One week when I was in New Hope, and like everyday when going to work, I pass this dilapidating estate called Cintra, but have never really heard anything about it, and if anyone even lives in it. In New Hope, if wouldn't surprise me, as there are a couple of "Grey Gardens." So I went back, over time and took a few snaps to share, but held on to them. Between the interwebs, and some of the older gents I know, I have found out the skinny!
From the Antiques Magazine
Inspired by a palace outside Lisbon, William Maris, a local builder and entrepreneur in New Hope, began building Cintra around 1816. Among the distinctive features of the 2 ½-story fieldstone house are its floorplan—a central octagonal entrance with symmetrical flanking wings—its rear piazza and sunken garden, and its distinctive yellow pebble-dash exterior. Plagued by financial troubles, Maris remained there only until 1827. After changing hands several times, the estate was purchased in 1834 by the Ruth Ely family, prominent Quakers in Bucks County, who kept it for more than a hundred years.Henry Lee worked there for many years as a servant. Henry was a fugitive who arrived in the area in the 1830s. He first appeared in the US Census in 1840. He did not admit to his true birthplace of Maryland until 1840. He worked for many local families and as the town crier. Then gay couple Bill Stanley and his partner Dewey Curtis were enthralled by its unusual design, stately interiors, and rich historical significance, and bought it in 1973.
Stanley and Curtis had met several years earlier while studying art and architecture at the University of Virginia. Both have been described as charming, flirtatious, and wonderfully entertaining—they hosted many, lavish and huge parties at Cintra—and absolutely voracious in their collecting. Curtis, who for a time was the curator of Pennsbury Manor in New Hope, worked side by side in Stanley's antiques business. Each was keenly knowledgeable and had a wonderful eye—developing a particular taste for 18th-century English furniture and decorative art.They used the first floor at Cintra as a showroom, and the mansion was quickly filled with art and antiques purchased on buying trips abroad—fueled by annual tours of English country houses that they organized for women's groups and other enthusiasts. Through the contacts they made over many years in Britain and Europe, they amassed a remarkable quantity of 18th- and early 19th-century household furnishings.
When Curtis died in 1986, Stanley continued to acquire antiques, but made little effort to sell them, and around that time closed his business to the public. The vast inventory of Sheraton-style furniture, Persian rugs, porcelain dishes, wooden and tortoiseshell boxes, and stacks of oil paintings and other artwork overtook portions of the house—in some parts, furniture was stacked nearly to the 12-foot-high ceilings. After Stanley's death in 2008, Rago Antique specialists here in New Hope, Tom Martin and Kristina Wilson spent several months virtually in residence at Cintra, organizing and cataloguing the contents, half of which, were sold at an earlier auction. A virtual time capsule was preserved in Stanley's antiques collection—accentuated by the endless stacks of old Country Life magazines strewn among the rooms. Today it remains empty decaying waiting for new life. While Cintra's decaying elegance adds a new chapter to the mansion's fabled history, the property, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, will soon be on the market, and as with its contents, will hopefully find a third life.