Category Archives: History

My new book: to be published in 2018

milfordmills-coverfrontandsideTo save time, I am cross-pollinating on my social media sites.

A link to my Twitter Account

 

 

 

My updated and expanded book will have 21 chapters, illustrated vintage maps, and early photographs.

Most people are intrigued with the “Bo Bo” Hoff connection – the famous Philadelphia gangster (and Al Capone’s partner-in-crime) spent five years in a mansion/hideout in Milford Mills.

Here is an excerpt from some of the “curious” landmarks

“Murder Hollow” and Other Tales

From 1836 to 1916, the miller and farmer Benjamin G. Nichols was held in high regard for his productive saw mill and a cider mill that used many varieties of apples from his farm on Creek Road.

In the 1930s, Nichols’ son, Oliver, was similarly well-known. His former store and gas station still stands at the corner of Creek and Crawford Roads, just north of the Struble trail at Dorlan’s. According to local legend and written accounts during the gangster “Bo Bo” Hoff’s residency in Milford Mills, this stretch of Creek Road was known as “Murder Hollow” after the body of an unidentified woman was found along Creek Road and a “severed head” found floating in the nearby East Branch.

Equally frightening was the area’s reputation for harboring the “Dorlan’s Devil,” an apparition that was described as “an oversized kangaroo with long black hair and eyes like large red saucers.”   One news notice in 1937, reported a sighting “after an absence of five years.” The “witnesses” included a Downingtown paper mill worker with the unusual name of Cydney Ladley as well as his “wife and Mrs. Chester Smith”who were with him in the family car, on the way to Milford Mills from Dorlan’s.   The sighting in 1932 was made by two nursery men who working in the heavily wooded area near Dorlan’s. One man, “Charles McCandless of Landsdowne” was asked, as was Ladley, if he did not mistake the “beast” for a deer – a stupid question, as the reporter suggests, knowing that deer were so common in “those parts.” The “apparition which crossed his path was no deer,” reported Ladley, who later organized a search party. “Armed with guns and accompanied by hunting dogs, the men tramped about that section for several hours without locating the menacing brute,” it was reported.

A few years later, in 1935, the myterious death of Evelyn Hoey seemed to seal the reputation of “Murder Hollow” although the “murder” took place some distance away, in what was described as a sprawling mansion on Indian Run Road in Glenmoore. Hoey, a Broadway theater torch singer and an aspiring actress who had a Paramount contract, was spending the week in the mansion, then the home of Henry Huddleston Rogers 3d, grandson of a deceased millionaire, “Col.” Henry Huddleston Rogers, who was co-founder, with John D. Rockfeller, of Standard Oil.

According to one account written decades after insident, police were called to the scene on the night of September 11th, and they found Hoey dead from a head wound in the master bedroom. Her body was taken to a mogue in Downingtown and later to the county seat of West Chester for an autopsy. A coroner’s jury returned an open verdict that Hoey killed herself, but still Rogers and a friend, William Kelly, were arrested on suspicion of homicide.[1]

[1] A Wikipedia entry for the incident presents a list of people at home in the mansion as though presenting characters in a Clue board game. In addition to Kelly, “a photographer,” there was “a Japanese cook, George Yamada, a butler, and Rogers’ chauffeur, Frank Catalano.”

A Series of Lectures on “PM” Sharples, the “Millionaire Manufacturer”

The Sharples Separator factory, now an apartment complex in West Chester
The Sharples Separator factory, now an apartment complex in West Chester

            Long before there was such as term as “global market,” West Chester was home to the largest industrial company the borough had ever seen.

            One newspaper notice from 1906 suggests that reporters were unfamiliar with the concept of the worldwide market strategy. It was explained that the borough’s Sharples Separator Co.formed a “business alliance” with a firm in Japan and had begun selling a “considerable number” of milk separators there.

            Milk separators, which enabled dairy farmers to separate milk from the cream on the farm rather at the local creamery, were made by other firms. But no one sold them like Philip M. Sharples. Surpassing mere calendar giveaways, the company had 100 account executives whose sole job was to travel throughout the world, attending dairy fairs and exhibits. In the process, Sharples not only made a fortune, he became West Chester’s first industrialist.

         Postcards became an important way to promote products and goodwill

Postcards became an important way to promote products and good will. This one depicts Greystone in a romantic light

   Born in 1857 into an old West Chester Quaker family, the man known simply as “PM” poured his wealth into building West Chester’s grandest estate, “Greystone Hall.”   Surrounded by nearly 1000 acres of woods, trout ponds, open fields, and formal “Italian” water gardens, the mansion remained the talk of the West Chester community in part because its acreage and massive size, with more than 70 rooms.

            The present owners of Greystone – only the second family to live there after Sharples – describe the mansion’s architecture as “Elizabethan-Jacobean”. They have long off-set its costly maintenance by renting out its first floor rooms, mostly as a wedding venue but once also for conferences, according to Velda Jerrehian Moog, whose family purchased the estate in 1942. She has lived there since 1952 and launched the rental business in 1992.

                The former Sharples Co. headquarters, which once employed hundreds of men and women, and turned out 200 separators a day, is now the Sharples Works apartment complex. Its history, like that of many early industries and trades, remains preserved in the library archives of the historical society.

                        Particularly fascinating, for me at least, is “PM’s” public persona as an innovator in mass production and marketing. A former machinist, Sharples literally enabled every farmer in the country – and those in Europe, South America and Africa, to name just a few of the places where the company had factories or branch offices – to have a separator for as little as $40.

               Even in Sharples’ day, the West Chester headquarters was never a Dickensian vision of smokestacks and sooty buildings manned by a poor

This postcard was designed by a popular artist Cole Phillips.
This postcard was designed by the popular artist Cole Phillips.

and beleaguered working class. But somehow PM began to be seen as “millionaire manufacturer” who lived a storied life far above the common “West Chesterian,” as borough residents once called themselves. (Sharples’ “outsider” persona was later magnified when newly widowed, he married his daughter’s best friend from art school. But I digress.)

            Today Sharples is credited for building “much of the northeast section of the borough” thanks to his invention of “the first cream separator” made in America, as one obituary described it when Sharples died at the age of 87 in 1944.

Sharples was known for his work in forestry, both on the state and local level
Sharples was known for his work in forestry, both on the state and local level. The drive extended through the famed woods on Greystone’s property

Others hailed Sharples’ early work in forestry and developing the state park system. But in West Chester, he was typically remembered both for his philanthropy and   eccentric habits. He tooled around in an one-of-a-kind, hand-built car, for instance, and later had a small plane that he kept in a hanger on his property. Landing it, he often nearly touched the tops of the hundreds of Norway pines and Japanese larch that formed the woodlands of the estate.

                        Partly because of these imported trees as well as “transplanted” animals such as “Kentucky” rabbits, “Chinese” pheasants, and Mallard ducks “raised from eggs secured from the [Mary]Cassatt farm,” as one paper reported,  few seemed to know what to make of the place.

                        In the words of one writer, who wrote of the “long rose pergola” at the foot of the mansion’s lawn, “West Chester residents can scarcely believe that such a place exists so near their home.” As for the estate’s “hidden” location, reporters routinely recalled the “Catskills” with its dense scenery or they compared the grounds to Switzerland with its “cool waters” and “woodland glades and dells.”

            Ironically, given its mysterious allure, much of the estate’s extensive grounds were open to the public during its peak years from 1911 to the stock market crash of 1929. There were even posted hours at a gate house, resulting in generations of borough residents treating the estate much like an English country park.

The "sunken" pond and Italianate gardens. This photo ran in a program featuring the menu for the US Marine dinner
The “sunken” pond and Italianate gardens. This photo ran in a program featuring the menu for the US Marine dinner
Judging from the previous photo, this postcard captured the grounds fairly realistically. The gardens were once reached by a drive with a gatehouse near the Chester County Hospital
Judging from the previous photo, this postcard captured the grounds fairly realistically. The gardens were once reached by a drive with a gatehouse near the Chester County Hospital

            Reached by two long driveways (including one near the Chester County hospital), Greystone was known for its copses of thick woods and “hairpin turns” that threatened to topple old jalopies. Those driven by intrepid reporters, as many news stories suggest, considered the estate open territory for the latest news scoop. Perhaps most descriptive was the sea of “khaki tents” that appeared on Greystone’s open fields when a unit of the U.S. Marines was invited to dinner in 1915.

            By then, “Greystone Park” included an experimental dairy barn with a famous occupant – a bull that cost $60,000 and was so celebrated it was given its own pen at dairymen’s convention held in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

            On a recent visit, Greystone’s long drive (now reached only from Phoenxiville Pike) was full of twists and turns, reminding me of a landscape design element known as the “ha-ha.”   Velda Moog, who greeted me at a side door framed by a porte cochere, had a ready explanation. “When they were building estates such as this one, they deliberately had a winding main entrance so you had a longer approach. The idea was to build up your anticipation.”

            Despite the years Greystone has served as a wedding venue, it still must be promoted and its appeal explained to offset such trends as the informal, country-style wedding, Moog says. Describing the Tutor Manor-style architecture, Moog noted that the mansion is very adaptable especially since outdoor tents can be used, and wedding parties can stage different rooms for each part of the ceremony and reception.   (I have always likened Greystone’s many rooms to that of a Clue board game, complete with a conservatory and billiards room where “Col. Mustard” might be lurking. )

            Walking down one of the long corridors, Moog pointed out doorways designed to be hidden when closed. They were flush with wainscotted walls, some of which are leather lined, and so I immediately concluded that they led to a secret room – and I was somewhat disappointed to learn that they were once used for a practical task, bringing firewood into a room without disturbing the occupant.

            As recently as the late 1980s, when plans were first being discussed to develop part of Greystone’s 450 acres, newspaper stories told of the era when Sunday drives through the estate were popular and many West Chester businesses closed early on Wednesdays during the summer so that people could boat or swim at one of Graystone’s three lakes.

            In the early 1990s, the late historian Liz Heed was the first to write about that aspect of Greystone’s history in a limited-edition booklet. According to Heed, Sharples lost his fortune and his mansion during the depths of the Depression, in 1934, despite beginning production on a promising product: the electric refrigerator. As Heed wrote, “the paradox of his life was that although he was brought up a simple Quaker, he made West Chester’s greatest fortune and built an estate that rivaled many an aristocratic manor house of Europe.”

For more information about the Greystone lectures or to purchase tickets, visit: www.chestercohistorical.org/events

 greystone-mansion

A Class featuring “Indian Hannah”

Between writing projects last year, I was busy with several classes hosted by the Chester County Night School.

Here’s one example:

Get to know the history of a region that was once predominately Quaker residents who had their own way of working with the native Lenape Indians and developing the area’s resources. Two classroom sessions will include illustrated lectures and discussions about the book, A Lenape Among Quakers. The third night will conclude with a walking tour of the borough of Kennett Square.

Indianmound

As part of my lecture,  generally include photos such as this one. It depicts  the famous Indian burial ground in Northbrook, Chester County.  I find it interesting that the site was discovered by chance –  a farmer was out hunting with his dogs and they dug up some bones.

Note the tiny figures. One man is John Russell Hayes (1866-1945), who was nationally known at the time as the “The Bard of the Brandywine.”  He wrote the popular poem of “Indian Hannah” that featured the line “last of her race,” underscoring the legend that the native woman listed as “Hannah Freeman” on early documents was the last Lenni Lenape Indian to live in Chester County.  (I say “legend” since there were other native Indians still living in the county but “Indian Hannah” was the most famous.)

Indian H burial marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hayes was also responsible for honoring her with a plaque placed on a stone.  He is shown here at the extreme left at the plaque’s location at the former Chester County Poorhouse.  However, her real grave is unmarked and is at somewhere in “Potter’s field,” now under the management of the Natural Lands Trust’s Cheslen Preserve. At one point, they had a map you could download to walk to the site. https://natlands.org/preserves-to-visit/list-of-preserves/cheslen-preserve/

 

A Chronicle Of Tales Of Paupers And Gypsies

As early as 1800, the poor in Chester County had a place in the community, in their own home.

The Chester County Poor House was built with county funds on a large tract on what was the former state police barracks at Embreeville in West Bradford Township, Chester County, Pa.(https://plus.google.com/101055308443833626364/about?gl=us&hl=en) There, the comings and goings of “our paupers” were closely monitored by a house steward who lived on the grounds and oversaw its farming operations.

When the paupers were not harvesting crops or making bread, they often received visits from the Directors of the Poor and were written about in the local newspapers.In fact, the life stories of not only poorhouse residents, but “picturesque local characters” sometimes called “gypsies” and “tramps,” occupied the public’s imagination well into the 1920s.

Until the Depression brought a kind of social democracy to the region, the poor were often looked upon as outsiders, or feeble-minded misfits.There are old newspaper accounts of “Old Dabbo,” for instance, a former slave who was given the opportunity to attend school but “didn’t learn much.”Another former slave, “Gango,” found work “bleaching linen” and working for various local farmers.”Old Black Phil” was described as the “Goliath of wood sawers,” wandering from job to job, living where he could.

Perhaps the most celebrated itinerant was “Indian Hannah,” who died in the poorhouse in 1803 at the age of 100. Typically described as the “last of her race,” Hannah was said to prefer the free life of her Leni-Lenape ancestors. She roamed the county and earned a living as an herbalist and basketmaker.

Gypsies generally received the most attention, in part because of their exotic attire and habit of traveling in “houses upon wheels,” complete with a “compliment of horses, colts, dogs and chickens,” as one newspaper described them in 1874.In 1900, a band of “either English or Scotch gypsies” traveled through West Chester on the way south from New England. Although they were depicted fairly favorably – the writer noted that they had the “best-looking horses” of any gypsy band – most accounts of the period describe a path of destruction whenever gypsies traveled through the county, with cellars raided, orchards stripped bare, and even laundry snatched from wash lines.

Aside from the almshouse, those who were not part of the county’s “roguish wanderers,” such as the working poor, could find a place on local farms, orchards and nurseries.Two of the largest employees of temporary workers were found in West Chester.The Hoopes Brother and Thomas nursery extended from Biddle Street to north of Ashbridge Street and employed “armies” of men to work what was known as the nursery’s “Forty Acres,” full of roses and perennials. There were also plants and produce to prepare for shipment in the nursery’s “packing sheds” on Maple Avenue.

By 1902, the workers’ housing that had stood nearby for nearly 25 years was deemed an eyesore and torn down. A newspaper reporter noted that the “bunk sheds” which faced a “public highway” were “not a beautiful sight,” especially on Sunday, when it was wash day for the workers. After new housing sheds were built along Goshen Road, the after-hour activities of the workers, such as their “cooking, washing and mending,” remained out of sight and out of mind for the public, the reporter noted.

In West Chester, some seasonal workers even hoped for a cold snap. At Uriah H. Painter’s icehouse (pictured here) most of the employees were black men who toiled round the clock packing “ice cakes” cut from two ice ponds, one on ground now occupied by Knox Equipment Rental on East Gay Street and the other in nearby West Goshen typically described as “Ganges Pond”  (The Ganges family is featured in another post).

They lived in temporary housing and spent their days “cutting, slashing, pushing, hauling, arranging and packing ice,” as one reporter summarized it. While Painter was known to purchase ice from as far away as Canada, much of the work involved preparing the local ice – keeping it clear of snow with hand-held scrapers and brooms, for instance.

At night, the workers created a scene that put them in a romantic light, their “lanterns flitting about over the crystal surface,” as one writer noted in 1891.Workers loading ice on Uriah H. Painter's Ice Wagons, West Goshe Uriah H. Painter's Ice House, West Chester, PA

It’s A Book Signing (actually for two books!)

Announcing the publication of two walking tour booklets featuring historic African-American and Civil War era sites in West Chester, Pa.

Local author and historian Catherine Quillman completed the histories with the help of grants from the Leeway Foundation and research by co-author Sarah Wesley, who grew up in the “East End,” West Chester’s historic African-American community.
A book signing is planned for Wednesday evening, October 1st , from 7 p.m. to 9 pm. at the Chester County Book Co. , at 967 Paoli Pike West Chester, PA 19380. (chestercountybooks.com.)

The authors will be signing copies of newly released history, Walking the “Uptown” of West Chester, Pa. They will also be signing the new expanded second edition of Walking the East End: the historic African-American community of West Chester, Pa.

The new edition is designed to be a scholarly resource (and walking tour) and features a new appendix  and  special section documenting the lives of former slaves and free black residents in 19th century West Chester and their activities before and during the Civil War. 

The unusual stories of free black men like Abraham D. Shadd, whose image is found on a commemorative stamp in Ontario, Canada, are also featured.   Shadd was one of three black “agents” involved in West Chester’s Underground Railroad. He was also a mentor to  the sole black survivor of the famous Harper’s Ferry raid who went onto help publicize John Brown’s actions in the book,  A Voice from Harper’s Ferry.

Walking the Uptown  is illustrated with numerous old postcards and photographs, many of them offering a rare glimpse into the lives of early black entrepreneurs.

The authors will be happy to personalize your copy. Be the first to own these limited-edition booklets.  Each book features a pull-out map that can be used as walking tour guide.

One of two recent publications completed with the help of the Leeway Foundation
One of two recent publications completed with the help of the Leeway Foundation

Site #9, Walking the East End, Part One

Magnolia House front

This corner location, which still operates as a boarding house, may be one of the East End’s most celebrated sites.

The 19-room Magnolia House stood on the fringes, but thrived for more than a half-century beginning in 1866. That was when an entrepreneur named Moses G. Hepburn obtained his hotel license with the help of a West Chester judge, John Hickman, a former congressman and state legislator who was an early advocate of civil rights.

Hepburn was described in 1897 as the “wealthiest and best-known colored man in Chester County.” He built his brick hotel in 1860 and welcomed all “permanent and transient boarders,” as one reporter put it in 1892, but was best known for hosting “prominent colored personages.”

Another reporter recalled the time when, around 1880, Frederick Douglass “registered at the Magnolia House and expressed himself quite pleased to find such a fine hotel for the accommodation of the colored race.”

Historian Robert Bussel writes of Hepburn’s “ongoing contact” with such people as Douglass, “the journalist William Howard Day and visiting members of the black clergy,” who all helped him prepare for what was described as a “leadership role” within the black community. That included serving as the borough’s first black councilman in 1882.

Hepburn operated the Magnolia House for 30 years until his untimely death at the age of 65 years, on the night of December 1, 1897. It is believed that he was living at the time across the street, at 331 East Miner. One paper described his death as being a bit “strange,” having been witnessed by his “dear friends, Capt. Levi Hood, Solomon Hazard, and Nathan Priggs.”

The account was as follows: “That day two strange white men came into the hotel. There were words between Mr. Hepburn and one of the strangers. Mr. Hepburn staggered back into the living room and died.” There were “no wounds,” the account noted.

On December 6, 1897, Hepburn was laid out, “clad in the uniform of a Knight Templar and with the hat and sword of the order reposing on the cloth-covered coffin,” [decorated] with engraved Masonic marks and emblems.” There were 12 pallbearers, six of whom were fellow members of the Masonic order; the other six friends included James Spence, Levi Hood, and Solomon Hazard. Soon after, Hepburn’s son-in-law, John Wesley Smothers, took over the hotel and managed it for several more decades.

 

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: 

The Magnolia Hotel once stood on the fringes of West Chester, but thrived during the second half of the 19th century.

Here is an account of its owner, Moses G. Hepburn, Jr.

HOTELIER WAS A COMMUNITY LEADER by Catherine Quillman

In the mid-1800s, out-of-towners had their pick of places to stay in Chester County.

The county seat alone had at least five well-established hotels that catered to a wide range of travelers. Some openly appealed to a certain clientele, such as the aptly named Farmer’s Hotel on West Market and New Streets.

All but one of these hotels claimed the best locations – in the center of town.

The 19-room Magnolia House stood on the fringes, but thrived for more than a half-century beginning in 1866. That was when an entrepreneur named Moses G. Hepburn, Jr. obtained his hotel license with the help of a West Chester judge, John Hickman, a former congressman and state legislator who was an early advocate of civil rights.

Hepburn was described in 1897 as the “wealthiest and best-known colored man in Chester County.” He built his brick hotel in 1860 and welcomed all “permanent and transient boarders,” as one reporter put it in 1892, but was best known for hosting “prominent colored personages.”

In the 1998 summer issue of Pennsylvania History, historian Robert Bussel notes that it was described in its early years as “a three-story brick building, containing nineteen rooms, well-furnished and in good condition, and stabling for fifteen horses.”

The building, which still stands at Miner and Adams Street, was then part of a community known as Georgetown named for John George, an abolitionist and early landlord who rented exclusively to blacks.

Hepburn, whose own landholdings in the area would soon exceed George’s, was not the first black business owner to find success in West Chester, but he was clearly the most influential figure in the black community.

Two restaurateurs – Charles Burns and James Spence – were among Hepburn’s contemporaries who contributed to the vitality of the black business community that would, by 1910, earn its own chapter in a statewide directory of “Negro businesses.”

Still, Hepburn, who was born around 1832 in Alexandria, Va., was perhaps the only black resident to have arrived in West Chester supported by a “bequest of several thousand dollars,” according to one account.

Hepburn inherited the money from his father, a former slave. He first came to West Chester in 1818 to attend school and returned in 1853.

Within a few years, he was not only the spokesman for the black community, but he was first to see and acknowledge segregation in the business community.

In an 1868 application to obtain a liquor license, Hepburn pleaded that his should be granted since “the public houses now established refuse to entertain this class of people [blacks] visiting the town . . .”

Prior to opening his hotel, Hepburn briefly ran a restaurant near the courthouse that he later sold to Spence. He also operated an “omnibus” service that brought people to and from the local railroad station.

Hepburn had a lifelong association with leading black Americans. One reporter recalled the time when, around 1880, Frederick Douglass “registered at the Magnolia House and expressed himself quite pleased to find such a fine hotel for the accommodation of the colored race.”

Historian Bussel writes of Hepburn’s “ongoing contact” with such people as Douglass, “the journalist William Howard Day and visiting members of the black clergy,” who all helped him prepare for a “leadership role” within the black community. That included serving as the borough’s first black councilman in 1882.

Copyright 2003 The Philadelphia Inquirer

All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Walking the East End, Part One

East End of West Chester

This self-guided walking tour is illustrated with numerous photographs, many of them offering a rare glimpse into the 19th-century lives of early black entrepreneurs in the days when West Chester (a county seat) was nearly 90 percent Quaker.

The book also documents the Civil Rights era: Bayard Rustin,famous as the chief tactician of nonviolent action and the organizer of the March of 1963, was born and raised in the East End. 

Although the book is designed as a walking tour, with numbered sites in an area of West Chester called the “East End,” the book will be of interest to anyone interested in 19th century industries and the lives of free black residents (and former slaves) in the years before or after the Civil War.

The industries documented in the book – and shown in the images here – include a mushroom cannery known as Edward Jacobs Co. (later Grocery Store Products) and the Hoopes Bros.& Darlington Wheel Works, in operation from 1866 to 1973.

B&B Mushroom Factory

The book also documents the Civil Rights era: Bayard Rustin, famous as the chief tactician of nonviolent action and the organizer of the March of 1963, was born and raised in the East End.

To read an excerpt from the walking tour, click here.

Between the Brandywines

Between the Brandywines Book

Between the Brandywines: A History of West Bradford is a 417-page hardback book, written in the popular history style, of a region of Chester County, Pennsyvlania that is located between the branches of the historic Brandywine River. 

It is the only book of its kind in that it documents, in 16 chapters, a region once known as the “breadbasket of the early colonies,” then a day’s drive, by stagecoach, from the capital of Philadelphia.   Inspired by the book, Loosening the Bonds, Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850 by Joan M. Jensen, the book included many chapters documenting the lives of early rural women including the Quakers, Lenape Indians, poorhouse residents and mill workers.

The Copes Bridge near Marshallton, Pa. Photo taken in 1890 by Gilbert Cope

Published privately by West Bradford Press in 2005, the book was commissioned project and completed with the help of the West Bradford Township Historic Committee. Still, I consider Between the Brandywines to be part of my personal agenda to write about Chester County’s “hidden” history, which includes the development of small towns and 19th century attitudes towards industry, the landscape, and village commerce.  

 The book took five years of personal interviews (with local residents in their 80s and 90s) as well as extensive research at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania, including the use of its early newspaper archives.   I also illustrated the book with pen & ink drawings and obtained more than 200 early photographs and postcards from local residents.

The book is available in two limited edition formats including a “textbook” version and a hardbook with a dust jacket and a pull-out map that was based on research complied in 1912  by Francis D. Brinton, who traced all the William Penn grants in East and West Bradford Townships. 

The book is sold locally at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, the Chester County Book & Music Co,. and at the West Bradford Township building.  

 In the years since it was published, the book has received numerous endorsements and has been sold through several preservation groups such as the Friends of Martin Tavern.

Click here to read an account of  the village of Marshallton, Pa. which includes several excerpts from the book.

What people are saying about the book: 

Between the Brandywines by Catherine Quillman tells the story of West Bradford Township by capturing the spirit of its land, waterways, buildings and people. Congratulations to the author, the Township, and its residents for a remarkable accomplishment. It makes me proud to live in Chester County!”

 —John D. Milner, architect and recipient of the 2005 James Biddle Award for Lifetime Achievement, given by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

Walking The East End, Part Two

Spences Restaurant before restoration, Photo courtesy of CCHS
Spences Restaurant before restoration, Photo courtesy of CCHS

Part Two includes two additional tours: 

 The “Uptown” Tour  

 The 21 sites on this tour can be generally divided into Civil War-era sites such as the Lincoln Building and the former offices of an Abolitionist newspaper as well as sites related to black entrepreneurship in the 19th century and in recent times. 

 As it is described in this booklet’s introduction,  West Chester’s most successful black-owned enterprises – Burns’ Great Oyster House, Spence’s Restaurant, and  the Ganges’ Ice Cream and Confectionary Shop – thrived at a time of explosive growth,  in the 1850s and the 1900s.  Even then, they could not be described as part of a “colored aristocracy.”  They served a clientele that included judges and Court House personnel yet they typically saw their fraternal and civic lives as rooted in the black community.

Spences Restuarant, 1920s Courtesy of the Spence family
Spences Restuarant, 1920s Courtesy of the Spence family

 “Uptown,” as residents of the East End still call it, includes one residential area: South Walnut Street.  The beautiful Victorian homes are representative of those built by craftsmen for the artisan and working classes including black residents. Part of the area was developed in 1844 by Robert Mercer, who came to West Chester as an orphan bound to a Swedish shoemaker.  The region’s first  Presbyterian church built for African-Americans is also located here. 

 A third category of sites might be described as those associated with Civil Rights activism including the  movie theaters and restaurants where Bayard Rustin challenged West Chester’s white community to uphold its liberal heritage.

The Spokes Works. Courtesy of CCHS
The Spokes Works. Courtesy of CCHS

The industrial Tour

The 13 sites  on this tour includes “Mechanics Alley,” where a former crayon factory is open to the public (now Rose Valley Restorations) as well as 8 sites along East Union Street.   The buildings at E. Union and S. Franklin Streets have been occupied since the 1870s when they included a grist mill and metal foundry.  These buildings overlooked West Chester’s largest brick yards.

 Owned by one of the Civil War’s most celebrated veterans, Henry R. Guss, the brick yards extended to Bolmar Street. They were later occupied by Hoffman’s Lumber Yards, but the area still shows glimpses of the past: a row of brick homes Guss constructed for his workers still stands.   At the corner of Union and Adams Streets, one can see the original buildings of  a  long-standing mushroom cannery,  E.H. Jacobs Company, which became nationally known as the producer of “B&B” mushrooms and other products.  

 The “Industrial” tour is the longest tour in the booklet, extending to Lacey Street and the boundary  of an early Irish community known as “Riggtown.”  Within the same neighborhood, the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association keeps its trains in a yard 

that recalls a busy era when the Pennsylvania Railroad  maintained its largely freight switching yard near the same spot.  The railroad turntable is documented on the map in this booklet, but no longer remains. 

 In fact, the former vestiges of an industrial presence—the mushroom factory, the National Phone Co. and old 30-acre Wyeth Lab site—have disappeared.  Hopefully, this part of the East End will have a positive future.