Wycombe Village is situated on Mill Creek and straddles Township Line Road, the boundary separating Buckingham from Wrightstown Township.
National Register Historic District
Text, below, was excerpted from a copy of the original nomination document submitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
The major significance of the village of Wycombe, and what makes it almost unique in Bucks County, is that it developed as a direct result of the modern transportation age boom that reached rural Bucks County at the end of the nineteenth century and that it has, with little intrusion, retained its sense of time and place. Despite the fact that there are a handful of eighteenth and early nineteenth century structures including an old grist mill within the boundaries of the proposed district; the overwhelming majority of the development in the village only began in the last decade of the nineteenth century after the opening of the New Hope-Ivyland Branch of the Northeast Pennsylvania Railroad and the first decade of the twentieth century after the opening of the Newtown-Doylestown trolley line. With the opening of these two transportation systems, and particularly the railroad, the Wycombe area was transformed from rural farmland dotted with old stone houses into an active service-oriented village. The impact of the railroad was noted in the May 6, 1893 edition of the New Hope News in which the editor writes, "Who says the Northeast extension hasn't boomed up and removed stagnation all along the line. Why we haven't had a new building in the recollection of the oldest resident until the railroad and now three new and handsome buildings have sprung up like mushrooms...the prospect of another soon." The village's first name of Walton Station reflects its origin.
Unlike the village of New Hope, which was the Bucks County terminus of the rail line upon which Wycombe is located, the railroad did not run a line to Wycombe-Wycombe grew along the railroad. Therefore in attempting to compare Wycombe to other Bucks County railroad villages, one must avoid villages and towns which were important centers before the coming of the railroad such as Doylestown, Quakertown, New Hope, or Bristol and concentrate on other "station villages" along the various Bucks County rail lines such as Warwick, Grenoble, Rushland, Buckingham Valley on the Northeast Pennsylvania Line; Trevose, Neshaminy Falls, Langhorne Manor on the Bound Brook Line; Churchville on the Newtown Line; and Rockhill and Shelly on the North Pennsylvania Line.
In the context of these latter villages one can see the tremendous growth which transformed Walton Station into village of Wycombe. Over three quarters of the major buildings in the proposed historic district were built within twenty five years of the opening of the railroad. Additionally, most of the existing older buildings such as the mill, miller's house, Lacey house and Smith house were remodeled or adapted during the same period. It is this rapid growth in such a short period of time which makes Wycombe significant. This growth was directed by a small group of community-minded individuals. Three names stand out in the early development of the village: Walton, Cope and Thompson.
The most important developer of the village was John C. Walton, who with his brother Samuel Walton purchased three large tracts of land along the proposed railroad right-of-way. When the railroad line was opened in 1891 the Waltons made improvements around the station, built their own siding, and constructed stores and a lumber and coal yard adjoining the station. Walton also had a building erected which housed the Wycombe Herald and served as a public hall. It was the Waltons who sold property to the Copes and Thompsons. After purchasing his brother's interest in the Wycombe property John C. Walton began selling small individual building lots along Township Line Road and Park Avenue.
C. E. and Emma Cope, who operated hotels in Atlantic City and the Delaware Water Gap opened a hotel in Wycombe soon after the opening of the railroad. In addition to the hotel they built several houses, stores, shops, as well as a public hall and trolley station. Warner Thompson and his son Albert J. Thompson purchased the coal and lumber yard and store in 1895. They made improvements to the coal and lumber yard, building the large lumber mill which now dominates the core of the village (and superseded the milling operation of the eighteenth century mill which they purchased and converted into a dwelling) and constructed several large mansions, single and double residences.
It was due to the generosity of the Copes, Thompsons, and Waltons that Wycombe had a public hall, trolley waiting station, picnic grove, office for the first office of the Wycombe Herald Newspaper. The Copes, Thompsons, and Waltons did more than construct buildings. They made general improvements to the village such as laying of macadam walks, planting trees, constructing community water systems, and grading of roads. It is no coincidence that the rapid development of the village came to a close in 1916, the year John C. Walton died and Emma Cope's estate was settled. Despite continued small scale building around periphery of the village Wycombe remains an intact representation of a turn-of-the century village.
Wycombe is a rural village with modest late Victorian homes, primarily two-and-one-half story of frame, set on spacious wooded lots or adjacent a planted allee of trees bordering the street. It is a village of transitional architecture, representing Queen Anne and Victorian Gothic styles tempered by the upcoming American Foursquare and Colonial Revival period. Many of the homes have the Victorian traits of asymmetrical facades and floorplans, patterned shingles and steep roofs, but in a number of cases, one or more of these traits are matched with squarish floorplans, hipped roofs with matching hipped dormers and porches, gambrel roofs, modified Palladian windows and double windows or porches with classic or Georgian motifs. The bungalow style is evident in buildings towards the fringes of the district, c. 1920's. Novelty windows of diamond, round or tripartite shapes are often found in the gables. Victorian gingerbread is modest, if it is used at all.
The subtlety of Victorian elements in Wycombe's architecture is due primarily to the time of the arrival of the railroad -- the town's impetus for growth. The majority of construction in the town took place after 1891 when the Victorian era was waning. Coupled with the fact that the buildings were located in a rather conservative, mostly Quaker, agricultural region, gingerbread decorations and fanciful plans were abandoned readily to the simplicity of the American Foursquare and traditionality of the Colonial Revival.
Wycombe is a village in contrast to the other villages, development patterns and general architectural norms of the central Bucks region. Rural villages in this area grew up after the Revolution, primarily between 1820 and 1850. In this latter time period, no buildings were built in Wycombe and from the mid-1780's to 1891 only three houses were constructed or added to: The Carver/Slack House, the Thomas Atkinson and the Miller's House "1868" (possibly c. 1743). The preferred building material of the region was fieldstone, and later quarried stone and brick. Wycombe's primary construction is of frame, even for significant or public buildings such as the church, the hotel, the train station, the feed mill, the post office and the town hall. With two exceptions, the Warner C. Thompson Mansion and the Nellie T. Cooper House, the stone buildings either predate 1891 or were designed by Oscar Martin, early 20th century Doylestown architect.
Part of Wycombe's architectural significance is based on the above mentioned Oscar Martin. Martin, active from 1896 to 1942, was a talented architect in the central Bucks region designing private homes and engineering county bridges. His buildings often are very square and substantial, almost always of brick or stone. He commonly used a hip roof with a moderate to heavy cornice overhang and distinguished many of his structures with curvilinear cross gables, such as the Albert S. Worthington House. Four structures, including the Worthington House, in Wycombe can be documented as designed by Oscar Martin: the stone-arch bridge, 1905 (adjacent, the Edward Kirk House, 1911, and the Wycombe Independent Schoolhouse, 1913). The stone-arch bridge, commissioned by the county, is designed in a very traditional manner, quite similar to bridges built c. 1800, although the arches are segmental and not semi-circular. The schoolhouse is also of stone with many Colonial Revival motifs. Both the Kirk and the Worthington houses are of brick, with the Kirk house following mostly Colonial motifs and the Worthington house exhibiting Spanish Revival influences.
Martin's popularity with the well-to-do of Wycombe can be attributed to his quality, traditional style, incorporating tasteful architectural details onto a substantial, masonry, rectangular core with symmetrical fenestration. What is not evident of Martin's style in Wycombe is his sue of Arts and Crafts and Wrightian features seen on his work in the more cosmopolitan Doylestown. It appears that Wycombe village had already developed an architectural tradition and that Martin adapted is versatility to the "Wycombe style." By the same token, Martin introduced an educated and classic approach to the prevailing casual building manner.
Wycombe's "sister" village of Ivyland offers a contrast in development patterns of small towns planned and built as the result of the construction of the railroad line. On the same line as Wycombe, Ivyland was reached by the railroad in time for the Philadelphia Centennial celebration, c. 1874, and was planned to be a resort community for the many tourists wishing to escape the crowds and heat of the city. Developed on existing early farmsteads, the town was laid out in a distinct grid pattern with the large hotel as the central an architecturally dominant feature. While the patronage of Philadelphia tourists never materialized, Ivyland continued to develop on the established grid as a primarily residential community with services and businesses spread throughout. Wycombe, in contrast, began on previously established transportation routes and developed in a very random pattern, with no two roads paralleling each other. For the most part, the services and businesses in Wycombe hovered close to the railroad tracks which became somewhat of a town core. Ironically, while Wycombe did serve as a tourist community, the hotel is neither large nor architecturally distinct. The open lot on the corner of Park Avenue and the Mill Creek passing through the village add to the casualness of development and contrast with Ivyland's more regimented spacing of buildings.