Stumbling Around

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Dilworthtown Inn

(This column was not published in the Daily Star.)

In Pennsylvania, I lived Southwest of Philadelphia in the Chadds Ford/West Chester area in a very small village called Dilworthtown. Television shoppers will recognize West Chester as the hometown of QVC and art lovers will recognize Chadds Ford as the hometown of Andrew Wyeth and his family. Others may recognize the area as the location of Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, the Brandywine Battlefield from the Revolutionary War, and numerous old DuPont family mansions It is a very interesting, historic, and lovely area. You could go canoeing down the Brandywine one week-end and flying over it in a hot air balloon the next!

For several years, I lived next door to the Dilworthtown Inn. My home was the first house in Dilworthtown and originally was a log cabin built by James Dilworth, a blacksmith by trade, about 1740. In 1754, Dilworth built what is now the Inn as additional living space for his large family. In 1780, his son Charles applied for a license to use the building as a tavern. Since opening in 1780, the Inn has always offered warm hospitality, candlelit atmosphere, roaring fireplaces and exceptional, imaginative American cuisine. Over the course of the next 50 years the Inn was called the Sign of the Pennsylvania Farmer, The Black Horse Tavern, Sign of The Rising Sun, and Cross Keys. The present name, Dilworthtown Inn, came to use in 1821. During the American Revolution, the Inn played an important role after the Battle of the Brandywine as British troops occupied the Dilworth Town area for five days, “raiding the countryside for horses, cattle, grain, and other provisions, and using the Inn as a storehouse for other foodstuffs.”

In 1969, the Inn closed for a full restoration to colonial times. My home was also restored and modernized. Since 1972 when it reopened, the Dilworthtown Inn has welcomed guests with the same accommodating hospitality and gracious dining as enjoyed by its first patrons. The Dilworthtown Inn carries a reputation for elegant, handcrafted decor. The colonial ambiance is exemplified by the workmanship of American artistry and Continental craftsmanship. Each of the three floors and fifteen dining rooms have been authentically restored, one by one, to provide patrons with intimate candlelight dining with an old world charm. Today, the Inn with its tuxedo-clad wait staff is a popular place for marriage proposals and to celebrate anniversaries.

The Dilworthtown Inn is a favorite with the folks at QVC. It’s a safe bet that the various guest celebrities who appear on QVC have probably dined the previous night at the Inn. So you never know who you’ll run into. The former stables at the Inn has been converted into an outdoor area for casual dining and drinks.

I lived with Scooter, a loveable, 24-inch-tall, half Pekingese and half Peekaboo dog that looked like a golden-haired Lapsa Apso. He was intelligent, gregarious, friendly, loveable, playful, and always ready for a good-time. His antics, like trying to make his way through a 3-foot snow fall (He jumped like a rabbit.), were hilarious. Scooter was not my dog; he was my friend. On Saturdays, I would take Scooter to the drive-through at McDonald’s for a hamburger. He loved it.

Scooter’s only fault was that he couldn’t resist the wonderful smell of grilled stake coming from the Inn at dinner time. Let him outside for any time at all and he would disappear. I strongly suspect that some members of the staff at the Inn were giving him table scraps. The only trouble was that owners Jim Barnes and Bob Rafetto weren’t too happy having Scooter roam around their fine establishment when customers were there.

One afternoon, Scooter disappeared so I went to look for him at the Inn. Sure enough, I found him in the Stables with George Hamilton (you’ll remember him from “Dancing with the Stars” and the movies) petting him. Susan Lucci and Loni Anderson had both been at the Inn in prior weeks. I scolded Scooter for his poor timing.

A few years later, Scooter got old (17 years) and died -- while lying on the floor with his head nestled in my arm. I cried at the loss of my friend. Today, Scooter is buried next to a large pine tree in the back yard of that wonderful old home next to the Inn.

The Inn and Scooter will live in my heart forever.


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