The Lion's Den
News & Views About Real Estate in the Greater Philadelphia Area
Diabase Farm: A Bucks County Treasure
Diabase Farm: A Bucks County Treasure
How many of us have driven on Street Road through Solebury Township into Upper Makefield and seen the sign for Diabase Farm on the right-hand side? I spent years wondering what was back the long drive there, and recently I had the privilege to see the property up close as it is now listed for sale with Linda Danese of Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. What’s hidden from view is a gorgeous 4.25-acre property with a classic Bucks County stone house (built of Diabase stone, of course), picture-perfect red barn and outbuildings. This farmstead is part of the 133-acre Diabase Preserve. It’s a rare opportunity for someone essentially to move into the middle of a pristine piece of land, uninterrupted by development. It really is a place where you can relax on the terrace or putter around the yard and hear nothing except birds and wind rustling the leaves on the trees.
This special part of Bucks County recently was in the news when Upper Makefield Township approved the purchase of a conservation easement on a final piece of this scenic property, 24 acres in front of the 4.25-acre Diabase Farm. This means that the land will remain as it was: farmland, stands of forest and open space, a precious resource for an area that’s seen its share of new housing in the past 25 years.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that after three decades the farm is now appropriately preserved because it’s a key parcel in the Jericho Valley,” says Robert Infarinato, the present owner of the 4.25-acre property offered for sale. During his 30-year tenure at the property, Mr. Infarinato poured his heart and soul into the farm, having the 40’ x 80’ bank barn restored, commissioning an architecturally fitting kitchen/sunroom/main entry addition to the house designed by noted restoration architect John Milner and completing countless improvements to the property inside and out. An 1850s carriage house with two living units and a spring-fed pond with large-mouth bass complete this hidden piece of paradise.
A Classic Bucks County Farmhouse
The main house at Diabase Farm dates to the 1750s with additions completed in the 1830s, 1943 and 1988. The earliest sections are stone; the most recent addition is wood clapboard siding; the house has more than 4,500 square feet of living space. Its views are rural, with gardens, open farm fields, ponds and Jericho Mountain, yet the property is just minutes from New Hope and Newtown, two of Central Bucks County’s most appealing small towns.
Spring is the most incredible time of year at the property, says Mr. Infarinato, with flowering trees and shrubs dotting the landscape. He has commuted between homes in New York City and Bucks County for decades, with many fond memories of time spent at his country house. “You know you have a good property when it’s hard to leave to go to Paris or some other European city,” says Mr. Infarinato, whose career allowed him to travel internationally each month for many years. “I always regretted leaving the farm for my travels, especially on sunny days when the fields, pond and hillside were glistening with light.”
Inside the House
For those who appreciate very early, Colonial-era houses, Diabase Farm will make your heart beat just a little faster. There is a center section to the house that feels primitive and early in its details, notably its bead-board paneling, beamed ceilings and fireplaces. Most of the home is one-room deep, allowing for light from both sides. The sun rises in the front of the house and sets in the back.
The later additions extend in multiple directions. To one side is a the c. 1988 section, a vaulted-ceiling, modern kitchen with Living Quarters cabinetry, a sunroom, entry hall, mudroom and powder room, all cleverly connected
to the existing house. Tucked in between is a formal dining room with fireplace and a flexible space suitable as a reading room or office.
To the other side is a c. 1943 addition now used as a family room/study that carries quite a bit of history, but more about that in a bit.
There are four bedrooms and three updated baths on the two upper levels. All have fabulous views and more of a Colonial vibe but with modern comforts, like heat, air conditioning and indoor plumbing.
A Colorful History
The beauty of Bucks County’s historic stone houses is not just in their physical appearance, hand-built as they were in the 18th and 19th centuries from stone dug on site, it’s also in the stories that live on in some of them.
When Diabase Farm was in the news recently because of the final 24 acres being put into a conservation easement, Bridget Wingert, editor of the Bucks County Herald, did some excellent reportage on Charlotte and George Dyer, the farm’s owners prior to Mr. Infarinato. According to the newspaper account, the Dyers were a “power couple,” well educated, intense and patriotic, both having served in military intelligence units during World War II. They returned to active service in the Korean Conflict and later taught political science at Ivy League schools. After their military service, Diabase Farm became their “base of operations” and headquarters for the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, founded by the Dyers. Out of the home’s study/den (which is built atop a bomb shelter), they ran a fairly elaborate program complete with firearms instruction and practice drills designed to train others to fight the threat of Communism. They had plans in place for what to do (and whom to include in their shelter) in case of nuclear attack. If those den walls could talk…
The Dyers continued on at Diabase Farm long after their para-military training program ended. They founded Open Space Inc., a predecessor to today’s open-space conservation programs. Both had very serious interests in American history and farming, a perfect match for their Bucks County retreat. Mr. Dyer passed away at the farm at age 75 in 1978.
In 1984, four years before her death at age 82, Ms. Dyer donated the full 133-acre farm property to the Natural Lands Trust, which placed all but 24 acres into conservation. “Charlotte Dyer had a vision that the farm would be preserved and left as open space in perpetuity. For a number of reasons, that didn’t get managed in her lifetime,” says Mr. Infarinato. Now, with Upper Makefield Township’s agreement to purchase the easement on that final piece, it will remain farmland, completing the vision the Dyers had.
“I feel like my timing is excellent because I can look at [the easement] as having happened on my watch,” says Mr. Infarinato. “Anybody who lives in a house like this is not just an owner but a caretaker.”
With the conservation of all of Diabase Farm now in place, it will remain a semi-rural place, hidden from the public’s view, a place to follow the seasons, watch nature and take the time to enjoy the simpler parts of life.
— Valerie Patterson