Point Pleasant is located at the intersection of River Road (Route 32), Danborough-Point Pleasant Pike, and Tohickon Hill Road and lies at the confluence of the Tohickon Creek and Delaware River with portions lying in both Plumstead Township and Tinicum Township.
The District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September, 1989. A portion of the content on this web page was adapted from a copy of the original nomination presented to the Department of Interior. Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Point Pleasant Historic District illustrates the village's local significance as an 18th and 19th century commercial and transportation center and a fishing and summer resort area in the late 19th and early 20th century. The contributing buildings within the historic district form a worthy collection of vernacular architecture from its historic canal period into its early 20th century summer resort era. In addition, the Point Pleasant Historic District has had few intrusions to affect the placement, scale, and relationship of buildings and structures from its period of significance.
Point Pleasant was locally important as a commercial and transportation center for the surrounding agricultural community and for traffic up and down the Delaware River. The village actually represents two important early settlements along the Delaware River located on opposite sides of the Tohickon Creek. Several hundred yards to the south of Tohickon Creek, in Plumstead Township, a ferry crossing the Delaware was established in 1739 which provided the initial impetus for development of the village. This ferry was the second oldest ferry on the Delaware River north of New Hope and operated until circa 1835 when the Lumberville Bridge was opened for travel. The Point Pleasant ferry crossing was at an eddy in the river which became known as Black's Eddy. By the late 18th/early 19th century a fishery was developed and a tavern was built near the ferry crossing. The area was later known as Lower Black's Eddy to differentiate it from Upper Black's Eddy located approximately 10 miles north in Bridgeton Township.
Lower Black's Eddy was a center for rafting activities beginning in the 18th century. The large and powerful eddy at the south end of the village made the site a natural stopping point. According to C.P. Yoder, the Lower Black's Eddy tavern (now Mountainside Restaurant) in the days of rafting was a favorite stopping place for Philadelphia lumber buyers who came up the river to bargain with the raft captains. Records for the 1860 and 1870 census indicate that river related occupations such as pilot, boatman or boat builder reached their peak at this time in the area of Point Pleasant.
The second settlement from which Point Pleasant developed was located in Tinicum Township at the confluence of the Tohickon Creek and the Delaware River where a late 18th century grist and saw mill were established. This northern portion of the village also developed around another 18th century fishery on the Delaware known as the Cave Bank Fishery. A tavern was constructed near the fishery by the late 18th century.
The area north of Tohickon Creek in Tinicum Township experienced a period of development in the late 1820's. During that period several small lots located between the grist mill and Cave Bank tavern were sold and a general store, post office, and artisan's shops were established. As late as 1832, Black's Eddy and Point Pleasant were described as separate villages. Gordon's Gazetteer of Pennsylvania described Black's Eddy as a rapid of the Delaware River, in Plumstead Township, at which there is "a small village of 6 or 8 dwellings, a tavern, a store and post office." Point Pleasant was described as a post town of Tinicum Township on the Delaware River and on the lower road to Easton containing "8 or 10 houses, a store, and tavern.".
The commercial activities of both settlements increased in the early 19th century with the opening of the Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1831. The post office was removed from Lower Black's Eddy to the Point Pleasant side of Tohickon Creek in 1828, and the two settlements grew together during the prosperous days of early canal shipping (circa 1832-1858). Commercial opportunities also increased with completion of the Danborough and Point Pleasant turnpike and Point Pleasant Delaware Bridge in the mid 19th century. By the late 19th century, river and canal activities waned, but the town slowly developed as a fishing and summer resort area into the early 20th century.
Largely due to the opening of the Pennsylvania Canal, the two villages of Point Pleasant and Black's Eddy grew into one town known as Point Pleasant. The village underwent considerable growth becoming the largest and one of the most important canal towns north of New Hope. The topography of the site necessitated two locks, a canal basin, and an aqueduct within the village, forcing canal boats to halt. The most common ancillary canal structures were the mule stables and taverns located near the locks, the only places canal boats stopped. Thus the village became a service area for canal traffic, to both man and beast. Point Pleasant had the largest concentration of residential and commercial buildings of any river village north of New Hope for this period and into the mid-19th century. In 1832, when Point Pleasant had approximately 23 buildings, the comparable villages of Centre Bridge and Lumberville had 8 and 16 buildings respectively. In Plumstead Township another tavern was constructed and licensed by 1830. The site soon had an oyster house, store house, sawmill, limestone landing and wharf, and a blacksmith shop. By 1855 an advertisement also lists a wagon house on the property with a grain loft and stabling sufficient for 40 horses.
In the late 1830's, land along the road between Tohickon Creek and the Lower Black Eddy property was sold in small building lots which were rapidly improved. In addition to the three hotels and a general store, by 1860 there was a coach maker, blacksmith, shoemaker, and three lumber and grain merchants in the village. Rapid growth between Lower Black Eddy and Tohickon Creek effectively transformed the two settlements into a single village that went by the name of Tinicum post office, Point Pleasant. The village also expanded in a westerly direction as land to the west of River Road in Plumstead Township along Ferry Road was subdivided in building lots between 1852 and 1854.
Development in the Tinicum Township portion of Point Pleasant increased in the mid to late 1850's. A major boost to the village occurred in 1855 with the completion of a bridge over the Delaware River connecting Point Pleasant and the surrounding areas with Byram, NJ and the Belvediere Delaware Railroad and ultimately with Philadelphia. There was a railroad station at the east end of the bridge by 1860. The Belvediere Delaware Railroad had penetrated the Lehigh coal regions and had begun to replace the canal as the major method of transportation. This bridge along with the completion of the Danborough and Point Pleasant turnpike gave Doylestown and central Bucks County an improved road to the Delaware. (Danborough is located almost directly north of Doylestown in Plumstead Township, and Point Pleasant is northeast of Danborough.)
In 1859, approximately 60 acres near the bridge between River Road and the Pennsylvania Canal (north of the tavern lot 44-30-13) was subdivided into two dozen building lots. The tavern on this lot was described about this time as a large stone hotel with the Cave Bank shad fishery, coal wharf, two basins, and lime kiln. In the mid 1860's a fourth large hotel was constructed in Plumstead Township along River Road near the Tohickon Creek. According to Hersey's Business Directory and Gazetteer of Bucks County, of 1871, 21% of the occupations listed for Point Pleasant were transportation related. Another 28% were business related, and 11% were involved in milling.
Despite the growth in the area due to the bridge and the division of large land holdings, the growth was short lived. By the 1880s the increased use of railroads, improved roads, and newly constructed Delaware River bridges had begun to have an impact on the use of the Delaware Canal. During the remainder of the 19th century, canal traffic continued to drop as the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company found it in their interest to ship coal by the railroad system rather than the canal. In 1931 all traffic on the canal ceased.
With the decline of the canal, Point Pleasant remained an agricultural service village. In fact, its function as such increased because agriculture in Bucks County reached its heydey in the third quarter of the 19th century. (The number of farms and amount of improved land in Bucks County dropped after 1880.) Although by 1891 Lumberville had a larger population, Point Pleasant retained more commercial and business operations. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the main focus of commercial activity was the fisheries to the east and the argillite quarries to the west of Point Pleasant. Although shad fishing continued as an important industry through the late 19th century, by the early 1900s this industry dwindled as pollution and industrial mechanisms dramatically cut the shad harvest. However, sports fishing continued to grow as the village became a summer resort for Doylestown people. The four hotels in the village which had serviced canal traffic now served the resort clientele. Added attractions were a skating rink and dance hall which were built in 1911. The other important late 19th and early 20th century industries in the area were the quarries just west of the village. Whereas there were just a few quarrymen listed in the 1870 census, by 1900 there were two quarries in the area and quite a few men listed quarrying as their occupation. Point Pleasant has changed little since 1930 when its last great period of growth as a summer resort ended. The majority of buildings continue as residences while the commercial buildings are largely operated as such today. The most drastic change imposed on the village has been the building of the Point Pleasant Pumping Station which has been excluded from the district.
Point Pleasant Historic District is architecturally significant for its concentration of buildings of vernacular design. These buildings reflect succeeding stages of the village's development from river and canal center, to local agricultural entrepot and summer resort. A survey of the buildings within the village indicates 37% were built between 1820 and 1860; 29% were built between 1860 and 1900; and 28% were built between 1900 and 1930. Although other villages in upper Bucks County such as Upper Black Eddy and Lumberville served summer resort clientele, they did not experience the degree of bungalow or cottage building that Point Pleasant did. While much of Lumberville and Centre Bridge have become gentrified, Point Pleasant maintains its more simple and unadorned buildings. Villages such as Lumberville also contain numerous examples of vernacular architecture but tend have more examples of high style architecture intermixed with these and rarely show as broad a range of building types and periods as contained in the Point Pleasant Historic District.