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  • Susan Welsh

Yesterday's New Hope


After all these decades, Patchouli still lingers in the air, a perfumed reminder of New Hope’s younger, hippier, artsier days. Some of the best places of my youth are still there, like Farley's Book Shop.

Today in New Hope, gentrification abounds--The Bucks County Playhouse, The Ferry Farm Market where the old Four Seasons Mall once stood and Odette's, scheduled to become New Hope's "all new luxury boutique resort hotel" some time in 2019.

Meanwhile, The Bridge Street Foundation is setting the stage for the premiere of its Playhouse Inn, starring Food Network celebrity chef Jose Garces. The 2018 premiere debuts after a decade of vacancy and replaces the night club, Zadar's, where we danced in the 80's.

New Hope, it's a helluva town-- depicted in primitive simplicity on the Playhouse curtain, originally painted by Charles Child—brother-in-law of famed chef Julia Child.

There's a reason tourists flock to our charming hamlet along the Delaware River, yet I wonder how many of them know the deep, rich history of artistic influence our town's residents, past and present have in the world of American Arts. Sometimes, after over 50 years of living here, I'm still finding out more.

Until a week ago, I didn't know the significance of the name Tony Sarg. I only knew it as a shop my mother talked about- located on Bridge Street and full of Sarg-designed textiles, toys, jigsaw puzzles, musical boxes and furniture.

Anthony Frederick Sarg was born in Guatemala in 1880 and moved to Germany with his family in 1887. In 1909 he met Bertha McGowan, an American tourist. They married and returned to her hometown in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years later their daughter Mary was born and in 1914 the family settled in NYC where Sarg did animation and illustration. But it was Sarg's fascination with puppets that would prevail.

In the 1920's The Tony Sarg Company was established. It became renowned for productions like Don Quixote and Alice in Wonderland, which appealed to both children and adults alike. Eventually Sarg established his reputation as "America's Puppet Master" and is credited as the father of modern puppetry in North America.

In 1927 Sarg masterminded the iconic helium-filled cartoon balloons for the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Day Parade. Until then the parade was led by live animals "borrowed" from the Central Park Zoo.

Another artist tied (or tethered as it were) to New Hope's rich, varied, and deep artistic past. One more reason to give thanks for the blessings of living in Bucks County.

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