Bucks County Culture

While it is probably going a bit far to describe this region as "The Genius Belt, " as the title of a recent book on Bucks County's creative tradition has it, there was certainly an impressive literary and artistic achievement here in the last century. With Edward Redfield, the Pennsylvania Impressionist painter, looking backward and Charles Sheeler, whose paintings and photographs (often of Bucks County barns) are distinctly modern,  the county must rank among the most fertile of the state if not the country. 

The multimedia, interactive exhibition, "Creative Bucks County: A Celebration of Arts and Artists," ongoing at the James A Michener Art Museum, celebrates this profusion of talent.  This story of Bucks County's rich artistic tradition includes individual displays on twelve of the county's best known artists, a video theater, and a comprehensive computerize d database containing information on hundreds of Bucks County artists, both living and deceased.

That painters might choose this green patch alongside the Delaware River--the lovely place called Raven Rock was a favorite of impressionist Daniel Garber--is not surpris ing in the least. The rural architecture of the county, the barns and stone farmhouses, was and is today very appealing to the artistic eye. The curious might take a look at Aaron Siskind's Bucks County, Photgraphs of Early Architecture.

It is equally sensible that literary artists might likewise choose this location, caught midway between Philadelphia and New York. James Michener was born and raised in Doylestown, and he is today perhaps the most widely-known native son.  He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. Click  www.jamesmichener.com for an informative overview of his life and work.  But he was not alone.

What seems to have emerged in the county--if it is possible to strike some generalities -- is a group of very energetic writers, certainly not outstanding  on purely "literary" grounds, but very widely read and able to withstand, it appears, the test of time. These writers frequently kept only one foot in the county, doubling their vision with city sophistication of humanitarian concerns of a global scope.

Pearl Buck, whose fame is truly international, lived on an impressive stone farmhouse called Green Hills Farm, located in Perkasie.  Today the house is home to The Pearl S. Buck Foundation, as well as a monument to the first American woman to receive both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes for literature.  Indeed, her library, with two lamps made from local pots, testifies to the seriousness with which she took her life of writing.  A recent critical biography, Pearl S. Bucks: A Cultural Biography (1996), suggests that she might be more important in the canon of American literature than previously thought.  Professor Conn has also produced link off the official web site well worth a detour:  www.pearl-s-buck.org.

Similar to Pearl Buck, Margaret Mead was an extraordinary writer and anthropologist; her best known work is the 1928 book, Coming of Age in Somoa.  She was born on Holicong Road in Buckingham, in a stone farmhouse she remembers in her autobiography, "Blackberry Winter: My Early Years."  The lovely property is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the 1930s, a troupe of writers for theater, the big screen and TV retreated to Bucks County, often inviting celebrities out for weekends in the county. Oscar Hammerstein,  writer and lyricist best known for Oklahoma (1955), lived here, as did Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, playwrights and directors.  "Ol' Man River" is known by thousands who don't know who wrote it: Hammerstein. Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the most original of all, graduated from the George School.

S. J. Perelman was the wit behind the Marx Bothers movie Monkey Business and Horse Feathers (Animal Crackers was written by Hammerstein), and received an Oscar for his adaption of Around the World in Eighty Days.  Perelman is associated with the golden age of The New Yorker.  He also lived in the upper part of the county, along with the great Nathanial West (whose Miss Lonelyhearts seems worth a thrid reading), and Dorothy Parker, author, humorist and screenwriter. Jean Toomer, the author associated with the Harlem Renaissance, lived in Bucks County; his remarkable novel Cane 

But it is not only these who left footprints on the county, and who on occsion were inspired by it.  The poet William Stafford, who read at BCCC on at least two occasions, wrote poems on the county.  There is a remarkable poem by Kunitz on River Road. And it continues to be a zone that appeals to poets today, like Gerald Stern, not to mention BCCC's own Christopher Bursk, Robert Bense, Eugene Howard, James Freeman, and Allen Hoey. Please see Bucks Creative Writing on this Department's Home Page.

It is a testament to the county that we have said so much and have yet to mention perhaps its most "renaissance" character:   Henry Chapman Mercer. Architect, ceramic artist and collector, this imaginative and and learned man (he was curator of Archeology at the University Museum at Penn), left this county a tremendous legacy, seeing as he did the value of studying everyday life and the worth of traditional arts and crafts. Surely the Mercer museum will rank in the next century among the great works of cultural history of the last.

Cultural and Literary Spots in the County

Mercer Museum

Mercer and Fonthill Museums.  (215) 345-0210 - Located in Doylestown, the Mercer Museum complex consists of castle-like houses displaying furnishings, folk art and implements of Early America in a unique con crete structure. Fonthill Museum (215) 348-9461    Also located in Doylestown, Fonthill resembles a medieval castle and was built by Henry Mercer as h is home. 

Pearl S. Buck House

http://www.pearl-s-buck.org

Pearl S. Buck House (215) 249-0100 - Located in Perkasie, this house is furnished with a vast array of Asian and American are and artifacts. The Pearl Buck House was once a home to the Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author.  Green Hills Farm  520 Dublin Road Perkasie PA

James A. Michener Museum

http://www.michenerartmuseum.org/info.htm

James A. Michener Art Museum (215) 340-9800 - Located in Doylestown, this museum promotes the arts through its collection of 20th century American art, sculpture, shanging exhibitions and ongoing cultural programs.

Historic Homes and Architecture

Andalusia. (215) 848-1777.  This estate is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival d omestic architecture. Group tours are available by appointment only. 

Historic Fallsington. (215) 295-6567. A 300 year old village re-creates an ea rly Quaker community.

Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library and Museum. (215)788-9432.  Located in Bristol, this enchanting home contains exquisite Victorian and French f urnishings. The Library (215) 788-7891 is a unique contemporary structure with most of the structure underground.

Parry Mansion Museum. (215) 862-5652.  Located in New Hope, this museum was built in 1784. 

Pennsbury Manor.  (215) 946-0400.   The 17th century home of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, statesman, and diplomat. There are gardens, an extensive collection of period furniture, and a library.

Summerseat.   (215) 295-7339- Located in Morrisville, this was George Washingtons headquarters from December 8 to 14, 1776.

Washington Crossing Historic Park Site of Washington's 1776 crossing of the Delaware.  500 acres of park include historic building and a museum of the Revolutionary War.

Libraries and Societies of Local History

David Library of the American Revolution. (215) 493-6776. Located in Washington Crossing, this library contains original manuscripts and a reference collection devoted to research on the American Revolution. 

Bucks Country Culture Web Sites