Photo: Home on Green Street in the Historic District. The District was liste on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Photographed by Username:Magicpiano (own work), 2013, [cc-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons, accessed July, 2023.
The Hulmeville Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The District bas been a commercial and industrial center in, Bucks County. It also includes fine examples of vernacular architecture from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. Hulmeville was a leading center of industry and commerce in Bucks County in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when the town experienced its first period of major growth and gained a variety of mills and businesses. The town's industrial prominence waned after the early nineteenth century as canals and railroads bypassed Hulmeville for other emerging industrial centers in the county. Nevertheless the village continued to grow as a residential center during the nineteenth century At the turn of the twentieth century picnic grounds, a recreation center, and summer homes were built, and Hulmeville became an important summer resort in lower Bucks County. Residential growth slowed greatly after 1920, leaving Hulmeville with an outstanding collection of vernacular architecture from its residential, commercial and industrial past.
Hulmeville owes most of its early industrial and commercial prominence to John Hulme. Beginning in 1792 Hulme and his sons bought land and buildings in the small village then known as Milford Mills.
Hulme began his purchases by acquiring three houses, a grist mill, oil mill, sawmill, fulling mill and tanyard that already stood in the village. By the early nineteenth century Hulme had bought thirty plots of land, established a stone bridge over Neshaminy Creek, and expanded the fulling mill into a complete woolen and worsted factory called the Hulmeville Manufacturing Company. He also constructed the village's first inn and store. The inn still stands and is now known as Marek's Cafe. In 1809 Hulme added a post office to the town that was quickly becoming known as Hulmeville. In 1814 Hulme was instrumental in establishing Bucks County's first bank, which began business in a portion of George Hulme's house. By 1822, Hulmeville contained a large grist mill, a sawmill, a mill for grinding plaster, a woolen factory and dye house, a tanyard, tavern, store, bank and post office.
John Hulme died in 1817, but he had established Hulmeville as a leading industrial and commercial center in Bucks County. The town's mills provided lumber, flour, leather, and woolen goods for the county. Only a few other towns in the county, such as New Hope and Morrisville, rivaled Hulmeville in terms of numbers or variety of mills. In addition, the village bank provided banking services for the county. The tavern and store were also among the first established in the region. The tavern was a particularly important wayside inn in lower Bucks County since it stood at the intersection of the heavily travelled road between Trenton and Philadelphia and a main road between Newtown and Bristol in Bucks County.
Hulmeville continued to manufacture industrial goods for the region after the early nineteenth century. The woolen factory and flour and plaster mills suffered a major fire in 1829, but they were soon rebuilt and continued production. A cotton and yarn mill, which opened on the island in Neshaminy Creek by 1829, ran until 1882 when it was destroyed completely by fire. In 1880 Silas Barkley constructed the Barkley Mill, which still stands beside the creek. A carpet mill was also built on the island in 1885 and produced goods until 1955.
While Hulmeville continued to manufacture goods after the early nineteenth century, ocher towns eclipsed Hulmeville as industrial centers in Bucks County. The Delaware Canal bypassed the village, bringing cheap water transportation and fostering industrial growth in other towns such as Bristol, Morrisville, Yardley, and New Hope. Railroad lines also skirted Hulmeville, again spurring manufacturing in towns other than Hulmeville. For example, nearby Bristol, which was located on both the Delaware Canal and a main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad through Bucks County, gained very large textile and carpet mills as well as smaller factories after mid-nineteenth century. Without direct connections to the canal or railroad lines, Hulmeville declined in relative importance as an industrial center in Bucks County.
While industries expanded in other towns, Hulmeville experienced steady residential growth through the late nineteenth century. John Hulme and his sons had bought relatively large lots in the center of town, such as the tavern and tanyard lots. Due to financial setbacks, however, John Hulme's sons were forced to subdivide and sell much of their land during the 1820s and 1840s. This encouraged residential growth in the center of town. At the same time a large lot on the east side of Main Street was subdivided and sold, fostering growth toward the southern end of town. More houses and the village churches and schools were built on the east side of Main Street. Thus the number of houses in the district increased from perhaps thirty in the early nineteenth century to well over sixty by the late nineteenth century. An Episcopal church was built in 1831. The first school in the village, which was also the state's first consolidated school, was built in 1855. As population increased to 300-350 people, Hulmeville was incorporated as a borough out of Middletown Township in 1872.
After the early nineteenth century Hulmeville became locally important Commercial center serving the growing population in the village and the immediate vicinity. In the mid-nineteenth century two stores provided goods to Hulmeville residents as well as farmers across Neshaminy Creek in Bensalem Township. In 1871 Johnson's Hall opened as a store and the major social hall for the village and surrounding countryside. In 1877 the Delaware Valley Advance newspaper, 'then known as the Hulmeville Beacon began publication, providing news about local residents and businesses.
At the turn of the twentieth century Hulmeville regained prominence in Bucks County as a major summer resort. There was growing interest in locating summer vacation and recreation sites along Neshaminy Creek in order to take advantage of the water, fairly cool air, and natural scenery that the creek offered. Land was purchased in 1898 at the northern end of the borough for a picnic grove and recreation and dance pavilion (and later a social club). This land was named Dewey Park in honor of Admiral Dewey's victory in the Philippines. The arrival of the trolley in 1900 also made it possible for Philadelphia residents to establish summer residences in Hulmeville within easy travelling distance to the city. Thus some of the houses on Water Street were built or remodeled first for summer homes, and later as year round residences. Small houses, including the three frame bungalows in the Dutch Colonial style, were constructed for the same purpose at the southern end of the district.
Residential growth in Hulmeville slowed considerably after 1920. Construction of summer homes ended during the 1920s and 1930s. The post-World War II suburban development that swept through much of Bucks County did not directly touch the town. Robert Levitt established his third Levittown on Hulmeville's northern border and the farm land to the south west of the borough became miles of suburban developments. Yet. Hulmeville escaped the tract homes, four lane highways and corner gas stations. Hulmeville, and in particular the area defined as the historic district, appear much as they did in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Hulmeville retains a fine collection of late eighteenth to early twentieth century vernacular buildings. A group of well preserved homes associated with the village's early industrial and commercial prominence stands in the center of town. The six late eighteenth and early nineteenth century homes once owned by the Hulme family are good examples of the Georgian five-bay, , double-pile plan. The size and proportion of these houses were substantial for their day and were among the earliest of their type in Middletown Township. They heralded a style, the full Georgian house, that was repeated frequently in that township for the next thirty years. Juxtaposed with these six homes are early nineteenth century workers' houses of modest size and varying vernacular types. In contrast to other towns where town core development disguised the settings of early homes, these Georgian plan and worker houses have kept their lots and settings, and the scale of surrounding buildings is much the same as in the early nineteenth century.
Mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century buildings in Hulmeville offer good vernacular examples of architectural styles popular at the time. For instance Johnson's Hall is a modest design in the Italianate style. The Silas Barkley Mill illustrates the mill architecture that was a central part of Hulmeville's industries. The three Dutch Colonial bungalows are good examples of their early twentieth century style.
Hulmeville has a collection of vernacular buildings that is distinctive among towns in lower Bucks County. Bristol, the county's largest industrial town, is quite different from Hulmeville. Bristol contains large, distinct neighborhoods of working-class housing, primarily of the double or row-house types. It also 'has an extended area of high-style, upper class homes bordering the Delaware River. Hulmeville, on the other hand, has very few double or row-house types and no distinct working-class neighborhood. The architecture in the district is quite modest, ,even among the larger homes once owned by the Hulme family. Similarly, Hulmeville lacks the large sophisticated homes and Victorian neighborhoods that are found in Langhorne and Langhorne Manor. Even buildings in Fallsington, a village of comparable size and development, exhibit a higher degree of refinement and sophistication than homes in Hulmeville do.
Thus the Hulmeville Historic District remains an important collection of vernacular buildings in lower Bucks County. It is also significant in county history as a commercial and industrial center, and an important resort area.
† Jeffrey L. Marshall, Director, Historic Programs, Bucks County Conservancy, Hulmeville Historic District,1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Bellevue Avenue • Green Street • Hulme Street • Main Street • Trenton Avenue