Start With the Water and Go From There
Milford, PA is situated above the Delaware River in a way that causes it to be surrounded by waterfalls. A ten-minute drive gets you to any number of these waterfalls, while a short walk gets you down to the glassy surface of the river pocked with sunfish jumping for flies and flanked by locals barbecuing and swimming. The town began with the water, as an outpost after the French and Indian War–its landscape hospitable enough that some people never left. Officially founded in 1796, Milford eventually became a town that subsisted on logging, sustained after that by the blue stone quarries that were used to make the sidewalks of New York City.
Milford is also the hometown of Pennsylvania’s beloved governor and national environmental hero, Gifford Pinchot. It seems logical that the father of our nation’s conservation initiative came from a family made rich off lumber and land. Pinchot spent his life trying to restore the land his family, and countless others, had ravaged in the fire and wood hungry 1800s. His family’s estate, Grey Towers Historic Site, sits on 102-acres that belongs to the National Forest Service and remains open to the public from Memorial Day through October. You can explore the property, sit on grassy fields and take a house tour for 8 dollars. They also show local films in one of their many stone buildings.
It is exactly this pristine quality and proximity to New York that attracted early filmmakers to shoot in and around Milford to begin with (its untouched forests the backdrop for some of D.W. Griffith’s silent films). After that, wealthy families kept summer homes in town, filling Milford with the grand colonial architecture that serves day trippers and locals today. In one of these former summer residences you can find the Columns Museum, filled with artifacts of Milford’s rich history, including a famed bloodied American flag, laid under President Lincoln’s head as he lay dying in a theatre. It’s a gruesome bit of history–but there for you–among numerous other bits and curios, including dresses from the 1800s and an actual electric chair from an old insane asylum.
Eventually you will find yourself at the water. Either you will walk all the way down Elizabeth street and creep past signs that arbitrarily cry “Private Property” or you will drive the ten-minutes to one of the many hiking trails that lead you to the vast network of waterfalls surrounding Milford–known as a fluviarchy, if we’re being exact. We had numerous trails on our itinerary, but found ourselves at Child’s Park after a number of locals insisted we get there. The pathways are partially paved and it isn’t long before you come upon a series of waterfalls. My advice is to pack a picnic, look around and walk as long as you can–the views get better and better.
Nestled next to the local bookstore and run by longtime partners Elizabeth Muller and Georges Malaroche, Holy Crepes opened up in 2015 after a long successful run at the local farmer’s market.
Georges is originally from Normandy and still uses his mother’s crepe recipe to make these savory and sweet snacks. He’s shown here, in the kitchen.
A glimpse of George’s mother’s gruyere and ham crepe with a side salad. A delicious combination of textures and flavors.
Owner Nancie Simonet has owned and operated the Waterwheel Cafe, a Milford staple, for 27 years, bringing her own experiences in Manhattan and France to flavor this local restaurant and adjacent bar.
The restaurant offers brunch on the weekends, if you go, get the Waterwheel Creme Brulee French toast. Dinners on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are traditional American cuisine as well as Vietnemese flavors.
The restaurant has exceptional service, with a young and friendly staff. The bar, run by Nancie’s husband Darren, has local blues jam and jazz nights every Thursday, a community that has grown for almost 20 years.
With large comfortable rooms and views overlooking scenic Broad Street, the Hotel Fauchere is just right for relaxing after a day of walking or hiking.
Since it was founded by a Swiss chef in the 1870’s, Louis Fauchere, this historic spot is also serious about its food and offers fine dining in its Delmonico Room restaurant on the first floor as well as more casual meals in its basement Bar Louis. The patisserie next door offers coffees and pastries. Spring for the house-made yogurt and granola- probably the best yogurt you’ve had in a long time.
- Sister’s Pops – A family run business heralded by Nick Dillon and his daughters, Elizabeth, 15, and Lali Bella, 7. Stop by for unique flavors and t-shirts. They also make fresh juices at their juice shop up the street, Breathless Beauty, during the week.
- Highland Kitchen & Garden – Run by Lois Wallace out of a kitchen space in Milford. Lois specializes in meat free and raw foods and juices, using produce from her own garden and as many local sellers as she can.
- Woodsfresh Mushrooms – A mushroom dealer from Crisco PA, Warren Coffman offers diverse local varieties as well as tons of info and cooking suggestions for anyone looking to expand their cooking agenda.
- Columns Museum – Lori Strelecki has been the longtime director of this historic site that is supposedly haunted with ghosts of the former owners of some of its wares. For more of its history you can also ask Tim Kelly, a Milford resident and ghost-hunting guide who sometimes runs the front desk at the Columns and also offers ghost tours on the weekend and by appointment through his group Haunted Milford. He’s full of all sorts of local Milford knowledge and history and can tell you of all the secret goings-on of the rich families who kept summer homes here.
- Grey Towers Historic Site – Nature trails, history, film festivals – this site offers lots to do in a pristine setting. Overlooking the Delaware, stop by for its views, its window into a family’s history.
- The Frisky Goat – Across from the Columns, this local coffee shop has lots of seating for hanging out, doing work or otherwise. Offers boards for different community events and postings.
- The Golden Fish – Local art gallery and shop run by longtime Milford resident John Longendorfer and his wife, Lillian. Open for 19 years, this spot shows and sells work made mostly by Longendorfer and his family as well as local artists. Two of the rooms are galleries of new work while the back harbors assorted historic objects that Longendorfer has collected over the years in his small museum. If you stop by, ask about the canon he built himself because he “wanted one but couldn’t afford one.” It works, too.
- Artisan Exchange – Run for 8 years by Milford residents Stephanie and Michael Gruddis, this spot has work for sale from over 127 artists from 27 states on two floors of this Broad Street gallery.
- Upriver Home – Run by Keith Nicholson and Kevin Holly, Upriver has been in Milford for 13 years and is full of curated goods for a modern home.
- Van Gorder’s Furniture – Just down the road from the Waterwheel Cafe, this 80-year old family owned business features rustic and lodge style furnishings distinct from the typical furniture store.
Words and Photography Sandy Soohoo