FAUNBROOK INN – WEST CHESTER, PA
James Baldwin was a local millionaire in the 1860s who had the need for a fine home so he built himself a very impressive place in West Chester. The home later belonged to GOP Congressman Smedley Darlington (what a name) who was also, of course, a wealthy oilman. The house is now the Faunbrook Inn. It’s not exactly a hotel — it is clearly a house — but the Inn is very impressive. The house is constructed in a Federal-Italianate style with three floors and a large wrap-around porch with ornamental ironwork. There is a large parlor, library, dining room and sitting room/bar on the first floor and very nice bedrooms on the second and third floors.
The rooms are spacious and furnished with antiques. Each guest room had a private bath. The house was extremely quiet considering that it was 150 years old. Apart from the sound of someone using the stairs you could not hear anything from the rest of the house…not even water running or toilets flushing. People seemed comfortable congregating in the library. The porch was also very inviting since the weather was mild and the first floor windows and doors were open. There were large windows in the parlor that converted into doors so people could drift in and out as they pleased.. We were there as part of a wedding group so there was about a dozen people mingling throughout the Inn.
The breakfasts were excellent – French Toast strata with apples, berries and cream, apple-flavored sausage, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee…that was day 1. Day 2 was just as good and included an extra sample of the local “Scrapple” which is apparently a Pennsylvania thing — sort of a sausage made up of butchering leftovers that tasted like bland sausage mixed with sawdust. Must be an acquired taste. The group managed to polish it all off. I was so busy eating I forgot to ask if this was the standard breakfast or something special for the wedding guests. It seemed like it was a normal breakfast based on how it was served.
What to do in the Brandywine Valley? — Go to Baldwin’s Book Barn
The Book Barn is a five story barn built in 1822 by the Darlington family (remember Smedley?) that was converted into a book store 75 years ago by William Baldwin (must be the son of the guy that built the Inn). It’s only a short distance south of the Faunbrook Inn. A person could spend a weekend just roaming around in the stacks. Books are arranged by categories, more or less, and then shelved by author, more or less. The special first editions and rare books are on the first floor. Apparently they sell books by the foot. You can purchase refurbished leather-bound books at $300 per foot for your executive library…if you have one. We spent about an hour wandering around. I like Joseph Conrad and got a couple of his novels while there.