Newtown Square Historical Society
Newtown Township is fortunate to have an active, energetic and committed Historical Society, who have become the caretakers and teachers of our rich and proud local history. The main purpose of the Society are to protect, preserve and promote the historic resources of the Township, and to tell its story to all of its residents and visitors. Each year, children and adults find a full schedule of activities, events and opportunities to visit our historical sites. The Society is an all-volunteer, non-profit 501(c)(3) community organization.
John Battista and Doug Humes, the current and the past president of the Newtown Square Historical Society, will give a brief history of their Society, and explain the various programs and events which it sponsors. They will also talk about the issues faced by all community organizations in seeking the involvement of new members, and how community groups can work together to maintain the activities and events that make a community more than just a place to live.
1st Wednesday of every month
- Monthly programs: movie The Sheik next week at Dunwoody
- Annual Colonial Day (started in 1995 – next year is 20th anniversary)
- Program book for Colonial Day – our biggest revenue source – funds all that we do;
- Annual Wassail party: 1st Saturday in December
- Annual school tours: since 1995 – 4th graders
- Ellis Scholarship Award: $500 each year
- PMH & Museum – weekend openings in summer – always need more guides
- PMH maintenance and repair: we do day to day work and raise money for larger projects
- Archeological dig: mill ruins and mill community
- Preservation ordinance: 1999-2003; recommended by Planning; tabled by Supervisors
- Website: historicnewtownsquare.org
- Newsletter: monthly – sign up at website
- Writing on local history: in local newspapers and blogs
- Published 3-4 books; most recent History of Bartram Bridge – for sale today
- 4th of July Parade float
- Gift Shop: at PMH, online, and we bring items to events like this – Bridge Book
What’s in store for future?
- Working with MNSD on 100th anniversary
- Statue of Ben West
- Planning for 300th anniversary of St. David’s Church next year;
- Continue to lose homes and so continue to need the preservation tools
What help we need?
People who want to get involved
Takes resources and manpower; board of 10-15 does virtually all of the work; whole generation of people who built the organization have died or moved away; we need to get more young people involved;
- publicity – solicit referrals;
- Volunteer for events – guides, help clean PMH; help organize archives, catalog photos, help with architectural dig; help with school tours;
- help with website
- research and writing;
- Buy ads in our annual program book and help us sell them and promote the Township and its history
Brief History of Newtown Square
- 1681: William Penn – real estate developer; Penn’s first planned inland New Town west of City – Holmes map
- Settled by Welsh Quakers
- Father of American painting, Benjamin West, lived at Tavern.
- Was a crossroads of the Revolution – Wayne lived up the street, British raiding parties visited several times, one of Washington’s spies, Major John Clark, operated from the Lewis farm on Goshen Road.
- The outlaw Sandy Flash reportedly had a connection to the Tavern
Crossroads of history – Ben West, Sandy Flash, British raids, Major Clark – all at crossroads – get photo from tavern window
After Revolution, West Chester Turnpike was built – new hotel built up there in 1793 or so, and slowly the town gravitated to that intersection and away from the Goshen Rd intersection.
National Register Site
Five Buildings on National Register of Historic Places:
1715 St. David's Church and Graveyard:
The second oldest church building in the community, the old stone church that was standing at the time of the American Revolution is still there, Longfellow’s “little church among its graves”, the final resting place of General Mad Anthony Wayne.
1742 Square Tavern:
As a child, Benjamin West began to paint here, learned how to mix colors from the natives, went abroad to study, settled in London and became the teacher to the first generations of American artists, and one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts. This crossroads tavern also witnessed the troops of Howe and Washington during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-78.
1828 Crosley-Garrett Mill Workers' Housing, Store and Mill Site:
In the 19th century, this building on the banks of the Darby Creek housed mill workers for the textile mills across the creek, and also was the general store for the mill community. Today the building has a re-created general store and museum on local history.
1842 Hood Octagonal School:
The Hood Octagonal School, an early public school in Newtown Township, was built by James Dunwoody in 1842, and replaced a log school of the same name that was built by his father Joseph Dunwoody and two neighbors for their children. It is a one room schoolhouse built in an unusual octagonal shape. High windows let in light without distracting students from their work. One student, William Hood Dunwoody, son of the man who built the school, moved west to make his fortune and struck gold as one of the owners of the Washburn Crosby Company, the makers of Gold Medal Flour.
1860 Bartram Bridge:
The old Goshen Road was a main thoroughfare for Chester County farmers headed to markets in Philadelphia. Before 1860, they had to cross a ford at Crum Creek that could be treacherous. The adjoining township of Newtown and Willistown petitioned their respective counties to build a bridge to replace the ford, and the bridge built in 1860 survives to this day, a much loved member of the community.
At the time of an inventory ten years ago we had 116 structures deemed worthy of some legal protection. We have a wealth of history – but we are losing some each year.