Info and History of our area...
The 5,000 acres originally comprising both Newtown Borough and Township were part of the vast tract purchased by William Penn from the Indians by William Markham, Penn's agent, on July15, 1682. Penn originally called this area his "New Town" which eventually evolved into "Newtown". Newtown was the county seat of Bucks County from 1726 to 1813 before it was moved to Doylestown. The town was patterned to resemble an open fan surrounding a narrow rectangular piece of property called the town common. The plan of the township and townstead were surveyed by Thomas Holme in 1684 and the boundaries that appear on his map of that date remain essentially the same today. Newtown was the scene of some very important events during the Revolutionary War. On Christmas morning 1776, Gen. George Washington marched from his headquarters to join the Battle of Trenton. Gen. Washington made his headquarters in Newtown after the Battle of Trenton and the famed crossing of the Delaware River and before the Battle of Princeton, where he penned his two famous letters to Congress describing his victory at Trenton. The house that Gen. Washington chose as his headquarters stood on South Sycamore Street until it was razed in 1962, thus providing the motivation to form the Newtown Historic Association. Newtown was the County Seat of Bucks County from 1726 to 1813, before it was moved to Doylestown. During this period, this rural community grew into a prosperous governmental center, leaving behind its origin as an essentially agricultural village. Because a substantial amount of town and county business had revolved around the courthouse trade, taverns and inns became staples in the local scene.As the 19th century progressed, the community remained a busy commercial and cultural center for the surrounding farms. After the County Seat was relocated in 1813, Newtown was gradually transformed back into the tranquil pastoral town it once was. In addition to the many historic homes and businesses that line the streets today, one can still sense the industrial and agricultural activity that thrived here so many years ago ... Excerpts from "Historic Newtown".
Wrightstown Township Info and History ...
Wrightstown Township is a township of the Second Class of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is located in Bucks County. The land area of the Township is 10.16 square miles. At the present time, there are 14.45 miles of Township roads and 18.06 miles of state highways - The latitude of Wrightstown is 40.266N. The longitude is -74.983W. Elevation is 125 feet. The population, at the time of the 2000 census, was 2,839 and 971 households and 785 families residing in the township.
The boundaries of the Township were established by 1692. A square mile in the center, in the present Penns Park, was reserved for parkland. However, in 1719, this was divided among the surrounding property owners.
Wrightstown Township's has five villages: Penns Park, Pineville, Rushland, Wrightstown and Wycombe. Each village at one time contained its own post office, a rather unique facet of life in the Township. Today, all but the Wrightstown Post Office remain. The villages of Penns Park and Wycombe are registered as Historic Villages on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here is an extract from a letter of Phineas Pemberton to William Penn, in England, dated November 27, 1687 ... "The land I have in Wrightstown is twelve hundred ackers, and only one settlement upon it. I lately offered to have given 100 ackers if he would have seated there and he has since bought at a very great price rather than go so far into the woods. There is about 500 ackers yet to take up in the towne. The people hereabout are much disappointed with Wright and his cheating tricks he played here. They think much to call it after such a rungadoe's name. He has not been in these parts for several years therefore I desire thee to give it a name. I have sometimes called it Centertown, because it lyes near the center of the county, as it may be supposed and the towne is layed out with a center in the middle of 600 ackers or thereabouts"
The oldest village in Wrightstown Township, Penns Park is located in the center of the township. The crossroads village was known as Logtown as early as 1716 and Pennsville in the early 1800's. In 1862 the village name was changed to its current one. Just outside of the village, at the intersection of Penns Park Road and Mud Road, there is still a solitary log house (often called the oldest house in Bucks County) as a reminder of the village's early heritage. To the southwest of the village is the "old grave yard" where many of the township's first settlers are buried. Penns Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pineville, like Wycombe, is located on the Wrightstown / Buckingham Township line. The name of the village adopted in 1832, comes from the presence of large pine trees around a long gone school house. Growth of the village centered around an old tavern and store operated by Jacob Heston.
Rushland, in the northwestern corner of Wrightstown Township, was originally known as Sackett's Ford - Joseph Sackett built a grist mill store, and blacksmith shop near the Mill Creek where it joined the Neshaminy Creek. Some authorities claim that the name of the hamlet, first Rush Valley and later Rushland was due to the availability of "scouring rushes" used by early settlers for cleaning pots and pans. Located along the Mill Creek near Rushland was a settlement started by Italian immigrants who came to the area as laborers when the railroad was being built in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Their community became known as Little Italy. By forcing its way through a rocky cliff, the railroad opened a maior industry for Rushland, the stone quarry, an industry that continues to this day.
Wycombe burst on the scene in the 1890's when the Northeast Pennsylvania Railroad opened a line through the county. The villagers originally wanted their town called Lingohocken which was the area's Indian name, but postal authorities felt it would be confused with the town of Wingohocken, another post office in Pennsylvania. The name Wycombe was then adopted. It is an excellent example of a late 19th century Victorian Village and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A place name rather than a village, Anchor takes its name from an old tavern located at the intersection of Durham Road (Route 413) with Second Street Pike (Route 232), the old Philadelphia-New Hope Road. The modern intersection, located a few yards to the north from where the tavern once stood, was the site of the Smith pottery at the beginning of the nineteenth century - When the landmark Anchor Inn, Wrightstown Township, was built around 1724, locals were finally relieved from being awakened at all hours by travelers seeking shelter. It was a favorite meeting spot for county residents. Early 20th century Doylestown mayor Dan Atkinson fondly recalled the Anchor of his childhood as the place to leave the carriage and warm up on cold winter trips to Newtown. The Old Anchor Inn's Wrightstown Township location made it a fine spot for the elections and cattle auctions one held there. But in 1998 the inn was destroyed by fire.
The Octagonal Schoolhouse is located at Swamp Road and Second Street Pike (Rt. 232) - Education has always had a high priority in Wrightstown Township. The early settlers were mainly Quaker, who believed strongly in the education of the children. Schools have existed here since c.1721. These early schools were organized by a Board of Trustees and parents paid a tuition for their children to attend. Often the Quaker Meeting would pay for those children whose parents were not able to afford the necessary fees.
In 1802 a group of residents banded together to lease this land (at what is now the corner of Swamp Road and Second Street Pike) for 99 years from Joseph Burson. They decided to build a stone structure in the octagonal shape which was considered very appropriate for classroom use. The eight-sided form allowed the maximum amount of light to enter at all times of the day. Artificial light, which is so commonly used today, was not as efficient in 1802. Oil lamps (it was before the days of kerosene lamps and electricity) and candles provided meager light for young eyes but these sources were all that were available. They also added greatly to the exspense of operating the school. The eight-sided building usually had a door in one of the sides and a window in each of the other seven sides. As in this building, the windows were usually higher up on the wall. This brought in the light but did not provide distracting views as the children could not see out of the windows when seated on their benches. The windows were also not large, because the cost of window glass would be prohibitive.
As heat in the winter was provided by a small stove in the center of the room (with a stovepipe at the peak of the roof), the warmth would be distributed evenly throughout the interior space. The interior walls were usually whitewashed which gave a cleaner, lighter environment.
The octagonal, sometimes called "ink bottle," shape accounted for over 100 schools in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Starting in 1773 with the 8-square building at Oxford Valley, Bucks County and ending in 1851 with the construction of the Harmony School, near Flemington, Hunterdon County, NJ, the buildings served a useful life but most have succumbed to age and "progress."
This Wnghtstown Township School is the only remaining octagonal school in Bucks County. It functioned as a school from 1802 until 1850. At mid-century, local government entered the education field and Township School Districts were forined to build and maintain schools, hire teachers and provide an education for all children in the area. The private, subscription schools were no longer needed.
After its life as a school was finished, this octagonal structure served the toll keeper, whose house was built in the 1850's, in many ways, including as a chicken house in 1899.
In 1976, during the bicentennial, the interior was freshly painted and students from the Wrightstown Elementary School were bused here to attend classes. Appropriate clothes were worn by the teacher and the students. The children were amazed to find how different school was 170 years earlier. History became alive to them! The octagonal schoolhouse has been renovated and is open to the public on certain dates.
Ruins of a Steel Magnate's
Anyone traveling Route 232 (2nd Street Pike) through Wrightstown in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has noticed the unusual property near Swamp Road's famous Octagonal Schoolhouse, close to the banks of Neshaminy Creek. On six acres sits two houses (one capped by a Spanish-tile roof), five-car garage, tennis court, a gazebo and, in the center of the huge expanse of lawn, a fantasy-castle structure with high metal slides sloping into the remains of a pond, complete with a concrete "bridge to nowhere". These are the ruins of the Martin Moister Estate, one of America's last privately owned amusement parks!
The estate was built by one Martin Moister, a wealthy Philadelphia electrical contractor from America's Gilded Age of the 1920s. Martin Moister owned Moister Steel Company and in 1929, he bought decorative tiles from Henry Mercer's Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown for his castle-themed water park. Today, the property has more than 2000 Mercer tiles.
Moister expanded his original estate by adding a masonry tower and, for his children, the front lawn playground including a pool with a sliding board and a bridge. The tiled pool is now just a "grassy hole", but the twin water slides and bridge still stand for all to see. Mr. Moister later sold the estate to owners who partitioned the estate and sold the front house separately from the larger property in the rear. The present owner of the larger property, another Philadelphia businessman, remarked to me: "I'm the only guy who mows my pool."
The village of Penns Park is significant in the areas of architecture, commerce, community planning, and, to a lesser extent, religion. Penns Park is Wrightstown Township's oldest village and represents the township's only grouping of early-to-mid-nineteenth century buildings laid out in the true village form of concentrated development on small narrow lots oriented to the road. The township's other villages of Wrightstown, Pineville, and Rushland are more informal collections of buildings situated at strategic crossroads. Architecturally, Penns Park is an outstanding collection of small-town, nineteenth century vernacular buildings of similar outstanding collection of small-town, nineteenth century vernacular buildings of similar construction and scale. It stands as Wrightstown Township's single largest collection of buildings constructed before 1891. Penns Park was the township's main commercial center throughout all but the last decade of the nineteenth century when the opening of the railroad shifted this activity to Wycombe. The village is also significant in the area of community planning as the product of a unique eighteenth century plan. Penns Park developed within a central townstead envisioned and planned by William Penn to be left open as a park owned in common by all Wrightstown residents: hence its name "Penns Park." The history of Penn's open park concept and the history of the village of Penns Park are inexorably entwined. The village's strong Methodist population in the heart of Quaker central Bucks County represents a major force in the development of the village and is significant as one of the county's first congregations and mirrors the rapid growth of Methodism in the country during the early nineteenth century.
Penns Park presents a variety of nineteenth century vernacular interpretations of Georgian, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne styles. The building types represent Penns Park's utilitarian role as a small service-oriented rural village and include residences, shops, stores, a tavern, a small-scale manufactory, a church, and a schoolhouse. Located in the small township of Wrightstown, Penns Park's buildings do not reflect the affluence or sophistication of nearby towns such as Newtown and Yardley which developed around this same period. While the buildings may individually lack the stylistic sophistication of large towns in the region, their uniformity of building technique and scale taken together make Penns Park an outstanding assemblage of traditional rural or small town architecture. The village is significant as a large collection of structures built with local techniques and local materials by local builders to be occupied by farmers, craftsmen, and wage earners.
The significance of the vernacular village is enhanced by the high degree of integrity which has been maintained in Penns Park. This integrity was, in large part, due to shifting commercial patterns which bypassed Penns Park. In 1890 the North Pennsylvania Railroad opened a line through the township. The railroad created the village of Wycombe along the Wrightstown-Buckingham Township line approximately two miles northwest of Penns Park. Wycombe quickly supplanted Penns Park as the township's major service area. Eight years later Penns Park received another blow when the Newtown to Doylestown trolley line also bypassed the village. Without the railroad or trolley to attract new economic development, or support existing businesses, the village ceased to grow and gradually became an almost exclusively residential center. Even residential growth was quite minimal. Only two houses were constructed within the village between 1900 and 1920 (one of these being a converted carpenter's shop) and only two intrusions have occurred since that time. The cessation of development has left the village as an excellent example of a nineteenth century community, which added to Penns Park's isolation and surrounding open space, create a distinct feeling of entering or leaving a true nineteenth century village.
Penns Park's commercial importance was due to its location. Like many rural villages Penns Park developed at a crossroads. It developed in the center of Wrightstown Township where the main road from Philadelphia to New Hope, and on to New York, crossed the road from the Wrightstown Meeting House to the township's first grist mill along the Neshaminy Creek. The latter road was also used as a route from Newtown and Doylestown, the region's two largest towns. Typically, the first commercial activity on the site was a tavern. Tavern license applications in 1742 show the intersection important enough to be the focus of two separate petitions. By the end of the eighteenth century a store had been opened on the site. Its strategic location resulted in Penns Park becoming the only crossroads within the township to achieve anything more than hamlet status during the first half of the nineteenth century. The 1832 Gazetteer of Pennsylvania described the village, then known as Pennsville, as a post town and village with 10 or 12 dwelling houses, a store and a tavern. There was also a wheelwright shop, blacksmith shop, carpenter's shop, and a slaughter house in operation in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
In a township as small as Wrightstown a single village the size of Penns Park could accommodate most of the needs of the community. The only other villages within the township during the first half of the nineteenth century were Pineville (actually partially located in Buckingham Township), the hamlet of Wrightstown (located at the Friends Meeting House), and Rushland (which developed at the northeast corner of the township around a grist mill and store). It was not until the arrival of the railroad in 1890 that Rushland grew into much more than a hamlet; and that Wycombe, quickly become the commercial center of the township, was established. Until that time Penns Park, located at the geographic center of the township, was Wrightstown Township's undisputed leader in commercial activity.
Geographical location was not the only reason that the site became the township's first village. The original planning of the township served to set the site apart from the surrounding farms. The very name of the town recalls the original plan for the township. Wrightstown Township was laid out with a large open park or townstead at its center which William Penn patterned after English parks. The park was designed to be left open and remain in common ownership by all the township's residents. From this central park each land grant radiated out to the township lines. This arrangement was unique in Bucks County. Newtown Township which also had a pattern of radiating grants from a central common had an important difference. In that township each of the radiating grants extended well into the center of the square, leaving only a forty acre strip of land known as the "Newtown Common." In Wrightstown, the common area consisted of over seven hundred acres which was to remain exempt from cultivation or settlement. By 1719, however, the landowners in the township became dissatisfied with the continuance of the park and received permission from the Proprietary government to divide the park in proportion to the amount of land each landowner held in the township. The unowned land is said to have been occupied by squatters who built simple log structures that give the site its first name of Logtown ? a name which can be found as early as 1716 in the minutes of the Wrightstown Friends Meeting. The unpatented land was made even more attractive for settlement in the early 1720's when the road from the Wrightstown Meeting House to Richard Mitchell's mill along the Neshaminy (near Rushland) was opened. The road crossed the Philadelphia to New Hope Road at the site. Perhaps due to the presence of the large number of squatters, the majority of the land at the intersection was left vacant at the time of the dissolution of the park in 1719; not being patented until 1733. The area continued to be referred to as Logtown until the first decade of the nineteenth century. In 1813 Jesse Anderson's petition for a tavern license for his newly constructed building was endorsed by "the inhabitants of Penns Ville." Six years later when George Kiple applied for a license to operate the tavern he rented from Anderson it was described as being located in "Pennsville or Logtown." The tavern license petitions are the first references to the village being called Pennsville, the name it held until 1862 when a post office name Penns Park, in honor of the seventeenth century name for the area, was established.
Penns Park's importance in the area of religion centers around its Methodist congregation which was among the earliest in the county. The leader of this movement in the strongly Quaker central Bucks County area was William Wetherill. Wetherill was also a key figure in the development of the village. In 1803 he purchased the entire northwest portion of the crossroads, including the store and tavern, from Jesse Anderson (who built another tavern on the northeast corner of the intersection a decade later). A year after his purchase of the land at the crossroads he conveyed a small lot of land along the New Hope Road to the Methodists in trust for the establishment of a graveyard and the eventual construction of a church. This action was only a year after the important General Conference of the Methodist Church and less than a year after the first Methodist Church in Bucks County was erected in Bristol. True to the Methodist tradition, services were held in William Wetherill's home until a church was erected in 1833. The church was built by Wetherill, a mason by trade, and by his son-in-law Charles Johnson. Under the guidance of William Wetherill, Methodism flourished in this small isolated community in the heart of the predominantly Quaker region. The graveyard at the church not only contains the remains of the large Wetherill family which remained one of the village's most important, but also those of Andersons, Doans, Prices, and Tomlinsons who were important contributors to the development of Penns Park.
The introduction of Methodism at the turn of the nineteenth century is a significant example of the growth of Methodism during the period throughout the eastern United State. "The Compendious History of American Methodism" (Abel Stevens; Carlton & Porter, publishers, New York, 1867) states that the eight year period between 1796 and 1804, when the movement reached Penns Park, was one of the most important periods in the history of the Methodist Church. During that time membership doubled and the number of preachers increased by approximately a third. More people converted to Methodism in those eight years than in the first twenty-four years since the church had been established. The Philadelphia Conference, of which Penns Park would have been affiliated, showed the largest growth.
Penns Park is significant within the context of the development of Wrightstown Township. It was the township's first village and served as the traditional commercial and economic center from the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth century it had clearly become the largest village in the township, and the only village large enough to be considered a town. The village remains an architecturally cohesive collection of nineteenth century architecture. It is the only village in the township to have representative examples of vernacular architectural styles from the entire nineteenth century. Most importantly, Penns Park has maintained its sense of time and place and, with very little alteration of intrusion, still reflects its historic associations.
Village Library of Wrightstown
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