Edward L. Smith was Perkasie’s town architect for nearly 40 years but his wife Katie served as a source of community inspiration as she battled an incredibly painful disease for 23 years.
On February 24, 1938, the Perkasie Central News announced that Mrs. Smith had passed away a few months short of her 51st birthday at the family’s modest home at 519 Vine Street. “Death, shortly after 9 o’clock on Tuesday evening, claimed Kate Smith, Perkasie’s most widely known resident,” the newspaper said. That wasn’t a boastful claim. Katie Smith kept a list of people who visited her after she was confined to her sickbed in 1918. Her last visitor, Mrs. O.B. Sellers, was visitor 49,364 in her bedside guest book.
One day each year, Bucks County’s most unique National Historic District is open for public tours. In 2019, that day is Saturday, August 3, as a new non-profit dedicated to the regional impact of the Victorian-age Perkasie Park Camp-Meeting holds its annual Founders Day celebration.
The Perkasie Park Historical Foundation, a 501(c)3, will offer self-guided tours of selected cottages and the Park’s outdoor auditorium on 21 acres tucked away on Perkasie’s Ninth Street. The privately owned Park’s Victorian architecture and unique landscape never fail to give visitors a sense of stepping back to a simpler time.
Today, this National Historic District isn’t widely known outside of the Pennridge region, and even many local residents don’t know that 60 cottages and an acoustically perfect outdoor auditorium sit across from the Perkasie police station and Penn Community Bank on Ninth Street. But 130 years ago, the annual Perkasie Park assembly brought thousands of people to its rolling grounds. In Bucks County during the late 1880s, its attendance was only surpassed by the annual Bucks County fair.
On May 10, 1879, Perkasie officially became a Borough when the Bucks County Court approved a petition signed by 68 village residents. To honor the anniversary, here are 10 facts about the newly created Borough, which has grown just a bit in the past 140 years.
I recently posted an old aerial picture of the Perkasie Tunnel, one of Bucks County’s most historic landmarks. But that got me thinking about images of other places in the Philadelphia area we’ve lost since the 1920s and 1930s.
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.
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.
Bucks Covered Bridges Website
My year-long research project, in conjunction with the Mercer Museum and Arizona State University.