Celebrating a Chester County Tradition
In 1823 John Vickers a skilled potter, fierce abolitionist and one of the most influential voices
in the Lionville area-purchased the farmhouse that is now known as Vickers, an award winning restaurant that has delighted Chester County residents with fine food and dining for over three decades. Here, his history begins.
JOHN VICKERS WAS BORN
of Quaker parentage in Caln Township on August 8, 1780. His father, Thomas Vickers was a prominent abolitionist and one of the earliest and most active agents on the Underground Railroad. Thomas Vickers was one of the original members of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, formed in Philadelphia in 1777(and of which Benjamin Franklin was the first president).
On April 2, 1823 Mr. Vickers purchased the “5 acres and 66 perches” for the price tag of $800. Here, where you sit today, Vickers Pottery was to become a landmark for the next 50 years and span four generations of the Vickers family as working potters.
In his domestic life, John was a devoted family man always teaching and emphasizing moral and intellectual culture and spiritual growth. John Vickers’ benevolence was universal, regarding neither sect, race nor color. Characteristic of John’s loving and accepting nature, his passion, humanity and his religious devoutness, the Vickers homestead was a frequented stop and well-known stations on the Underground Railroad. At times, slaves were hidden in the pottery kilns and in the piles of cordwood nearby.
So many fugitives passed through the Vickers Stop that no records had ever been kept. Loads of six, seven or more were very frequently brought in at the mid hours of the night from other stations. No matter what time, the Vickers women would rise and prepare a good meal for them, after which they were secreted in the house or about the premises. When a dozen or more were to be transported, the farm wagon was used to take them to the next station and closer to freedom..
Although the Vickers House was the great central station in this part of the county and the protecting and housing of fugitives was very frequent, John Vickers never quailed before the authority of the Fugitive Slave Law. He was as brave as he was cautions and no slave that came into his hands was ever captured.
Less than a month before his death on April 28, 1860— at the age of 80—John Vickers sold his interest in the Pottery to his son Paxson for $1,100. With his passing, a most unusual personality, who had been concerned with the molding of men’s minds as well as the molding of clay, returned to the medium, from which he had made his livelihood.
Still today, in the very soil about this building, ceramic fragments still lie deep. In many Chester County homes, pieces of pottery made at Vickers are treasured memory of past generations and history in Chester County. In the Chester County Historical Society Museum, numerous pieces of Vickers pottery are on display that were baked in the same kilns where John Vickers hid slaves running to freedom.
During the nineteenth century, the name Vickers represented a large, dynamic and widely-known family in southern Chester County. Today the name is virtually extinct in this county but its wholesome imprint is still evident in things other than clay. Descendants of this enterprising family have made the name Vickers well-known and highly respected in a number of American cities.
In 1972, Vickers was refurbished and transformed into a fine dining establishment, keeping the Vickers name on the forefront of the county. Under the skillful eye of owner Arturo Burigatto, Vickers has redefined fine dining and delighted customers with outstanding European style service, the finest wines and delectable cuisine. Vickers has been graced by such patrons as astronaut “Pinky” Nelson, actor David Niven, musicians Hall & Oats and, most famously, former U.S. President Richard Nixon (whose mother, Hannah Milhous Nixon, was the great-great granddaughter of Martha and William Milhous,—Martha being John Vickers’ sister).
In October 1999 Arturo sold the beloved Vickers leaving behind a legacy and a favorite restaurant to Chester County locals. Mr. Burigatto repurchased the historic Vickers and reopened it on November 11, 2008. Still today, we bring back the charm and the tradition of fine dining, tableside cooking and VIP entertaining to Chester County patrons. Vickers is eager, as always, to provide excellence in entertaining as we have for nearly half a century.