Tucked away in Perkasie’s Lenape Park is one of Bucks County’s treasures, a footbridge inspired by the classic designs of John A. Roebling’s Sons & Co. How the two-span suspension bridge came to be involved Perkasie Borough Council, the federal government, and the design skills of a WPA engineer in based in New Britain, Pa.
Starting today, I am changing the emphasis of my Perkasie blog to our Borough’s history and its preservation. Since 2015, I’ve spent a lot of time, and also some money, researching the Borough’s history with the intention of doing something meaningful with that research.
This week, Perkasie Borough starts the process of applying for the National Register of Historic Places for its Town Center overlay district. That was my project in Bucks County Community College’s Historic Preservation program from 2015 to 2017. You can see that project in the lower right column of this blog.
Our Borough Council’s Historical Committee is also working with the Perkasie Historical Society to save our covered bridge. My Masters in History project at Arizona State was the creation of the first extensive historical website about the county’s 51 covered bridges. Only 12 now remain. You can see the entire project at https://bucksbridges.com. This project represents 10 months of research and includes more than 100 images never seen in public. Thanks again to the Museum and the Bucks County Commissioners for all their support!
And as a bonus, I’ve included the first high-resolution, text-searchable PDF of the 1929 Perkasie Borough 50th Anniversary book. Ancestry.com and others have low-res versions, but I scanned this personally using the latest Adobe software, so it looks great. I also need someone’s help counting all the times the word “Moyer” appears in the book. I lost track after 100.
My hope is that these resources will keep the discussion alive about Preserving Perkasie. Our town is special for many reasons, and it reflects the work of generations of people who cared about our community. Please let me know if you have any history to share.
And we will have several events over the upcoming year where you can help Preserve Perkasie, if you’d like to participate.
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.
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?
Before 1958, there were few efforts to save Bucks County’s covered bridges. But after the South Perkasie covered bridge’s rescue in August 1958 by the town’s citizens, state and county officials adopted policies to preserve local covered bridges when feasible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friends – I hope to be introducing the start of the process of rehabilitating our Perkasie’s Covered Bridge in Lenape Park at the next Perkasie Borough Council meeting on Monday. This process will involve a grant application to pay for at least 50 percent of the renovation costs for the bridge.
Some of you know the Bridge’s story. In 1957, Bucks County decided it wanted to demolish the bridge, even though it is the third-oldest example of an Ithiel Town Lattice Bridge in the United States. (The Town Lattice design made covered bridges affordable for thousands of towns.) The County built the bridge in 1832 and it one of the oldest structures in Perkasie. It was just part of Rockhill Township in 1832 – there wasn’t a South Perkasie, Bridgetown, or Perkasie.
The concerned citizens of Perkasie talked the county out of its “death sentence” for their bridge, as the local newspapers called it in 1957. The bridge was moved in 1958 by our Historical Society, using private funds, to Lenape Park and in August 1959, it was rededicated at a public ceremony.