The historic village of Carversville is located in Solebury Township around the intersection of Aquetong, Carversville, and Fleecy Dale Roads.
The Carversville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Carversville is a small rural, residential village in Solebury Township, Bucks County. The architectural character of the 18th and 19th century homes bordering its two main streets, each paralleling a stream produces a quiet village of the nineteenth century rapidly disappearing from the American scene. The historic district encompasses practically all of this unbounded village.
More precisely, the village envelops the convergence of Carversville and Fleecy Dale Roads; Aquetong and Pipersville Roads; and Stover Mill Road. It lies in a valley formed by the three forks of the Paunacussing Creek. The north fork flows northeastward and parallels Carversville Road. The middle fork flows eastward and drains the area of Sawmill Road. The south fork flows northward parallel to Aquetong Road. The three meet near the center of the village, whence the main stream journeys for the further two miles to the Delaware River.
Bucks County was established in 1682 on large tracts of land mapped and granted by William Penn to certain English settlers, as well as to other Englishmen who never came to America. Many tracts were, in turn, soon sold off in smaller parcels. The site of Carversville, originally within a 5000 acre tract granted to James Harrison, Penn's Commissioner, is partly within the Randal Blackshaw tract of 500 acres — bounded by Aquetong Road and that part of the Plumstead Township line paralleling Carversville Road; and the Upper Pike tract of 400 acres – bounded by Aquetong Road and that part of the Plumstead Township line paralleling Fleecy Dale Road.
In Bucks County's earliest years the only settlement at the present site of Carversville was an Indian village reportedly located on the hilly rise on the west side of the Paunacussing Creek's north fork. Legend has it that the local area that is now Carversville was first known as "Indian Village." The fertility of Bucks County's soils soon brought farmers to the area, and by the early years of the 18th century there was much development of the agricultural potential in Solebury, Buckingham and Plumstead Townships. While the earliest settlers used bridle paths to travel from one place to another, clear evidence of development is always demonstrated by the creation of roads. The oldest area highway, dating from 1702, is Street Road – one mile northwest of Carversville, and a boundary between Buckingham and Solebury Townships. "Suggin" (now Sugan) Road is the oldest in Solebury Township and, starting right in the heart of what is now Carversville, was laid out and used by farmers in the Paunacussing Valley and adjacent Plumstead Township to take their grain to the Aquetong Mill near New Hope. By 1730 there was also a road from Lumberville (on the Delaware River) to the Barcroft Mill, located in the center of what is now Carversville. By 1785 there was a road from Kugler's Mill in Lumberton (below Lumberville on the Delaware River) to Carversville, still known as "Indian Village," but soon to be called "Milltown," and later, "Milton."
Thus the pattern throughout the 18th century for this immediate area was one of slow but steady agricultural development, with settlers mostly Quakers establishing their farmlands and their mills at intervals along local waterways to serve their expanding needs. As "Carversville" had the Paunacussing Creek, mills were built along its banks, and roads were laid out to reach them. Within the area of the present Historic District was the above mentioned Barcroft Mill, the land for which was sold prior to 1730 by Nehemiah Blackshaw to John Hough and Ambrose Barcroft. The existence of this mill in 1730 is evidenced by the owner's petition in March, 1730 for a road to the mill, "lately erected." This mill still stands, and is currently the residence and studio of Raymond Granville Barger, sculptor.
Also within the Historic District is the site of another 18th century mill (now razed) which was built on the main stream of the Paunacussing along Fleecy Dale Road, below the confluence of the three forks. The mill house has been faithfully preserved and is now the home of James Cullen. In the early 1800's today's Carversville was known as Milton and was slowly working its way onto the map. In 1804 "The Pennsylvania Correspondent" helpfully reported that papers would be left for subscribers "at Israel Child's shop in Milton." A later issue noted that they would be left "at Carver's Mill shop." In 1813 Isaac Pickering opened a tavern, and Milton was emerging as a regional center. But no building boom yet, for Gordon's "Gazetteer of Pennsylvania" reported in 1832 that Milton had "six or eight houses, a tavern, a store and a grist mill." With one or two possible exceptions, these structures are still standing in an excellent state of preservation and in residential use.
Federal recognition of Milton as a center of significance came in 1833 when a post office was established. Since there was already another Milton in Pennsylvania with a post office, the local Milton, being the newcomer, was renamed Carversville, after George Carver, the first postmaster.
The spiritual life of the community was given its first focal point in 1832 when a small group not associated with the Society of Friends formed a "Christian Society." They met at a number of locations prior to erecting a meeting house on the site of the present Carversville Christian Church. While this "Christian Society" was Protestant in composition, the house of worship was called "The Free Christian Meeting House," and its charter made particular provision for the use of the church house by any other group of Christians who applied. A growing congregation brought about the demolition of the first meeting house and the erection of the present church structure in 1866, which was called then as now the Carversville Christian Church.
In 1873 a small, stone Presbyterian church was built on Aquetong Road about 500 feet east of the Christian church. It was active until about 1933. Its exterior architecture unchanged, it is now the home of the Fred Clark Art Museum. The years 1840-1875 represent the period of Carversville's greatest growth, approximately one half of the present structures having been built within that span of years. It coincided with a period of growing commercial activity that prompted Carversville to offer such enterprises as a tannery, a saw mill, grist mills, a wheelwright shop, a cobbler and a carriage shop; plus a hotel, a tavern and several retail stores. Clearly the village was the commercial center of the area.
In 1859 a preparatory school, the Excelsior Normal Institute, was built on a bluff to the north overlooking the village. It flourished in its earlier years, and matriculated over 1000 students in its career and in 1877 it closed.
The character of the village and the general level of activity that had been generated in the post Civil War era was more or less maintained through the first quarter of the 20th century. New construction in this period was all but nonexistent. Then, following the close of World War II, the early effects of the burgeoning automobile era began to exert a subtle influence. A gradual decline in commercial activity had its beginnings, and during the ensuing 25 years a number of the works and shops phased out — largely those that had been engaged in servicing area agricultural and livestock interests. For the most part, these small businesses had been carried on within residential structures or in barns or other out-buildings. In many respects they were just a cut or two above the level of what today would be characterized as cottage industries. As they gradually disappeared, most of the areas they had utilized were converted to residential use, and the village took on a steadily increasing "residential only" character. At the present time, the only commercial activity is in the immediate area of the "village square," and comprises two cabinet maker's shops, the 1813 hotel housing a small, gourmet restaurant, two antique shops and a custom blender of pipe tobaccos.
† Alvin S. Roberts, Historic Carversville Society, Carversville Historic District, Solebury Township, Bucks County, PA, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
School District: New Hope-Solebury