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Guest Opinion

Scraping Doylestown’s history


There are times when life treats you with a piece of knowledge about your hometown and you tuck it away, unless it pops up in your memory bank at an unexpected moment. Eleven years had passed before it happened for me.

It was Saturday, April 6, 2013, when a historical marker was unveiled at the corners of State and Main streets in Doylestown Borough. The marker dedicated this intersection as the trail for the Lenni Lenape Nation as they traveled from the east and from the south to their destination, the Delaware River.

The Doylestown Historical Society with assistance from Melissa Cornick, a journalist, and strategic communication specialist (for professional activities), coordinated the day’s event, which included a lecture by Professor Evan Pritchard, descendant of the Micmac people (part of the Algonquin Nation).

Earlier that same day Pritchard’s, an Algonquin Historian, had lectured to a packed audience at the Doylestown Presbyterian Church. I was impressed with Pritchard describing the Lenape historic trade route, the stop at State and Main streets, its ancient land use, and the pathways along what became Routes 202 and 611.

After the marker dedication, there was a lively afternoon powwow at the Doylestown Historical Society Park.

Pritchard’s visit allowed him to tour some of the tunnels which remain below our town’s streets. Thousands of years ago these “tunnels” were caves where the Lenape, a nomadic indigenous tribe, rested after traveling from the shores of New Jersey.

Eleven years after the Lenape Marker’s dedication, the front-page April 4, 2024, edition of the Bucks County Herald reported:

“Bucks County Historical Society’s Doylestown Twp. Land eyed for luxury homes.”

Where, you ask, is this land?

When you drive south on Main Street in Doylestown Borough, across from the new Wawa is a thicket of trees — 24 acres — fanning from Main Street, bordering the bypass until the trees bump against a large development of single-family homes.

This land is in Doylestown Township. Years ago, this acreage was three or four times beyond that number when the land was either woodland or farms.

Hidden in that forest once was a popular venue called The Hustle Inn, where teens gathered and danced to live bands.

In the early 1940s, Ellis and Anita Smith purchased an 1848 farmhouse and barn, and converted the second floor of the barn into what would become The Hustle Inn. It operated from 1946 until 1966.

I had relocated to California for 10 years so missed the 1964 drama when outsiders came into town, resulting in a fight involving 300 people.

The Smiths sold the property in 1967. Eventually it was purchased by the Matthews School of Fort Washington. It renovated the barn as a dormitory for young boys.

In January 1970, The Morning Call published an article about the end of an era when a fire destroyed the building formerly called The Hustle Inn. No one was inside the structure at the time. But a cultural piece of Doylestown history was ashes. It’s still cherished in a private Facebook page.

Then, early in 1991 the acreage was carved away for 99 single family homes. I often wonder, could the Lenape have paused there to rest, eat, and drink? This area was rich with springs, many now gone due to extensive land loss. And where the Lenape Crossing Marker is placed, there was a natural spring from which this indigenous tribe drew water, and that’s how “The Fountain House” received its name.

On April 18 the Herald published an opinion (“Historical Society’s proposed land sale at odds with its mission”) from Doylestown resident Mary Hughes expressing her concerns about this proposed development. She mentions “ . . . the vast number of historic objects and equipment . . . which many people outside of the organization may be unaware.”

In May, I walked onto the woods through an access road. I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m a tree-hugger. Standing on the access trail, I was at a loss for words gazing up at the canopy of green.

We’re losing precious land. I strongly encourage the township and the historical society to consider an archaeological study and an environmental impact study before any bulldozer knocks down any tree.

Doreen Stratton is a third-generation Doylestown resident, who lives in the home her grandparents built. This piece first appeared on her blog,

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