Sarobia: An Experimental Commune, Art Colony and Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo of one of Logan's sundials.

Sundial in Sarobia’s Garden, one of two there carved by Robert R. Logan. Photo by Mike Slickster

The master of Sarobia, Robert R. Logan, wasn’t your ordinary eccentric aristocrat, but was also an intellectual, a published poet and writer, a mystic, lawyer, animal-lover, sculptor, husband, father, and patron of the arts.

Born in 1874, outside of the Philadelphia area in Chester County, Logan studied law at Harvard, married his wife, Sara Wetherill, in 1897. She was born into an old, aristocratic, high-society, Philadelphia family much like that of her husband’s and his great-great-great-great-grandfather, James Logan, who had settled in the commonwealth way before the American Revolution.

The couple moved to New York City in 1904, where Robert practiced law with a Wall Street firm for two years before living in Europe for a few more, returning to the States in 1911.

Having been raised by his parents as a staunch proponent for animal rights and the well-being thereof, Logan became the President of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, an organization who thoroughly opposes and despises experimental research that utilizes animals for scientific and cosmetic purposes. He remained an active head of the group and that of the Ryerss Infirmary for Dumb Animals until 1950, when poor health forced him to step down from the positions.

Multiple campaigns against animal trapping, and promotions for the wearing of faux firs—as in “fake,” not “fox”—began in 1936 under Robert’s leadership at the helm, well-ahead of more modern times when PETA became hip with American culture.

Partial to the classical arts: Robert as a sculptor who was known for his sundials, and Sara for her love of amateur theater and painting, the Logans set up an art commune and animal sanctuary on what became ultimately a 175-acre estate, of which Sara had initially bought fourteen acres of land in 1915, along the Delaware River where it was joined by Neshaminy Creek, in the former town of Eddington, Pa, now known as Bensalem Township. The remainder of the acreage was bought up by the couple when it became available.

The original property, known as Fox’s Country Estate, consisted of a large main house, barn, and several outbuildings. The new owners named it “Sarobia,” a mystical-sounding moniker responsible for this writer’s fascination with the Logans’ lifestyle and communal society.

Robert and his wife professed adamantly mankind’s strict responsibility for protecting wildlife, including all genuses, species and various phyla, right down to invertebrates. It’s been reported the head of this household disliked to have his guests “brush down a spider web or swat a mosquito,” according to a 1937 magazine article about the estate.

The Logans lived as vegetarians, eating no meat whatsoever, refusing to wear any animal skins or even shoes made from leather. During the Jazz Age of the roaring 1920s, this enlightened couple established an experimental art colony on the grounds of Sarobia. “Indigent poets, artists, thinkers, mostly obscure folk,” as classified by the aforementioned article, were amongst the guests who lived in the thirteen additional houses and cabins, built during this period for talented people who could live and work there under the proprietors’ patronage.

The old barn was converted into a playhouse, known as the “Barn Theatre.” A formal garden was constructed, embellished with accurate sundials and a statue of Humpty Dumpty, sitting on top of the wall enclosing the showplace, which remain on the property today, sculpted by Robert R. Logan.

The name Sarobia adorned the faces of the gateposts on the estate’s two entrances. Black iron cats blazoned the tops of each barrier, a testament to the owners’ preferences for cats above all animals. According to the previously mentioned Time Magazine’s article of 1937, “Religion: At Sarobia,” this outward affection for felines caused “ignorant Bucks County-ites (to) have sometimes whispered that ‘cat-worshippers’ and ‘heathens’ live on the estate.”

A posted sign at the approach to the mysterious property read:

THIS IS
SAROBIA
A SANCTUARY FOR
HUMAN BEINGS
BIRDS & ANIMALS
Please Respect It
Robert R. Logan

Illustration of Sarobia's Gateposts

Iron Black Cats Atop the Gateposts to the Entrance of Sarobia.

Sign at Sarobia, asking for respect for the property.

Above Two Illustrations Courtesy of Bensalem Historical Society.

More at next installment.

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About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at Lulu.com.
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