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A wedding of history and hearts:
Home base in Lambertville, celebration in Doylestown
by Laura Matson Hahn
Elizabeth and David Perrine enter their
reception at Fonthill in Doylestown.
When Mary Ellen and Edric Mason decided to sell their Maine bed and breakfast to buy a small hotel in Lambertville, N.J., they did so to be closer to extended family. And quickly they fell in love with everything about their new business venture – from the deep history of the beautifully restored, stone building to the vibrant culture on both sides of the Delaware River. So when their youngest daughter Elizabeth announced her plans to marry David Perrine, they were delighted to offer the Lambertville House as the wedding’s home base.
Every wedding should be blessed with good weather, great spirits and lots of love among kit and kin. And to host it at a special venue with magic all its own is even better. That isn’t a tall order in Bucks and Hunterdon counties where numerous historic properties are available for special events.
The Lambertville House, located in the center of town with 26 charming rooms, luxury private baths, a quaint bar, quintessential porches, courtyards and ample conference center facilities, was perfect for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner and gathering place. Elizabeth’s fiancé immediately claimed the two second story rooms with a balcony overlooking Bridge Street where he planned to roost with his groomsmen on the wedding’s eve. Elizabeth was content to luxuriate in the Governors Suite with her sister, enjoying the oversized Jacuzzi tub, four-poster bed and a cozy balcony above the quiet back courtyard.
The Delaware Valley offers many elegant
wedding facilities. This is at Andalusia,
the former Biddle Mansion.
Elizabeth Perrine on a balcony,
Fonthill in the background.
The original old inn and tavern was built to accommodate the new traffic on the stage line when the covered bridge connecting New Hope to Lambertville replaced the ferry operations in 1812. On one of the busiest overland routes between New York and Philadelphia, the two-story hostelry was built of local quarry stone with the latest styling of iron grillwork and lattices of grape-leaf design.
Besides using the 15 bedrooms, travelers could eat in the long, low-ceilinged dining room and relax in two parlors with huge open fireplaces in the “utmost of comfort, luxury and hospitality.”
The guest register featured many prominent names including the 17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant in 1866. Ownership changed several times throughout the 1800s along with its décor, such as substituting smaller tables of eight for the one long dining table, adding a bar room and an elaborate cornice reflecting the Georgian Colonial architecture that was then in vogue.
By the early 1900s the Inn added a horse livery and an advertisement boasted its “first class accommodations for $2 per day.” As the city of Lambertville grew so did the inn, adding two more floors, and in the 1960s and 70s it was well regarded for its excellent restaurant. But by the 1980s it was in need of restoration again and was purchased by a real estate speculator. But he swindled his investors, absconding with everything of historic value and the hotel sat vacant for 10 years, home only to some pigeons and a few disgruntled ghosts.
Fortunately, in 1995, local real estate developer George E. Michael purchased and restored the grande dame with top-of-the-line guest rooms, amenities, and state of the art meeting facilities for business and social events. But as he preferred developing properties to running them, he sold the Lambertville House in 2005 to the Masons who have since added further refinements including flat screen TVs, Ipod docking stations and luxury amenities.
The Lambertville House
While the hotel provided a perfect home base for the wedding party’s family and close friends, it was too small to accommodate 100 wedding guests. So the bride and groom selected an equally historic property for their ceremony and reception: Fonthill Estate in Doylestown, home of the American archeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer, it was built nearly 100 years after the Lambertville House as a pioneering example of reinforced concrete as a building medium.
The mansion resembles a medieval castle with the main building’s four-story tower, mansard roof and balcony. The 42 rooms, 200 windows, 18 fireplaces and 10 bedrooms with sloping walls, various room heights, curving stairs and unexpected nooks foster a feeling of enchantment.
Much of the furniture is built in and embellished with decorative tiles Mercer made at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. The house also contains artifacts from his world travels including cuneiform tablets from 1000 B.C.E, and several thousand books. Located on a broad stretch of land next to Mercer’s Moravian Pottery and Tile Works on Route 313, Fonthill provides a unique and serene setting for special celebrations.
On the day of the wedding, guests were invited to tour Fonthill’s main house prior to gathering for the ceremony behind the Terrace Pavilion, the property’s former carriage house. Under the shade of large trees next to a reflecting pond, the bridegroomgroom and guests watched the bridesmaids and bride slowly travel down the concrete steps of the Pavilion and across a ridge of grass to the soothing rhythms of a steel drum band.
After a heartfelt ceremony that included the groom’s two children, everyone proceeded to the pavilion for refreshments on the terrace while formal pictures were snapped. With its numerous chimneys and dormers fashioned into dovecotes or birdhouses, the Terrace Pavilion evoked an old-world feel and a healthy sprinkling of fairy dust before everyone entered a large tent for a joyous reception filled with much music, food, dancing and love. So much so, that even the sudden arrival of a crackling thunderstorm toward the party’s end only added to the evening’s happy ebullience.
After all the traditional festivities were complete, the feeling of enchantment followed the wedding party and friends back to the Lambertville House where they mingled in the parlors and porches and courtyard and bar. It was all so lovely, the bride simply refused to change from her wedding gown until she retreated to her suite for the night, on the arm of her groom, happy to begin their own history as husband and wife.