Perkasie is known for its hometown charm, but did you know the borough has four different historic areas?
With a population of 9,129 people, Perkasie packs a lot of historic architecture and features into its 2.54 square miles. Many of its buildings were constructed between 1879 and 1971 as Perkasie expanded from 1,640 acres to more than 15,000 acres today. Here is a quick guide to those districts, including their most significant historic structures.
The privately owned camp meeting on Ninth Street is the only National Historic District in the borough. The land was used for Sunday School picnics and other events in the 1870s until the Perkasie Park Association bought the property in 1882.
Perkasie Park’s outdoor auditorium dates back to 1886 and it hosted everything from large camp meetings with thousands of people, to high school graduations and Memorial Day services. Today, it hosts religious services during the summer. Members of the association also own 60 Victorian cottages.
Perkasie Park hosts its annual Founders Day event each summer when the general public can tour the park’s grounds and go inside cottages.
In 2021, the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) said the original part of Perkasie and its neighboring sections were eligible to become a National Historic District. The district’s center, which has been called Olde Town in recent years, contained most of Perkasie during the 1880s and 1890s. The surrounding areas were added as the cigar and clothing industries became popular and Sell-Perk High School was built in the early 1930s.
This district has numerous buildings designed by architects Milton B. Bean and A. Oscar Martin.
Bean designed many classic brick Queen Anne homes that have “witches’ hat towers.” He also designed the beautiful Beidler mansion, now the home of several business, across from the Perkasie Fire Company. Martin worked in several styles and his buildings often have round windows, such as Perkasie’s first firehouse at Seventh and Arch streets.
Also of note is Perkasie’s collection of Victorian brick block houses built for local residents and factory workers. Many have facings of Rockhill granite. More than 85% of Perkasie Historic District buildings will be contributing properties to a National Historic District when Perkasie gets final approval of its application to the state in the near future.
In 2015, the PHMC determined that Lake Lenape Park also was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of “its association with the early 20th century movements to develop recreational and natural resources in Pennsylvania.” Perkasie and Sellersville own the 122-acre park, with Perkasie’s section on the park’s east side.
In the 1930s, local leaders joined with federal and county officials to buy the land to create a gift to “the children of the future.” The Works Progress Administration (or WPA) paid for the labor needed to refashion the Perkiomen Creek. The creek was dredged, and the fill used to build a man-made island with two Roebling suspension bridges.
Perkasie bought an additional 44 acres in the 1950s to host baseball fields, and the relocated South Perkasie Covered Bridge.
Today, Lenape Park hosts summer concerts and the popular Pennridge Community Day event each July, complete with fireworks, and it is heavily used as a recreational facility.
The PHMC also said in 2000 that parts of South Perkasie are eligible as a National Historic District. Route 152, or Walnut Street, dates back to the early 1800s when it was called the Philadelphia Road. By the 1840s, houses were built near the road, and the Bridgetown Hotel was added in the 1850s. (It is now the South Perkasie Hotel a.k.a. The Perk.) The Bridgetown-Perkasie Turnpike Company also owned Walnut Street for several decades.
Other historic buildings in South Perkasie include the Benfield Mill, St. Andrew’s UCC, the Third Ward School, and the former Royal Pants factory. Parts of the mill date back to the late 1820s, and St. Andrew’s is Perkasie’s oldest church. The schoolhouse, just up Main Street from The Perk, was designed by Oscar Martin. Royal Pants was Perkasie’s biggest employer and played a role in World War II as the Navy’s pants supplier. Today, the facility hosts Free Will Brewing and several other businesses.
Touring maps of the borough are available at the Perkasie Historical Society’s website at www.perkasiehistory.org.
Scott Bomboy is the chair of Perkasie Council’s Historical Committee, and he has written two books about Perkasie’s history.
“Heralding Our History” is a weekly feature. Each month, the Herald delves into the history of one of its towns.