Bucks County Herald

Bridget Wingert: Happy to Be Here

Samuel Eastburn’s history holds on

Built as the Langhorne Public Library in the 19th century, this building is now the headquarters of Historic Langhorne Association.

Florence and Bob Wharton were neighbors on North Bellevue Avenue when I lived with my family in Langhorne Borough. The street was once known as the Old Durham Road.

Every time we drove up Bellevue Avenue when we returned from a trip, we would say, “What a pretty street!”
Tree lined streetswith deep lawns and mansions on the south side, the town had and still has a blend of Colonial and Victorian houses with mid-20th-century architecture.

The town center at Bellevue Avenue (parallel to Pine Street – Route 413) and Maple Avenue (Route 213) had a small park, two drug stores (one with a soda fountain), Nangle’s Department Store (more like a dry goods store, where you could buy fabrics, shirts and socks, and Christmas decorations), a hardware store, a barber shop, a hairdresser’s salon, a hotel with bar, a butcher shop, two banks and a small A&P market.

At the north end of town houses are close together, charming and well-cared for. The Whartons’ house was built of masonry in the Federal style in 1849. The Wingert house, five doors away, was a frame Queen Anne, three stories, bright and pleasant, built in 1891.

It had a front porch where we gathered with friends to watch the Memorial Day Parade. The Neshaminy Junior High School Band always stopped to perform in front of our house.

The Langhorne Country Club was just north of our block. In 1969 it was eyed for high-rise apartment buildings by a Montgomery County builder and the sleepy town woke up.

Neighbors gathered in local homes to see what could be done to prevent filling the open space that blocked Langhorne from sprawl. The club had the golf course, the sledding hills, the social center, the view of the land beyond, in Middletown and Northampton townships. A gas station had already replaced the old Pine Street Elementary School at the 413 intersection.

Out of the neighborhood meetings came the Historic Langhorne Association, which was to play role in Florence Wharton’s life. She became a member and supporter of the organization, a member of the Langhorne Centennial Committee, coordinator for the nomination of the Langhorne Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places, and a founding member of Langhorne Open Space Inc.

In 1976, the local newspaper, The Delaware Valley Advance, reprinted a series of articles, “Olde Attleborough” by Samuel Comfort Eastburn that had been published in the 1920s.

That series inspired Florence to preserve Eastburn’s words. She has published a book, “Langhorne, Crossroads of History: Samuel C. Eastburn’s ‘Olde Attleborough.’” Florence used two different type faces to differentiate between Eastburn’s words and her own words – because she had much to explain about Eastburn’s papers.

In the 1700s, Langhorne was known as Four Lanes End because of its location of the crossroads of the highway between Philadelphia and Trenton, and the road north to Durham. Later it was Attleborough; the name changed when the Reading Railroad arrived. The president of the railroad named the station in honor of Jeremiah Langhorne, who was the original owner of the land the railroad crossed. In 1876 the town was incorporated as Langhorne.

Eastburn recorded the town’s history from what was known from Quaker records and local publications.

Washington’s troops lodged in the town before and after the first Battle of Trenton. Hessian prisoners were quartered in the town on Dec. 30, 1776. The Richardson House, a store at the crossroads, and other buildings served as hospitals, and soldiers were buried in a cemetery across today’s Bellevue Avenue.

When townhouses were proposed at what was believed to be a cemetery site, an archeologist and his Temple University students studied the soil. Their work yielded mass graves for as many as 160 soldiers. The owners dedicated the site to Langhorne Borough in 1999.

“Slavery was brought to the attention of the Monthly Meeting of Friends in this area as early as 1696,” Eastburn wrote. “They began to realize that there was a basic inconsistency in the practice of slavery and their teachings. The Friends were not only the first to advocate abolition but the first to improve the condition of those in bondage. By 1780 all members were free of slave holdings as stated in a minute sent to the Quarterly Meeting by Middletown Monthly Meeting.”

Florence Wharton adds to the Eastburn history with descriptions of eminent Langhorne citizens. The “Peaceable Kingdom” artist Edward Hicks was born in a building at the Four Lanes End intersection. Mollie Woods Hare built a school of international reputation for special needs children and adults in unoccupied mansions starting in 1921.

The Rev. Edward Jackson was a founding member of the Society of Colored Methodists as the AME Church in Philadelphia in 1816. Anna-Mary Longshore-Potts and her sister-in-law, Hannah E. Myers Longshore, were members of the first graduating class of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Today the Langhorne ZIP Code extends into Middletown Township and up U.S. Highway 1 but the original Langhorne is a still a real town.

The author has included a walking tour of Langhorne based on Eastburn’s comments. “We shall stroll through the village from the north end of Bellevue Avenue,” he wrote.

The book was published by Lightning Press, Totawa, N.J. It is available from Historic Langhorne Association, 160 W. Maple Avenue, 19047.



Copyright ©2017 Bucks County Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.