When I stumbled upon the property called “Orr’s Ford,” I knew I had to blog about it. What is Orr’s Ford? Orr’s Ford is a historic property for sale in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (7483 Old Easton Road, Pipersville, PA). It sits on almost 4 acres on a picturesque creek, with 250 feet of frontage. Like many Pennsylvania colonials, Orr’s Ford is an attractive stone house — and yet it’s unique with its double front door facade. It also has wide plank floors and “dueling fireplaces” in the great room. But the history of the land on which the house sits is perhaps what makes it truly one-of-a-kind— and an opportunity to own a piece of American history…
What I’m alluding to is that the property has ties to the infamous “Walking Purchase” of the founding Penn family. If you’ve never heard of the “Walking Purchase,” it’s a story you should know. In 1737, the heirs of William Penn — founder of Pennsylvania — claimed to have a deed from the 1680s in which the Lenape (Delaware) Indians had promised the sale of a tract of land. The land to be conveyed was to start at the junction of the Delaware & Lehigh Rivers, and extend as far west as a man could walk in 1 1/2 days. The Lenapes reluctantly agreed to the arrangement, anticipating that the concession would probably result in 20 miles or so of their eastern territory. Taking advantage of the situation, however, Pennsylvania officials hired 3 men to actually “run” — rather than stroll — along a carefully planned route in order to maximize the territory being sold by the Lenape. Motivated by a promise of 500 acres for himself, the fastest runner (Edward Marshall) made it an amazing 70 miles west in 1.5 days. Worse yet, the line went northwest — rather than north as the Lenape anticipated. The result? The Pennsylvania authorities laid claim to 1.2 million acres — a tract of land roughly the size of the state Rhode Island (see map of eastern Pennsylvania above right — the dark green “triangle” was the Walking Purchase). Needless to say, bad blood ensued, but the “Walking Purchase” held up over time — even against lawsuits as recent as 2006.
So, what is the relationship between the “Orr’s Ford” property and the infamous “Walking Purchase?” According to the current owner’s website, “The runners [of the Purchase] went up the Durham Road and passed through Orr’s Ford, on what is now the property’s driveway, at about 11AM” on the day of the “walk.” If true, the swindlers of the Lenape ran right over the Orr’s Ford property as they forever changed Pennsylvania history, not to mention the Lenape’s.
Yet the interesting history of Orr’s Ford goes beyond the “Walking Purchase” connection. For example, the reason the property is called “Orr’s Ford” is because the property sits at a very old fording (crossing) place across the Tohickon Creek (see below). The house was located along the Durham Road, an important 43-mile highway in colonial times that connected the port of Bristol with the iron furnace inland in Durham (in fact, the unpaved roadway in the front of the house is the last known remaining unpaved portion of the original Durham Road). The property became known as “John Orr’s Ford”, as travelers on the Durham Road had to cross the Tohickon Creek there. To capitalize on the business potential of the stream crossing, Orr established a tavern on the property around 1742.
For most of its life, the property was mostly used as a 200 acre farm. However, during the 20th century, its legacy got even more interesting: in 1904, the property took advantage of a new trolley passing through and became the Tohickon Trolley Park. Later in the 20th century, the property became a summer school camp (Camp Hofnung) for the Workmen’s Circle — apparently a socialist Jewish organization. The website of the property’s owner, Steven Nagy, is an incredible resource for anyone interested in the real estate or the history of the property & area. Check that out here: www.orrsford.com
Now, after nearly 300 years of interesting history, the property is being again offered for sale, to begin a new chapter of its history. The current house, which is actually dated to circa 1777/1810, is situated on 3.5 acres of “park-like grounds along the Tohickon Creek…complete with walking trails.” A conservation easement protects the old structure and the grounds. The house itself apparently has been very nicely renovated with modern amenities and contemporary style, while retaining historic elements (see photos below) such as fireplaces, wideboard floors, deep set windows, and a beautiful exterior. On the grounds, in addition to the shed (which is the last remaining building form Camp Hofnung), a new pole barn and swimming pool were added to the property in 2004. The house features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 3 fireplaces, central A/C, and a whole lot of history.
The asking price for “Orr’s Ford” is $575,000. To get more information about the property or to contact the Realtor for a showing, check out Weidel Realtors or the Realtor.com listing HERE. The current homeowner’s website (click here) is a terrific resource for an in-depth history of the property. A few more pictures are below.