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Local History

My writings and research on the history of Perkasie.

Preserving Perkasie: Two Big Steps This Week

Perkasie took two important steps this week toward preserving its heritage, with the unofficial announcement of the Covered Bridge project and the Council’s Historical Committee statement of making historic preservation a priority in Perkasie Borough.

Perkasie featured on WFMZ 69 News

On Tuesday, Jamie Stover from WFMZ 69 did the following feature story for their 6 p.m. news about the South Perkasie Covered Bridge:

http://www.wfmz.com/1051184905?fbclid=IwAR2kOwaTm7afMKSqxh76KvLaEoYFvknWhqlBwLW_FvSmGqDMYNavBdNQZmY

The Historical Society and the Borough are starting a campaign to raise between $150,000 and $200,000 to rehabilitate the bridge and also make it an outdoor museum. We hope to get half of this money from the state’s Historical and Museum Commission. The other half has to come from the public because of Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage laws. If the Borough were to pay for the project, it would cost 40% more because any contractor has to be paid at Philadelphia’s union-wage scale. Of course, there isn’t a union of covered-bridge restorers, but that’s the law here. FYI, about half of states nationwide have outlawed Prevailing Wage laws as unfair to taxpayers.

The other big step was the Council’s Historical Committee statement, which defines the historic preservation steps that will affect Perkasie Borough over the next year. In the next month, the Borough expects to advertise for a historic preservation consultant to do a one-time Historic Resource Survey to make our Town Center district eligible for the National Register of Historic Places

You can read the entire memo here from the Committee:

We expect both of these projects to be done sometime in 2020. The goal is to get the bridge fixed so it lasts another 100 years, and to get Perkasie’s Town Center its rightful recognition as a National Historic District.

I can tell you there is already a lot of interest in these projects and we need the public to pull together to make them happen. If you watch Jamie’s story, you’ll see what Perkasie can do when the people want something done!

When was the South Perkasie covered bridge really built?

For the past year, I have been researching the 51 covered bridges that once existed in Bucks County, and one question I’ve been asked is how do we really know that Perkasie’s bridge was built in 1832?

The 1832 Bucks County budget shows a completed bridge.

After digging up some old records, it turns out
Bucks County commissioned the bridge and then paid for it between March 1832 and January 1833. But the 1832 bridge wasn’t the first attempt to put a bridge in the same location over the Pleasant Spring Creek. And the bridge wasn’t known as the South Perkasie bridge until 1899 at the earliest.

Today, the South Perkasie bridge is the oldest covered bridge in Bucks County and the third-oldest in Pennsylvania. It is also the third-oldest Town Lattice bridge in the United States.

The meaning of Christmas in Perkasie 100 Years Ago

Today, we celebrate the holiday season in different ways, but maybe we can learn something from a difficult Christmas 100 years ago when war and an epidemic were unwanted guests in Perkasie.

How Perkasie celebrated Thanksgiving in the 1880s

Thanks to our Historical Society’s project to digitize the Perkasie News-Herald‘s archives, we can now look back to 1881 and see how Perkasie Borough celebrated Thanksgiving Day during that decade.

The archives are mostly online at Newspapers.com. These newspapers are a window to a different time we can learn from, including the importance of charity at Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving Day newspaper in Perkasie,1881

Today, our local traditions include the Pennridge-Quakertown football game and various turkey-featured dinners. Occasionally, there has been a snowflake or two spotted here. Back in 1881, just two years after Perkasie Borough was formed, things were a bit different.

After 111 years, a new Walnut Street Bridge for Perkasie

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Perkasie will witness an event that only happens every century or so – the opening of a new bridge on Walnut Street over the Perkiomen’s East Branch.

The ceremony at 11:30 a.m. is eagerly anticipated: Local residents sorely missed the former bridge for the past 14 months, after Bucks County, Perkasie Borough and contractors started building an impressive new three-span structure linking Perkasie’s Second and Third Wards.

Martin’s Bridge in 1907

This will be the third known bridge at the Walnut Street location. The first was an open wooden structure, built in 1867. Architect Adam Oscar Martin designed the second bridge, which opened in October 1907. In those times, it was known as the Branch Bridge. An estimated 2,300 barrels of cement were used to build the 1907 bridge.

How Bucks County lost and then saved its covered bridges (Part 3)

Today, Bucks County is fortunate to have 12 covered bridges for its citizens to enjoy, thanks to preservation efforts in 1958 and 1959 related to the highly publicized effort to save South Perkasie’s Covered Bridge.

Between 1919 and 1958, the county already had lost nearly two dozen covered bridges, mostly because of road improvement projects. But a preservation movement started in the 1930s culminated with the South Perkasie bridge’s successful 1958 move, funded by local citizens.

The South Perkasie Bridge move in August 1958 made headlines and led to preservation efforts in Bucks County and Pennsylvania.

The Delaware River Covered Bridge Network (Part 2)

The first wooden covered bridges built in Bucks County bore little resemblance to the dozen that survives today. At one time, 11 great bridges spanned the Delaware River from Riegelsville to Trenton.  These bridges typically were 800 to 1,000 feet long and some were designed by famous early 19th Century architects, such as Theodore Burr, Lewis Wernwag, and Ithiel Town.

Before then, a system of ferries took goods and people over the river in boats. But during the Jeffersonian era, the expansion of transportation systems became important to a growing local and national economy.

Lower Trenton Bridge in 1843 from Sherman Day’s Historical collections of the State of Pennsylvania

Discovering Bucks County’s Covered Bridges (Part 1)

Bucks County is well-known for its history and an important part of that story is its collection of wooden covered bridges. Currently, 12 of the structures remain in the county, with 10 of the original bridges listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What’s forgotten today is the county’s legacy as one of the early centers of covered bridge building in America. Since 1806, Bucks County has had at least 51 wooden covered bridges in place at various times, according to records at the Bucks County Historical Society in Doylestown, Pa. The bridges played an important 19th-century role in connecting formerly disconnected communities, usually in conjunction with mills that produced goods and services that were vital to the region’s pre-industrial economy.

loux-HAER

Loux Bridge as photographed by the Historic American Engineering Record

The story of Perkasie area’s other Covered Bridge

As part of my project with the Bucks County Historical Society to inventory and map the county’s current and former Covered Bridges, I’m doing brief bios of each of the 57 bridges that existed here. Here’s a quick look at the little-known Steeley’s Bridge, which sat just outside of Perkasie.

Steeley's Bridge

One of its few photos. Courtesy of Trish Kane at Lostbridges.org.

Today, Bucks County has 12 Covered Bridges, which is a lot for one county. Two of them are full reproductions; a third is the South Perkasie Covered Bridge sitting on land in Lenape Park.

Happy 139th birthday, Perkasie Borough!

On May 10, 1879, the Bucks County court recognized a petition from 68 residents of a village in Rockhill Township to form Perkasie Borough. Since then, Perkasie has grown, seen a few changes, and survived some tough challenges. But today, our town has retained its place and character as one of the best areas to live in Upper Bucks County.

Perkasie1879

Perkasie Borough came from humble roots. The area was once part of William Penn’s Manor of Perkasie, land he acquired from the region’s original residents, the Lenni Lenape. The treaty was signed at a place called Perkasie Indian Village; its current location is disputed today but it was likely in Hilltown or Rockhill Township.

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