Volume 1: 
Brandywine River Museum

It’s that time of year when people from Maine to Murphysboro hop in the car and head for the open road. It’s when visitor traffic picks up steam around
Canoeing on the Brandywine River
Brandywine Country here in Delaware County. Some of our star attractions really spin the turnstiles, yet some of the most fascinating places and people remain hidden treasures along the bends and back roads.

These are the very places that can add wow to any weekend, and turn any day trip into a grand adventure. So we’ve created a guide to some diamonds in the rough, some gems among the jewels, and a way to meet
some new friends in a place the locals lovingly call Delco. So follow along as we find the surprises a stone’s throw from where you knew you wanted to be all along: Destination Delco.

Our first installment: On the road to The Brandywine River Museum

Think of this treasure of an art museum as the hub of a road trip to
inspire your curiosity, your appetite and your Wyeth wanderlust.

Ah, the star of the show, and our roadtrip. We know you’re heading here (so many people do each and every day), and we applaud your decision. This little roadtrip idea generator was written to help you know where to stop before and after your museum visit. So your whole day or two (or three, what the heck) is a bundle of mighty fine Brandywine. This old gristmill has been transformed into one of America’s finest creative experiences. The whole Wyeth clan – family, friends, mentors and protégés - is well represented here, as is the whole Brandywine ethos. It’s pure Pennsylvania, and we’re proud to say, the cream of the Delco crop.

Make time to stroll the serene pathway along the Brandywine River just outside the museum. (Or float by on a tube or canoe when the weather’s warm and the water’s high.) And make sure you visit the studios of both N.C. and Andrew Wyeth, now open to the public. When you see where they worked, and how they did it, you’ll love the Wyeth art all the more.

But more than art, this roadtrip is a sure bet for all the senses. Keep reading, dear traveler….

5 great additions to your River Museum roadtrip: 

Beneath this collection of art and beauty is
a tunnel from the Underground Railroad.

1. Chadds Ford Gallery

If you’re like us, and on the way to or from the Brandywine River Museum, you may be in the mood to buy a Wyeth. (Or at least a reasonable facsimile.) Well, we’ve come to the right place. The Chadds Ford Gallery is a trove of Wyeth-mania. Just walk in and look around. The front room is always chock-a-block with a temporary exhibit of guest artists right out of the Brandywine school.

Straight away we’re made welcome by a big smile on the face of Barbara Noble-Moore, who grew up around here and manages the Chadds Ford Gallery. Barbara shows us around, pointing out the limited editions and out-of-print rarities that make the gallery as much a must-see as the Brandywine Museum itself. She knows the Brandywine aesthetic – what she calls “buckets, barns and beautiful daisies” – and has learned a craft that’s been a beautiful surprise to her.

 Say hey to Barbara at the Chadds Ford Gallery,
your personal guide to “buckets, barns
and beautiful daisies.”
“How’d you get into this,” we ask Barbara. “Divorce makes you do some strange things,” she says without missing a beat. Barbara grins and shows us the last available giclée of Jamie Wyeth’s iconic Wake, a huge and startling painting of a seagull in full flight, heading right for us. The painting makes us want to duck, it’s so alive.

Artsy-fartsy factoid: Barbara tells us that a giclêe is a uniquely detailed digital print that’s about as close to the original painting as you can get without putting on a smock. The artistic tinkering of, of all people, Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame advanced this painstaking print process. It was then perfected using local DuPont pigments.) It pops about as much as the painting. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. But it is stunning.

The gallery is full of “Andy’s” pictures, as well. Which is how just about everyone we meet in Wyeth country refers to Jamie’s famous father Andrew. In fact, the whole family (and their artsy friends) is pretty well represented here.

Barbara says beneath the collection is a tunnel that connects to the colonial tavern next door, now known as Brandywine Prime. (It’s where we’ll enjoy tuna tartare later this evening.) In the 18th century it was Chadds Ford Inn, run by abolitionist Quakers who made it part of Delco’s Underground Railroad, which shuttled escaped slaves to freedom. You can feel the history in the floorboards of this old gallery.

There’s history in the staircase, too. Barbara points to a small marble disk embedded in the base of the railing. Back in the day, this was a source of pride for the owner, as the marble signified the building was free and clear of any mortgage. Woo-hoo!

If your mortgage is in good shape, pay a visit to Barbara and take a little Wyeth home. At the very least, you’ll make a new friend. We’re sorry about the divorce, Barb, but real happy it brought you to the gallery! 
2. The Christian Sanderson Museum
Warning: Once you walk into this utterly
oddball, utterly captivating treasure trove,
you may not leave until they kick you out. 
Just around the corner from the Chadds Ford Gallery is perhaps the greatest unknown treasure in all of Delco. It’s an unassuming white house with a sweet porch and a view of a pond festooned with lily pads and the occasional white egret. But inside is where the fun is.

This place was the home of a fine fellow named Christian Sanderson, one of America’s most prolific and oddball collectors. Chris observed minute details of everyday Brandywine life, made notes, collected souvenirs and assorted ephemera, and filed it all away for folks to find in the future.

Chris Sanderson had a very personal
relationship with the Wyeth family, and much
of it is remembered here in the weirdest ways.

Today, we might politely call Mr. Sanderson a hoarder, but to the Chadds Ford community of the middle 20th Century, Chris was an everyday historian with a keen eye for what was just plain interesting. He was also a chum of Andy Wyeth’s, and played the role of artist’s model pretty often. He had the classic downhome Americana look that Wyeth celebrated so well. And you can see Andy’s sketches of Chris, and a few portraits and other rare paintings here – and only here - in the Sanderson Museum.

Curator Chuck Ulman is happy to show us around. (Watch your head; don’t stub your toe on those cannonballs dug right out of the backyard.) Our jaws are happy to drop at what we see: sand from the Panama Canal dig; a wanted poster for the kidnapped Lindbergh baby; a photo of old Chris himself with Miss America 1954; a hangman’s noose from Chester County’s Gallows Hill (the corner of Rts. 32 & 202); Jenny Wade’s purse (she was the only civilian killed at Gettysburg); a baseball signed by Connie Mack, a barber shop sign painted by

Jamie Wyeth’s famous, favorite porker, from
the sign-in sheet at the Sanderson Museum.
N.C. Wyeth, his father’s wooden lunchbox, and a set of 78-RPM records of Chris fiddling square dance tunes. There’s even melted ice from the South Pole. (We note it looks a lot like water, and wonder how it might soften our happy-hour scotch.)Christian Sanderson was a teacher, an old-timey fiddler, local gadfly and radio broadcaster where he held court on WCOJ right up till when he passed away. And when he died, it was up to his friends – more of the quirky characters of Chadds Ford – to sort through the mountains of stuff that he saved just for us. Just for a day like this: a day in Delco of dumbfounding discovery.

Friends, you gotta see this place. It’s worth a day in itself. So make your plans around the museum’s limited schedule, which you can see here. And prepare to gawk and gander, and giggle all the way home.

3. The William Brinton House

Back in the day, this was as good as it got for
wealthy Quaker living. Come have a poke around.

Way back when, let’s say around 1684 just for old time’s sake, there were about 5,000 people living in Philadelphia. And out here in good old Delco, there were just a few farmers and odd sorts making way for the good life we know now. One fellow, a stiff-upper-lip Quaker by the name of William Brinton, made good by milling the grain grown by those hardy farmers. “He kinda was like the Bill Gates of his time,” says Jacquie Roach. She’s the very nice lady who guides folks around old Bill Brinton’s house today. “He made a ton of money with the technology of the era and this is how he lived.”

Don’t expect Bill Gates’ mansion. The Brinton House is without grand ornamentation, in the tradition of simple Quaker tastes. But Jacquie points out one symbol of great luxury. “There are more closets here than rooms. These people had stuff.”  And here at the Brinton House you can see a lot of that stuff.

Ancient pottery, silverware, cook pots and fireplace tools. Over here’s a barrel bathtub; we imagine squeezing into it while Ma Brinton pours hot water over us. There’s the fruit press and a candle vault to protect our light source from varmints who like the taste of candle wax.

And yep, there are closets galore, and the first kind of sofa bed. It’s a bench by the fireplace that opens up and looks more like a place for a vampire to rest rather than where we’d put up our mother-in-law. But then again…nope, let’s not go there.

The Brinton marital bed is worth a look, if only to see the “mattress” is really a rope grid. Pull the knots taut if you like a firmer sleep. Which is how we got the saying, “Sleep tight.” The Brinton House is full of little “oh-my” moments like these.

As we stroll around the property, we check out the privy (it’s a two-seater; no waiting) and the very cool red barn. We can only imagine how Andy Wyeth might have painted it if he had been around a couple hundred years earlier. 

4. William Bunch Auction House 

This is where one man’s junk goes to the highest
bidder. And treasures can be found where you
least expect them.
The day we visited Bunch Auctions, Bill Bunch, one of America’s great old-school auctioneers, sold four Persian rugs ($45), a dresser missing three drawer knobs ($15), an oval mirror ($25), a Jazz Age floor lamp with a sexy Bohemian shade ($75), an old globe ($65), a weird kind of sphere sculpture thing ($55) and a Joe DiMaggio baseball card ($15,000!) – all within about 12 minutes. (Take a looksee at Bill selling that weird sphere thing and let us know if you can figure out what it is, won’t you?) 

Careful not to wave or scratch your ear, or you
may end up bidding on an 18th century armoire.
Check ‘em out online before you come so you can see what’s on the auction block. (Maybe you’ll find some lostAndy Wyeth watercolor if you’re lucky.) You can even bring your own junk, or (ahem) personal treasures, for a free appraisal. And ol’ Bill will be happy to find a good home for ‘em at a fair price for you.

This is not something we do on a regular basis. But for the life of us, we can’t figure out why. The Bunch Auction house is an attic full of fun. Just be careful not to scratch your ear or wave your hand at the wrong time.

5. Penns Woods Winery

Free wine tastings. We like the sound
of that, so we’ll say it again.
Free wine tastings.
Gino Razzi comes from Abruzzi, and you can bet he knows a thing or two about stomping grapes and finding the magic in the juice. Gino was born to make wine, and he’s found his life’s calling here at Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford. His Chardonnay is sublime (The Capital Grille has selected it as their house brand), his White Merlot Rosé is a midsummer day’s dream and the five-varietal Ameritage blend is a surefire flavor bomb that can hold its own with the great reds in the world. A few years back Gino called his daughter Carley, and told her this winemaking was a great hobby, but a little expensive. So she came on board to create a wonderful winery experience for every visitor. We love the tasting room, where Carley will pair the right wine with all sorts of goodies, from happy little cupcakes to locally crafted beef jerky.

Sometimes we think of the winery as a kind of opposite BYOB. “We love it when people bring their own food,” says Carley. “Stop at Pagano’s up the street, bring cheese and salamis and hoagies, and we’ll open a bottle for you.”

There’s nothing like a vineyard picnic. We’re not just saying this, either. We’re drinking it in.

Where to chow down and hit the hay:

Legend has it Andrew Wyeth would
walk here in his pajamas for a couple
of poached eggs and homemade hash.
For breakfast: Hank’s Place slings a morning glory of homemade corned-beef hash (Chef Voula makes it with fresh leeks!) and local poached eggs.

The garden café is as
delicious as it is beautiful.
For lunch: The garden café at Terrain, the very hip and glorious outdoor-living bazaar/nursery/lifestyle store, is a slice of local deliciousness. (With its walls of field stone and barn wood, it’s kind of like dining inside a Wyeth painting.) We’re nuts for the velvety soup of mushrooms from just down the road in Kennett Square. And the pan-seared scallops come from right close to the Wyeth summer home in Maine. 

For cocktails: Our pal and esteemed barman Damon Jekes pours a mighty fine glass of bubbly to go with the Blue Pear Bistro’s fresh oysters. And he can jam with that martini shaker, too!

Walking distance to the museums,
galleries and three square (and mighty
fine) meals. Tell ‘em we sent you!
For dinner: Did we mention the tuna tartare at Brandywine Prime? How about the grass-fed New York strip? Or the double-cut Berkshire pork chop? What about the bone-in rib-eye cowboy steak? You get the idea…

To lay your head: Lucky for you the beautiful Brandywine River Hotel is walking distance to our favorite dinner and breakfast joints. And they have a list of affordable packages to round off your roadtrip. Tell ‘em Destination Delco sent you!