Stephen Stahl

Stephen grew up in West Philadelphia, in Wynnefield.

He said his first wife was and still is a practicing psychic. New Hope’s hauntings brought them here in 1966 to investigate.  He said his first impression of New Hope was “a strange sense of freedom, beauty, peace and art.”

Stephen was drawn to the restaurants and bars which catered to a gay crowd, such as the Canal House, Stella Dallas River Edge, The Hacienda, Tom Moore’s, Golden Pheasant Inn and Odette’s. In 1987 he moved here with his then partner, Robert Seneca.

Stephen was directing plays in Philadelphia in the 1980s. Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You starring Mink Stole was running at the TLA on 3rd. & South Street in Philadelphia. At the same time, Stephen was a partner in a Theatre Club called Ripley’s which was running A Coupla of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking which starred Debra Lee Scott.

In 1987 Bob Gerenser came to see Stephen’s two shows in Philadelphia. Bob was also opening his theatre in New Hope at that time on Bridge and Stockton St. Gerenser was partnered with Robin Larson and New Hope Arts. He wound up buying Sister Mary Ignatius from Stephen.  Stephen said he moved the show to New Hope and he left Philadelphia.

He re-called the 1980s in New Hope. “New Hope was totally opened to the LGBTA community with a dozen clubs, galleries, restaurants and gay owned stores. At that time it was a gay destination as well as a creative hub for all the arts.”

Stephen added, “Rents were relatively affordable for artists. Excitement was brought to the streets by visitors from New York, Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey. It was an East Coast getaway. It was amazing for me to live in such beautiful surroundings where my doors didn’t have to be locked.”

Stephen was an active member of the community. He was on the Zoning Board for 7 years and a Committeeman for 4 years. He was the first to challenge the marriage law in Doylestown and won a lawsuit brought against him by 12 Republican Congressman. Stephen challenged the council on the AIDS Home in New Hope and the dismissal of then Chief Robert Bronson. He brought professional theatre to New Hope along with cabaret at Odette’s.

He said he felt free to practice his work in New Hope, art, theatre and writing. He feels his gift of creativity comes from being gay.

Stephen met his second partner at the Cartwheel 15 years ago. His children and now his grand-children come and visit.

He said, “I loved being a part of the community in the earlier days from 1997-2005. Since then, many things have changed and it isn’t the community it once was or will ever be again.”

He sums up his experience in New Hope as “Magnificent”, having been here for over 30 years.