DelVal’s Historic Campus: The Past, Present, and Future of the Burpee House

By Ashley Lyons / Full360 Reporter

In 1877, Washington Atlee Burpee, a former medical student and owner of a mail-order livestock company, established a seed company called Burpee Seeds.

Later, in 1888, he bought land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania that he named Fordhook farm. The house he built on this land still stands, and it is part of Delaware Valley University’s campus. DelVal’s campus is home to a number of historical buildings, some of them remaining from around the time when the school was established in 1896.

The Burpee House is one of the oldest buildings on Del Val’s campus, according to DelVal’s library archives.The Burpee Seed company, as well as the house and Fordhook farm, is a staple in Doylestown’s history, and the house serves as a direct link to the past. However, the house is far more than just a historical monument. It may also serve as an opportunity for DelVal’s future.

Dr. Laura Viel, an adjunct professor at DelVal, has been collaborating with Jeff Marshall, who works with the Bucks County Historical Society, in investigating its past and potential uses for the Burpee house. So far, they’ve discovered that the house “came in stages,” Dr. Viel said.

Marshall has been attempting to document the entire history of the house, as it had not been recorded previously by the Bucks County Historical Society. In order to do this, he’s studied the architecture styles of the house, down to the tiny details, like cracks in the walls.

He explained that the house seemed to have three stages: it’s original, where it was more of a cabin, an addition, and a renovation.Marshall surveying inside the house.

According to Dr. Viel, Marshall is “trying to tell the story of the house,” and though his methods may seem confusing to those unfamiliar with architecture, he’s been fairly successful. Of course, Marshall and Dr. Viel haven’t been the only ones instrumental in this project’s progress. Dr. Viel expressed gratitude towards the Director of Facilities at DelVal, Jeff Brown, as well as Marian Schad, DelVal’s cataloging Librarian, who helped organize information on the Burpee house for the project.

“In the community, we honor past buildings,” Dr. Viel said, “these are homes that have meaning, and they have a history that we can connect to.”

Dr. Viel

Connecting to the Burpee house is the next stage of this ongoing project.

One of the landscape design courses at DelVal is working on developing gardens for the house in improve and maintain its grounds.Burpee House and its grounds.

Not only will this be an opportunity for students to practice what they’ve learned in this class, but this project will help with house “being cared for and loved as a beacon of history,” said Dr. Viel.

Dr. Viel is excited for the next stages in the Burpee house project, and she wants students to be able to appreciate the history and the house as much as she does:“I’m looking forward to ways that I will honor that [history] and they ways that we will repurpose [the house] back in the spirit of Krauskopf. It would represent to the community what DelVal is about.”

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