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Quakertown Offers a Stroll Through History
Written by Kelly Kalb Correspondent
2014-08-13

        Quakertown natives, especially older generations, are aware of the borough's colorful past and many historical buildings still in existence today. And thanks to the efforts of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (GSP), Quakertown Historical Society, Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce (UBCC), and Richland Library Company, history came to life for many others through a walking tour and lecture on Aug. 7.

        The tour began at 5:45 p.m. and enabled visitors to tour historical sights at their leisure. Several properties were opened especially for the event which offered guides to explain the significance of each location.

        McCoole's Red Lion Inn at the corner of Main and Broad streets opened its doors to approximately 40 people interested in the borough's history.                             

        The inn is steeped in rich local history.  Built in 1747, it was the first tavern and hotel in the borough as well as subsequent meeting place in 1799 for the organizers of the Fries Rebellion. The rebellion was the third of its kind during the 18th century; this one attempted to fight a tax on windows, which was particularly troublesome to Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and those at a lower income level.

        Crossing Broad Street to Liberty Hall offered a brief look into a time when the Liberty Bell spent the night on September 23, 1777 before making its way to Allentown as a hiding place during wartime.

        The UBCC's Membership Coordinator, Rita Woodward, was available to answer questions regarding Liberty Hall and the chamber's mission to better organize period antiques within its walls.            

        "We have a lot of boxes of information, old records, pictures, and more to sift through. But we are hoping to fill Liberty Hall with period pieces from it's era," Woodward explained.

        The UBCC's new home is directly behind Liberty Hall facing Main Street. The chamber building has recently undergone renovations to improve its appearance and allow for better visualization of artifacts collected over the years.

        Woodward, who is also vice president of the Quakertown Historical Society, explained the mission of the chamber is to provide residents and visitors to the building with a history lesson through walking displays of pieces significant to the life and times of Quakertown.

        Currently, the renovations are incomplete but will come to light again in September when further work will be done on replacing the remainder of the building's garage style doors, Woodward added.  After removal of the doors, plate glass windows will be placed along with more relics of the borough.

        Across the street from the UBCC resides the Burgess Foulke house which was orginally built in 1812 but moved to it's new location on Main Street in order to save it from being razed to build a shopping center.

        The purchaser of the old location at the corner of Route 309 and Trumbauersville Road donated the house the the historical society which was able to build a foundation at the new location and move the house for $40,000. Multiple pictures are on display of the historic move inside the house as well as various original pieces and artifacts. Visitors of the tour were able to roam the rooms of the house and see first hand how people from the 1700s and 1800s slept, cooked, and lived.

        Another key location open to the public during the evening's events was the Richland Library Company, 44 S. Main Street. The library was established in 1789 and is the seventh oldest library in Pennsylvania. The second floor has undergone recent renovations and now provides local artist's work on display which can be viewed on Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon or by appointment.

        At the conclusion of the walking tour, McCoole's Red Lion Inn provided a buffet style dinner and beer tasting of their newly established brew company, Red Lion Brewery, in the Arts and Event Center next door to the restaurant.

        The Arts and Events Center was at one time the livery stable for the inn but now offers an entertainment area for parties, seminars, or meetings along with a second floor black box theater that has seating available for 193 people.

        After dinner a lecture was provided by Dr. Paul Newman, professor of Early American History at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Newman presented a slide show and discussion on the three rebellions of the 18th century. He is also author to the book "Fries' Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution."

        Antonia and John Rosenbaum, of Philadelphia, made the trek to Quakertown for the evening of history. John is currently doing genealogical research on his mother's family who originated in Bucks County.

        "We consider this (Bucks County) home even though we're from Philadelphia, because we raised our kids here, and friends and family are here," Antonia Rosenbaum explained.

        She said she enjoyed the lecture presented by Newman who, she described as 'knowledgeable' about the history of the rebellions.

        While this is the first event of its kind to come to Quakertown, Joyce Homan, executive director of the GSP, admits there will be some changes made to next year's event, such as different speakers and more locations open to the public.

        The GSP hopes to present a chance to explore, discover, and learn more about the historical features of the borough to anyone interested, Homan said.

        Vice president of the GSP, Susan Koelble, remarked on the success of the first-time event and said she is looking forward to next year. Koelble noted she is a certified genealogist for 35 years prior to her retirement last year.

        Her husband, Fred, said he liked the overall history presented during the event along with the walking tour locations.

        For further information on historical events in the area visit, www.GenPa.org.


 

 

 

 

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