The Doylestown English and Classical Seminary, was established around 1867 by prominent businessmen of the community who were concerned about the education of the children of Doylestown. Initially well received and fully enrolled, the private school’s success gradually dwindled as public education improved. The institution finally closed in 1891.
Banker Frank Hart (1851-1939) purchased the old seminary, all the buildings, and 10-plus acres of land for $16,000 and turned the main structure into a popular summer resort called The Oakland. In June of 1892, the Doylestown Democrat reported on the transformation of the spacious building with a broad main entrance opening upon the pillared portico. Roomy halls for dining, cards and smoking, dancing, and parties were papered in bright hues with deep friezes and pretty ceiling decorations.
Bluish grey was the predominant color of the drawing room which included rare old pieces of furniture and a Steinway piano. Upstairs were more than 70 guest rooms (with access to hot and cold spring water), the walls decorated with figured gilt paper. Grounds were landscaped with paths for strolling and a grove for outdoor garden parties. The hotel gained in popularity and was largely patronized by guests hosting special events or those seeking the pleasures of the country.
After several decades of successful operation, The Oakland eventually closed its doors.
The Newtown Enterprise reported in December 1913, “The immense stone building ... which stands in the centre of the tract, will be taken down. On this property stand a number of fine oak trees, part of the original forest, which a hundred years ago covered all that part of the town. The Oakland ... and surrounding property occupying two squares ... will be cut up into building lots within about a year by its owner, Frank Hart.” According to the Doylestown Intelligencer, Hart “developed the Oakland tract into one of the most beautiful and restricted building areas.” Today, that section of Doylestown is bounded by West Court Street on the north, West Street on the east, Ashland Street on the south and Lafayette Street on the west.
Photos from the Jeffrey Hamilton Postcard Collection