Buckingham: Farmland, recreation and high-tech research are here
STUART LEE FRIEDMAN
Giggleberry Fair’s restored 1922 carousel.
Buckingham is the largest township in Bucks County, with 33 square miles of bucolic pastures and farmland that gently roll from the forested slopes of Buckingham Mountain to stream headwaters that ultimately wend their way to the Delaware River.
The township is home to several villages that date back to simple crossroads settlements of the 1700s.
The Lenni Lenape tribe of Native Americans originally inhabited what is now Buckingham. That heritage is reflected in the names of the villages within the township – Lahaska, Holicong, Neshaminy. European settlement followed and original land grants of William Penn paved the way for Quaker immigrants who founded a strong Religious Society of Friends presence that persists today.
The Friends’ tenet of truth seeking and education is still strongly reflected at Buckingham Friends School, a co-education school founded in 1794 that covers education from kindergarten through eighth grade.
The Friends defined an ethic of good will and tightly knit community among neighbors that remains strong today.
At the top of Buckingham Mountain is a simple stone church with a quiet yet dramatic history. Mount Gilead African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1822 by both freed and escaped African slaves. The present structure was built in 1852 and was the last station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves before embarking across the Delaware River to New Jersey.
The vantage point of the mountaintop church offered safety for escaped slaves, and the abolitionist Quakers allowed them to build a community around the church. One of the settled escaped slaves, Benjamin “Big Ben” Jones, was recaptured in March 1844 after a violent struggle. He was being transported down to New Orleans when local Quakers raised the money to buy him back. Ben Jones lived out the rest of his life on Buckingham Mountain, a free man, and he is buried in the church’s graveyard along with almost 250 other community members in both marked and unmarked graves. The church still holds special services and is maintained by the descendants of the original congregation.
Within the township lie almost 8 acres of protected wetlands. This wilderness area is home to many protected species of birds, frogs, turtles, salamanders and fish. Bird species alone number about 122, from songbirds that fill the sonic landscape to the soaring turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks that paint themselves gracefully against the sky. Muskrat, otter and beaver live in the wetlands and help to shape an ecology that also provides refuge for white-tail deer and occasional black bear.
Land preservation is more than a political expedience but is a true heritage in Buckingham. Even the land itself seems to insist on remaining unspoiled. Much of Buckingham rests upon a significant foundation of limestone which presents extra challenges to development.
Forty years of strong stewardship by township supervisors and concerned citizens have defined the balance between development interests and maintaining farmlands. Investments in open space funding for protection against over-development began with two farms in 1991 and expanded into the first municipality-based land preservation program in Bucks County.
Three parks covering a total of 96 acres reflect the sense of community in Buckingham. George M. Bush Park offers baseball fields and sand volleyball courts. Hansell Park offers a band shell with summer concerts. Both parks feature walking trails, picnic areas and playgrounds, and Holicong Park features a basketball court and is undergoing a major expansion with more sports fields, a pavilion and walking paths.
Farmers’ markets provide locally grown foods for the community. The 217-acre None Such Farms is in its third generation of family ownership, and Maximuck’s Farms incorporates solar-powered greenhouses and soil-less hydroponics in addition to conventional farming.
Peddler’s Village is a 42-acre shopping village, consisting of 65 retail shops and merchants, 3 restaurants, and a 71-room hotel. Stepping into the village, you will find yourself in a beautiful and timeless setting of gardens, waterfalls and winding brick pathways. Its attractions include a gazebo where a gingerbread house competition is held every winter, a functioning water wheel and a restored 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel. Giggleberry Mountain is a three-story fun land for both children and adults, including a complex hamster tube obstacle course and slides, as well as foam berry blasters.
Buckingham is the seat of an important part of the global biotechnology industry. The Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute are both located within the township. It was Blumberg who characterized the hepatitis B virus, developed the test to keep global blood supplies safe, and then went on to create the vaccine that now is a core component of childhood immunization.
The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center is a research institute and a center for medical sciences education. It sits on the north edge of Doylestown Airport, which is situated almost entirely within Buckingham. It is a base for several executive feeder flights to and from surrounding major airports, and is home to a Civil Air Patrol Squadron as well as a flight school.
From its expanse of history to its unspoiled beauty, and from farm stands to leading pharmaceutical industries, Buckingham lies in the middle of Bucks County at the crossroads of history and the future, with something special to offer every visitor.