Quakertown’s heart beats downtown


The stone Red Lion Inn still stands as a restaurant and entertainment venue at McCoole’s.

Quakertown’s heart beats downtown.

In fact, “the heart of Upper Bucks County” is Quakertown’s de facto motto.

Quakertown draws and attracts its municipal neighbors for good reason.

It’s a hub for professional services like banking and health care. It’s home to entertainment, shopping, restaurants, service clubs and organizations, athletics, dance and music and of course, its namesake public school system: Quakertown Community School District.

But more than commerce, Quakertown is the center of the region’s community.

Quakertown Community

According to Robert Leight, it's community that sets Quakertown apart, and it is the thread that binds its residents and near municipal neighbors.

Quakertown has enduring appeal. “I think a sense of community is one of Quakertown’s greatest assets.

Quakertown is a magnet town center,” said Dr. Leight, a longtime Richland Township resident and local authority on Quakertown’s rich history.

Leight, though now retired, was a career educator and Lehigh University professor. He continues to advocate for public and early childhood education throughout the Quakertown area.

Quakertown’s community is actually six municipalities. They include Richlandtown and Trumbauersville boroughs and Haycock, Milford or Richland townships. Leight said you can’t talk about Quakertown without including its nearest neighbors.

Quakertown Borough sits in the center of this diverse area. It’s a hub, positioned at the top tier of Bucks County. Lehigh and Montgomery are its nearest county neighbors.

Many residents identify with Quakertown Borough because “it’s one of the few remaining towns to have its high school located in the center of town,” Leight said.

William “Bill” Harner, a relative newcomer to the area, said Quakertown is a fertile place for growth and prosperity.

“Quakertown has such a rich history, with so many people wanting to continue to build upon it and watch it grow and thrive,” Dr. Harner said. Harner is superintendent of Quakertown Community School District.

Quakertown’s History and Economy

Known as The Great Swamp – a large Great Blue Heron rookery continues to serve as safe haven for these magnificent nesting water birds.

Named for the early Quakers who settled it, Quakertown was also home, then as now, to German farmers and other immigrants looking to make a life in William Penn’s woods.

During the American Revolution, the Liberty Bell had safe passage through Quakertown on its road to safe hiding the Lehigh Valley.

Quakertown was the site of the John Fries Rebellion, in which John Adams handed down a pardon to local “agitator” John Fries for the plot against unfair taxes, known as the “hot water tax” and the “window pane tax.”

While Fries narrowly escaped the hangman at the corner of Broad and Main streets more than 200 years ago, McCoole’s at The Historic Red Lion Inn still stands at the site. The restaurant continues to serve hungry patrons in the stone inn at its historic location.

From its agricultural and town center beginnings Quakertown’s economic heyday was manufacturing. A major player in manufacturing, cigars, shoes, textiles, silk and organs in the Charles Durner Organ Factory were popular industries and employers made here during the 20th century.

Quakertown was also home to the Krupp Foundry, which provided jobs in one era and is now the borough’s newest park site and outdoor concert venue.

Today, historic buildings are being reclaimed as spaces for start-up and technology entrepreneurs and businesses. In addition to technology jobs, Quakertown aims to become a magnet for 21st-century technology firms, boutique retail and dining destinations.

Quakertown Athletics and Arts

Quakertown is a hub for youth and student athletics, as well as high school arts and music programs. From Quakertown Senior High School football games to Quakertown Little League baseball games and high school musicals and band concerts, there is something for just about everyone here.

Quakertown’s Future

Quakertown’s revitalization stretches from the “triangle area” to farther east and to “Antiques Row” to Mill and Front streets and beyond. As store fronts close – whether because of moves, retirements or closures, new businesses open up, further making a statement about Quakertown’s blend of spirit, history and ingenuity.

Festivals, from arts and crafts sponsored by Quakertown Alive to parades, July 4th fireworks displays and community celebrations, Quakertown and its neighbors continue to engage the community.

The newly opened 4th Street Park continues Quakertown’s commitment to active and passive recreation. New walking trails connect to Memorial Park and a permanent outdoor band shell recently packed with visitors for the Sept. 10, an inaugural outdoor concert featuring The Craig Thatcher Band.

Scores of visitors enjoyed a concert and concessions at the new park, in what looks like an outdoor arts and entertainment renaissance.

Quakertown as town center and trail connection

While the new 4th Street Park ties together trails from Memorial Park and the downtown, new access will be available to those outside the borough through a regional trail system.

“It will be a huge asset to the Lehigh Trails system,” said Naomi Naylor, Quakertown Alive! Main Street manager.
Planned borough connections aim to tie existing municipal trails and stub connections for hiking, biking and walking through  the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network.

While no time frame has been released, plans to connect Quakertown’s trails with a larger network through Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network and Appalachian Mountain Club are under way.

“This would bring many more visitors into the downtown,” Naylor said.

The Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network aims to connect established trails in Southern Lehigh, which stretch to Hellertown to the north, with an established network of trails in Milford, Richland and Springfield townships.

Connecting these municipalities would make the community even bigger.

Location, Location, Location

For those who love the energy of the big city but don’t want to live there, Quakertown is strategically positioned for day trippers to the mountains, the Jersey shore and to major metropolitan areas.

“Quakertown’s location is its greatest (physical) asset. Whether you’re raising a family or running a business, Quakertown is positioned 20 minutes to the Delaware River, 1½ hours to the mountains, two hours to the shore or New York City, and within an hour to Philadelphia,” said Tara King, Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce executive director.

It’s no wonder Quakertown continues to be the driving pulse of Upper Bucks County.

“Quakertown has such a rich history, with so many people wanting to continue build upon it and watch it grow and thrive,” Harner said.

2017 © Bucks County Herald