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Heralding Our History: Raising a glass to Fallsington’s Stagecoach Tavern


Historic Fallsington Inc.’s (HFI) Stagecoach Tavern has been a landmark and focal point on Meetinghouse Square since the mid-1700s. Built as a home for John Merrick, Mahlon Rickey petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions of Bucks County for a tavern license in 1799. For more than a century the building was operated as a tavern/hotel under many names and owners until it was sold in 1920.

Fallsington resident Charles M. Headley purchased the structure in 1934 and, upon his death, willed it to his two daughters, Alice Headley (Woodruff) and Eleanore Headley (Wright). The latter’s husband, Irvin, would operate a portion of the building as Fallsington Hardware.

Our story focuses on the post-Civil War wood frame structure that once extended from the front of the building facing Meetinghouse Square. It was constructed to enlarge the bar area to the tavern. Oral history accounts place the construction of this addition to around 1867.

In 1973, the Bucks County Historical Journal printed an oral history account from 1944 of then-85-year-old Louise White Watson.

Born in 1859, she recalled the excitement of the local children on the arrival of the stagecoach in town; the rushing of the children to greet the overheated horses, the inquisitiveness of the disembarking passengers, who “dismounted and entered the bar-room, which had been moved up from the basement and now occupied the first floor of a two-story frame addition facing south.”

The date of the construction is also confirmed by a letter written by Dr. Henry Lippincott dated Aug. 3, 1867 to his friend and former neighbor John Nelson, who owned the tavern from 1857 to 1865. Dr. Lippincott writes that the owner, William Moore, was working on “putting up a new Bar-room in front of the old one that shall extend out 20 ft. & run up to the parlour [sic] door…”

HFI’s interest in preserving another historic building in the village lead to several months of negotiations to purchase the tavern and on Sept. 15, 1960 they bought the property for $15,000 from the Wrights and Alice Headley Woodruff. Soon after, a “Tavern Restoration Committee” was formed, chaired by Mrs. Ann Hawkes Hutton, and the business of restoring the structure to its original tavern appearance began.

The first order of business was to gather research on the property and to have an architectural archaeology survey done.

The committee remained committed to the preservation of the tavern. In the meeting minutes of April 28, 1961, it recommended the Ewing Builders General Contractors of Trenton, New Jersey, be awarded the work to begin the, “…demolition of all late additions, including the entire frame front of the building,…” and also that it be, “…torn down by hand so as to save any material from the site that the historical society may want.”

The committee also requested that, “the Trustees act at once to preserve the two old trees in front of the tavern.” One of these trees still stands today.

By fall 1963 all the outbuildings had been removed. The exterior walls had been sandblasted, exposing the beautiful stonework, new shutters were installed, copied from the old ones, window frames were repaired, and the interior of the tavern was coming into shape as well. Restoration on the Stagecoach Tavern continued and in October 1966, HFI hosted a big unveiling. As part of the festivities, sisters Marion Moon Hazzard and Sarah Moon Otis exhibited a collection of objects once owned by their father, Charles Henry Moon.

Today the Stagecoach Tavern is a testimony to the vision of the early members of the organization to preserve this landmark for what it once was. The tavern has been the subject for many beautiful works of art by local artisans, appeared in postcards, and is the focal point during Fallsington Day.

Robert W. Sands, Jr. is museum assistant of Historic Fallsington Inc.

“Heralding Our History” is a weekly feature. Each month, the Herald delves into the history of one of its towns.

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