The Lumberville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
Lumberville is a typical one industry mill village of the 19th century. It demonstrates the influence of the Industrial Revolution. The commercial life of the village flourished over a long period. Not only were raw and finished lumber shipped in and out on the River, but a great deal of coal and limestone were shipped via the canal. The village has retained its integrity, its appearance is unchanged, and it remains a community of houses surrounding the continuing lumber business and the old inn which was started in the 1700's.
The birthplace of the luminist artist Martin Johnson Heade, in the early 1900's it became a haven for various artists and writers who came to Lumberville to enjoy the quiet, bucolic atmosphere so necessary to successful creative work.
Probably the last village in the township to be settled, it was part of 5000 acres granted by William Penn to 3 English speculators. Cutler's re-survey map of 1703 shows it as vacant land. In 1723 it was acquired by 11 men who planned to explore for minerals (hence the early name "The Mine Tract") but no mine was ever opened and it was not until 1775 that part of the land was acquired by the Revolutionary War hero Col. George Wall, Jr. who in 1782 was taxed on a plantation of 233 acres, 4 horses, 3 cattle, 15 sheep. He established 2 saw mills and a grist mill, a general store and a school for surveyors. The village was known at that time as Wall's Landing, as well as Wall's Saw Mills.
George Wall's account books indicate a prosperous businessman. They list countless pages of rafts which had come down the Delaware from Northern Pennsylvania and New York, stating the number and kinds of logs, the names of the owners and the buyers of the logs and finished boards, the re-rafting of the surplus logs, the price paid and the cost of custom sawing.
Times were changing rapidly; although specie was no longer as scarce as it had been, the continuing use of credit was the downfall of many a businessman. After Wall's death in 1803 the mills changed hands frequently. In 1815 one was owned by W. & J. Dilworth and the other by Jonathan Heed and Samuel Hartley who re-named the village Lumberville. When Samuel Hartley's will was probated in 1832 the assets amounted to $4677.61, but debts reduced his estate to $374.85 and his widow's share was only $124.95. This demonstrates the general state of the local economy at that time.
When the Delaware Division Canal came through in the 1830's some buildings were moved, as the River Road was used for the bed of the canal and even today a few houses face the canal rather than the road. Wall's mills, his house and store were taken down but the business continued, changing hands often. Lukens Thomas, the owner in 1856, erected a steam planing mill and sash factory on the site of Wall's mill, office and dwelling. Part of the old Dilworth mill on the site of Wall's mill, still exists and is used for storage. Thomas' mill was powered by water and prospered, enabling him to build a handsome mansion (#41-5-17). Finally, in 1873, the property was acquired by William Tinsman who later abandoned the mill but continued the lumber business. It is still a flourishing business, owned by the Tinsmans. The changing lumber market revolutionized the building industry; new machinery came into use and no longer did joiners buy boards and build window and door frames, etc. These components were now made at the mill and any carpenter could erect a house.
The old inn, (#41-5-37) which because of the good fishing in the Delaware River at this point, has been called the Black Bass for many years, was established in the 1700's, before the days of tavern licenses. The earliest license application for this property is dated November 28, 1808 and states "the house formerly occupied by Wm. Closson as a house of public entertainment, now occupied by Geo. Wall." The first reference to William Closson is in George Wall's day book, on April 14, 1796, when he rented his saw mill to William Closson and John Goucher. The inn has a long history of serving the common man, travelers on the canal, the river and the River Road, bargemen and also sportsmen who came to the area to enjoy the fishing. According to the Inn's records, among the latter was Grover Cleveland.
Gordon's Gazetteer of 1803 describes Lumberville as "a considerable market for lumber," having 12-14 houses, a tavern, 2 stores and a mill. The traffic on the canal brought in transients as well as settlers and a number of new houses were built at this time. Boyd's Business Directory of Bucks County, dated 1860, lists a lumber dealer, 3 stone masons, 2 milliners, a millwright, a surveyor-engineer, a tinsmith, a shoemaker and a carpenter. The 1872-73 issue of S. Hersey's Bucks County Directory & Gazetteer mentions 2 hotels, 2 stores, a number of shops, 2 lumber mills and 50 dwellings as well as a covered bridge connecting the village with the Belvidere & Delaware RR at Red Rock, NJ. The bridge, built in 1857, was damaged in the 1903 flood and finally taken down in 1945. With the growth of the railroads and the consequent decline of the canal, the village became less oriented toward commerce and the 1902 Bucks County Directory lists 2 mailmen, 3 clerks, a clergyman and 17 tradespeople. Today, in addition to Tinsman's thriving lumber and stone business, there are 2 hotels catering to tourists and a post office-general store. It is still the most heavily populated village in Solebury Township.
In 1832 a library was organized. Shares were sold at $5 each. Samuel Hartley was the first librarian and kept the books at his office. Ten years later the 350 volumes were sold to the public because there was no place in the village to keep so many books.
From the earliest days a small group of Quakers held services in #41-6-12. The construction and operation of the Delaware Canal, beginning in 1828, brought about a substantial influx of new settlers. The expanded community of the 1830's responded to the popular religious revival by forming a Methodist congregation. At first, members met in homes but in 1836 a church (#41-5-43) was erected by Armitage and Hartley. Here services, as well as community and political meetings were conducted, such as the one covered by the Doylestown Intelligencer on September 16, 1856, "another failure." Two correspondents have been kind enough to furnish us the particulars of the Buchanan meeting at Lumberville on Saturday evening the 6th instant. Like all other gatherings of this kind it was a complete failure. No more than 30 or 40 of the unterrified turned out. There was no lack of speakers. Joshua Beans, state representative, was permitted to deliver that speech and has since been in a better state of mind." In 1869, due to the growth in the congregation, a church (#41-5-24) was constructed across the road which still serves the community. The old building was then called Lumberville Hall. It continued to serve as a community center until the turn of the century, after which it was used as a barber shop, billiard hall and basket shop until roughly 50 years ago, when it became a private residence.
The famous luminist painter Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) was born in #41-6-16. Recognizing his talent as a child, his father Joseph C. Heed, sent him to Newtown to study with Thomas Hicks, a cousin of the primitive painter Edward Hicks. Later, his parents sent him to Italy to study further and he toured Europe. While in England he adopted the old English spelling of his name and henceforth was known as Johnson Heade. Initially, he painted portraits but his most famous works are landscapes which have increased in value to a considerable extent in the recent past. He produced many paintings of tropical flowers and hummingbirds while in South America and while there he was made a knight of the Order of the Rose by Jose Binifacio de Andrade y Sillis, the emperor of Brazil.
Early in the 20th century artists and writers, attracted by the privacy and beauty of the area, began to move into Lumberville. Daniel Garber (1880-1958), who lived in #41-6-19, was on the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia where he worked 3 days a week. His famous snow scenes were painted in and around Lumberville. He is widely represented in such galleries as the Corcoran in Washington, D.C., the Fine Arts Institute, St. Paul, MN, the Carnegie in Pittsburgh, PA, and in such cities as Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Providence, RI. He was a member of the National Academy of Design.
Fern Coppage, who lived in #41-6-12, was a student of William Lathrop and came under the influence of Edward W. Redfield as well. She was also noted for winter landscapes and exhibited with a group of women who called themselves "Ten Philadelphia Painters." Today her works are in collections throughout the country.
Clarence Johnson (1894-1981), who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he was awarded a Cresson Scholarship, lived in #41-6-10 and painted the local landscapes. He has been the recipient of many prizes.
Henry Hudson Baker, a Yale graduate who studied under Breckenridge at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA, and at the Art Student's League in New York, lived in #41-5-1 and produced many paintings of the landscapes around Lumberville. He was greatly influenced by Matisse.
Peggy Lipp Jones, who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts under Garber and at the Philadelphia School of Design in the 1920's was also influenced by Matisse. Married to a French architect, she lived in France before coming to Lumberville where she lived in #41-7-2.
Stanley L. Reckless lived in #41-5-26 for over 10 years. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and at the Julien Academy in Paris under a Cresson Scholarship in 1915. He was commissioned by the City of Philadelphia to paint portraits of Kosciusko and Pulaski, but he is perhaps best known for his winter landscapes of Bucks County, although he also painted landscapes in Mexico, Yugoslavia and South America. Reckless moved to Hollywood, California in 1930 where he painted the "movie greats" and founded the Art Center School.
Both Ben and Fay Badura studied under Garber at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and lived in Lumberville in #41-6-10, where Clarence Johnson had lived, for about 10 years. Mrs. Badura was awarded a European travel scholarship in 1925 and won many prizes and awards. Both she and her husband's works have been exhibited extensively.
Morton Tobias has lived for 20 years in #41-5-26. He has worked as a commercial artist, an impressionist under the influence of Dufy. He was art director of News Week Magazine and painted for such periodicals as Printers, Inc., Mode, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Review.
Carlton and Mildred Gordon, who lived in #41-5-26, as well as Louise Montague who lived in #41-5-42, were widely known weavers.
Sam and Bella Spewack, the playwrights, lived in #41-6-12, where Fern Coppage had also resided, where they wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning play of 1935, "Boy Meets Girl."
Charles Child was art editor of the Harvard Lampoon when a student there. He worked in many stiles and media as a commercial artist and an illustrator of children's books and poems. For over 50 years he lived in #41-2-70. His wife, Freddie, was a well known bookbinder.
Justin Herman (1907-83), film producer, writer, cartoonist, lived with his wife Alma, New Hope Librarian, in #41- 5-25-1. He produced 118 short subjects, chiefly for Paramount Pictures and received two nominations for Academy awards for outstanding achievement in the production of one reel short stories.
Today Lumberville is a secluded country village, the home of many prosperous business people, which has an atmosphere of long ago, overshadowed by the flourishing lumber company, Tinsman Brothers.
† Lumberville Historic District, Bucks County, PA, nomination document, #84003165, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
School District: New Hope-Solebury