Ivyland Historic District

Ivyland Boro, Bucks County, PA

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The Ivyland Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.


The Ivyland Historic District is located in south central Bucks County, Pennsylvania, approximately 40 miles north of Philadelphia, and six miles west of the Delaware River. The district encompasses about one-third of the land in the Borough of Ivyland, which is among the Commonwealth's smallest municipalities. This area's topography is relatively flat, and the area has been laid out with roads in a grid pattern, with mostly uniform sized lots. Today, Ivyland's historic core has 133 contributing and 28 non-contributing resources. Overall there are 80 contributing and 17 non-contributing primary resources, 53 contributing and 11 non-contributing secondary buildings, and six vacant lots.

All contributing resources date between 1873 and 1931, and the majority of primary resources are frame, 2 1/2 story dwellings with gabled roofs, front porches, and irregular plans. The predominant architectural styles are vernacular examples of popular late 19th century modes, including the Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne. Overall, buildings are similar in scale, and use of materials, but incorporate varied architectural details from a range of styles. Most resources retain their original architectural elements and the majority of non-contributing resources are such due to age. The district therefore retains its architectural integrity.

Like many formerly rural Bucks County villages, today Ivyland is located within an area where large parcels of agricultural land that once bordered the village have been subdivided and developed. The majority of the surrounding land is now dense residential housing. The area northwest of the district is developed with warehouses and light industrial buildings. Despite extensive development around its boundaries, the Ivyland Historic District is remarkably intact and distinct from surrounding development. Entry points to the district are accessible from the east, west and north. Approaches to the district from the east or Jacksonville Avenue are gained by one of four boulevards. Upon turning off busy Jacksonville Avenue there is not only an immediate change of pace but a noticeable change in the streetscape. Lush yards and tree-lined avenues and a uniformed planned area are keenly sensed. Entry points on the north and west boundaries are limited to single roads, each separated from surrounding areas by the railroad and commercial buildings.

The district consists of resources located primarily along four boulevards running generally east and west, namely Chase, Lincoln, Gough and Wilson avenues; and four narrower avenues running generally north and south, namely Greeley, Pennsylvania, DuBois and Twining avenues. Jacksonville Road (SR 332), which is the area's major thoroughfare, forms the southeastern boundary of the district and the borough. Greeley Avenue is the northwestern-most street and borders a railroad line that helps forms the district's northwestern boundary. The other three avenues were planned as narrow side streets where secondary buildings can be accessed.

Most of the primary buildings in the district were built as dwellings and are vernacular examples of styles common to the period 1870-1930, and include: Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Stick, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Bungalow, I-house, American Four Square and Cape Cod. Like the variety of styles, the district's buildings have a mix of plans and roof shapes. Square, L-shaped, I-shaped, and large asymmetrical footprints predominate. Roofs are gabled, cross gabled, jerkinhead, mansard, gambrel and hip, and many buildings employ more than one roof type. Despite the variety of styles, forms and elements, contributing buildings share common setbacks, scale, massing and materials. All but two of these buildings are of frame construction, and the majority of early buildings stand 2 to 2 1/2 stories high and 20th century contributing buildings 1-2 1/2 stories. Moreover, the common use of front porches unifies the streetscape.

Of the contributing primary resources all are buildings, and the overwhelming majority are residential. Only five resources are commercial buildings and only one of the commercial buildings is non-contributing.

The predominate architectural styles represented in the district include: Gothic Revival (14%), Stick, Queen Anne (13%), Colonial Revival (10%), I-houses (9%), Bungalows (6%), Second Empire (5%) and Four Square (5%). A variety of other styles are also represented in the district with one or two examples.

The majority of the earliest buildings at Ivyland—including 64 Lincoln, the hotel at 79 Gough, and the general store at 67 Gough—employ Second Empire features. These buildings have square or I-shaped plans, often with rear wings. All employ mansard roofs, bracketed cornices, segmental arched windows and two-over-two lights, central doorways, three-bay wide facades, and porches or centered porticos. The hotel is the most elaborate of these buildings, having a two-tiered wrap-around porch and two-towered mansard roof sections. The house at 90 Gough, built in 1875, also employs a cross mansard centered on the facade.

Two of the original houses constructed in the 1870s along the edges of the new town were built with Gothic Revival elements. The house at 1090 Jacksonville Road has a steep cross-gabled roof and pointed arch windows typical of the period. Gothic Revival was the dominant mode employed in residential construction in the district beginning in 1879 and continuing into the late 1880s.

Although the first houses were located along Lincoln, Jacksonville and Gough, subsequent houses in the initial stage of development were located along Gough almost exclusively. These vernacular, Gothic Revival houses were constructed between 1874 and 1889. Number 84 Gough is typical of these early homes, employing a plan similar to the early Second Empire houses, including a three-bay facade with central door, front porch, and segmental arched windows.

A number of similar houses are found today along Gough Avenue, most with only a hint of the Gothic Revival style in their use of a cross-gable roofs and sometimes pointed-arched windows and vergeboard in their gabled ends.

A rare example of the Gothic Revival mode in the district is 106 Gough, which unlike other houses is of brick construction. Approximately half (seven) of the district's Gothic Revival houses were built along Gough Avenue after the construction of the Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of Gough and Dubois. The church, constructed in 1886, also draws on the Gothic Revival style. It is a one-story frame building with steep gable roof, pointed-arched windows and stick-style work in its facade's gabled end and projecting entryway. Often only a slight variation—such as the use of round arched windows—evoked the Italianate style, as seen at 64 Gough. The L-shaped house at 98 Gough , built in 1875, was a rare form at the time in the district.

By the 1880s and 1890s the streets to the north and south of Gough Avenue experienced a construction boom. Most of the houses going up on the last lots available on Gough and those on adjoining Lincoln Avenue tended to be larger, with much more complex plans, reminiscent of the Queen Anne and Stick styles. The house at 114 Gough Avenue has an asymmetrical plan with gabled and jerkinhead roofs, as well as various windows commonly employed in Queen Anne-style buildings of the period. Many of these homes have elaborate porches with stick work, often echoed in their gabled peaks, and patterned shingles and clapboard sheathed walls. Other examples of vernacular Queen Anne houses include 37 Lincoln and 1054 Jacksonville. The L-shaped house and cross gable form of this style also was prevalent by the 1890s as seen at 111 Gough, 11 Lincoln Avenue, 17 Lincoln, and 106 Lincoln.

Another mode employed in the 1890s was the Colonial Revival, including its most common element, the gambrel roof, seen at 124 Lincoln and 92 Lincoln. These buildings often evoked classical orders in the use of columns on porches found at 991 Pennsylvania Avenue. A slight variation of this style is the Dutch Colonial Revival, evident in the district at 71 Chase Avenue. The construction boom in the 1890s included commercial architecture. Many new business properties employed Colonial Revival features. A feed store and coal yard shed with a gambrel roof in the Colonial Revival mode is found at 1061 Greeley Avenue. A shop at the rear of 133 Lincoln fronting on Greeley also has a gambrel roof. A one-story, hipped roof repair shop with central cupola was built in 1899 at 120 Wilson Street. Simple barn-like buildings used as shops and warehouses were constructed over the next 10 years along Wilson and Greeley Avenues.

A Colonial Revival school was constructed in 1915 on Willard Avenue. Colonial Revival features in this building include a lunette window, fanlight doorway and hip roof. Smaller houses with I-shaped plans were also built during this period. These buildings tend to lack any elements linking them to the eclectic modes of the period, and were often similar in plan to houses of the 1870-1880 period. Numbers 79 and 91 Lincoln Avenue are both I-houses with gabled roofs and centered doorways. Similar houses were built over the next 20 years. A workman's house built at 96 Wilson is rare for the district. In its fenestration this two-story, three-bay dwelling resembles houses found in rural areas of the county in the 18th and early 19th century.

By the 1920s houses were constructed using new elements and plans. Small 1‑1/2 story bungalows were built along Chase Avenue, all containing front porches, and rectangular plans. The houses have hipped roofs, jerkinhead roofs, and gabled roofs. These dwellings were of frame construction with shingled or clapboard walls. Five Four Square houses constructed in the 1920s are found in the district. On Wilson Avenue, these 2 1/2-story frame houses each have hipped roofs with dormers and front porches. A similar house built in 1922 is located at 20 Chase Avenue.

The district also has 53 contributing secondary buildings. The majority of these buildings are found behind the primary resources on alleyways. Nineteenth century secondary buildings tend to be 2 1/2 stories tall with gable or jerkinhead roofs. They are sided with vertical plank boards or clapboard, and have six-over-six windows often with simple board surrounds with slight pediment hoods. The carriage house garage at 15 Gough Avenue is typical of late 19th century secondary buildings. It is 2 1/2 stories high, clapboard-sided building with a slate gable roof and six-over-six double hung sash windows. It is rectangular in plan and is narrow, approximately 12 feet deep and 20 feet across. Similar jerkinhead examples are found along Gough Avenue.

The carriage house/garage at 5 Gough is a two-story, two-bay frame building. It is unique in the district because of its slate cross-gabled roof with stick work. A large 1 1/2-story, two-bay wide carriage house/garage is found at 35 Gough. This building employs a hip roof with an eyebrow dormer and a porch extension over the paired bay openings. Similar to other 19th century outbuildings it is sided with vertical board and has six-over-six double hung sash windows.

Contributing 20th century secondary buildings tend to be smaller than those of the earlier period. Most of these buildings appear to have been built as garages for automobiles and are 1- 1 1/2-story high with gable roofs and gable end garage bay doors. All but one of these garages are frame with vertical board siding and single-leaf side doors and six-over-six double hung windows. Several 20th century outbuildings are larger, such as the shop behind 133 Lincoln Avenue constructed in 1917. This building is frame and topped by a gambrel roof typical of the Colonial Revival period. Several one-story, hipped roof garages, built in the 1920s are also found in the district.

Only a handful of more recent construction is evident in the area. Non-contributing buildings are found for the most part along the edges of the district and account for approximately 18% of the primary resources. Of the 17 non-contributing buildings, 16 are residential and one is commercial. Several non-contributing buildings are outside the period of significance but do not detract from the character of the district. These non-contributing resources include buildings such as a small Cape Cod house dating from the 1940s or Bungalow ranch circa 1955, both along Chase Avenue. The John Finney double house, a 2 story frame building with a double pile plan and gable roof constructed in 1938 along Wilson Avenue; also is non-contributing due to age. One non-contributing resource is within the period of significance, but its historic fabric no longer remains, and its appearance reflects its 1980 renovation.

The majority (11) of non-contributing primary buildings date between 1962 and 1987 and are one to two stories high, constructed of frame with gabled roofs. These homes are typical of residential architecture of the period found throughout the country with examples of "split levels", "ranch", and two-story "neo-colonials". These buildings have setbacks and scale similar to the contributing resources helping to blend non-contributing buildings into the district.

The district also contains 11 non-contributing secondary buildings. These buildings are all one story tall garages with gable or gambrel roofs and are found in rear yards. They are non-contributing due to age and do not affect the district's ability to convey its architectural significance. Likewise, modifications to contributing resources are minor and do not detract from the overall sense of historic character. Changes to the resource include new siding, roofing materials, the construction of additions (mostly to the rear of the properties), and the occasional enclosing of porches. Overall the district retains integrity. The Ivyland Historic District remains a distinct entity worthy of historic designation.


The Ivyland Historic District is an excellent example of a railroad era village in Bucks County. The district contains an important concentration of buildings that reflect Ivyland's architectural history from its founding in the 1870s through the early 20th century. Moreover, the town's plan, layout and array of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings remain largely intact. The period of significance, 1873-1931, coincides with the age of the contributing architectural resources in the district.

Until the 1870s, the area that comprises the historic district was rural and no different from the surrounding agricultural landscape. Early in the 1870s, Edwin Lacey, a member of a long-established Bucks County family, was intrigued with the thought of making a profit on the forthcoming 1876 Centennial Exposition, to be held in Philadelphia. He recognized that there would be thousands of visitors and felt that a big hotel situated in the country a short distance outside the city should attract overflow travelers, especially those who preferred to reside outside the city during their visit. The hotel could also serve as a stop en route for visitors coming to the Exposition by rail from New York.

William Kirk, a friend of Lacey's who lived adjacent to the present historic district at the corner of Jacksonville and Kirk Roads, indicated that the future Ivyland was the ideal location. The area was in Warminster Township and consisted of 105 acres of land. In 1872, the year previous to Lacey's involvement, Isaac Parry had purchased the land from Thomas and Elizabeth Wynkoop. One advantage loomed large for Lacey -- the plot bordered on the proposed extension of the North Penn Railroad, which had just laid tracks from Glenside to Hatboro in 1872. There was talk of extending the railroad three miles to Bristol Road, near Parry's land, and eventually to New Hope along the Delaware River.

On June 24,1873, Lacey purchased 40 acres of land from Isaac Parry, roughly a square, on the western side of Parry's farm, extending from Jacksonville Road to the line of the proposed railroad. On this quadrangular plot Lacey planned his village—much as a modern developer might do—laying out streets, and establishing a grid plan with rear alleys and narrow lots.

Four broad streets were to run west from Jacksonville Road, these to be crossed by four running north and south. The east-west streets Lacey named for public figures that he admired. Wilson Avenue was named for Henry Wilson, noted abolitionist and wartime Senator, who had just been elected Vice President of the United States. Gough Avenue received its name for John B. Gough, the temperance lecturer. Lincoln Avenue memorialized the martyred president. Chase Avenue was named for Salmon P. Chase, of the Lincoln cabinet, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The north-south streets were named for more personal reasons. Twining was named after Lacey's mother, whose maiden name was Ruth Twining. Dubois was named for a personal friend of Lacey. A third was originally named Mason Avenue, probably for the fraternity of Freemasons, which was forming many lodges during this period—it was changed thereafter to Pennsylvania Avenue. Greeley Avenue was named for Horace Greeley, the abolitionist and editor of the New York Tribune, who had just been defeated by Grant for the presidency.

According to local legend, Lacey chose the name Ivyland after the beautiful ivy in which the area abounded, not realizing it was poison ivy. Thomas MacKenzie, who knew the founder personally, stated that Lacey envisioned lovely ivy-covered walls throughout his town.

The initial construction in Ivyland began in 1873 and included the establishment of the grid road plan as well as several houses. Development was concentrated at the center of the grid plan along the soon to arrive railroad line and a planned hotel. The first building was located at 64 Lincoln Avenue, completed in the fall of 1873. Although Lacey wanted to concentrate the development near the hotel site, at least two early residential buildings were found at the far reaches of Ivyland—one on a highly visible roadway and the other along the planned railroad line extension. Construction of these dwellings, located at 1090 Jacksonville Road and at 133 Lincoln Avenue, began in 1873. That same year, Lacey supervised the planting of silver maples along his streets. These were fast-growing trees designed to add to the beauty of Ivyland as quickly as possible.

Official rail service to Ivyland began on March 9,1874. Additional residential construction along Gough Avenue—as well as commercial activity along Greeley Avenue, including a coal yard, feed store and sawmill (no longer extant) soon followed the opening of the railroad line.

With the construction of the first three houses, Lacey began the construction of his hotel. The building was designed as a large summer hotel, and located in the approximately center of his town. The hotel is a four-story stone and pebble dashed building, with broad, covered porches completely surrounding its first two floors with mansard roof; still a relatively new style in rural Bucks County. Lacey particularly admired this new style of roof. He used mansard roofs on the first buildings he built in Ivyland, including the hotel's brick stable and outhouse (no longer extant). As a staunch supporter of the temperance movement, he named the hotel "The Temperance House."

The actual builder of the hotel was a local contractor, Joseph A. Carrell. The stone for the hotel was quarried on the farm about a mile northwest of the village, but the construction work was so slow that the hotel was not completed in time for the Centennial visitors. This was one of the contributing causes of Lacey's later financial difficulties. Also of importance to the fledgling town was a general store; therefore, Lacey built a store of frame construction surmounted by a mansard roof, adjoining the hotel in 1875 at 67 Gough Avenue.

Troubles beset Lacey from the beginning. Not only was construction on the hotel slow, one month after work began the notorious Jay Cooke failure occurred, triggering a serious national depression that lasted for several years. As a result, building activity in Ivyland came to a standstill. When construction activity resumed it was slow with only eight homes built between 1876 and 1886.

The hotel stood unfinished right through the period of the Centennial Exposition. The contractor had no funds, and it appears no bank would lend money during this period of financial panic. Lacey however signed his personal notes to procure material and labor to keep construction progressing. Unfortunately, Lacey's creditors called for additional funds to cover his notes in a rapidly sinking market, compelling him, in 1879, to dispose of his Ivyland holdings.

The hotel was actually completed by Lacey prior to his sale of the property, but it was never opened. Joshua Bennett bought the building at a sheriffs sale for $2600. Lacey's vacant land was purchased by several local residents and speculators in 1879. His friend, William Kirk, purchased 52 lots on the eastern end of town, and Mary Spraglo of the adjoining farm to the southwest purchased another portion large portion. Samuel Trumbower and John T. Murfit, speculators from Somerton, bought the remaining land, but resold their 86 lots to Joshua Bennett later that year. Over the next ten years few lots were sold. Those that were purchased appear to have been built upon by their new owners almost immediately rather than held for speculation. Joshua Bennett, owner of the hotel, slowly sold lots between 1879 and 1886—one or two each year. By the late 1880s his estate sold his remaining lots to numerous individuals at a rapid pace, most likely due to a national economic recovery at the time. Kirk, the second largest land holder, also appeared to have held his lots, selling them off a few each year. The majority of his lots found along Chase Avenue remained vacant until the early 20th century.

Ivyland's development resumed and expanded beyond Gough and Lincoln avenues in the late 1880s and 1890s. A variety of houses and commercial buildings, as well as a church and school, were completed in the last decade of the 1800s. These new houses were typical of dwellings constructed in planned communities of the period. All new residential buildings had front porches and employed architectural elements of popular modes. The majority of lots were built upon by families who constructed homes for their own use. Many of these new owners came to Ivyland as part time residents. During the 1880s and 1890s Ivyland was a summer resort for those wanting to escape the heat of Philadelphia. The Ivyland railroad stop and the easy drive by horse and carriage to and from Philadelphia made it an ideal destination. Several lots appear to have been purchased by individuals who constructed houses on them for resale, perhaps taking advantage of Ivyland's popularity as a summer resort. Local resident, John L. Bodey, built a house to sell at 55 Gough in 1889. William and B. Frank Hobensack, who ran the local mill, purchased lots owned by Bennett and Kirk in the early 1890s, including 111 Gough, on which they constructed a home in 1898 for resale.

In the early 20th century the summer population slowly gave way to full time residents who began to commute to the city to work. Due to the large influx of new residents and the need for services, such as street repairs and lighting, Ivyland was incorporated as an independent borough in 1903. The town now had a population of 248 persons, with 67 houses and nine trains stopping at Ivyland each day running from Philadelphia to New Hope. Over the next 10 years improvements such as installation of curbs and macadam, street lighting and sidewalks were completed. House construction continued at a steady pace over the 30 years. By the early 1920s, a mill along Wilson Avenue was demolished to make room for new houses. By the early 1930s development of Edwin Lacey's original village along the outer roads of the district was virtually complete with the construction of new bungalows along Chase Avenue. With the Great Depression, building activity came to a standstill once more, and the few remaining lots stood vacant. Over the next 20 years, homes were built periodically. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the 1980s, many large lots were subdivided for new homes.

Today Ivyland is perhaps Bucks County's finest railroad era village containing a large concentration of late 19th and early 20th century residential buildings in a wide variety of popular styles. Unlike many other towns that were given a boost with the arrival of the railroad, Ivyland owes its entire existence to the railroad. The railroad changed the Bucks County cultural landscape. Traditional crossroad service villages began the transformation into suburban subdivisions. The railroad made it possible for residents to no longer be tied to the agricultural landscape or to small shops at village centers.

Along with this railroad town concept came new architectural styles. By the mid 19th century a national trend towards the use of architectural pattern books made it easy to choose from a variety of housing types with a variety of architectural elements. Traditional architecture of the region, such as the single pile house with central doorway and a regular facade of three to four bays, and lateral additions, were replaced. New forms and details were evident throughout the region and in most Bucks County communities between 1850 and 1870. In Bucks County these modes of architecture were first apparent in common house plans. The I-house could easily change appearance with a mansard or cross gabled roof or with, a simple round, or pointed arch window in its roof peak. Similar buildings are found in Ivyland today reflecting Second Empire and Gothic Revival styles. At resort communities and planned towns such as Ivyland these new eclectic modes seemed to predominated by the 1880s, perhaps due to its construction as a resort town with emphasis on vacation homes and a leisurely pace.

By the 1880s and 1890s most reference to earlier architectural practices were gone and replaced with large homes with irregular plans and elements of popular styles such as the Queen Anne or Colonial Revival. By the turn of the 20th century, the bungalow a new "resort" type house began to appear in the town.

Ivyland is unique in Bucks County in that these architectural styles are concentrated together and reflect popular taste of only a 60-year period, 1873 to 1931. Although the predominate styles found in the Ivyland Historic District, namely the Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Stick/Queen Anne and Bungalow, are found throughout the county, outside Ivyland most examples of these styles exist in isolation, or as part of a block of houses developed at one time. In addition, when compared to other railroad towns of the period, Ivyland is unique in that its predominant construction mode was frame, whereas brick construction prevailed in the other Bucks County railroad towns.

At Quakertown, a railroad community in northern Bucks County with the majority of its architectural dating to the second half of the 19th century, a variety of architectural styles can be found. Along Broad Street, for example, the dwellings are frame or brick, detached or constructed as row-houses. Unlike Ivyland, the town has a large concentration of brick row houses dating to the late 19th century with Queen Anne, Italianate and Colonial Revival features, such as 418-434 East Broad Street.

New Hope is more typical of a Bucks County town with its architecture of the late 19th century scattered as infill or found in small areas. Main Street, north of Bridge Street however, was largely developed after 1876 with the coming of the railroad line. Here are three examples of Second Empire style houses constructed of frame or brick, and several Queen Anne examples such as the Booz House. These houses like those in Ivyland are detached or double houses with front porches. Examples of Colonial Revival and bungalow are not found in the district. Examples of Italianate and Gothic Revival modes are found on I-houses like those of Ivyland. Similar to the houses at Ivyland, one or two features, such as bracketed cornices and window arches, identify the styles.

  1. Adapted from: National Register of Historic Places, NR# 02000225, Ivyland Historic District, 2002, nomination document, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Chase Avenue • Dubois Avenue • Gough Avenue • Greeley Avenue • Jacksonville Road • Lincoln Avenue • Pennsylvania Avenue • Route 332 • Twining Avenue • Wilson Avenue

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