Located just ninety minutes from New York City and less than one hour from central Philadelphia, New Hope has a history that is in large measure a reflection of its strategic location and beautiful riverside landscape. The industrial era, nearby revolutionary war battles and the era of the arts have all played a role in creating today's bustling and enigmatic tourist town.
New Hope is located along the route of the Old York Road that was once the main highway between Philadelphia and New York City. Roughly halfway between the two cities, New Hope was conveniently situated for travelers who wished to stay overnight and cross the Delaware River the next day. The Delaware River was crossed by way of Coryell's Ferry – this was in fact the original name of the town.
The strategic significance of New Hope as a transportation hub increased with the opening of the 60-mile long Delaware Canal in 1832 under the auspices of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. Used primarily for the transport of coal and lumber, the canal connected Easton, Pennsylvania to Bristol, Pennsylvania. At the height of operations there were as many as one hundred barges per day passing the New Hope lock system.
Traffic on the Delaware Canal dwindled as the railroads became established, leading eventually to the closure of the Canal in 1931. Established in 1891, the New Hope branch of the North Pennsylvania railroad was for a time an important link to Philadelphia. Operated by the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, a portion of the line still operates today. In 1976, following decades of changing fortunes, the Canal was designated as a National Historic Landmark and today the Delaware Canal State Park is a major recreational attraction for New Hope and other river towns along its pathway.
Of course, no discussion of New Hope history would be complete without reference to the dramatic events preceding General Washington's 1776 crossing of the Delaware at Washington Crossing and the triumphant battle of Trenton – a turning point in the history of the nation. This historic event is recreated on Christmas Day every year as General Washington and troops gather and cross the river in original Durham boats. Washington Crossing State Park is just seven miles downstream from New Hope.
Beautiful landscapes and quaint towns are magnets for artists. A number of artists took up residence in the New Hope area in the very early 1900's and established a New Hope art colony. This group is the foundation of what evolved to be the influential Bucks County Impressionist Art movement. Edward Redfield was the broadly acknowledged stylistic leader of the group which includes many sought after artists including Daniel Garber, Fern Coppedge, Robert Spencer, John Folinsbee and William L. Lathrop.
Today, visitors to Bucks County can view one of the most extensive collections of Pennsylvania impressionism at the James A. Michener art museum just fifteen minutes from New Hope in the town of Doylestown
The musical arts are also alive and well in New Hope. No visitor to New Hope can fail to notice the Bucks County Playhouse that occupies a prominent location on Main Street. The building itself was originally a Grist Mill with origins back to 1790 when Benjamin Parry, a prominent Bucks County landowner, rebuilt Hope Mills following a devastating fire. Rechristened New Hope Mills, this was the inspiration for changing the name of the town from Coryell's Ferry to New Hope. First opened in 1939, the Playhouse soon established a reputation as "America's Most Famous Summer Theater" and became a mecca for a veritable who's who of American theatrical stars. The theater was in continuous operation until December 2010. Following an extensive restoration the Bucks County Playhouse reopened in 2012 featuring professional Equity productions.
In fact, the mid-20th Century was a lively time for live music and theater in the Delaware Valley. On the other side of the river in Lambertville, New Jersey, St. John Terrell's Lambertville Music Circus opened in 1949. Housing as many as two thousand seats in a large tent on a hillside overlooking the town, the music-circus was an intimate theater-in-the-round experience for both the audience and the performers. Performances included many of the most well-known stage musicals of the time.
Around 1960, Odette Myrtil, the Paris-born star of stage and screen, purchased the historic River House restaurant south of New Hope. Chez Odette became a popular gathering place for many of the visiting Hollywood stars. In 1980 the restaurant changed hands and the new owners established a Cabaret room under the guidance of Bob Egan. The cabaret operated for almost twenty-five years before Odette's closed its doors in the summer of 2006.
And today the music plays on - in addition to the Bucks County Playhouse, many restaurants feature live music on a daily basis, and patrons at local piano bars are often surprised when a Broadway star or two grab the mic. And should you feel like vocalizing there are a number of open-mic venues especially on weekends.
Another prominent historical landmark worth a mention is Bowman's Tower – but not just because of its history. Perched on the top of a hillside just two miles south of New Hope, alongside the 130-acre Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, a trip to the top of the tower offers panoramic views of the Delaware River and surrounding countryside. Although the tower was first built around 1940, General Washington reportedly did use Bowman's Hill itself as a lookout point.
Today, New Hope is a year-round tourist destination offering much more than history, music and the arts. Charming lodging options, a wide variety of dining options, antique stores, eclectic shopping experiences at Peddler's Village and recreational opportunities that include biking, hiking, kayaking and antiquing—all of these and more are available to visitors of New Hope.
Experience the golden era of the steam railroad right here in New Hope! Steam passenger service between New Hope and Buckingham Valley began on August 6, 1966. Dinner tours in the warmer months. 3 miles
The Delaware Canal is the only remaining continuously intact canal of the great towpath canal building era of the early and mid-19th century...towpath extends some 60 miles. Great for biking and hiking. Less than 1 mile from the Inn
Part of Washington Crossing Historic Park (PA) and close to Washington Crossing State Park (NJ) the center has undergone a 2 year renovation and will reopen spring 2013. Site of General Washington's Christmas Day 1776 crossing of the Delaware River. 4 miles
An American Impressionist movement from the first half of the 20th century that was centered in and around Bucks County, Pennsylvania, particularly the area around the town of New Hope. The movement is sometimes referred to as the "New Hope School" or the "Pennsylvania School" of landscape painting.
Take a look at the Bucks County Visitor Center - perfect for a weekend retreat, a romantic escape or a family vacation. Come explore Philadelphia's northern countryside, a place rich in history and culture.
Features four permanent exhibitions and some twelve changing exhibitions per year. The James A. Michener Art Museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits American art, and promotes the work of nationally and internationally known Bucks County artists of all eras and creative disciplines.
Doylestown's origins date to 1745 and was known for years as "William Doyle's Tavern It's strategic location — at the intersection of the road (now U.S. Route 202) linking Swede's Ford (Norristown) and Coryell's Ferry (New Hope) and the road (now PA Route 611) linking Philadelphia and Easton — allowed the hamlet to blossom into a village.
70 years of theater history. Many luminaries of the American musical and drama scene have performed on this stage. Now features Equity performers and New York productions. 2 1/2 miles
Lambertville, New Hope, Solebury and Stockton are some of the river towns that make up the Delaware River Towns. One ultimate weekend destination. The "anti-mall" destination filled with one-of-a-kind shop where personal attention comes standard. Rich in history and blessed in natural beauty, our communities are strategically positioned between Philadelphia and New York and just three hours north of Washington, DC.
St. John Terrell's Lambertville Music Circus Summer Stock Theater. A summer stock theater phenomenon that flourished for more than two decades in the mid-20th Century offering tented performances on a hilltop above Lambertville, NJ.
Bob is a local impresario booking much local entertainment as well as performing live at a piano bar several times a week. A New Hope legend. Check the site for updates on performances and venues.
A brisk uphill walk but just across the road from the Inn at Bowman's Hill. The 125-foot high Tower was built around 1930 offers panoramic views of the Delaware valley and surroundings - up to 50 miles on a clear day. And yes, there is an elevator!
A must-see in spring and early summer. 130 acres of carefully tended, yet natural, landscape featuring nearly 1,000 species of Pennsylvania native wildflowers, trees, shrubs and ferns.
A collection of small eclectic stores and restaurants set in the midst of Colonial-style buildings and award winning gardens with red brick walkways. Be sure to check for one of the many festivals held during the year. A must at the Holidays.