One of downtown Perkasie’s defining features is its collection of Victorian row homes, which were called “block houses” during their construction period. The homes played an important role in the borough’s growth during the Perkasie’s boom years from 1898 to 1920.
In all, investors paid for 19 block house developments containing 178 units within walking distance of Perkasie’s train station, its churches, and its businesses. Perkasie had a housing shortage by the late 1890s after two large cigar factories opened, and downtown Perkasie became a regional shopping location on the old North Penn train line.
“The Perkasie Improvement Company has contracted for a block of 29 houses. Do you know we could rent 100 houses in Perkasie inside a week?” said a “well-known resident of Perkasie” told the Doylestown Intelligencer in March 1905. “This brisk demand for houses is said to be due to the fact that several new factories have gone up in the recent past. Other factories will probably be built here in the near future.” The project was in fact two sets of block house row homes on the 400 block of Race Street.
The business association model had been in place since 1897 in Perkasie as a way to finance block housing developments. Little is known about the first set of row homes in Perkasie that were built in 1874 on Eighth Street and bought by the Moyer and Hendricks families. With their steep gables, the early homes were markedly different that the 18 new sets of block houses constructed in Perkasie Borough between 1898 and 1920. In all, Perkasie added 178 new residences during that time period in various locations.
The first of those projects were a set of 10 block homes between 9 South Fourth Street and 27 South Fourth Street, near Market Street. According to planning documents at the Bucks County Historical Society, on October 30, 1897, a group called the Perkasie Building Society hired contractors David Stoneback and Jonas Bishop to build the 10 homes for $10,930. The investors included attorney Harry Grim and local druggist Harry Neamand.
By March 1898, the Perkasie Central News said the homes were almost done. “The block of houses owned by the Perkasie Building Society are nearing completion. The hardwood porches are finished and set off with Corinthian columns. The stonework has been under the charge of William Weirech and is very creditable. Inside the rooms are convenient and communicating. Hot air heaters and baths, with hot and cold water, modernize the buildings. Architecturally the block presents a favorable appearance from every point of view, and as practical moderate-rent homes they are without a local superior.”
The first Fourth Street units were sold in 1898 at a total price of $18,000. Their attractive stylings with a granite façade over fireproof Perkasie bricks became a model for other Perkasie block homes, and they contained design features associated with architect Milton B. Bean, who was very busy in Perkasie during the period. A second set of 10 block homes was added on the other facing side of Fourth Street in 1902, with Stoneback as the contractor.
In March 1904, another investor group, the Enterprise Building Association, took on a more ambitious project: adding 18 block houses on 300 West Race Street. Frank Afflerbach, another local brickyard owner, and local merchant Joseph G. Moyer led the investment syndicate. By 1906, the Perkasie Improvement Company had its block houses in place nearby on Race Street. The average cost for a block house was $1,800 on Race Street.
Those projects would soon be surpassed by the efforts of David L. Meyers, the enterprising owner of the Union Hotel on Seventh Street, who financed the single largest block house project in Perkasie’s history on Third Street. Since 1903, Meyers and local brickyard owner Frank Weber had been seeking “subscribers” to invest in their Third Street project with the right to bid on the location of their homes after construction.
Meyers and Weber built a 28-unit block house development that faced Perkasie’s new Third Street High School and became a symbol of the borough’s progress. In the 1910 federal census, 26 of the Third Street block home residences were surveyed and only one was owner-occupied. The 25 Third Street rental tenants included clothing factory owner Marie Brown, her brother and a servant; a young grocery salesman Harleigh Apple (who later became Perkasie’s Chief Burgess) and various cigarmakers, clothing employees, day labors and clerks. The average home has six residents.
In the following years, three sets of block houses were built on Ninth Street, with the likely final set of block houses added on South Fifth Street, east of Walnut Street, by 1920.
By the early 1920s, Perkasie’s economy started to slow down and building trends changed to again favor single homes and twins. Information from the 1920 census also shows that many of the former rental bock house units were now occupied by their owners. On Third Street, 18 of the 28 block homes were owned by their residents and not rental units. And of the 20 block homes on Fourth Street from 1898 and 1902, 18 were now occupied by owners.
Today, the block homes remain as an important reminder of times gone by and of a unique style of architecture and craftmanship from the Victorian era.
|Perkasie Block Houses|
|1874||6||12-22 Eighth Street|
|1898||10||9-27 S. Fourth Street|
|1902||10||10-28 S. Fourth Street|
|1902||10||120-138 S. Fourth Street|
|1904||8||300-314 W. Chestnut Street|
|1904||8||400-414 W. Race Street|
|1904||10||401-419 W. Race Street|
|1905||9||427-443 S. Ninth Street|
|1906||10||901-919 W. Market Street|
|1906||9||310-326 W. Race Street|
|1906||12||305-327 W. Race Street|
|1908||8||14-28 N. Ninth Street|
|1908||6||137-147 N. Seventh Street|
|1913||10||101-119 N. Ninth Street|
|1913||6||511-521 W. Vine Street|
|1906||28||15-69 Third Street|
|1913||8||211-264 Fourth Street|
|1920||10||400-418 Ninth Street|
|1920||6||309-319 South Fifth Street|