These days, its rare that a building remains intact for more than a few years. But for one special barn in Bensalem, it took 167 years for it to see its end. You may be asking yourself how a barn, of all buildings, managed to stick around for so long once farming ceased to exist in the area. This was no ordinary barn though. It was a place filled with history, memorabilia of days gone by, and the promise of a good time every time you stopped by.
Built in 1840, the barn was actually used as a barn. Go figure. Filled with horse stalls and hay, it was a fully functioning barn known as Eddington Farm Barn. It was located on the grounds of what is now the Bensalem Country Club. The farm and its barn were purchased by Standish Forde Hansell and he soon converted the barn into an eclectic space resembling a folk-art museum, flea-market warehouse and down-home ballroom all rolled into one. While the rest of the property remained as a fully functioning farm, Hansell turned the old barn into an eccentric hangout where he would host parties for his high society friends as well as charity benefits.
Hansell divided the barn into four rooms: The Brick Room, Marine Lounge, Wild West Saloon and the Psychiatric Ward. Each room was decorated more outlandishly than the next with not a speck of wall left uncovered by a piece of memorabilia. Cowboys and Indians reigned supreme in the Wild West Saloon. The Brick Room entrance was adorned with an original propeller from one of Amelia Earhart’s planes, the Marine Lounge boasted an original canon that had once belonged to Douglas MacArthur and the Psychiatric Ward made everyone feel a little bit crazy with its black lights and Day-Glo décor. While many of the artifacts hanging in the barn were true historical relics, many were also just for fun and amusement. One such popular piece of décor was a skeleton wearing a straw hat who rode a bicycle across a tightrope high up in the barn’s rafters.
By 1950, the post-war growth of Bensalem meant that farmland became more scarce and that farming was no longer the lucrative business that it had once been. Recognizing the need to re-purpose his property, Hansell called upon the services of William Gordon to design a golf course on the farm that would become known as the Bensalem Country Club. However, the original barn remained standing and filled with his eccentric memorabilia.
Soon after Hansell’s death in 1984, the club was purchased by Albert Bader, who eventually turned the semi-private club into a public golf course. In the late 80’s, Bader re-opened the eclectic barn as a nightclub called, not surprisingly, The Barn. Club goers were invited to drink and dance the night away to oldies hits from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s played by DJ’s and live bands. The party also spread outdoors onto The Barn’s patio. It was a swanky hangout where you could go to turn back the hands of time and enjoy the sights and sounds of the past.
By the time the 90’s rolled around, it was out with the old and in with the new. New age rock and roll was now taking the stage and rumor has it that the party scene became a little more wild with weekend crowds often breaking 1,000. Somewhere in The Barn behind a taxidermy animal or Native American statue, the ghost of Standish Forde Hansell was grinning from ear to ear knowing that he had inspired such an amazing party atmosphere.
Eventually, The Barn was closed as a nightclub but remained in use as a party venue that could be rented for public use. In 2006, the Country Club property became the target of a possible sale to developers and in an effort to preserve the 140 acre open space, Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo and the Bensalem Council purchased the land under condemnation rights and fair property value assessments. The Bensalem Country Club then became known as the Bensalem Township Country Club. With the sale of the club, The Barn was officially closed for use and was eventually demolished in 2007.
Bensalem was, and still is, full of hidden gems like The Barn. Sadly, all we have left of some of these places are memories of the good times we’ve had there. The physical structure of The Barn might be gone, but it has certainly not been forgotten.
To see more photos of The Barn back in it’s heyday and the demolition photos taken in it’s final hours, click here.