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Heralding Our History: “Boardwalks” Ivyland’s fix for its muddy streets


As the small borough of Ivyland approaches its 150th anniversary, a look back reveals that Ivyland is a place that certainly likes to celebrate its birthday. It has recognized its founding day — officially June 24, 1873 — at its 140th, 125th, 100th, 75th, 50th and 25th anniversaries.

In preparing for its sesquicentennial celebration, Ivyland historians dug up a program from its 75th anniversary event in 1948. The following is an excerpt from that 15-page typewritten anniversary program which uniquely captures some of the written and oral history of the community. This passage talks about the “dirty” origins of Ivyland’s streets:

Early “paving” was mud or dust

The early streets, even those “open”, had only two varieties of paving — mud or dust, according to the season. The sidewalks were well worn paths and there was no illumination at night. For years the residents and visitors went groping in the darkness, unless carrying a lantern, bumping into trees and slipping off the banks. Edmund Barton, the carpenter, was the first to lay a sidewalk, a crude affair of old, heavy shutters in front of his house on Gough Avenue and other residents followed with boards or crushed stone. In June, 1895, at long last, the residents decided to do something to better these conditions. At a meeting in Barton’s Hall they formed the Ivyland Improvement Company with William Wagner, a summer resident, as president and an executive committee composed of Edmund Barton, Charles T. Horner, Samuel Cornell, Stephen D. Yerkes and B. Frank Hobensack. Its first objective was to pave and light the streets.

Ivyland gets light

Forty-seven townsfolk contributed $142 and with this lamps and posts were purchased and erected at the street corners and Addis Ramsey appointed lamp-lighter at $75 a year. However, it was decided that the new lights need not be lighted on moonlight nights and for a week each month they weren’t, even though storm clouds made it as dark as ever. A few years later this ruling was modified and the lamps lit on stormy nights even if it was “moonlight”. The arduous task of lamp-lighting and the remuneration were not attractive and lamp-lighters changed frequently. Archilles Barton followed Ramsey, then Harry McMullen at a salary of $6 a month, followed by Howard Morgan, Cornell Hobensack, Charles Jackson and Martin Morgan, who took over in September, 1900. By this time the pay was $9 monthly.

Next came the streets, and residents turned out on designated days to work, plowing gutters, straightening banks and scraping the roads. This looked better but wasn’t much help for mud. Finally the sidewalk problem was tackled and each resident was requested to put crushed stone or a boardwalk in front of his property. Most of them decided on wood, flat boards on two-by-three runners with draining space between. Youngsters of the town, who had previously amused themselves by dragging sticks along pale-fences, found the boardwalks made much more racket and caused much more annoyance to nervous grown-ups.

After a dozen pages of similar historical “recaps” on various topics, the 75th anniversary booklet ends with this statement…

Those, briefly, are the events that transpired before the recollections of many of us. Data has been collected from the records at the county seat, from old maps, from deeds and in talking with some of the venerable members of the community whose recollections are confirmed by factual data.

And that is literally how history is made.

Today, Ivyland Borough readies for a daylong community celebration of its first 150 years promising “Food, Music and Fun” — which is not dissimilar to 75 years ago, but perhaps a bit bigger in scale. The free event (all except for the food) is on Saturday June 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will feature live music, including a sunset concert by the Warminster Symphony Orchestra. Visitors can also enjoy the delights of food trucks, an old-fashioned Ivyland Strawberry Festival, selected offerings from the Ivyland Country Store along with some Goodnoe Farm Ice Cream and Rita’s water ice, too.

History buffs will be thrilled to find a big top tent devoted to local historical associations and history-related exhibits and presentations. Add some old fashioned high-wheel bicycle riders, antique and vintage cars, a horse-and-wagon ride through the borough, a re-creation of a Revolutionary War encampment, a blacksmith forge demonstration — and, of course, fun stuff for the kids, too — and you have a celebration worthy of Ivyland’s history.

More details on the Ivyland 150th Anniversary celebration including performers, event schedules, parking and shuttle service can be found at

“Heralding Our History” is a new weekly feature. Each month, the Herald will delve into the history of one of its towns. In June, Ivyland gets the nod in honor of its 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated on June 24.

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