In the second of a two-part series, columnist Carl LaVO continues his list of his favorite places to visit in Bucks County in the new year.
Behold: The top half of our Top 12 Wonders of Bucks for the new year.
No. 6: Tyler Estate, Newtown Township
A 60-room mansion with 20 fireplaces, service cottages, support buildings, a four-tier herb and flower garden, a stable for 25 horses and a working dairy — all of this set in 2,000 acres of woodlands. Welcome to the grandest estate ever built in Bucks County.
George and Stella Tyler created this wonder in 1931, center pieced by their Tudor-style mansion with turrets on a 200-foot-high cliff above Neshaminy Creek.
George Tyler was a prominent Philadelphia banker; wife Stella was an accomplished sculptor. Stella willed most of the estate to Pennsylvania for what would become Tyler State Park. She set aside 200 acres including the mansion for Temple University, which sold the acreage to Bucks County for its first community college in 1965.
Today the mansion is Tyler Hall, administrative headquarters for the college. A visit to the grand home and its ornamental gardens is awe inspiring.
Address: 275 Swamp Road. Information: 215-968-8000
No. 5: Ringing Rocks, Bridgeton Township
Nature’s bell choir is an incredible 7-acre field of boulders piled up at the time of the dinosaurs. Volcanism caused minerals to line up like stings on a violin. In 1890, local musician Dr. John J. Ott used a steel hammer to ring 200-pound stones of different shapes to sound out “Home Sweet Home” and other tunes.
In 1889, a Frenchtown, New Jersey, banker purchased the 128-acre site including a 30-foot-high waterfall to protect it from development. Eventually, Bucks County government took possession and created the park we now enjoy.
Address: Ringing Rocks Road; detailed information at www.visitbuckscounty.com/listing/ringing-rocks-park/453/
No. 4: Delaware Canal, Easton to Bristol
In the early 1800s, there was a pressing need for a low-cost means of shipping coal to homes and factories in the Delaware Valley. The answer: a 60-mile-long canal from Bristol to Easton to reach upstate coal mines. Down the canal for 100 years would come narrow boats loaded with black gold.
The five-year dig began in October 1827. Villages like Point Pleasant, New Hope and Yardley became prosperous layovers for mule-towed boats making 3,000 round-trips annually.
Today, Delaware Canal State Park is a cherished symbol of the county’s past where towpath walkers, joggers and bikers enjoy passing through picturesque towns and farm fields astride the canal. Remnants of 24 massive wooden locks are intriguing, the best example at Lodi.
Address: Park headquarters, 11 Lodi Hill Road at River Road (Route 32), Upper Black Eddy; phone 610-982-5560 or go to www.fodc.org.
No. 3: The Mercer Mile, Doylestown
The unrivaled treasure left us by Henry Chapman Mercer is three-fold:
• Fonthill, his Harry Potter-like castle with 44 rooms, 32 stairwells, 18 fireplaces and 21 chimneys.
• Mercer Museum, a monolithic, 9-story atrium stuffed with artifacts of post-Colonial America.
• Moravian Pottery and Tile Works where Mercer produced decorative ceramic tiles.
To visit any is most memorable. Born in 1856 in Doylestown, Mercer became a famed archaeologist and antiquities collector who founded the Bucks County Historical Society. To mark completion of Fonthill in 1912, Mercer set a massive bonfire on the roof to demonstrate the castle like his museum was fireproof. Fonthill is served by a new visitor’s center where tours are scheduled every half hour.
Address: Fonthill and the Tile Works are at 130 E. Swamp Road; the Mercer Museum is at 84 S. Pine St. Information: www.mercermuseum.org.
No. 2: Covered Bridges, Springton to Newtown
A dozen covered bridges are sprinkled about in Perkasie, Tinicum, Springtown, East Rockhill, Plumstead, New Britain, Solebury and Newtown.
Built between 1806 and 1875, they protect underlying wooden roadway spans from weathering. Today, Pennsylvania is home to 195, most in the U.S.
The Schofield Ford bridge spanning Neshaminy Creek in Newtown Township is Bucks’ longest at 164 feet. It’s open to bikers, walkers and equestrians. Others in Central and Upper Bucks accommodate vehicles as well.
Address: Location of all bridges can be found at www.visitbuckscounty.com/things-to-do/covered-bridges.
No. 1: Cuttalossa Valley, Solebury
This narrow valley carved by Cuttalossa Creek has an alpine feel to it with meadows lined by white sycamores and pine forests. Sheep and goats graze the meadowlands as chickens forage near a rustic waterwheel and shelter. Historic homes and former grist mills dating to the 1700s line Cuttalossa Road.
In the 1840s, resident poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote of Cuttalossa. By the 1870s, local poets regularly convened at creekside “Poet’s Rock.” Notable residents were 19th century explorer Zebulon Pike who grew up in the valley and for whom Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named, and Daniel Garber, one of the 20th century’s most important artists.
Cuttalossa Valley — it’s where history and beauty make for an unforgettable visit.
Address: Cuttalossa Road at Route 32 (River Road).
Carl LaVO, author of “Bucks County Adventures” volumes 1 and 2, can be reached at email@example.com.