Sample Local History
If you don’t know much about history, we can introduce you to important chapters with local roots. Start with the Brandywine Battlefield State Park, site of the largest land battle of the Revolutionary War and now a beautiful 52-acre park. General Washington and his troops suffered a crushing defeat here at the hands of British General Howe on September 11, 1777.
For the 240th anniversary, you’ll find special Town Tours & Village Walks highlighting the battle (see our Events section). Come back September 16–17 for two days of reenactments with costumed participants.
Driving tours let you trace troop movements, and you’ll likely find a picnic spot among the rolling hills and shady woods. The Visitor’s Center shows a 20-minute film and displays historical exhibits of uniforms, weapons and artifacts found on the battleground. Open Tues–Sun. Rt. 1, Chadds Ford. BrandywineBattlefield.org.
You’ll find a mix of old and new nearby in a period-perfect reproduction fieldstone barn that’s a museum and headquarters of the Chadds Ford Historical Society, which maintains two 18th-century restorations: the John Chads House and the Barns-Brinton House, both on the National Register of Historic Places.
Plan a return visit for two popular events: 51st Annual Chadds Ford Days, Sept. 9 & 10, and the Great Pumpkin Carve, Oct 19–21. Barn is open year-round, Wed–Fri. Houses are open summer weekends, with tours on Sat to Labor Day. 1736 N. Creek Rd., Chadds Ford. ChaddsFordHistory.org.
After the blockbuster museums and battlefields, it’s time for a unique Chester County experience—the Christian C. Sanderson Museum. This eight-room country house, with an astonishing collection of artifacts from life in Chadds Ford, is a history lesson, nostalgia trip and fascinating look at one man’s life and our Nation’s history—200 years of history in 1,500 square feet! A special exhibit, “Wyeth Unplugged,” includes private letters between Sanderson and the Wyeth family. And Sanderson’s Summer Stories are always a treat. Open Mar–Nov, Thurs–Sun, and by appointment. Group tours. 1755 Creek Rd. (Old Rt. 100). SandersonMuseum.org.
For a more traditional history museum, head for the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester—a treasure trove of local history and a great place to trace your family roots at a genealogy workshop.
Through July 12, get cozy with their current exhibition “Quilts: The Next Layer,” featuring 18th-century creativity and frugality in the form of … quilts. And, through Dec. 17, visit Adrian Martinez’s “The Visionary World of Humphrey Marshall,” and find out what happens when art and history collide. Open Tues–Sat. 225 N. High St., West Chester. ChesterCoHistorical.org.
Before you leave West Chester—an award winning town and recent recipient of the Great American Main Street Award—we suggest you walk the brick sidewalk, browse the unique boutiques and sample one of the 64 restaurants. West Chester capitalizes on its rich past in adaptive reuse and mixes the best of history and small town charm. Read more in our June issue or online.
TIP: Snag a table outside to enjoy County Lines’ Best of the Best spot for al fresco dinning in West Chester, every day and every night.
Next up, a museum without walls—Historic Sugartown, a preserved 19th-century rural village in Chester County provides a window on life at that time. Several buildings remain largely intact, so you can visit the 1880s general store, inn, 19th-century schoolroom exhibit, bank barn, carriage museum and book bindery.
Visit July 14 for a BYOB Scarf Marbling workshop and on Sept. 17 for Shugart’s Sunday with BBQ & Blues and country-style family festivities. Guided Tours Sat & Sun. 690 Sugartown Rd., Malvern. HistoricSugartown.org.
The final local history stop is Coatesville, home to the Lukens National Historic District, where industrial history and architectural heritage are woven together so you can “Discover the Past, Explore the Future.” Lukens Steel’s claims to fame include being the longest continuing operating firm in the U.S. iron and steel industry and producing the steel for One World Trade Center.
Three mansions—Rebecca Lukens House (c. 1739); Terracina (1850-51) and Graystone Mansion (1889)—plus the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum are the highlights. Get the complete course on these important metals and check out “Coatesville Rolls into World War I,” portraying the American home front and the use of iron and steel. 50 S. First Ave. Coatesville. SteelMuseum.org.
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