Blue Ball Tavern and Inn history


Among the many record books that have come temporarily to the keeping of this writer, none is more fascinating than the one in which the Croasdale family purchased from Richard Graham and Clara F., his wife, in September 1894, the old Blue Ball Inn.

Now almost 58 years later its possession has passed from Mrs. Croasdale to Mr. and Mrs. Paul McCurdy Warner, of Wayne who are remodeling and renovating the old house without making any more structural changes than the Croasdales had already made, thus preserving the charm of the really lovely old house which stands at the intersection of Old Lancaster road and Russell road in Daylesford.

The Brief of Title to the property which is the first item in the old record book except for two early pictures of the house, shows that “a tract of land in Chester County containing 212 acres” was deeded to Owen Roberts “by WIlliam Penn, proprietor and governor of Pennsylvania” by patent dated July 28, 1714.

This copy of the record of ownership as it changes with the years is complete in every line through tot he deed of September 28, 1894, transferring the property from the Grahams to John P. Croasdale. To this old record will soon be added a copy of the transfer of the one time Blue Ball Inn and approximately two acres of ground to Mr. and Mrs. Warner.

Following this listing of ownership in the old record book is a quaintly illustrated article clipped from Harper’s Magazine of April, 1880, entitled “Some Pennsylvania Nooks”. Among the historic places described in it are the Anthony Wayne Homestead, Washington’s Headquarters, Old St. David’s Church, Paoli Monument, Blue Ball Inn and Spread Eagle Inn. The latter are among the most famous of all the old hostelries that once dotted the Lancaster Turnpike. Other data which the Croasdales have collected in their book include excerpts from “The Making of Pennsylvania” written by Sydney George Fisher in 1898 in addition to liberal quotations from various articles by Julius F. Sachse devoted in whole or in part to “Ye Blue Ball” in Tredyffrin Township.

The “North American” of January 4, 1902, ran a special feature article on the “Six Skeletons of Long Ago” that had just then been unearthed in the cellars of the Blue Ball. “House Beautiful” in May, 1929, featured a copiously illustrated story of the Croasdale home as it looked both on the inside and from the outside at that time. And as short a time ago as March 12, 1939, “The Philadelphia Inquirer” had many “posed” pictures in its rotogravure section portraying the sinister events that supposedly took place in the old inn during the ownership of Prissy Robinson, daughter of the Bernhard Vauleer who acquired the tract of land and the first small Blue Ball Tavern in 1759.

Naturally there is some diversity in the details of a story so often told and retold. For one thing there is a margin of ten years or more in the matter of the exact date on which the second inn was built, a larger and more pretentious stone house than the first small one. Both were on the 200 and more acres deeded by William Penn to the first owner of the land. But the second one was considerably to the north of the first one, and directly on the stone turnpike which was completed in 1794. The Warners themselves have apparent evidence of the fact that the second Blue Ball Inn which will soon become their home was built in about the year 1790, thus making the house more than 160 years old.

Whatever its exact age, it is undoubtedly a charming house, surrounded as it is by two well shaded acres and the gardens which the Croasdales have planted with such loving care during their almost sixty years of ownership. At this season of the year daffodils are showing their golden heads on every side. Pale primroses are coming into modest bloom as are many of the spring wild flowers. The peonies which will bloom so much later have been undisturbed for all of sixty years. And there are lily gardens, too, and a swimming pool, not very long or wide, but five feet deep. And a frog and lily pond. There are old paths among the flower gardens and these flower gardens are hemmed in by hedges, beyond which is the long view to the Great Valley. Altogether a charming spot to be made much more so by a season or two of care.

In front of the house which is at the present intersection of Old Lancaster road and Russell road stands the original hitching post bent with time and use, its iron ring still firmly imbedded in the wood. Beside it is the “mounting block” which has now sunk to the level of the ground. The house itself is made of old Pennsylvania trap stone, three stories high, though originally it was but two. The main entrance faces the road. The present door will soon be replaced by the more interesting original one with its nice old hardware, found in the stable by Mahlon Rossiter who is in charge of remodeling the house. The original fan light of the doorway is still in place.

On the left side of the house is a wide pleasant porch, probably added to the stone house, not too many years after it was built. Within the past 50 years or so a second story has been added to the porch which, while not architecturally quite in harmony with the house still adds its note of charm and summer comfort. Back of the porch is a trick door, with an intriguing secret wooden lock, which leads to a comparatively unimportant spot, the woodshed.

The front door leads into a large living room which was originally two smaller rooms which accounts for the fact that there are two fireplaces in the present room. All told there are five fireplaces on the first and second floors of the house, all of them with the original mantels. The floors are also the original wooden ones. Leading into the living room from the porch, on the side is a Dutch door, the lower part with its cross “to keep out witches . . . also small animals and urchins.”

The present kitchen was added onto the east side of the house possibly seventy-five to a hundred years ago, with its doorway leading into the large front room. In it is a charming corner cupboard as old as the room itself. For convenience of living this kitchen will of course be modernized to some extent by the Warners without changing its contours.

(To be continued)