June 6, 2007, Uhlerstown. The first steps have been taken in Tinicum Township to preserve the old Stuart Cummings Ripley home and give it landmark status. The property has been vacant for a number of years, and neighbors have complained about its dilapidated appearance.
Ripley home, Uhlerstown, PA
Ripley, once famous but doomed to obscurity, lived on the 47-acre farm in Uhlerstown from 1956 until his death in 1964. He moved to rural Pennsylvania from New York after a major confrontation with the House Un-American Activities Committee, which questioned his loyalty.
While Ripley penned no major published novels while in residency at the farm, he did write two unpublished novels, The Raw End and Lost in the Stacks, as well as a 3000-page unpublished memoir, Up From Ohio. However, he did publish a well-regarded compilation of original recipes as a fund-raising activity for a local church.
outhouse remains in working condition
A number of famous literary personalities were visitors to the farm, including Katherine Anne Porter, Dorothy Parker, William Burroughs, William Manchester, Spencer Tracy, and the comic strip artist Al Capp.
It was rumored that President John F. Kennedy secretly went to the Ripley farm for a tryst with Marilyn Monroe.
On his death, Ripley's farm was left to his long-time companion Jill Castenberry.
Ripley in his writing room
The farm and its fields began to deteriorate as Miss Castenberry aged, and in the mid-1980s she sold off the portion of the farm's fields that had been used as vineyards. The farm's main house became uninhabitable, and Castenberry was forced to relocate to a rental cottage away from the premises.
original kitchen in Ripley house
After her death from a fall in 1988, the Ripley farm was held in trust by Naxkohoman United Century Bank, New York, which ordered renovations and maintained the property as a working farm.
Ripley farm fields before blight set in
The property has been uninhabited since 1997.
The farm's neglect was noticed by a group of Ripley enthusiasts who formed the Stuart Cummings Ripley Appreciation Society.
Ripley Appreciation Society
Joining forces with the Tinicum Historical Commission, the Society appealed to the Tinicum Board of Supervisors for assistance in purchasing and restoring the property.
Tinicum Historical Commission
Over a three year period, $325,000, was raised to purchase the property from Naxkohoman United Century Bank, and plans are being made to raise an equal amount to restore the main house, the out buildings, and the remaining fields.
Ralph Smeel, head of Ripley Society
Head of the Society, Ralph Smeel, said many of Ripley's original artifacts, while in damaged condition, remain in the house.
Some of the artifacts include his writing desk, typewriter, electric fan, kitchen appliances, and a portion of his library.
Ripley's electric fan
The Ripley Society and the Historical Commission plan a roadside marker to identify the property for passersby, and it is hoped that, after renovation, the Ripley home will be opened to the public.
Ripley's personal typewriter