The long, rich history of the Golden Pheasant Inn in many ways reflects the history of Bucks County, harkening back to a way of life that is gone but still resonates in the covered bridges, stone walls and canals of our area.  The tavern and mule barn are excellent examples of the early commercial buildings that were constructed along the Delaware to serve mercantile traffic.  An important gathering place, the tavern was the social hub for farmers, travelers, and later, canal men and vacationers in the area. The Golden Pheasant Inn is believed to be the longest continuously operating commercial property along the Delaware Canal. Today, the property retains its architectural integrity and continues to be used as a lodging facility—as it has for its entire history.

The land on which the Inn is located was part of the London company land grant and became part of Arthur Erwin’s land in 1769.  Arthur Erwin is best known for his role in assisting Washington with the crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776.  Erwin was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1791.  After his death, Erwin’s family sold numerous parcels of land, including 46 acres in 1801 on which the Golden Pheasant Inn now stands.

In 1811 Joseph Haney acquired the land for 550 pounds and applied for a tavern license.  The construction of a tavern in this location most likely grew out of the need of area farmers who traveled the river road with their grain.  In 1786, River Road had been extended from Lumberville north through London Ferry, now Erwinna, to the Durham furnace.  London Ferry was a major ferry crossing to Frenchtown, New Jersey, and to markets north.  Durham furnace was also a major destination for iron goods.

Upon Haney’s death in 1828, the property was sold to Patrick Mulvaney for $1,950.  The deed of transfer indicates the existence of the tavern. A tavern license which was issued to Mulvaney shows his business was called Watermans Inn. During Mulvaney’s ownership major changes in the region had a great impact on the property.  In 1832, the Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal was opened primarily to transport anthracite coal from the Pennsylvania mines to major east coast cities.  The new canal ran directly through Mulvaney’s property, and it is likely that he constructed new buildings, including the mule barn. The adjoining property owner, Henry Stover, established a flour mill that same year, and by 1836 constructed a saw mill.  Mulvaney’s tavern benefited from these new ventures, and by 1838 he was able to sell the property to John Buck for a considerable profit.

Buck’s ownership, however, was short-lived.  Only three years later, on October 22, 1841, John Buck died and the tavern and wood lot were sold at public venue to James Leslie for $4,100. By the 1850s the village of Erwinna was well established just north of the property, and in 1853 a railroad line across the river at Frenchtown helped to make the area a vital transportation destination.  By December 1856, Leslie decided to sell his property in Tinicum.  Unfortunately, less than a month after Leslie placed his property for sale, a fire destroyed his tavern.  Newspapers describe the event:

Fire in Tinicum-Tavern burnt-Narrow Escape of the Occupants
On Sunday night, the 18th inst., while the great snow storm was raging with terrific fury, the tavern house occupied by James Farley, in Tinicum township, Bucks county, was burned to the ground.  The fire was discovered some time during the night by Mrs. Farley, who was awakened by the dense smoke in her chamber.  She immediately gave the alarm, when it was found that nearly the whole of the lower stories of the house were in flames.  The family had barely time to escape in their night clothes.  Mr. Farley’s own family consisted of himself, wife and three children.  The children were, one by one rescued-and just as the last child was brought out, the floor of the second story fell in.  A terrible gale was blowing at the time, and in a few minutes the whole building was in flames, and all the contents, clothing, furniture, etc. were consumed.  The fire sent a wild and lurid glare over the snow for a large distance around, and with the howling of the tempest, the driving snow and intense cold, the spectacle was most fearful to the stricken family.  They sought shelter in the dwelling of their nearest neighbor.  The only thing saved from the house was a barrel full of pork.  A large shed, full of mules and horses, was in great danger, but was favored by the wind.  This tavern stand is located on the canal.  The property belongs to James Leslie of Bristol Borough.

Curiously, Leslie continued this advertisement as written in December for at least several years, suggesting that he reconstructed a tavern house on the site sometime after the fire.  It is this structure that is now the main building of the Golden Pheasant Inn. In 1866 the property was sold to Charles Eichlin, who owned the tavern until 1885 and the business changed hands several times in the coming years. In 1921, Jacob and Elizabeth Oberacher purchased the Inn and held the property until 1967.  By the early-20th century, canal traffic had slowed considerably, and by 1931 the canal traffic stopped altogether.  Tourism, however, began to take the place of canal freight and became the major industry supporting the tavern’s existence.  In 1986, the original 46-acre parcel was divided, leaving the Golden Pheasant Inn on the site it occupies today. In 1986, the Faure family purchased the Inn and operated it for more than 30 years. In July of 2019 it was purchased by Jack Thompson of the Thompson Organization and the Black Bass Hotel. It will reopen to the public in the new year.

• Excerpts taken from a historical narrative written by Jeffrey Marshall,  President of the Bucks County Heritage Conservancy