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Heralding Our History: The Ivyland hotel that never had an overnight guest


Neatly tucked in the borders of Warminster and Northampton townships is the small community of Ivyland Borough, almost hiding in plain sight as commuters on Jacksonville and Bristol roads zoom by on their daily excursions.

Even people who have lived in Central Bucks County for years are surprised to find this quaint neighborhood of Victorian homes when they stray slightly off the beaten path.

Ivyland Borough is steeped in a rich and interesting history. It was founded 150 years ago in 1873 by Edwin Lacey — a Quaker, farmer, abolitionist and abstainer from alcoholic beverages who came from the family of a Revolutionary War general. He was also a man who wanted to make money on the upcoming 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. There would be thousands of visitors to that event and he knew a community featuring a big hotel situated in the country yet a short distance to the city would attract many travelers headed to the Exposition. What further convinced Lacey to make this investment was a proposed expansion of the North Penn Railroad which would extend its tracks to Bristol Road and eventually New Hope. This would give visitors easy access to Philadelphia.

On June 24, 1873, Lacey purchased 40 acres of land to the west and north of Jacksonville Road and laid out his planned community. Lacey chose the name Ivyland for his dream village after the beautiful glossy three-leafed ivy which abounded in the area. Ironically this was actually poison ivy, but still the name was set and the first houses in the newly named village of Ivyland began to be built. In the center of town, he also began construction of his hotel to be called the Temperance House surrounded by a neat grid of streets named after notable public figures from the time. He personally saw to planting fast-growing silver maples throughout the streets to quickly beautify Ivyland.

Unfortunately construction of his hotel was slow and further beset by the failure of noted area bank Jay Cooke & Company which created a several-year depression. As a result, the work came to a standstill and the hotel stood unfinished until after the 1876 Centennial Exposition and with it Lacey’s dream of wealth went unfulfilled. After investing his own money in the project, Lacey eventually had to dispose of his holdings.

Yet, the expansion of the North Penn Railroad did indeed occur, and with it the rest of Ivyland began to grow with Victorian-style homes, a store, a saw mill, a coal yard and feed business, a church, a school, an inn and even the beginnings of a fire company. The foundation of Ivyland took hold and continued to expand and grow into a thriving community. Eventually, even the Temperance House building was completed but never served as a hotel.

Now 150 years later, having incorporated as a borough in 1905, Ivyland still stands much like it did back then. Scores of charming Victorian-style homes, some with Mansard roofs that Lacey required of the early buildings, the infamous “hotel,” the Hobensack mill building, the Presbyterian church and the general store (which now operates as a deli called the Ivyland Country Store) give it a step-back-in-time feel that is so much part of its character. In fact, because of its architectural significance and preservation, Ivyland was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Much of this can be credited to the efforts of the Ivyland Heritage Association, a volunteer group of residents that, for over 25 years, has worked to preserve and celebrate the history and traditions of Ivyland.

Anthony Judice, the president of the Ivyland Heritage Association also serves as the mayor of the Borough. He is personally responsible for leading much of the current work to capture the unique history of Ivyland, building on the efforts of similar-minded residents decades before him who feel a special bond with the community. He notes, “We are proud of our rich Victorian history and strive to maintain our traditions. Ivyland has that small-town feel and many of our residents join in the volunteer spirit to keep it alive and flourishing.”

“Heralding Our History” is a new weekly feature. Each month, the Herald will select a municipality and delve into its history. June will feature columns about Ivyland in honor of its 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated on June 24.

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