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Detailed Langhorne, Pa. History

Langhorne was a major transportation cross-roads and commercial village from the early eighteenth through mid-nineteenth centuries. The community began at the intersection of two Lenni-Lenape Indian paths. Three Dutch and English colonists settled on the north side of this intersection by the early eighteenth century. As the Indian paths developed into roads later known as Maple and Bellevue Avenues, Joseph Richardson arrived in the early 1720’s and by 1730 had opened a store in a portion of the Inn on the northwest corner of the crossroads. In 1738, Richardson erected his house on the southwest corner and the store was moved to the southeast room of that building. The store continued to operate until 1770 and the Inn remained prominent  through the later part of the nineteenth century. Richardson’s store, the Inn, and traffic along the two roads drew more settlers and small businesses to Langhorne during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Land in the southeast quadrant of the historic district was confiscated from Loyalist Gilbert Hicks during the Revolution and was divided into small plots. Re-named “Washington Village” after George Washington, this section was first settled during the late eighteenth century. More residents and businessmen erected buildings along Maple and Bellevue Avenues through the mid-nineteenth century. Houses also began to appear along side roads in the northeast quadrant of the historic district during the early nineteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century Langhorne was a bustling village with homes and small stores and craftsman’s shops spread along Maple and Bellevue Avenues and several side streets.

The village of Langhorne was an important transportation center where two major roads through southern Bucks County met. Maple Ave. extended from Philadelphia to Trenton and was the most direct route between these two cities. Bellevue Ave. was part of the Durham Road which stretched from Bristol to Easton. By 1760 regularly scheduled stage coaches began running between Philadelphia and Trenton with stops in Langhorne. By the early nineteenth century daily stage coaches carried passengers from Bristol through Langhorne to Easton. Passengers could stay overnight at the Inn in Langhorne, or transfer from stages traveling north and south to coaches passing east and west. In 1828 passengers traveled on the Union Mail Line of Steamboats and Coaches which ferried them by steamboat from Philadelphia to Bristol, and then by stage coach from Bristol to Easton.

As a transfer point, Langhorne played a key role in stage coach travel in southern Bucks County. Langhorne was the only place in the county where stage passengers could change from the east-west Philadelphia to Trenton route to the north-south road between Bristol and Easton. Langhorne did not relinquish its leading role in regional overland transportation until the 1870’s when railroads superseded stage coaches as the principal mode of transportation through southern Bucks County.

Langhorne was also as a commercial center from the early eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries. Joseph Richardson’s store was one of the earliest general stores in southern Bucks County. No store existed in Newtown until 1772 or in Fallsington to the east until 1789. As the number of businesses in Langhorne grew during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the village became an important service center for farmers living between Newtown and Hulmeville. By the 1830’s Langhorne boasted a wide variety of businesses, such as a dry goods store located at 119 West Maple Avenue, coach making establishments at 209 West Maple Avenue and 201 South Bellevue Avenue, a cooper shop at 152 North Bellevue Avenue, and a silversmith at 146 North Bellevue. To the immediate north of Langhorne, only Newtown rivaled the village in terms of numbers and a variety of businesses. To the east and south, Fallsington and Hulmeville contained smaller numbers of the businesses that served farmers in their immediate vicinities. Langhorne continued to be an important service center for area farmers until the 1870’s when sub urbanization began to profoundly change Langhorne’s development. 

Langhorne grew rapidly from the 1870’s to the early twentieth century as affluent Philadelphians moved into the borough and created a Philadelphia suburb out of an agricultural service center. Wealthy Philadelphia businessmen began to erect large high style homes along South Bellevue Avenue and West Maple Avenue during the 1870’s. The Langhorne Improvement Company, established in 1888, capitalized on the newly constructed Philadelphia and Bound Brook Railroad to draw more Philadelphia residents to South Bellevue and West Maple Avenues. The first trolley in Bucks County, the Newtown, Langhorne and Bristol Trolley Street Railway Company, began transporting passengers in 1896 and brought more residents to Langhorne. By the early twentieth century the northeast and northwest quadrants of the historic district had been subdivided rounding out the district’s residential development. New Businesses, including attorney’s and real estate offices, a movie theater and an ice cream parlor, replaced some of the earlier businesses to provide urban amenities for new suburbanites.

Development of the borough slowed after World War 1. Scattered bungalows were built during the 1920’s to house new residents who moved to Langhorne.

New residents also moved into Cape Cod, Ranch and Split level homes sprinkled through the district after 1937. Suburban development mushroomed much more rapidly outside the district, particularly to the south and west. For example areas in Middletown Township to west and north as well as the Borough of Penndel to the south expanded after World War 2 as more people flocked to the suburbs of the southern Bucks County.

Excerpts from National Register of Historic Places - Historic District Nomination


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