cities.
Industry and its founders gave rise to the many names bestowed on the village we now call New Hope. The first three names--Well's Ferry, Canby's Ferry, and Coryell's Ferry--were all in honor of, yes, ferry operators. It was incorporated as New Hope in 1837, ironically, in the aftermath of a tragedy. In 1790, three mills--a flour mill, saw mill, and flax mill--owned by Benjamin Parry went up in flames, putting a horrible dent in the local financial system. But Parry, already an important figure to the town, became its hero by rebuilding all three mills within a year. He named them New Hope Mills, and the town's identity soon changed as well.
Reminders of its history and heritage abound in New Hope today, and visitors reap the rewards of locals' careful preservation of important structures. For instance, if you want to tour the impressive home of the equally impressive man who saved New Hope from financial ruin, Benjamin Parry's 18th century home is in pristine condition, occupying a place of honor in the center of town. In fact, a majority of the buildings in New Hope are more than a century old, and most of the town's original buildings from the 1700s are still standing.
Other ways to step back in time in the New Hope area include exploring the 13 scenic covered bridges that dot Bucks County or taking advantage of the same mode of transportation used hundreds of year ago--mules--on a ride beside the Delaware Canal. Guided walking tours of the downtown area give visitors an inside peek at New Hope's living history.
An Artistic Landscape
It's difficult to imagine that a village of about 2,200 residents is home to so many intriguing artists, galleries, and urbane shops. But this lovely little town and the surrounding area is a new mecca for all things artistic, aesthetic, and beautiful. Dozens of arts and crafts galleries offer unique decor items made by local artisans. Pick up an 18th century European oil painting, an Impressionist landscape of Bucks County, bronze sculpture, awe-inspiring photography, or perhaps a painting from The New Hope School. This wealth of talent is nurtured by the New Hope Collective, a unique collaborative effort by which visual and performing artists strengthen each other and find outlets for their creativity. The non-profit New Hope Arts Center is also a boon to the many area artists.
If antiques are your weakness, the abundance of antique shops in the New Hope area will be a thrilling discovery. Ducking into these quiet little spaces is like taking a step back in time to when quality and craftsmanship were paramount. Choose just one vase to brighten up a room or select a cache of furnishings, art, and decor items to completely remake a home.
Decorating the house is a lovely thing, but decorating yourself is even more fun--especially with the collection of jewelers in New Hope. From antique to modern and every style in between, more than a dozen jewelry stores cater to all tastes.
An Indulgent Experience
New Hope is also a haven for foodies who come to sample the fine food and gourmet restaurants that have cropped up. From Creole to Mediterranean to New American, a wealth of upscale eateries specializes in whatever diners are craving that day. Intimate cafes, low-key inns, and rousing pubs round out the gastronomic offerings, while chocolate boutiques, coffee bars, bakeries, and wine shops are also in the mix for walk-in traffic. There's even a winery--New Hope Winery--where aficionados can participate in a fun and informative tasting.