Less than two hours from Philadelphia and the Main Line, the bustle of Lancaster Avenue and the city beyond give way to wilderness and natural beauty. Driving north toward Buck Hill Falls is transformative, the winding road making its way to the mountains. But nothing is quite as transformative as arriving in the idyllic scenery. Replete with top-notch amenities, the retreat is like stepping back in time.
Upon arrival, visitors pass through an old stone gate, views of the surrounding community slowly opening up. Awash in green and gold during the summer months and dusted in a glittering white snow in the winter, Buck Hill is a year-round escape that harkens back to simpler times. The grounds are situated on 4,500 pristine acres, with 45 miles of marked hiking trails, and three awe-inspiring waterfalls, making it easy to get in touch with nature. Here, everyone knows their neighbors and parents are happy knowing their children will be safe as they wander from tennis to golf to the herb garden, or even summer camp, often so absorbed that technology is forgotten—but not inaccessible.
Beth Goldwater, a singer/songwriter who calls the Main Line home, fell in love with Buck Hill Falls as a child, when her family would spend time nearby. When she had children of her own, she and her husband wanted to replicate that experience. Her husband, who didn’t know much about the community, didn’t need much convincing. “I had driven him through here when we were first dating and he said, ‘I didn’t think a place like this existed,’” recalls Goldwater.
While the amenities are certainly a draw—there’s a pool, grill for fresh, made-to-order meals, a 27-hole golf course, designed in part by the renowned Donald Ross, 10 tennis courts, lawn bowling and more—it was the community itself that really drew them, and others, in. Established in 1901 by Quakers, everything in Buck Hill is easily walkable, with paths ambling around. It’s not uncommon for neighbors to meet up in communal spaces to chat.
That friendly atmosphere puts Goldwaters’ mind at ease. “I think that aspect of it just clinched it for us, that our kids could have a childhood playing in the woods, biking to the pool, playing tennis, hiking with their friends, building a fort. All of that was possible here,” she says.
Buck Hill also has a robust artistic community and celebrates artists year round, but especially during the summer months, when the calendar is packed with events.
Annual community events range from a tree lighting to caroling at Christmas time, to its 4th of July fireworks display (this year’s will take place on July 3 at 9 p.m.) to its annual arts celebration in July. Goldwater is a member of the Buck Hill Art Association, which puts on the annual weeklong summer event. This year’s celebration takes place July 14-21. Having a rich artistic history—New York painters like Jackson Pollock used to spend time in the area—the association has an impressive collection of over 100 works, many showcasing the surrounding beauty.
Leading up to the 2018 festivities, the community will have free en plein air workshops, ranging from charcoal to pastels to oil painting, when novices and experts alike can perfect their skills surrounded by nature. The week culminates with an inaugural house tour, which highlights seven of the community’s charming homes. Having been built over a century, homes have distinct characteristics and styles, ranging from golf cottages to rambling three-story stone mansions to quaint one-story ranch homes. “Every single home has something unique about it,” says Goldwater.
Following the house tour, seven paintings, some rarely seen, will be on display. The festivities then culminate with the annual dinner and dance, an elegant and fun affair that brings the community together.
For artists, the community can also be inspirational. “I find the city extremely exciting. To go up to Buck Hill, it’s very quiet, just another whole way to approach what you’re looking at and what inspires you,” says Claire Rodgers, a Philadelphia-based ceramicist and artist, who is also a Buck Hill resident. She also enjoys spending time at the pool in the summer and skiing with her husband in the winter, along with games like mahjong and canasta.
Goldwater and Rodgers both relish annual events, spending summer and many weekends throughout the year in Buck Hill. That community is accessible year-round to non-residents, too, with weekend, weekly and month-long rentals, perfect for a cooling summer escape, leaf peeping in fall, skiing in winter, or watching the world awaken in spring. “It’s a wonderful place to have guests,” says Rodgers. “My family comes up and visits, which is really nice.”
For residents and visitors, Buck Hill Falls is an idyll that allows you to get in touch with nature and reconnect with one another.
Buck Hill Falls
270 Golf Drive
Buck Hill Falls, PA 18323