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November 26, 2014
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On the Road to Milford: History, elegance and charm

The Forest Hall Building was the original home of the Yale School of Forestry.


Milford, PA is a magical place. Sitting on a ridge above the banks of the Delaware River, very near a spot where New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey intersect, it is blessed with scenery, history, tasteful shopping and dining. It is the perfect place to explore on a crisp fall day.

The approach

Come from the northeast on Route 84 and you will find yourself descending a mountain with spectacular views of the river valley below. When the Route 209 storm repair project is complete, you should be able to approach Milford from the south on Route 209 as well, traveling alongside the broad lush Delaware River plain on your right and the scenic forested Pocono hillsides on your left. A few beautiful very old farm homesteads are on that road. Along the way you can stop and view the sparkling Raymondskill Falls just two and a half miles south of Milford. It is the tallest waterfall in Pennslyvania. If Route 209 is still closed when you visit, the falls can be reached by taking Milford Road (SR2001) to Raymondskill Road, or by taking the Raymondskill Falls sign turnoff from Route 6 just northwest of the borough. Near the borough of Milford itself, you will find Milford Beach Park on the Delaware. One of the Cliff Park Inn hiking trails in Milford will take you to the hilltop at Milford Knob. “The Knob” has a view of all the area below. Interestingly, the Knob trail was the site of many old movies including the Tom Mix cowboy series. Another area of interest is Grey Towers National Historic Site (570/296-9630, www.greytowers.org), which features the Gifford Pinchot Mansion and extensive grounds, continuing the Pinchot legacy of responsible forestry and environmentalism.

The borough
But the real wonder is the borough itself. While enjoying a leisurely stroll around Milford, you will find yourself in the past, present and future all at the same time. Architectural treasures from the 19th century, and “artsy” shops and galleries with a 21st-century mindset, along with fine dining in restored hotels, will bring you into Milford present—a bustling and charming town with a Victorian flavor.

History
If you like to explore the past and imagine how people lived in another century, take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful residential section of town that lies tucked north and west of the main thoroughfares, Harford and Broad. The borough was actually a planned community long before that became the in-thing in late 20th-century America. Community developer and Philadelphia circuit court Judge John Biddis bought and developed that section of town in 1796. He divided the property into plots and laid out the street map, naming the east-west streets after his children and the short alleys after fruits and berries. He then promoted the settlement on his trips to Philadelphia, seeking out support from the wealthy there. The result is a community of charming old homes on large lots, some colonial and some Victorian, which all seem to be well cared for. It has the flavor of a New England village. Take an autumn walk along Ann or Catharine streets and you will see large old trees, gardens, flowers and picket fences.

The commercial section of town is built around Harford (Route 6/209) and Broad streets, and quaint alleys and little gardens are hidden behind many buildings there. Here Milford has the flavor of both the past and the present. Imposing old buildings have been restored and house the government offices of the current county seat. Several old hotels, which were built in the early- and mid-19th century for the summer resort customers from New York City and Philly, have been restored. They are always bustling, and Milford continues to please vacationers from those regions.

Dining
The Department of the Interior has placed the Historic District of Milford on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the buildings on the historic list is the Dimmick Inn (101 East Harford Street, 570/296-4021, www.dimmickinn.com), now owned by the Jorgenson family. Architecturally it reflects the early American republic. It is a Greek revival building typical of that time. Built in 1828 by Samuel Dimmick and rebuilt in 1856 after a fire, it stayed in the Dimmick family into the 20th century. It is a substantial three-story brick building with charming double white wrap-around porches. In days past, the stagecoach and early motor coach stop was at its door. Tradition carries on, with the New York City bus stopping there. Inside are several cozy dining rooms, and a wood-paneled bar area. If you are lucky, you can sit near a beautiful stone fireplace with a roaring fire on a chilly day—providing old fashioned ambience along with a casual American fare menu.

A very different but equally charming place is the restored Hotel Fauchere (401 Broad Street, 570/409-1212, www.hotelfauchere.com). It has a 19th-century European flare. Styled in Italian villa manner, the three-story wood frame building was established as a hotel by Louis Fauchere in the mid-19th century. He was a French speaking Swiss-born chef who had made a name for himself as a Master Chef at the original Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City. The Hotel Fauchere became the “in” place then, and was popular over many years with the rich and famous from politics and the early film industry. Fauchere’s family ran the hotel until 1976. In 2006, the charming old building was saved from ruin and lovingly restored by Sean Strub and Robert L. Snyder. The restoration is simple and elegant. The exterior is true to its period, even to its rocking chair porch. Inside the atmosphere is restrained simple elegance and the guest rooms are filled with luxury bedding. It is a special place to stay, or to stop in for dinner at the high end Delmonico Room, or the more casual downstairs Bar Louis. Both menus focus on unusual regional dishes using local fare, lovingly prepared and presented. It is a sophisticated treat in the country.

Shopping and browsing
Just off Route 6 near the 6th Street intersection, Mill Street peels off to the west. It runs down a block or so to the edge of the Sawkill Creek at Water Street. Here sat the 19th-century Gordon Grist Mill, which served the community grinding corn and flour well into the mid-20th century. Present-day investors have made the Upper Mill complex a perfect blend of a museum and quaint shopping experience, even retaining the working waterwheel as part of the WaterWheel Café (150 Water Street, 570/296-2383, www.waterwheelcafe.com). The cafe is a busy, trendy spot serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with live music “Blues Jams” on Thursday nights. In addition, the Upper Mill Mercantile (150 Water Street, 570/409-4444, on Facebook), a charming new gift store and craft gallery, is right next door. From the Upper Mill, you can explore the antique shops at the Old Lumberyard across the street.

Over on Harford and Broad, and on the little alleys that run off and behind them, shoppers can take home treasures like pottery, candles and baskets, or clothing, dishware and jewelry, or explore old books and prints at Books & Prints at Pear Alley (220 Broad Street, 570/296-4777, on Facebook).

For “foodies” who love Italian food, don’t miss Fretta’s Italian Food Specialty shop (223 Broad Street, (570/296-7863, www.frettas.com.) for an authentic taste of Little Italy home cooking and specialty ingredients.

Art galleries
Milford is also home to many fine art and craft galleries, including the Artery Fine Art and Fine Craft (210 Broad Street, 570/409-1234,) a cooperative gallery of local artists with a dynamic gallery presence. Others to put on your list are the Golden Fish Gallery (307 Broad St., 570/296-0413, www.goldenfishgallery.com), and Blue Stone Studio (206 Broad St. Forest Hall Building, www.bluestonegallerymilford.com), where you can watch the artist potter at work. The gallery/studio is located in the Forest Hall Building, notable in itself as the original home of the Yale School of Forestry endowed by the Pinchot family.

For more information about Milford and its surrounds, visit milfordpa.us.