Cops, Courts and Fire Government

Cease & Desist Issued After Demolition Work Begins At Historic Farmhouse

Credit: Tom Sofield/

Credit: Tom Sofield/

Construction equipment outside of the home Friday afternoon. Credit: Tom Sofield/

Construction equipment outside of the home Friday afternoon.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

Newtown Township issued a Cease and Desist order after a portion of a historic farmhouse at the Villas of Newtown was demolished.

The order was issued Friday afternoon by the township zoning officer and hand delivered to the site off Upper Silver Lake Road by police.

According to the order, fines of up to $500 per day could be levied against McGrath Homes for every violation.

Officials said McGrath had no permission or permit to demolish the six-foot by six-foot kitchen that is connected to the house.

By afternoon, construction equipment sat silent and no workers were at the house, but a scar where the kitchen was removed from the historic Cunningham House was visible.

In March, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors and McGrath Homes reached an agreement that the house would be lifted until a modern foundation can be poured. The interior and exterior were to be “restored” and a garage, elevator and modern kitchen were to be added. In addition, McGrath will also construct three new buildings with two units each at the age-restricted community off Upper Silver Lake Road. The three new buildings will match the style of the more than 150-plus units already at the Villas of Newtown.

Supervisor Jennifer Dix, who lives near the house and discovered the demolition work Friday, told that the agreement was passed but never finalized. She also said she was not aware of any permits obtained by McGrath to work on the home.

McGrath has not formally requested a further development approval at the site.

A proposal of what the finished house would look like. Credit: Tom Sofield/

A proposal of what the finished house would look like.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The battle over the farmhouse has heated up in the past two years. A 2006 agreement for the Villas of Newtown involved the house being restored. Due to several factors, including the economic downturn, the plan for restoration fell apart and McGrath took out permits to demolish the building in 2014.

John McGrath, who operates McGrath Homes, was not able to be reached for comment Friday afternoon. However, he told in March that he would work to restore the home.

Newtown Area Joint Historical Commission Chairman Warren Woldorf has previously noted several features made the small kitchen that was demolished Friday unique.

The home was part of a large nursery and built in the first half of the 1800s by the Cunningham family, a family of wealthy timber merchants from New England.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: Phone: 215-431-1001