Stretching between Old Windy Bush Road towards the Delaware River, Sycamore Farm's history reaches back to before the American Revolution. That alone would make the property noteworthy, but the events of the last 100 years, and especially some connections to the areas most famous inhabitants, make this estate's story stand out.
The property was part of the Penn family's private pre-revolutionary holdings. The original deed was signed in 1784 by two of William Penn's grandsons - both named John Penn - one of whom served as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1771 through 1776. It was sold to Thomas Smith and his wife Sarah for £350 "lawful silver money of Pennsylvania". The original tract was quite large, encompassing roughly 200 modern acres, and included an allowance of 6 acres for future streets and highways. The state apparently did appropriate some of the land, since Covered Bridge Road ran though part of the property at one point. That portion of the road has long since been abandoned, but its presence is still evident from the air (see the old roadbed at the 2:00 minute mark in the accompanying video).
That's one of the many, and probably the most outrageous, stories associated with Sycamore Farm. For example, there's a cannonball that sits near the main house's front porch. When Reed was in his late teens, he and the sons of the famous architect neighbor - Rolf Bauhan, Hobey and Billy Bauhan - were out drinking in New Hope and decided to appropriate it from the pile on display in Cannon Square downtown. (A search of local news coverage did not uncover any mention of this theft.)
Mischievous behavior apparently ran in the family. Sally Denby's mother, Sally Nimick, first came to, and fell in love with, Bucks County to attend the Holmquist School for Girls (now Hotel Du Village) after being expelled from the Oldfields School in Maryland. Her ghastly offense: Smoking one cigarette. Apparently the powers that be at Holmquist were worried about repeat misdeeds and made her sign a statement that she wouldn't smoke until after she was 18, and then only with both parents permission.
The farm also has a connection to two of Bucks County's most notable people. As many homeowners did in the 40s and 50s, Sycamore Farm hosted young actors from the Bucks County Playhouse over the summers. In the Summer of '49 Grace Kelly stayed at the farm and spent time at the family pool.
Also, George Nakashima's home and workshop are located on a former part of the Nimicks acreage. Nakashima came to New Hope in 1943, and originally worked on the adjacent farm owned by famed Architect Antonin Raymond whom Tyson had befriended at his time at MIT. As Nakashima wrote in his biography "after a year of doing general farm work, it was quite clear that chickens and I were not compatible." He and his wife first moved to Carversville, but wanted to move to a piece of virgin land to build a home and a workshop. In the late 1940s, the Nimicks helped him achieve that goal. Nakashima, again from his biography said, "Through a great act of generosity, a landowner, whom we hardly knew offered us three acres of land to be worked off in on barter, exchanging construction work for the deed. This was true American goodness of heart. With no collateral whatsoever, he offered us the title to our property. His construction plans changed, so we finished paying for the land in money." You can also see the proximity of the Nakashima Studio at the 1:34 minute mark in the accompanying video which lies through the woods just to the north of the farmhouse.
Sycamore Farm has played an important part in the history of our area and we would like to thank both Mike and Debby Brady for sharing this story with us and allowing us to share it with you. Although this property has been a home and a livelihood for many families through its history, as with many of the these preserved properties it is the simple things that leave the longest impact on their owners as Debby Brady who was born and raised at Sycamore Farm said her fondest memories of the property are "spending the day walking the stream in the woods with her children".
The Land Trust of Bucks County would like to thank Mike and Debby Brady for inviting us into their home. The Solebury Township Historical Society for their work on this and many of the properties in the township and to Jim Searing whose tireless and unique photographic perspective of the property was used in portions of the video.