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THE SIGNATURE HOUSE – 109 W. MAPLE AVENUE              

  Submitted and published in the Langhorne Ledger by Sally Valone of the Historic Langhorne Association

  The Signature House owned by Ruth Ehrlen Irwin is one of the oldest buildings in Langhorne Borough and celebrated its 220th birthday this year.  It was built in 1783 by  wagon builder, Richard Tomlinson and his wife, Hannah Huddleston.  On its  200th birthday in 1983, the house has the distinction of being the first in Langhorne Borough to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  

    Known as the Tomlinson-Huddleston House, the building separated from the Langhorne Hotel by a fenced yard, was either a rebuilding of a house that had burned or a new building for Richard and Hannah Tomlinson, who had lost another house to fire.

     The structure is unique in that there are six names or sets of initials and four date stones carved into the exterior walls of the house.  While many other eighteenth century stone homes in Bucks County have date stones, none exhibit so many names, particularly so many non-owners’ names carved at the same time.  This structure is virtually a signature house of Langhorne’s founders; thus it has become known as The Signature House.

     The signatures include: (1) Isaac Watson carved “I. Watson” and a hatchet as the symbol of the master builder which can be seen to the left of the front door, facing Maple Avenue. (2) Initials and the date , 1783,  of the first owners, Richard and Hannah Tomlinson can be seen between two of the second story windows.  (3) Isaac Hicks, close friend of the Tomlinsons and the father of the Peaceable Kingdom painter, Edward Hicks, carved his full name on the east side of the house. (4) Joshua Richardson, a neighbor, carved  his initials and date on the north side of the house.  (5)   William Paxson, another neighbor who helped Tomlinson with the construction signed “W. Paxson” and the date.  (6)“I.T.” was Isaac Thackeray, listed as a “cordwainer” in the Middletown Township tax records.  Edna S.  Pullinger, a Newtown writer pointed out that the master builder was the carpenter who made the wooden coffins in which the bodies of 160 dead soldiers were placed and were buried in The Revolutionary War Burial Site on Bellevue and Flowers Ave.  She also pointed out that Edward Hicks once lived in the house for a short period.  A fire, that destroyed the carriage shop, inspired his master to move out of the parental home.

     Just 24 feet 9 in. across and a fraction of an inch over 28 feet deep, the original house had two rooms and a hallway with circular stairs on the first floor, three rooms and a hallway upstairs, an attic and a basement.   Originally there were two fireplaces on each floor – a large one in the kitchen on the first floor.  The family of George G. Ehrlen purchased the building in 1936 and in 1943 restored it to its original appearance.  Ruth Ehrlen Irwin and her sister Arabella Ehrlen Dittmar,  daughters of George Ehrlen grew up next door where their father owned and  operated the Langhorne Hotel.  In 1972, the Irwins consulted with architects who specialize in restoration.  By this time, the front hallway had lost its circular stairs, rooms had been added to the back of the house and some Victorian features like a bay window were part of the building.  This  pleasing and attractive home, to this day,  is occupied by members of the Ehrlen family;  a home which is a living history record complete with signatures.


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