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History of Our Estate and Playwright George S. Kaufman

The Story Behind our Bed and Breakfast near Peddler’s Village

The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm is immersed in layers of history dating back hundreds of years. Originally, the land was home to the Lenni Lenape Indians until 1775, when the last of the natives fled west. In fact, the town of Holicong itself is named after a natural spring located on the property. Native American legend holds that a tribesman dropped a sheaf of barley into the deep spring, and it resurfaced over 3 miles away at the Ingham Spring. Other tales claim a deer and a Native made the trip through the deep, rich waters that are still the source of our drinking water at The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm today.

The property is part of the original William Penn land grant from Colonial times, when Penn was awarded Pennsylvania and Delaware land by the crown to settle a £16,000 debt to his father. The original property structure, the Stone Manor House, was constructed in 1740; the Stone Bank Barn, which initially housed horse stalls, was constructed in the 19th century.

A swimming pool, pond, greenhouse and various other buildings were added later, under the ownership of Juliana Force, Director of New York’s Whitney Museum. In 1936, playwright George S. Kaufman and his wife Beatrice purchased Barley Sheaf for $45,000. The Farm was sold in 1953 and again in 1974 to Don and Ann Mills, who opened the property as the original bed and breakfast in the Peddler’s Village/New Hope area.

The George Kaufman Era

The playwright dubbed his new home Cherchez La Farm, which means "I Can't Find the Farm" or "Dear Home: The Farm," depending on the translation. Kaufman pumped an estimated $100,000 into renovations on the old home, including a new kitchen, a theme he explored in his comedy George Washington Slept Here, which ran for 173 performances in New York before being filmed with Jack Benny as the star in 1942.

Kaufman’s daughter Anne recounted many memories from their summer home at Barley Sheaf Farm where writers and celebrities of the time would often come for dinner or for the weekend. Life magazine featured a photo essay on the star-studded house parties at Barley Sheaf Farm in its September 6, 1937 edition. On the weekend of Life's photoshoot, the guests included Moss Hart, Harpo and Susan Marx, Broadway producer Max Gordon, Lillian Hellman, and lyricist Howard Dietz and his wife.

Kaufman enjoyed playing croquet on his grounds and it is said that matches could often be played well into the night. Kaufman’s play The Man Who Came to Dinner is based on an evening in Bucks County where a difficult critic was not able to spend the night at Kaufman’s home and was reportedly very fussy and demanding. Kaufman and his legacy remains a part of Bucks County’s history and an important part of our history at The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm; we’ve even named our rooms after some of his famous works.

Historic Conservation

Over the years, The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm has been a leading example of the adaptive reuse of an old farm and its transition to a historically preserved, self-sustaining and profitable property, without the need to subdivide and develop the land. It is this wonderful heritage of history and beauty that is truly a hallmark of The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm experience. The Inn is currently becoming a property designated as conserved land – with the idea of preserving the open space of Bucks County.

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