Walk through history during free summer tours
● By J. Chambless
The Longwood Progressive Friends Meetinghouse and Longwood Cemetery are the focus of a walking tour on June 25.
If you live in Chester County, you may never have taken time to explore how much history is right here at home. For the 21st summer, a series of "Town Tours and Village Walks" will take residents and visitors through sites where ths history of the county is reflected.
Sponsored by The Chester County Board of Commissioners through the Chester County Planning Commission; the Chester County Historical Society; Westtown Township; the Chester County Historic Preservation Network; and the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, the free tours began on June 11, but continue on Thursday evenings through Aug. 20. All of the tours begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue until 7 p.m., with no registration needed.
Chester County has a rich African American history, ranging from enslaved Africans held by William Penn, to Quakers and the Underground Railroad, to the county's role in the American Civil War and later in the Civil Rights Movement. All summer, the tours will highlight the homes, meetinghouses, and resting places of the men and women who "recognized the Equal Brotherhood of the Human Family" before and after the Civil War.
The series includes:
"Freedmen, Fugitives and Friends"
June 18, sponsored by the Kennett Square Borough Historical Commission.
Guides will lead visitors through the borough to see the houses and hear the stories of Kennett Square Quakers and African Americans who coexisted peacefully before and after the Civil War. Parking is available in the lot at the corner of Willow and E. State streets, or the lot behind Bayard Taylor Memorial Library (216 E. State St.). The tour will start from the Willow and State streets parking lot. There will be detours on State and Union streets for "Third Thursday Dining in the Street" while the tours are taking place.
Longwood Progressive Meeting
June 25, sponsored by the Kennett Township Historical Commission.
The Longwood Progressive Friends Meetinghouse and Longwood Cemetery were recently named to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom for their critical contributions to the abolition movement. Kennett Township will be sharing the story of the role the meeting and its members played in the quest for freedom. A visit to the 160-year-old meetinghouse and a tour of the cemetery, where many members are buried, will provide an understanding of the link between the meeting and its members, and the role they played in the pursuit of freedom. Parking is available at Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square). Follow the signs from Route 1.
"Under the Ground at Yellow Springs"
July 9, sponsored by Historic Yellow Springs.
Many different communities have left their marks under the ground at Yellow Springs. Arrow points and tools verify the Lenape villages; small shoes, uniform buttons and toy fragments tell of the life of the Civil War orphans who lived there; ink bottles, paint materials and pen points identify the artist community. Come and see the archaeology treasures found under the ground in digs and hear from archaeologists how they located the artifacts. Parking is at 1685 Art School Rd., Chester Springs. Follow the signs after entering the village.
"Into West Vincent: A Journey to Freedom"
July 16, sponsored by the West Vincent Historic Resources Committee.
Long before there was an organized network called the Underground Railroad, Quakers and free blacks guided fugitives here, as a stop on their way to freedom. By the 1800s, the Lewis-Fussell family, in four adjacent houses along the Old Kimberton Road, had devoted themselves to abolition and to the care of runaway slaves. The tour will show those four farmsteads, which comprised the original John and Esther Lewis Farm, including "Sunnyside," built in 1848. Highlighted will be the work of the Quaker families who lived there: John and Esther Lewis, their daughters Mariann, Rebecca, Graceanna, and Elizabeth; Norris and Ann Maris; Dr. Bartholomew Fussell, Dr. Morris Fussell, Dr. Edwin Fussell; Eleanor Bechtel Moore and others. Parking is in the field at 1727 Flint Rd., at intersection with Kimberton Road.
After touring the Lewis/Fussell properties, visitors can take Kimberton Road approximately a mile and a half from the Flint Road intersection toward the village of Kimberton, to 1976 Kimberton Rd. and 1320 Pughtown Rd. (on opposite sides of Kimberton Road), to see the Norris and Ann Maris/Royal Spring mill site property. Parking is limited and there are no guides.
A Walk in the Park: Exploring Phoenixville's Reeves Park
July 23, sponsored by the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area.
Much of Phoenixville's history reflects the Phoenix Iron and Steel Company's approach to hiring regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Reeves Park and the neighborhood that surrounds it has reflected that diverse history since the park's founding in the 1870s.The tour covers the park and adjacent areas, including monuments, ethnic churches, industrialists' mansions and a Carnegie Library. Tours will begin at the historic 1903 band shell in Reeves Park. Reeves Park is located at 3rd and Main streets in Phoenixville. Street parking is also available around the park and on side streets.
Walking Through History on the Chester Valley Trail
July 30, sponsored by the East Whiteland Historical Commission.
From limestone quarry to revolutionary battlegrounds, visitors will stroll along the former railroad bed and learn the significance of the local ruins and converted buildings along the trail. Revolutionary battles were fought in the same location before the tracks existed. Tours will start at the East Whiteland Township Building at 209 Conestoga Rd.
Quakers and the Underground Railroad in the Coatesville Area
Aug. 6, sponsored by the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum.
In 1688, a small group of Quakers issued a statement of protest from their native Germantown against slavery, beginning a lasting local legacy which influenced the local community even before the time of Rebecca Lukens. This tour will take place in the Lukens National Historic District, where visitors will be introduced to the community's history and local involvement in abolitionism. The buildings of the Lukens and Huston family will be open to the public, in addition to the historic Lukens Executive Office Building. Tours will start from 76 S. 1st Ave., Coatesville.
Historic West Grove Borough
Aug. 13, sponsored by the Borough of West Grove.
West Grove's name dates back to 1787, when the Society of Friends built a meetinghouse on the western edge of London Grove Township. Its purpose was to provide a place of worship for the significant population of Quaker farmers, millers and nurserymen that had settled in the area. This area of London Grove Township was home to the family of Ann
Preston, an early 19th-century leader in women's rights and the abolitionist movement, and a pioneer in women's medicine. This tour will feature elegant brick homes, the commercial center and the 1903 Quaker Meeting built on the site of the original meetinghouse. Parking is in the West Grove Memorial Playground lot, on Parkway Avenue in West Grove. The entrance is off Rosehill Avenue.
West Whiteland Township: 250 years of History by Trolley
Aug. 20, sponsored by the West Whiteland Township Historical Commission, Springfield Hyundai, Church Farm School, and Sloan Ford.
Trolley tours (reservations required) will depart every 20 minutes from the West Whiteland Township Building beginning at 3 p.m. Call 610-363-9525, ext. 1915, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
In 1765, the township of Whiteland decided to divide into West Whiteland and East Whiteland. Travel back in time on a trolley to view properties along Pottstown Pike, Lincoln Highway and Swedesford Road. Some of the properties featured will be Church Farm School, Pennypacker House and the Ship Inn. Following the tour, visit the Township Building to see artifacts and pictures, and learn about the buildings that are part of Main Street Exton. Parking is at the West Whiteland Township Building (101 Commerce Drive, Exton).
For more information, visit www.chesco.org/planning/towntours.