Doylestown has a rich history and has received numerous accolades over it's 250 plus years.Â Caroline Hickey, a senior researcher for the National GeographicÂ Guide to Small Town Escapes, has said thatÂ Doylestown hasÂ an artistic legacy, naming former area residents James A. Michener, Oscar Hammerstein, Pearl S. Buck and Henry Mercer. "Plus there's a bunch of places, like potter and tile works, the Bucks County Playhouse, the nearby historic Washington Crossing, and lots of local festivals". Doylestown has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic PreservationasÂ one of it's 'Dozen Distinctive Destinations'Â for combining a dynamic downtown, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscape, and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization. The Trust explained that Doylestown is a place "where four world-class museums are within walking distance," and went on to say it "rivals many large cities such as nearby Philadelphia with its world-class cultural facilities, elegant Victorian architecture, and historic attractions. Its commitment to the arts is exceeded only by its ingrained preservation ethic."
In 1640 Edward Doyle immigrated to America from Ireland and lived for a time in Rhode Island until he moved to Bucks County upon receiving a land grant from William Penn in 1692. After his death in 1703, Edward Doyle's children remained in Bucks County and settled in the area of present dayÂ Doylestown.
In 1745 the town was officially founded whenÂ the Doyles family built an inn, resultingÂ in the townÂ being referred toÂ early on as "William Doyle's Tavern" and "Doyle's Town."Â William Doyle went on to constructÂ seven taverns in the mid-eighteenth century, including The Fountain House, whichÂ has been the center of Doylestown lifeÂ for over 200 years and the only remaining of the seven taverns built by Doyle. The first part of the building was constructed in 1758. Owned by a Tory during the American Revolutionary War, it was seized by government authorities and sold at auction. Throughout the 19th century, The Fountain House hosted, in addition to a tavern, the first Doylestown post office, and a stagecoach line connecting Philadelphia and Easton. â€œWilliam Doyleâ€™s Tavernâ€ marked the crossroads in the Delaware Valley for tradesmen who met there to arrange transport of their goods to the major cities of the day: New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. While they waited for the ferrymen from Correyellâ€™s Ferry (New Hope) or Swedeâ€™s Forde (Norristown) they slept in their wagons and hoped for good weather. Travelers could now share a hot meal and a pint or two with other tradesmen and merchants before settling into their wagons for the night. The Fountain House was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
In 1777, George Washington and his Army passed through Doylestown durning The Occupation of Philadelphia. One year later in 1778, George Washington and his Continental Army camped near Doylestown, on their way from Valley Forge to fight the British in New Jersey.
In 1813 Doylestown became Bucks Countyâ€™s government seat. Area solicitors began to build homes and offices across the street from the courthouse. This created a compact group of Federal style buildings known as â€œLawyerâ€™s Row.â€ The courthouse brought new business, which brought inns, public houses and shops. You could now spend the night, have a meal, and shop for goods while waiting for the ferrymen.
A Town Flourishes
By the time Doylestown incorporated in 1838, the town was rich in diverse architectural detail: Victorian mansions, Gothic revival homes and Federalist offices were all built in this period.
An electric telegraph station was built in 1846 and the first gas lights were introduced in 1854. In 1856, a railroad line, a branch of theÂ North Pennsylvania Railroad,Â Â was completed between Doylestown and Philadelphia and shortly thereafter the present-day Doylestown Train Station was built. In 1869 Doylestown establish a water works followed by the first telephone line in 1878, the same year that a new courthouse was erected. 1897 saw the first of several trolley lines connecting Doylestown with Willow Grove, Newtown and Easton beginning operation.Â
Due toÂ the town's relatively high elevation and a lack of strong water power, substantial industrial development never occurred and Doylestown evolved to have a professional and residential character. The mid-nineteenth century saw a boom in residential building withÂ several large tracts, located east of the courthouse,Â being subdivided into neighborhoods. The next significant wave of development occurred after the Civil War when the 30-acre (120,000 m2) Magill property to the southwest of the town's core was subdivided for residential lots.
The Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society in Doylestown
Henry Chapman Mercer
In the early 20th century, Doylestown became best known to the outside world through the "Tools of the Nation-Maker" museum of the Bucks County Historical Society. Henry Chapman Mercer constructed the reinforced poured concrete building in 1916 to house his collection of 40,000 mechanical tools and utensils of early American Life. Mercer feared losing his properties to fire after witnessing his Uncle lose his own fortune in the Great Boston Fire of 1872 and this is what compelled him to make them of 'fireproof' concrete.
Mercer had a deep love of dogs and found companionship in his own Chesapeak Bay Retrievers. At one time Doylestown officials decided that there were too many loose dogs on the streets, and rounded them up. They then announced that any dog unclaimed and unlicensed after five days would be destroyed. Mercer quickly bought fifty collars and fifty licenses and attached them to the impounded dogs, allowing them to go free in the street again. "Now they're legal," he explained!
Upon his death in 1930, Mercer also left his similarly constructed home Fonthill and adjacent "Moravian Pottery and Tile Works", to be operated as a museum. The home was left on the condition that his housekeeper be allowed to live there for the rest of her life. She lived there and gave tours until the mid nineteen-seventies.
By 1931, the advent of the automobile and improved highway service had put the last trolley line out of business and Doylestonians were forced to embrace the automobile as the primary means of travel within the region. The Great Depression took its toll, as many grand old houses constructed a century earlier fell into disrepair. During the 1930s, the Borough also expanded its land area to the north by admission of the tract known as the Doylestown Annex.
Post War Boom
In the decade following World War II, Doylestown's business community boomed. During the 1940s, streets were paved for the first time in two decades and parking meters were introduced downtown in 1948. However, the Borough's post-war housing boom did not begin in earnest until the 1950s, when 550 new homes were built. This housing boom continued into the 1960s and 1970s, as more than 1,600 new homes were built during those decades and the Borough's population grew from 5,917 in 1960 to 8,717 in 1980.
As with many small towns across the country, the growth of the post war decades also brought a new competitor to the downtown business districtâ€”the shopping mall. By the 1960s, the toll could be seen in Doylestown by the numerous vacant buildings and dilapidated storefronts in the center of town. The Bucks County Redevelopment Authorityresponded with a federal urban renewal scheme that called for the demolition of 27 historic buildings to make room for a huge parking lot. The Fountain House, a town landmark, was to be removed. Fortunately, Doylestown's citizenry opposed that approach and responded with its own plan called Operation '64â€”the Doylestown Plan for Self-Help Downtown Renewal. This private initiative was successful in saving Doylestown's old buildings and historic character, while improving business at the same time. One historic landmark that could not be saved was the 80-year-old courthouse and clock tower, which was replaced by the present county complex in the early 1960s.
By the end of the 1980s, the downtown business district was again showing the toll of massive new competition from the latest wave of suburban shopping centers, as well as the recession that hit hardest in the northeastern states. In response, the Borough Council established a volunteer group of civic-minded representatives from business organizations, government, and the residential community to begin to formulate plans for the downtown area in 1992. This effort resulted in streetscape improvements composed of cast iron street lamps and brick pavers, facade improvements and other beautification efforts, and the establishment of a Main Street Manager Program.
As the 1990s progressed, the downtown rebuilt itself largely by turning to an out-of-town audience. Doylestown had long been respected as a bucolic tourist destination. The gentry of Philadelphia and New York maintained country estates in the areaâ€”including figures of the Manhattan theater and literary scenesâ€” who often summered there. The Mercer Museum, Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and the local National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa brought a regular stream of short term visitors through the area as well. With charitable support, the art decoCounty Theater was restored and reopened showing arthouse fare, and a new main library and art museum were built around the ruins of the old stone jail, across the street from Mercer's castle. An official "resort town" designation exempted the area from liquor licence caps and empty commercial space began to fill with a dense and vibrant nighttime scene of bars and restaurants.
This development goes hand in hand with the broader development of the region; as the Philadelphia metropolitan area expanded from southern into central Bucks County, the fields and farms of the communities around Doylestown quickly began to sprout housing developments. This development brought thousands of people to the area, but the neighborhoods created often lacked longstanding institutions or discernible centers. Centrally located Doylestown has been able to position itself as the regional center of culture and nightlife.
The County Theater in the Doylestown Historic District
Borough Hall of Doylestown
As you can clearly see, Historic Doylestown Borough and Bucks County in General has lots of history! Perhaps you ant to stop for the day or stay the weekend in aÂ nearby hotel? In any event you will not be disappointed! Or maybe you are considering moving to the area?Â If so, Please contact me of visit my website at www.FrankDolski.ComÂ or stop and visit me at Coldwell Banker Hearthside Realtors located in Peddler's Village!
Frank DolskiÂ Â MBA, ABR, e-PRO
Certified Relocation Specialist
Previews Luxury Home Specialist
Coldwell Banker Hearthside Realtors
Ranked #1 In The State of PA in 2012 For Affiliated Coldwell Banker International Realtors
2012 Coldwell Banker International Presidentâ€™s Elite Award
2010-2011 Coldwell Banker International Presidentâ€™s Circle Award