Cuttalossa Valley Historic District
The Cuttalossa Valley Historic District was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright ©l 2016, The Gombach Group.
The Cuttalossa Valley Historic District is significant for its 18th and 19th century role in the development of industry; for art and its association with the artist Daniel Garber, a leader in the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement of the early 20th century, and for entertainment and recreation due to its importance in tourism that emerged in the early 20th century; and for architecture, representing 18th and 19th century local building traditions and 20th century interest in historic architecture. Today the historic resources clearly reflect the Cuttalossa Valley's role in the development of 18th and 19th century manufacturing, and later its 19th and 20th century development as an artistic and tourist destination. The relationship of the valley's natural features to development has played a crucial role in the history of the area over three centuries. The creek first provided important waterpower for mills. However, the valley's topography eventually limited building development, making it difficult to compete with other river communities. The area's natural features again shaped its role at the close of the 19th century, when tourists and artists were drawn to the Cuttalossa Valley's beauty. Today the valley remains very much as it appeared in the early 20th century, and represents the quintessential Bucks County landscape. The district's period of significance, circa 1748 to 1952, reflects the date of Armitage Mill, the earliest historic resource, through the valley's full development in the 20th century as a natural and historic destination.
Early deeds and records indicate that English Quakers settled the property encompassing the district. Between 1702 and 1704, William Penn granted large tracts of land in and around the valley to Thomas Croasdale, George White and William Beaks. These early owners most likely were land speculators who did not settle on their property. Among the earliest settlers was Henry Paxson, who is believed to have built a home just south of the valley in 1704, and whose property extended into the district. According to 19th century histories of Bucks County, the area along the southern end of the creek was a Native American community prior to 1705. Early deeds for property in the area often refer to this settlement. The name Cuttalossa is believed to have applied to this Lenape Indian site ( a portion of the site is believed to be found in the vicinity of Tax Map Parcel 41-13-43).
European development of the valley itself appears to have occurred in the 1740s and 1750s when the power of the creek was utilized to operate mills, and the Delaware River served as a major traffic corridor for the transportation of goods. Samuel Armitage, who purchased 200 acres near the intersection of Sugan and Cuttalossa roads, built the first mill along the creek circa 1748. His mill still stands today. Armitage was typical of the early Quaker settlers, who came to America from England due to religious intolerance there. Armitage also built a home near his mill along an early road; his heirs later expanded the home. Armitage's land was divided between his sons in 1801. His will provided son John "the house in which I now live in, the mill and 50 acres of land." Another son James received 150 acres of land, the remainder of Samuel's holdings in the valley.
At the opposite end of the district, where Cuttalossa Creek flows into the Delaware River, John Rose purchased 200 acres in 1741. Rose is known to have established a ferry across the Delaware prior to the Revolutionary War, probably in mid-century, when a road, now abandoned, was laid out through the north end of the valley. The road was found on the eastern hill of the valley and cut southeast over the crest of the hill well before the valley's intersection with Sugan Road. Portions of the early road are still evident today.
By the mid 18th century the north end of the valley also contained a mill. In 1758, William Skelton is believed to have built a gristmill in this area, on the original Rose land. Skelton also may have built the stone house that stands near the road. John Kugler, who established a tavern at the site, added a sawmill to this property in 1771 (no physical evidence remains today).
The first known tavern petition for the building dates from 1771, when John Kugler's tavern sign was identified in records as Rose's Ferry. Tavern records for Kugler date back to 1767, but it is unclear if the petitions are for the present site, since Kugler also operated a tavern at Howals Ferry. By the end of the late 18th century the northern end of the Cuttalossa was known as Painter's Ferry, and included 119 acres of the Rose tract, with a plantation, ferry, tavern, storehouse, grist and saw mill owned by Jacob Painter. In 1798 John Painter applied to continue operating a tavern at "Kugler's." At the time of Painter's death in 1805, the advertisement for the sale of his personal property showed the success of each of Painter's businesses and the continued importance of the area. In addition to the sale of the property and household goods, the plantation held "a large and good stock of horses, cattle and swine, a quantity of wheat rye, corn and flaxseed, by the bushel, and corn, buckwheat, and turnips in the ground, flax in the sheaf and several tons of good hay." The agricultural goods were most likely grown outside the valley and district. The operation of the saw mill along Cuttalossa Creek was also noted, where "a great quantity of yellow and white pine boards and logs, nearly two hundred new flour and pork barrels, a pair of strong timber wheels" could be found. The tavern held "a large quantity of salted hams, pickled pork and several barrels of excellent salt shad." And the ferry landing contained "a good new ferry boat," suggesting its continued significance.
By 1818, the settlement at the northern end of the Cuttalossa was known as the Camel and/or Hard Times. Its new name may have been created due to the outdated mill and tavern that was forced to compete with area mills along the nearby Paunacussing Creek as well as the Armitage mill. By this time, the village was described as consisting of two or three houses, one half of one being used as a hotel, and a grist and sawmill. By 1830, the 18th century sawmill that had prospered was in ruins. The property went through a succession of owners and was sold at sheriff's sale.
With the construction of the Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1832, the village at the creek's mouth and surrounding valley had a new opportunity to prosper. John E. Kenderdine, a millwright from Montgomery County, saw the potential of the area and became key to the development of the valley.
Kenderdine bought the tavern and surrounding mills in 1833 and soon replaced the old gristmill with a larger one and within a few years converted the tavern into a dwelling. By 1837, he built a new house for himself at the top of the hill.
Among Kenderdine's most successful enterprises was a sawmill. The construction of the canal had destroyed the old mill several years previously, but Kenderdine constructed a new mill and lumberyard at the site. Kenderdine's mill complex included a sawmill located above the falls, powered by a 20-foot diameter water wheel. Below the falls was a forebay or decking from one bank of the creek to the other, where milled lumber was stored. Another mill was found slightly upstream where ax handles were produced. A large dam was found above the ax handle mill below present day Paxson Hill Road.
With the completion of his lumber business the village was renamed Lumberton, perhaps to compete with Lumberville just upstream on the Delaware where the Paunacussing Creek is found. The lumber for which Lumberton was named came down from upstate in rafts on the Delaware River and canal boats on the canal. Milled lumber was supplied to people locally as well as customers as far as the Schuylkill River Valley. Lumberton grew with the expansion of these industries to include housing for workers, a store, tavern and post office. In 1848, an account in the Bucks County Intelligencer described business activity of the village and Kenderdine's success in the lumber business. Kenderdine's mill, it said was "being resorted to by purchasers of lumber at retail as any other point on the Delaware. The high character of the proprietor, and those he has from time to time has associated with him, for enterprise and integrity, is known far and wide and has drawn customers from a great distance."
Kenderdine's business sense and foresight helped in the development of his enterprises. In fact, he anticipated the shift from individual custom-made millwork to the factory system. Kenderdine invented machinery to speed production, including a double saw used at his mill. In 1848, the saw was described as "so hung that when one goes down the other rises, and consequently cuts twice as fast as a single saw driven at the same velocity."
In 1857, Kenderdine built a sash, blind and door factory and with his new partner, Morris L. Fell of Buckingham, that was advertised as the "Lumberton Builders Factory." This new enterprise produced panel doors, sash, shutters, blinds, mouldings, and door and window frames.
The new sash factory later was expanded to include a bone mill and phosphate factory to manufacture fertilizer. The large mill also was used for grinding flour, meal, feed and plaster; it sent kiln-dried corn meal as far away as Ireland and the West Indies.
Kenderdine's business sense was not limited to his own enterprises, but expanded to the community at large. In 1852 he was instrumental in the construction of the new road through the valley beside the stream, making it one of the easiest passes in the region-at nearly grade. Kenderdine also helped to construct the Lumberville Bridge across the Delaware, expanding trade between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Upon Kenderdine's death in 1868, his estate was sold. His property, divided into lots, was described in an advertisement in November 1868. The first lot included one acre and a newly constructed three-story mansion house called Laurelton. The second encompassed 11 1/2 acres and the sash factory and bone mill. The buildings on this lot included a two story, 20 by 55 foot frame sash and planing mill with a two-story frame wing measuring 31 feet square; a frame bone mill; a drying house built of stone and frame for seasoning lumber; a new barn and stable; a tenant house and stable; and an unoccupied water power and mill with a fall of 30 feet. A third lot on 11 acres near the Delaware River included Kenderdine's merchant, grist and plaster mill with a good wharf on the canal. The mill was a large four-story stone building, substantially built and measuring 80 by 60 feet with four run of stones, two flour bolts, a new frame store house attached and measuring 18 by 22 feet, and a carriage house. The lot also included excellent openings for quarries adjoining the canal. A fourth lot contained a lumberyard, coal yard and sawmill with five acres. The sawmill measured 24 by 70 feet, and the parcel included two large stone dwellings, a frame counting house, a frame barn containing stabling for 16 horses, and wagon house attached and a valuable stone quarry already opened. The quarry was most likely found on the property just south of the district, now a substantial modern quarry site. Other property included a wood lot and a one-acre orchard.
With the construction of the valley road, a new mill for the sawing of railroad ties was constructed about midway along the valley. This mill, built in 1854 by R. Lear, was later known as the Lear Large mill and included a miller's house or dwelling and a saw mill with aqueduct. The new road, avoiding the steep valley walls, made it possible for ox teams to transport the ties to nearby Doylestown, the county seat and nearest Pennsylvania railroad station.
The Cuttalossa Valley was ideal for the mill industry. The creek, descending gradually to the Delaware River, with ample force, is fed by small tributaries along the route. The topography, with its steep hills, made it ideal for the construction of dams and its relatively wide valley floor made it possible for the construction of mill races. By the mid 1800s five mills operated along Cuttalossa Creek.
Other industry developed and prospered in the valley especially with the construction of the canal in the 1830s and the Belvidere and Delaware Railroad on the river's east (New Jersey) bank later in the 19th century. Previously, the quarry industry had been carried on upon a small scale in the area. Kenderdine's land was known to hold the best deposits of building stone in the region, and upon his death the new owner of this portion expanded the operation. An 1872 account of the quarry industry provides a historic background of the industry in the last half of the century. The stone, known as Stockton sandstone, was cut and transported by canal boat to Philadelphia and New York where it was used to front "brownstone" houses. Stone from the site was used to build the Reading Railroad Terminal in Philadelphia and the old Bucks County Courthouse.
Belgian block was also quarried to supply cut stone for city paving of city streets. Although the quarry was found outside the district, at its peak, it employed 200 stonecutters, many of who lived in the district just west of the present quarry along the old ferry road, including the childhood home of Zebulon Pike (of Pike's Peak fame). Foundations for several of these homes exist today. In 1883 a tramway was erected over the canal and river to ferry tons of stone to the railroad along the New Jersey bank of the Delaware. Stone foundations, possibly remnants of the tramway and staging area are still visible today.
In 1873 historian William Buck described the Cuttalossa: "So copious in its brief course is the supply of its pure cold water that the Cuttalossa furnishes power for the propelling of two grist mills, two saw mills and a bone mill and phosphate factory. As the descent is ample, considerable more power could be furnished. It may be said that in its course to pass through some thirteen farms, and standing within fifty yards of its banks, omitting the mills and manufacturing establishments are twelve dwelling houses, and within half a mile's distance of its course a total number of 26, with a population that may be fairly estimated at about 160 persons." Today one mill and remnants of all the mills Buck described can still be found. Likewise of the 12 dwellings identified, eight are extant in the district today.
By the last quarter of the 19th century, the industry that helped develop the valley slowly died. Competition from other mills and the development of railroad in other areas made other locations more desirable. The mill industry was also dealt a defeat by nature. Although floods had previously affected the mill industry along the Cuttalossa, they were usually rebuilt. However, in 1885 a devastating flood destroyed or severely damaged each mill, as well as their millpond dams and raceways. A smaller flood in 1896 was a crowning blow, ending the industry in the valley.
By the 1870s, a new industry was emerging in Bucks County tourism. The Cuttalossa Valley was also well known as an attraction due to its natural beauty, and historic buildings. William Buck, in a newspaper series and later published pamphlet, "The Cuttalossa", writes:
The Cuttalossa contains just a sufficiency of mills and selling houses to give interest and variety, but not to spoil its natural charms or to mar its solitude ... If the stranger or traveler desires to visit it, say from Easton, Philadelphia, Trenton or intermediate stations. It can now be best done by the Belvidere Delaware railroad, getting off at Raven Rock station, crossing the Delaware by the bridge at Lumberville. At this place is the nearest and only hotel. From said village proceeding down the River road, the distance to the mouth of the Cuttalossa is a short mile .... To the lover of nature we would say-whether it be the artist, the geologist, the botanist or the antiquary, and these are not few nowadays, that within the hills that environ Cuttalossa a feast awaits you- we regret to say that before the publication of this work in 1873 was only too little known.
Numerous poems were written about the valley as early as the 1840s, and noted poet John Greenleaf Whittier was among those drawn to the valley. Whittier spent time in the valley in 1840 residing at a nearby Armitage family home, and revisited the valley several times later in the 19th century. By the 1870s an association of residents formed a poets' association and designated a large rock along the creek "Poet's Rock" (located on Tax Map Parcel 41-02-111-2).
The natural beauty of the creek and valley brought about new improvements to the area. A fountain was built by John Kenderdine about 1854 at a spring along the new valley road he helped to build. A pipe and stone surround remain today at the location of this early structure. In 1873, a more elaborate fountain, now gone, was added by placing a pipe from the spring beneath the road. The pipe led to a marble fountain with a boy figure holding a vase. The new fountain was completed by local residents who sought to enhance an area already known for its solitude and natural beauty.
Artists came to the valley, drawn by its solitude and beauty. In 1907 the Bucks County artist Daniel Garber purchased the Watson Kenderdine property, where he lived and worked until his death in 1958. The barn was converted into his studio, where Garber completed the majority of his work. During his residency, Garber became one of the country's most important 20th century impressionist painters and, along with Edward Redfield and other artists known as the New Hope group, is credited with giving the Pennsylvania impressionists national recognition.
Interest in the area's physical beauty and the national recognition of the New Hope artists in the 1920s helped spur national interest in Bucks County and in turn, the Cuttalossa Valley. By the 1920s this movement was fueled by celebrities including members of the New York theater and literary worlds who also sought out refuge in the county. Pulitzer prize winners George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart along with Pearl S. Buck, Oscar Hammerstein, Dorothy Parker, Katherine Porter, S. J. Perelman and Jean Toomer were among the most famous drawn to Bucks County.
Actual construction in the Cuttalossa Valley slowed in the early 20th century. New construction during the first half of the century echoed the interest in history, nature and tourism. Only a handful of buildings, including picturesque outbuildings on the Garber property, were constructed. By the 1960s Bucks County's role as a haven of New York elite waned, and much of the county gradually fell victim to suburban development. With increased development pressures in the late 20th century, the area surrounding the valley began to be developed with large suburban homes. In recent years the valley's future as a scenic and historic area has been secured due to conservation easements placed on large adjoining parcels.
The development of the valley initially for industrial purposes was not unusual for Bucks County. Throughout the early 18th century large tracts of land in southeastern Pennsylvania had been designated as possible industrial sites by the proprietors, their agents or later owners. Land with mineral deposits, water power, and or important transportation access were highly valued and often sold for speculation. Eventually mills, quarries and landing areas were established as settlers began to develop the surrounding land.
Overall the industrial development of the Cuttalossa Valley was typical of patterns found throughout Bucks County. Steady agricultural development of central Bucks County brought about the need for grist mills at intervals along local waterways to serve their expanding needs. A network of roads was established serving the mills and farming community. Road petitions to the county suggest that access to mills was a primary reason for public road construction. Grist mills for farmers were followed in the 19th century by a large increase in lumber mills. The river served as the major transportation route to larger markets by the early 19th century, enabling mills and quarries to expand their markets to Philadelphia. The construction of the canal in the 1830s enhanced the competitiveness of mills and quarries along the Delaware. Subsequently the construction of bridges to access markets north, and the coming of the railroad, helped define and concentrate the county's industrial and transportation centers, as well as slow or halt development of 18th and early 19th century areas. The Cuttalossa Valley fits into this development pattern. The Armitage Mill served as a regional grist mill for farmers, followed by lumber mills in the 19th century. The valley's location near the Delaware River and canal spurred development. Its distance from a railroad line and the bridge at Lumberville eventually made the valley lag behind neighboring mill centers with easier access to major transportation links.
Several communities in Solebury Township along the Delaware River developed in a similar manner in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Carversville, located several miles north of the Cuttalossa Valley, was also an important industrial area. The agricultural community surrounding Carversville was served by the Bancroft grist mill established in the 1730s. At Carversville, a large creek, the Panncussing, provided the mill's power, and by the late 1800s it was joined by a tannery, saw mill, other grist mills, a wheelwright shop, a cobbler and a carriage shop. Lumberville, a saw mill community located along the Delaware a mile north of the Cuttalossa Valley and downstream from Carversville, developed around the same time as the Cuttalossa Valley. Like the Valley, Lumberville had a ferry landing and the nearby creek provided the necessary water power to sustain saw mills. The establishment of roads to the mills and landing helped make Lumberville and its mills successful. The establishment of the canal in 1832 fostered growth of the area and its industrial base, as at Lumberton. The mills at Lumberville were major competition for the Kenderdine mills in the 19th century, and the importance of the saw mills for both towns is evident in the selection of their names. The topography of Lumberville, a much broader area along the Delaware, and the successful building of a bridge across the river, helped Lumberville to overshadow the Cuttalossa Valley. Unlike the Cuttalossa Valley, where only a handful of houses were constructed, at Lumberville a village of several dozen houses and businesses developed by the mid 19th century due to the bridge and the area's relatively flat topography along the river. Like Lumberton, Lumberville also was overshadowed by larger transportation centers including New Hope and Doylestown.
Tourism in the area around the valley and Bucks County in general began as early as 1870. Like other areas along the Delaware River, the Cuttalossa Valley was well known as an attraction due to its natural beauty and historic buildings. Bucks County's location between New York and Philadelphia, its wealth of historic buildings and vast countryside made it an ideal site for excursions. The Cuttalossa Valley however was unusual in its role as a tourism destination. Unlike other areas in the county, such as Ivyland that developed as a village resort with Victorian architecture, or New Hope a ferry landing and village center, the valley held few buildings. Tourists visited the valley precisely due to its solitude and scenic beauty. Its location near small villages made it an ideal day trip. Few resources where constructed as a direct result of the tourists trade. A fountain was built in 1873 along the valley road. A pipe and stone surround associated with the fountain remain today. The Garber outbuildings, circa 1930, were designed to enhance the area's rural character and in turned helped continue the valley's role as a scenic destination. Only one small cottage was constructed in the 1920s along Cuttalossa (TMP 41-002-113-001). The post office however was converted into the Cuttalossa Inn in the early 20th century serving as an artist's retreat and tourist haven (TMP 41-07-14).
Uhlerstown Historic District in Tinicum Township, Bucks County, is one of the few natural areas that drew tourists. Uhlerstown was "discovered" in the 1920s as a rural retreat. Like Cuttalossa, Uhlertown is distinguished by its topography and landscape. In Uhlerstown, resources are located on a wide river flat which ends abruptly against towering palisades. By 1937 Uhlerstown was reported to have about one third of its population summer or part-time residents from the large cities. The Delaware River also appears to have been a draw for tourism in the 20th century. Several river towns including Point Pleasant and Erwinna hold concentrations of vacation cottages and tourist lodging facilities. Uhlerstown and these communities, unlike Cuttalossa Valley, appears to have developed during this period with bungalow construction for summer residents, rather than remain a strictly scenic destination as found in the district.
The importance of the district for its association with art, specifically the artist Daniel Garber, also relates directly to an interest in natural beauty. Central Bucks County became a destination for artists of all kind, such as poets, writers, actors, and musicians, who sought permanently or temporarily refuge from city life. Visitors from New York City and Philadelphia were drawn to the area seeking a healthy environment. Bucks County also offered scenic beauty, old stone houses, and peace and quiet.
Daniel Garber, born in 1880 in Indiana, came east to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1904 won the Academy's Cresson award to study in Paris. His schooling in France inspired his style of representing natural light with a variety of pastel colors. In 1909 he accepted a teaching position at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he remained for 40 years. In association with other area artists, Garber was part of the New Hope Group that exhibited together across the country in 1916 and 1917. Today Garber is best known for his landscapes of Bucks County woods and quarries, with the Cuttalossa Valley landscape heavily featured. Garber also achieved recognition as a portraitist. Among his most famous work is a portrait of his wife Mary (May), titled The Studio, painted at Cuttalossa. Other artists followed Garber to Bucks County including William Francis Taylor. Taylor played a key role in the formation of an artist's community at Phillips Mill. He met artist Mary Symth Perkins in 1909 and soon after married her. The couple moved to Cuttalossa where they operated the Cuttalossa Inn and continued to paint.
Daniel Garber, however, stands out as one of three prominent members of the group that came to be known as the Pennsylvania School of Landscape painting. Along with Edward Redfield and William Lathrop, Garber helped to establish a realistic style that brought Bucks County national recognition. By the 1920s the draw of artists to the county was nationally known, and the village of New Hope became the center of a flourishing art colony. This art colony spread among the farms and small villages in central Bucks County by the 1930s. Cuttalossa became the symbol of Garber's work and is symbolic of the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement as a whole. Its spirit, form and landscape are found in the works of dozens of prominent 20th century artists.
Several other areas in Bucks County were artist destinations. The Centre Bridge Historic District, located only a few miles south of Cuttalossa Creek, was an artists haven and perhaps the area's most visible. Unlike the Cuttalossa Valley that remained a quiet destination for solitude and reflection, the artist colony at Center Bridge was focused around the inn at the village's core. Artist Edward Redfield resided here and was among the village's major draws.
Perhaps a closer comparison due to its size is found further south at Phillip's Mill. Phillip's Mill Historic District is known as the home of artist, William Lathrop. Like Garber Lathrop converted the old buildings at the site for use as his home and studio. Today Phillip's Mill, like Cuttalossa Valley, has a collection of quaint historic buildings with early 20th century additions that were constructed to enhance the historic architecture and to evoke the past. Each of these artist havens have striking similarities in location-- on or within walking distance of the canal and river, and are filled with historic industrial buildings and ruins, scenic beauty, woodland, creeks and falls which are captured in the artists' work and which have become internationally known as the quintessential Bucks County landscape.
Architecturally the Cuttalossa Valley Historic District reflects the common building practices and architectural styles found throughout Bucks County. Early buildings such as the Hard Times Tavern were largely constructed of stone with single pile plans and lateral additions. Later buildings employ local materials and plans with elements of styles nationally favored during the mid to late 19th century, such as the Watson Kenderdine/Daniel Garber House with its stone single pile plan and Greek Revival elements. The Cuttalossa Valley Historic District has a variety of building types that were once common but now relatively rare in the region. Among these is the Armitage Mill constructed along a main with massive stone walls.
The Carversville Historic District has similar buildings, including the large stone Bancroft Mill, rebuilt in the mid 19th century along the Pannacussing Creek at the center of the village. Early dwellings are similar to those found in the subject district, constructed of stone with single pile plans, gable roofs and lateral additions. The building along Sugan Road at the south end of the district is a 2 1/2 story 4 bay wide stone house with lateral frame addition. It is similar in appearance and scale to the dwellings in Cuttalossa Valley Historic District also along Sugan Road and common throughout the county. Many early buildings in this district are bank houses, such as the original tannery with Federal windows. This building is reminiscent of Hill House in its form and massing.
Buildings in the Lumberville Historic District are similar in form and style, but are largely of frame construction. The vernacular Greek Revival, and Italianate Revival houses dominate Lumberville, where windows or porch detailing dictate the architectural mode. Similar details are found in dwellings in the Cuttalossa Valley Historic District.
Twentieth century architecture in the district reflects a national trend in evoking past styles. At Cuttalossa, several buildings were constructed to capture rural life and the history of the mill industry. The buildings across from Daniel Garber's studio were designed in this manner, including the sheep cote and old mill constructed with native materials and quaint characteristics.
At Phillip's Mill, similar alterations and new buildings constructed in the early 20th century, tended to evoke the past, particular Bucks County's rural character, employing local materials and colonial or cottage forms.
The Cuttalossa Valley Historic District differs from each of these districts in its number of diverse resources, in particular its ruins and remains of its industrial buildings. At Cuttalossa, unlike other areas, the natural environment also helped to dictate the location of resources creating a unique Bucks County community.
School District: New Hope-Solebury