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Fallsington


Fallsington, National Register of Historic Places, Moon-Williamson House, Falls Twp, Bucks County, PA

This nationally-registered historic district takes its name from nearby "Falls of the Delaware." Immediately surrounding the historic district is a neighborhood of residences of various ages, circa 1700's to 1990's.

"Fallsington Day" is an annual, Fall event hosted by the Historic Association. Among other events and features, tours are held of various historically-significant properties.


Following text is adapted from the original district nomination form submitted to the Department of Interior in 1971. Keep in mind that descriptions or information may no longer obtain today. Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Historic Fallsington is a "walk-through" of the architectural and social history of the Delaware Valley.

No other village in the region possesses such a concentration of old, remarkably untouched buildings on their original sites. It weaves together a fabric of architectural styles, from a log cabin of the 1680s to Victorian extravagances of the 1880s. It demonstrates "better than textbooks, lectures, and even pictures can ever do" ("Antiques", July, 1956) the lifestyle of the "ordinary" unrenowned American, over nearly three centuries.

Situated only three miles from the Delaware River, and five miles from Pennsbury, William Penn's manor house, the village was founded by Pennsylvania's earliest settlers.

The oldest house, now being restored, is a late seventeenth century log cabin which shows definite signs of the early Swedish settlers. However, the Swedes never effected a permanent settlement in this area. The first to do so were a group of English Quakers, who arrived five years before William Penn. A petition of 1680 to the Court of New York (which originally had jurisdiction for several miles across the river from "New Jersey") indicates the settlement was then called "Crewcorne", after a market town of that name in Somersetshire. It was a "seated" town; bucks County's first Court House was here, said to have been a "block house", situated just south of the tavern.

At first these pioneer Quakers held Meeting in their homes. This proved inconvenient, and in 1686 they rented the Court House, allowing the County "ten shillings for use thereof". In 1689 a committee was appointed to look into the cost of a building "25 feet by 20 feet". On Seventh month 5th, 1690, the "first-Day Meeting is ordered held in the new Meeting House", built of brick and timber; a few months later a "stable for horses" went up. This is where William Penn worshipped when he returned from London; he attended his steward's wedding here in 1701.

Most of the early information about the village and its inhabitants comes from the Minutes of the Falls Meeting. Six of the seven men who signed the first minutes of 1683 later became members of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania. The Falls Meeting House was used as a point of reference in most of the early road surveys. It was, in short, the nucleus around which the village developed. Ultimately there were to be four Meeting Houses on the six acres Samuel Burges gave for that purpose. Three are still standing.

By 1728 the first modest structure was too small. A new one was built nearby, the old one "to be used for a school." In 1758, the minutes show a stone house was ordered built for the schoolmaster. In 1768 the established land-owners pursued a real estate development scheme, in a conscious effort to foster the growth of a town; in that year the name "Fallsington" was first used on deeds.

In 1789 a still larger Meeting House went up. By 1798 the number of travelers and farmers en route to the ferries and wharves of the Delaware warranted a tavern. A general store flourished. All these buildings plus the houses of the tanner, the carpenter, the tailor, the saddler, are still in existence, their handsome exteriors virtually untouched, surrounding Meeting House Square.

In the 1790s Fallsington and the surrounding area was considered for the Federal District; but Congress voted for the Potomac over the Delaware.

In the 1820s, new houses went up in the Federal style on the five roads that radiate out from the Square; older buildings were enlarged. Two general stores did a brisk business. Smithies and mills were scattered nearby on waterways that have long since disappeared. In 1835 the Pennsylvania railroad was chartered from Morrisville to Philadelphia; at the end of the century the "Trenton cut-off" provided the village with its own passenger station for a few years.

By the middle 1700s most farms had been cleared, and the second and third generation from the original setters had prospered sufficiently in their trade with Philadelphia to build stone farm houses. In the middle and late 1800s the sixth and seventh generations were tearing down the remaining log houses to which Federal wings had been attached, and building Victorian wings on the old foundations. Two churches were built, and a library.

The twentieth century brought oblivion to Fallsington — a development which, in a sense, preserved it. Now surrounded by U.S. Steel, U.S. 1, and Levittown, "the fact that so many old buildings in nearly original condition are still standing in the midst of such a rapidly changing area is remarkable"

The following houses are considered most important, and have been registered with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:

Moon-Williamson House, a log cabin of Swedish type, currently being restored. Mr. G Edwin Brumbaugh, architect for the restoration, says: "It is possible to say that this structure is one of the most important, and we feel, one of the earliest pioneer cabins surviving in Pennsylvania ... this house could have been built in 1685...Structural features, especially original finish, could date from late seventeenth or very early eighteenth century ... We have searched for Swedish seventeenth century Delaware Valley log houses of comparable quality in vain. Two are still standing, both re-erections, with many changes, and no scholarly restoration...The result (of the restoration) will give you a unique and very valuable record, largely original, of the region's first type of construction."

Two former inhabitants are noteworthy: Samuel Moon, descendent of one of the early settlers, owned the house from 1769 to 1803. He was a well-known Windsor chair maker. (It was local custom for the father of the bride to give the new couple two Moon chairs).

Miss Mary Williamson bought the house just after the Civil War. She came to Fallsington only in the summers from Philadelphia. (She was a descendent of Dunck Williams(on) who operated the famous "Dunk's Ferry" in the seventeenth century). She brought with her orphaned girls for two-week holidays - the beginning of the Girls' Friendly Society. For them, as well as the community, she had the Episcopal Church built across the street.

Gambrel Roof House. The second Meeting House, built in 1728. Since the building belonged to the Falls Meeting until 1940, there are no old deeds or records except those found in the minutes. It cost 1000 pounds, and was enlarged in 1758 "to better accommodate our women Friends at Quarterly Meetings; may cost 50 pounds." (Since "repairing the roof" is referred to, this may indicate when the Gambrel roof was added).

From a recently discovered sampler, the building was already a thriving girls boarding school in 1802. In the later nineteenth century, it housed the Fallsington Library, and Dr. Adams' dental parlor. From 1927 to 1940 it was a Friends elementary school. In that year, it was converted into five apartments, as it is today, Now owned by Historic Fallsington, Inc., but has had no architectural research.

Burges-Lippincott House, ca. 1768. Bought by Historic Fallsington, Inc., in 1953, when the organization was formed "in a crisis" to save the lovely old house from possible ruin. For many years it served as its headquarters. Its commanding position at the end of the square, and its beautiful woodwork make it one of the focal points of the village. Its name derives from its first owner, Daniel Burges, a descendant of Samuel Burges, who gave the Meeting House land across the square; and Dr. Henry Lippincott, a much-loved family doctor, who added the southern wing for his office in the mid-nineteenth century. An 1858 map contains a sketch of the house, considered important even then.

Stagecoach Tavern, built some years before 1798, when a liquor license was granted to operate it as a tavern. The building belonged to John Merrick, a well-to-do cordwainer, whose will of 1793 tells much about the village at that time. In 1820 the Fallsington Inn Company purchased the property for $2000. An advertisement in the "Bucks County Intelligencer" of November 10, 1855, describes it this way: "Good two story Stone Tavern House...Old established stand and doing business for many years...Village handsomely situated and fast improving, surrounding country is surpassed by none, society of first order, convenient to meetings, mills, stores, mechanics, and schools..."

After the Civil War the name changed to the National Hotel. High, and commanding the square, the tavern was where itinerant circuses performed; in the basement bar prisoners were kept in detention; World War I veterans were welcomed home on the front steps of a wooden addition by the proprietress. Prohibition closed its doors, and it was sold to the Knights of the Golden Eagle. In 1934 it was turned into a hardware store, and so it remained until bought and restored by Historic Fallsington, Inc. in 1960.

Schoolmaster's House, 1758. Owned by the Falls Meeting, which had it built to house the schoolmaster, it is on a long-term lease to Historic Fallsington, Inc., which hopes to restore it when funds are available.

Miller House, ca. 1700. This house probably belonged to Samuel Burges, who gave the land for the first Meeting House, and was hired to clean it and make fires on cold days "to receive 20 shillings per annum." It is the only brick house in the village.

The Manor House, ca. 1690-1710. The large imposing addition, also of stone, was added in 1816. The property was owned in the nineteenth century by Eseck Howell, the banker for most of the community.

The Hough House and the Pleasants House, two handsome stone buildings of the eighteenth century facing Meeting House Square. In the back stand the ruins of the tannery owned by John Merrick. William Penn Center, 1789, the third Meeting House, now used as a Community Center.

Falls Monthly Meeting, 1841, the fourth Meeting House, still in use; attached to an eighteenth century stone school house.

The Terraces, a Federal frame building with one of the best locations in Fallsington; it sits high, and back from the road.

The Burlingame, Wildman, and Gade Houses: Three houses in Federal style, lined up in a row and presenting an attractive townscape.

All Saints Episcopal Church, 1876, a charming example of Gothic revival.

In addition to the above, the following have also been registered with the State:

The Wilson House, Newportville and Tyburn Roads; unresearched, but appears to be extremely old.

Gillingham Store, now Headquarters of Historic Fallsington, Inc. Modern, on old foundations.

Winder House, 10 Yardley Road. Old stone house Victorianized after a fire. Once attached to store.

Church Rectory, 15 Locust Avenue, Federal with Victorian addition, said to be built on log cabin foundations.

Barnhill's, 11 Yardley Road. Colonial with modern siding. Mentioned in Merrick's will as a store moved to the site and converted into a dwelling.

121, 127, 133 on Yardley Road. Three Federal style houses in a row.

Fallsington Library, 1878, built with a matching grant from Isaia Williamson, well-known Philadelphia philanthropist.

Stratton's, 11 Main Street, Classical Revival frame house near the Square.

Prevost's, 25 Main Street, Federal frame house of unusual proportions.

45, 51, 57 Main Street, three houses in a row, two Gothic, 1 Classical Revival.

64 Main Street, Davenport, frame Gothic Revival.

59 Locust, 89 Lower Morrisville Road, Colonial stone houses, early.

Van Sant's, 77 Lower Morrisville Road, Federal with full length pilasters.

School District: Pennsbury

See Map

Street Names: Headley Lane, Hillside Lane, Lacrosse Street, Lower Morrisville Road, Main Street, New Falls Road, Old Locust Avenue, Trenton Avenue East, Tyburn Road West, Williamson Avenue, Yardley Avenue

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