Byers Station Historic District
The Byers Station Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places inb 2002. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
Located within the rolling farmland of Upper Uwchlan Township, northern Chester County, is the Byers Station Historic District (also known as Byers Village, Byerstown, or Toddyville). The Byers Station Historic District consists of a concentration of intact buildings arranged in a linear pattern along Byers Road near its intersection with Eagle Farms Road and Senn Drive, approximately 1/4 mile east of the neighboring village of Eagle. These narrow, lightly traveled, roads intersect at the center of the Byers Station Historic District and extend into the mainly agricultural landscape surrounding the district. The Byers Station Historic District is perhaps Chester County's most intact collection of mid to late nineteenth century buildings influenced by the Italianate style. The Byers Station Historic District has 33 resources: 26 contributing buildings and 7 noncontributing buildings. The most numerous and visible resources in the district are its residences; there are 13 contributing houses and one noncontributing house. These houses are mainly end gabled, frame buildings with beveled cladding. Other significant contributing resources are a factory building, a Masonic lodge, and a former hotel (now a house on the north side of Byers Road). There are 16 outbuildings, including garages, sheds, and agricultural buildings. Ten outbuildings are contributing. The late nineteenth century village setting along Byers Road has changed little despite the loss of the adjacent railroad facilities in the 1940s and the recent construction of a small office building adjacent to the district.
The topography of Byers contributes to the Byers Station Historic District's village-like setting. From the west, Byers Road gradually descends from its intersection with Pottstown Pike (in Eagle), with a small crest in the center of the village of Byers, before descending further to the east. Surrounding the district is a varied landscape of open space, and scattered development. Within the Byers Station Historic District, several buildings in Byers sit less than 15 feet from Byers Road on small village lots, lining both sides of the road. Property lines of several lots extend north from Byers Road and curve to reflect the former location of the railroad tracks. Most resources are heavily influenced by the Italianate style. The buildings are mainly two or three stories high, three to six bays wide, with end-gabled, standing seam tin roofs. Architectural details found on many buildings throughout the village include bracketed cornices, hipped roof front porches, molded lintels, cornice returns, and symmetrical proportions.
The spacing, size, scale, and set-backs of the houses on the north side of Byers Road form the residential and architectural core of Byers, greatly contributing to its preserved, rural-village setting and appearance. There are two houses on the west side of the intersection of Byers and Eagle Farms Roads and six on the east side, forming the core of the Byers Station Historic District. (Eagle Farms Road intersects the northern side of Byers Road.) Located east of Eagle Farms Road are, from east to west, the Byers Hotel, the Emeretta C. Green House, the Todd House/The Farmers Bank of Uwchland [sic.] Building, another house once owned by Emeretta C. Green, and the A.M.F. Stiteler House. These resources are constructed on narrow, 118 to 114 acre lots, and just 10 to 15 feet from Byers Road. Their close proximity is equaled by the regularity of design, scale, and setting.
The core buildings were constructed in the early to mid-1870s and incorporate architectural elements of the Italianate style. There is a predominant use of German siding, wooden faux quoins and standing seam tin roofs supported by decorative scroll-sawn brackets. Most buildings have end-gabled roofs with exaggerated, raking cornices, pedimented gables, and partial roof returns that create a tympanum-effect under each gable. In addition, many houses have symmetrical fenestration arrangements, several of which have large, two-over-two light windows between wooden sills and lentils. Some of the taller buildings contain Greek Revival-influenced frieze-band windows, such as those found on the Eliza March House, c.1875. Virtually all Byers' houses exhibit a combination of paneled and louvered shutters, and several houses have entablatures over the windows, such as those found on the March House. Some of these features are found on the houses on the south side of Byers Road. Several contributing outbuildings exhibit similar details, or reflect the area's vernacular building traditions.
The largest and most visible building on the north side of Byers Road is the Byers Hotel, c.1874. Exhibiting many details and proportions characteristic of other houses in the row, it is a fine example of an otherwise vernacular building with Italianate style influences. The building has an L-shaped plan with ornamental quoins. Its wraparound porch rests upon columns whose capitals are located two-thirds of their height; the upper third of each column has a square dosseret-like element. The second floor windows have entablatures reminiscent of the Palazzo-style. The three-story building differs from the other resources here because of its size, its L-shape, and resulting hipped roof on the southeast portion of the building where the two sections join.
One of the more unique buildings in the Byers Station Historic District is the former Farmers Bank of Uwchland [sic.] Building, originally built by the Todd family. The c.1875, Italianate-influenced style building, in the middle of the aforementioned row of resources on the north side of Byers Road, is the smallest commercial/residential building in the Byers Station Historic District. Most resources in Byers are frame with German or clapboard siding, yet the bank building has simulated rock made of pressed tin on both its exterior and interior walls. The two-story building is three bays wide and has a wood shingled, end gabled roof. The building was originally a residence, was converted to use as a bank (1920-23), and is currently an office for a small business.
Two doors west of the bank is the A.M.E. Stiteler House, c.1872. Another large vernacular residence, the two-story, five-bay house exhibits many of the Italianate style building characteristics mentioned above. These elements include decorative wooden quoins, end-gabled, standing seam roof, and German siding. In addition, it has paneled shutters on the first floor and louvered shutters above. Across the front or south side of the house is a three-foot wide pent with a gabled hood over the center entrance. The one story, vinyl-clad additions, set back from the house, were probably added to the building's west and north sides in the mid-20th century.
On the west side of Eagle Farm Road, which enters Byers from the north, are two Italianate influenced houses. Closest to the road is the Frank March House, c.1875, a two story, three-bay building clad in dark red aluminum clapboard. The roof is an end gabled, standing seam roof with returning eaves. Like the A.M.E. Stiteler House, paneled shutters hang near the windows on the first floor while louvered shutters hang on the second floor. The windows have decorative Italianate-style influenced lintels and sills. Large square posts support a twentieth century wrap around porch on the south and east facades. A rear addition includes detailing sensitive to the original section. Next to the Frank March House is the Eliza March House, c.1875. The house features frieze band windows across its third floor. The three-bay, one room deep house also features two brick chimneys at each end, with decorative cobbled detailing.
The Butler Family Homestead is also located west of Eagle Farm Road. Originally constructed by George Downing in 1830, the late Federal-style house is 2 1/2 stories high, three bays wide, and two bays deep. A gambrel roof tops its fieldstone walls, which are clad in stucco. Its center door features a decorative fan light above. First and second story windows include 12/12 sash windows and a palladian window on third floor. A one-story wing, with Victorian style influences, is attached to east. The house faces south and commands the knoll of a gentle rise. According to the 1883 Breous Atlas of Chester County Pennsylvania, a stone barn once stood east of the house.
In contrast to the tightly spaced core area line of residences on the north side of Byers Road, the south side of the road consists of randomly spaced buildings with different styles. Moving east, the first building encountered in the Byers Station Historic District on the south side of Byers Road is the former United States Graphite Company's processing plant, c.1900. The one-story, brick and concrete industrial building is a two part building with an end gabled standing seam tin roof. Large windows and skylights provide natural light onto the factory floor. Two large metal tanks, approximately 20 feet high and 10 feet in diameter sit just south of the building. (They are considered part of the complex and are not included separately in the resource count.) Sitting approximately 100 feet off the road, the building has little impact on the residential feeling of the community. It should be noted that the building was originally longer and taller. Early photographs indicate that its eastern brick section originally had an eastern extension, and the seven bay cement section was originally two stories high. The building was altered sometime in the early to mid 20th century.
East of the factory is the Woodland House, an American Foursquare style building built in 1924. It is the only exposed stone building in the village. East of the Woodland House is the J.H. Todd house and the Mt. Pickering Masonic Lodge.
The J.H. Todd house, c.1875, is the Byers Station Historic District's most prominent, largest, and most opulent residence, designed in the Italianate style. The house is a 2 1/2 story building with several additions attached to the east end and rear (south). Clad in German siding, the frame house has ornamental quoins, detailed brackets, and ornamented frieze. Its gabled roof is punctuated by a 3-story extended dormer tower on the center of its main (north) facade. Windows on the resulting projecting bay are paired under a drip mold. Other fenestration features include a bay window with a bracketed cornice projecting from the first floor on the west side. Most windows throughout the building are two-over-two, double-hung sash windows with wooden foliated brackets above. Under the cross-axial roof, scroll-sawn brackets appear to support the cornice. The brackets are part of an exaggerated cornice and decorative fascia board. Much of the building's detailing, such as the roof returns, German siding, and quoins, are similar to those found elsewhere in the village. A large garage/carriage house is also located on the property, southeast of the house. The end gabled, two-story resource has garage bays on the first level and an apartment above. The building's sliding wooden doors and original German siding are intact.
Approximately one acre of lawn area separates the J.H. Todd house from the Mt. Pickering Masonic Lodge. The lodge was constructed in 1894. A large building when compared to other buildings in Byers, the two-story building has a front end-gabled roof, stucco walls, and rests on a random coursed, stone foundation. Four, full-length engaged buttresses on each side of the building support its walls. Between the buttresses are symmetrically spaced windows, four on each floor. Each window features a flat lintel. An extended, two-story, end gabled entrance and porch are located on the facade facing Byers Road. The Masonic Lodge seal, located over the front entrance and between the second story windows, announces the present use of the building. On the opposite end of the lodge, a two story, brick addition extends the building southward.
Just east of the Masonic Lodge are three small, two-story houses constructed between 1872 and 1876 by John Todd. The Elizabeth Todd House, constructed 1875-61 was originally built as a duplex. Later converted into a single residence, the Folk Victorian style house has two front entrance doors, an end gabled roof with large front or north facing gable, a rear shed addition, and a small "wart" addition on the west side. The S.W. Todd House, c.1872 is clad in stucco. The third residence, the John Grow House, is noncontributing due to alterations (see below).
Outbuildings in Byers Station vary greatly in age, use, size, and style. The largest outbuilding is the garage/apartment building behind the J.H. Todd house. Several outbuildings make evident unique vernacular building traditions, much of it based on agriculture. Most outbuildings are frame-constructed and clad in German siding, similar to the village's residences to which they are associated. An example of Byers' residential building traditions carried forward to the outbuildings is a barn c.1890, behind the Emeretta C. Green house. This two story, front-end gabled barn has German siding and a gabled roof that extends over the side to protect the loading door on the second floor. Another example is a shed behind the other Emeretta C. Green House. The c.1882 building features frame construction, a gabled roof, and German siding. A c.1875 privy is located behind the A.M.E. Stiteler House. The "3-seater" is still intact. Like the house, it has German siding and exaggerated faux wooden quoins. A small frame garden shed with German siding, c.1920, and a greenhouse c.1960, also sit on the property.
One of Byers Station's most visible contributing outbuildings is a two-story agricultural building, c.1875, located behind the Joseph Butler House. The end gabled, board and batten vernacular building has a band of sash windows on the south and north facades of the first floor, and a smaller band of casement windows around the second floor. Across Eagle Farms Road is a former chicken coop, c.1920. The one-story building has an end-gabled asphalt roof, original hardware, and identical siding to the associated resource, the Frank March House.
The Byers Station Historic District has just 7 noncontributing buildings. One example of a noncontributing property is the Joseph Grow House. The house is one of the three small houses constructed by John Todd c.1872. The resource was altered in the early 1990s when a large center dormer effectively created another story out of the original attic space. Also, a cross-gabled roof and rear dormer, both highly visible alterations, made the house noncontributing. Associated with the house is a noncontributing garage. The other six noncontributing resources in the district are small-scale resources, sheds and garages constructed mainly to the rear of the primary resource. For example, five of the noncontributing resources are small, one or two bay garages, having walls of either vinyl-clad frame or concrete block. The exception is a small glass and wood frame greenhouse c.1960, located behind the A.M.F. Stiteler House.
With the majority of its resources highly intact and with few noncontributing resources, the Byers Station Historic District makes evident its late nineteenth century beginnings and development as a rural, commercial center. This appearance is augmented by the landscape (much of it remaining open) surrounding the village and the still bucolic nature of Byers and Eagle Farms Roads. The Byers Station Historic District's Italianate-influenced buildings, grouped closely along Byers Road, stand in contrast to the mainly vernacular farm properties surrounding the district. These resources continue to form the highly visible core of the village, the collection of which also constitutes the historic core of the Byers Station Historic District.
The Byers Station Historic District illustrates the village's vital role in the economic history of Upper Uwchlan Township and northern Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Byers Station Historic District is locally significant under Criterion A for Community Development and Criterion C, for architecture. Its period of significance begins in 1871, when the Byers Railroad Station was constructed, and ends about 1930, when the village ceased growing due to changing economic conditions and transportation patterns. Per Criterion A, the village developed adjacent to the station, as it was the terminus for the line and more than a quarter mile from the nearest settlement (the village of Eagle). Soon after the station was built, graphite was discovered nearby, drawing more people and business into the village. The village quickly attracted commercial and social entities, including stores, a hotel, a post office, a bank, other businesses, and a Masonic hall. Unlike many small Chester County villages that developed over a long period of time, the architecture of Byers Station makes evident an attempt to create a cohesive residential village adjacent to the railroad and amidst what was once farm fields, and later a semi-industrial landscape of mines and factories. The Byers Station Historic District is locally significant under Criterion C for its concentration of village architecture reflecting mid-19th century stylistic influences and cohesiveness constructed over a relatively short period. Residences built mainly along Byers Road adjacent to the station housed railroad employees and individuals who worked in the graphite mines and processing plants in or around the village. Most residences were constructed in the early 1870s during a time of great prosperity in the village and employ the then popular Italianate-style on even the smallest residences. The transportation and commercial related buildings are now gone yet the small cluster of residential buildings remains largely unaltered.
Brief Historic Narrative
The history of Byers Station is closely linked to the village of Eagle, which is located approximately 1/4 mile west of Byers on the heavily traveled Pottstown Pike and Little Conestoga Road. Eagle had been in existence well over 100 years when, soon after the Civil War, several local businessmen formed an enterprise to establish rail service to the village. Agriculture was booming in the surrounding farms (much of which was owned by Eagle's business leaders), as were the iron mine operations in nearby Warwick Township. An investment group was formed to raise the necessary capital to finance the construction of the line. Citing the need to bring freight and passenger service to Eagle, Milford, and north to Warwick, in 1869, Jacob Beerbower, Joseph Butler, John Todd, (Butler and Todd were on the Board of Directors) and other investors established the Pickering Valley Railroad Company. Mr. Charles E. Byers was named chief engineer. With a construction mortgage guaranteed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, the 11.3 mile line from Phoenixville to what became Byers Station was completed in 1871.
As was often the practice, the station constructed for the village of Eagle was not located within the village core. This line stopped at the eastern border of Joseph Butler's farm, which was located a full quarter mile east of Eagle. The terminus was located on land owned by local farmer and businessman John Todd. Here a station building and turntable were constructed.
Trains began running in September 1871. In 1872, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad leased the tracks. At its height, a passenger station, engine shed, and turntable were located at the station, just north of Byers Road. Several trains made the run each day, while the village grew up around the station. The station would become known as Byers Station, in honor of Chief Engineer Byers, who died just prior to completion of the line.
The railroad fostered the economic prosperity of the last quarter of the nineteenth century in Upper Uwchlan Township. During this time, Eagle and Byers relied on one another for employment, transportation (freight and passenger), education, religion, social opportunities, and other activities. Byers Station had a major influence on Eagle, providing passenger service and access to the Philadelphia markets for its agricultural products. Based on railroad technology, Byers became the economic driving force for Eagle.
The railroad was a direct benefit to the agricultural community around Eagle. Fresh produce could now be transported to markets in Philadelphia far quicker than the connecting overland roads. By the late 1800s, silage enabled farmers to feed their livestock stored-grain all year long, enabling cows to produce a tremendous amount of milk for dairy products. This development nearly coincided with the construction of the Pickering Valley Railroad. By 1872, 900 gallons of milk were shipped daily from the Byers Station. The "milk run" as it was called, was the first run of the day, leaving the station around 5:30 a.m. To coordinate the shipment and production of dairy products, the Fairmont Creamery Association was formed in Byers soon after the opening of the railroad. (The association's creamery, located northeast of the station has since been demolished.)
In addition to serving the agricultural needs of the township, the railroad provided passenger service. Area residents who worked at the Phoenix Iron Works, for example, commuted daily from Byers to the plant in Phoenixville. Railroad employee Isaiah March, who lost an arm while working on the line, used to sound the engine whistle at 5:00 a.m. to wake up the railroad workers who resided in the village. The railroad brought workers to the mines and shipped finished product and raw materials.
In 1875, shortly after the railroad opened, plumbago (graphite) was discovered in the fields surrounding the village (outside of the district), and subsequent mining and processing operations began. The plumbago industry greatly contributed to the growth of the village. Several mining and processing operations were immediately established around the village, attracting additional people and businesses. The product, raw or finished, was transported on the railroad to Philadelphia. For a variety of reasons mining and processing activity peaked after just ten years, and fell sharply thereafter despite the continuing presence of the railroad. The village stopped growing upon the final demise of the graphite industry in the early 20th century.
While the closing of the mines signaled an end to Byers' growth, the closure of the railroad determined the eventual fate of the community — from a thriving commercial village to the residential village of today. The heyday of the village's commercial activity occurred during World War I, when the demand for the region's agricultural and mining products peaked. After the war, freight and passenger service declined sharply. Passenger service ended by 1934 and the tracks were abandoned in 1948. Today Byers Station is a bedroom community, having lost its transportation related buildings and almost all of its commercial and industrial buildings. Yet all of its residential buildings and some other buildings remain.
Significance in Community Development
In a span of ten years, the opening of the railroad station and subsequent mining activities in the surrounding fields turned what once was John Todd's farm into a thriving village that rivaled Eagle. Within two years of the opening of the Pickering Valley Railroad, there were several new businesses located in Byers: two lumber and coal yards, two grain lots supplied by local farmers, a store, and stock yards. Byers Station became important as lumber, farm products, cement, chemicals, and piping were transported via the freight operation. People located their businesses and residences there to take advantage of the station. By the 1890s, the village had a butcher shop, a post office (transferred from Eagle in 1885), a restaurant, a hotel, a bank, several houses, and the present Mt. Pickering Masonic Hall, constructed 1894. The latter was used to host a variety of lectures and plays in the summer, functioning much like a Chautauqua. Boyd's Chester County Directory, 1884-85 listed the following businesses in Byers: general stores, hotels, a tanner, wagonmaster, restaurant, post offices, lumber yard, live stock enterprises, and saddler. The graphite operations located their administrative offices there; visitors ate and slept at the Byers Hotel. The 1900-01 Directory lists several manufacturing businesses, including Byers Lead Mines, Crown Extract Company, and Riddle Chemical Company. (It should be noted, however, that the mining companies tended to be located just outside of the village, near the site of the mines. Byers was the closest village to provide services to these industries, not the least of which was transportation. The buildings housing other entities, aside from the bank, hotel, United States Graphite Company, and Masonic Hall, are now gone.)
According to a recent history on Upper Uwchlan Township, by the end of the nineteenth century "Byerstown" (as some called it) was considered so lively and industrious that local reporters speculated on the possibility that "Toddyville" (as it was also called) would become the county seat, replacing West Chester.
The vast majority of the resources constructed during this time were placed on small village lots on the north side of Byers Road, adjacent to the station. The Todd family built residences here, as well as on the south side of Byers Road. Today, these buildings, all but one of which are contributing, form the architectural core of the Byers Station Historic District.
As was often the case, a small number of the people had the most influence upon the economic development of the village. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the Butler, Todd and Stiteler families controlled much of the business and real estate activities in Byers Station and/or Eagle. These names keep reappearing in Boyd's Directory of Chester County between 1870 and 1900, where the villages of Eagle and Byers were listed as one entity with a combined population of just 160 in 1884.
Members of the John Todd family were by and large the most influential persons in the development of Byers. Their lives centered on livestock, farming, real estate, mining, and the railroad. The latter had a tremendous impact on John Todd. In Futhey and Cope's monumental History of Chester County (1881), Todd's businesses included "merchandising, hotel-keeping, lumber- and coal-yards, at Byers' Station." The Futhey and Cope account also described the Todd family as owning, in addition to the Byers Station, five farms aggregating seven hundred acres.
For John Todd, the location of the railroad station was an important link to Philadelphia. The station created "...a widely accessible outlet for selling cattle and horses..." John Todd owned virtually all of the land comprising the village of Byers, and his business interests flourished with the decision to build Byers Station (and end the line there) on his property. This prompted the original intended name of "Toddyville" for the village of Byers. Todd built, through his builder B.H. Downing, most of the houses within the village and operated many of the businesses. John Todd constructed a hotel, a lumberyard, a general store, a house that would become the Farmers Bank of Uwchland, and workers houses for railroad employees, graphite industry workers and managers.
When John T. Todd died in 1875, Byers Station and the village of Byers became a part of his estate. Soon after, much of property within Byers began to be sold; yet Todd's vision for a working village built around a railroad station had come to fruition. One of John Todd's sons, John H., built the large Italianate style house in the middle of Byers around 1875. The 1883 Breou's Atlas of Chester County shows 10 houses and other main buildings on Byers Road (the road that links the villages, and Byers' main street) as being owned by members of the Todd family.
Of the many participants in the Byers business community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, A.M.F. Stiteler was perhaps the best known after John T. Todd and John H. Todd. Stiteler started his working life as a farmer in West Vincent Township, Chester County, before moving to Byers in 1882. There he engaged in a lumber, coal and feed business at Byers Station. In 1883, he opened up a general merchandise business there. (While his house remains, buildings relating to his businesses have been demolished.) An 1895 newspaper article states that his two buildings were connected by telephone. He was commissioned a postmaster in 1890 and a member of the Mt. Pickering Lodge.
For all this activity, however, one of the most compelling reasons for the continued development and prosperity of Byers was the discovery of plumbago (graphite) under the farm fields that surrounded the village. In 1875, graphite, or as it was commonly known then, plumbago or black lead, was discovered in the farm fields around Byers Station. Graphite was the main ingredient in stove polish, farm equipment lubricators, and lead pencils. The discovery of plumbago attracted additional businesses and people to Byers. Residences were constructed to house the workers, graphite-processing plants were erected within the present district and nearby, and stores and others services opened.
The plumbago business, however, was short lived. Flooding in the shafts caused the mines to shut down after about ten years. The Penn Graphite Works and the Cambria Mining operation closed in 1886. The American Graphite Company, which had experienced strikes, riots and lawsuits, temporarily shut down in 1890. The company resumed production in 1900, but was forced to close for good in 1907 when several company officers were arrested for fraud. Today, just one industrial building, once owned by the United States Graphite Company, remains. A direct link to Byers Station's industrial past, the building once processed the black lead that was mined around Byers. Pharmaceutical products were once manufactured there as well.
Despite the mining, farming, and passenger traffic, the railroad was never profitable. The Reading Railroad took over the line in 1896. In the first decade of the 20th century, graphite mining and processing all but ceased in and around Byers, forcing the railroad to rely mainly on agricultural freight and passenger service for revenue. The demise of graphite mining hampered economic conditions in Byers. The Farmers' Bank of Uwchland closed in 1923. The post office, operating out of the former A.M.F. Stiteler Lumber Yard and Warehouse (a general store), relocated to Eagle in 1937. (Competition between Eagle and Byers for the post office had always been intense; Simpson's Store in Eagle was able to accommodate the new location.) The hotel, built by Stiteler, closed in 1946. With the advent of the automobile, passenger service ended by 1934 and the station was demolished; the Reading Company ended service in 1946 and abandoned the tracks in 1948. Ironically, some of its last major freight shipments were cement to construct the Pottstown Pike, one of the many major roads that reduced the reliance of the railroads. The last remnants of the railroad, the engine house, turntable and tracks, were removed soon after.
In summary, Byers Station is locally significant in the area of community development as an example of the railroad's influence in spawning whole communities in the late 19th century as well as the deliberate attempt to create a new community by the Todd family. The discovery and subsequent mining and processing of plumbago nearby augmented this growth, as the railroad supplied the transportation needs and the village provided housing and other needs for the workers. Landowners, real estate investors, and businessmen were quick to capitalize on these economic influences, furthering the growth of the village. As influential as these forces were to the establishment and development of the village, their demise also influenced the community. Indeed, after the closing of the mines and the railroad, virtually all of the businesses eventually closed, leaving a concentration of residences along Byers Road. Within the village itself, no new houses have been constructed since 1923 as several factors, including other transportation options, negated the attraction of building in the village. Yet, the residences all remained. Some buildings, like the Byers Hotel, were converted to residences. While just one of these houses (the J. H. Todd House) is what might be considered substantial architecture, almost all of the houses exhibit architectural details consistent with the Italianate (and to a lesser extent, Greek Revival) stylistic influences. These influences, included at a time when the prevailing architecture of Chester County was vernacular, are not only a testament to the confidence in the village economy in the late 19th century, but may have influenced the marketability and economic viability of these buildings through the 20th century and long after the prosperity of the village had ended. The result is the present bedroom community of Byers. Per the 1883 Breous Atlas of Chester County, the village remains a concentration of residential architecture mainly constructed on small village lots in a linear pattern along Byers Road, the loss of the train station north of Byers Road notwithstanding.
Byers Station is a rare example of a Chester County village comprised of Italianate-influenced houses. Most of the buildings were constructed during the years 1870-1885 and were primarily designed and built by B.H. Downing for the Todd family. As a result, the buildings in Byers Station have a remarkable degree of uniformity in lot size, setback, massing, and style, although they are not uniform in appearance. The existing buildings originally contrasted with the adjacent railroad, commercial, and later, the industrial landscape in and around Byers, an indication that the Todd family probably intended to develop a distinctly more modern and fashionable community than Eagle.
The existing houses in the Byers Station Historic District are quite uniform. Each of them is located on a long, narrow lot stretching from Byers Road to either the north or to the south; most houses are not located in the center of their lots. In general, the houses are placed about fifteen feet back from the road. The majority of the houses are two-story buildings with Italianate architectural features. Among the elements derived from Italianate style are the decorative brackets associated with interior gutters, expressive (ornamental) quoins, and two-over-two windows flanked by shutters.
While the Italianate style may have influenced the decorative detailing of many of the Byers Station Historic District's resources, the J.H. Todd House, c.1875, is a fine representative of the style in and of itself. A building of this magnitude is quite rare for rural Chester County. Its construction was an indication of the wealth of the Todd family, the attractiveness of residing in the center of the village, and the great expectations for the growth of the village around it. It seems likely that this building influenced the design of other resources constructed in the village. It should be noted that John Todd could have built his house anywhere; he chose to be directly across from the railroad terminal and in the new heart of his business and development ventures.
One house at Byers Station that does not exhibit the Italianate pattern is the Butler Family Homestead, which was existent before the establishment of Byers Station. The farmhouse on the property is significant for its architecture, albeit different than the residences constructed in the core of the village. The influence of the then owner of the Butler farm is the reason that the station was constructed at Byers. The Pickering Valley Railroad stopped at the eastern border of the Butler property, never proceeding the last quarter of a mile to Eagle. As such, the village of Byers Station developed just east of the farm's border, on land owned by John Todd. (Its proximity to the village and the relationship of its then owner [Joseph Butler] to the development of the railroad is the basis for the farmstead's inclusion in the inventory.)
At the turn of the century, Byers featured a variety building uses, yet the majority of the non-residential buildings are no longer extant. The railroad buildings and graphite factories in and around the Byers Station Historic District (with the exception of the United States Graphite Plant) are gone. Commercial buildings have either been demolished or converted into residential use. The hotel, for example, has been converted into residential, although its exterior details are intact. As such, residences dominate the Byers Station Historic District. A review of period maps, however, indicates that for travelers along Byers Road, the view remains much the same. This late 19th century streetscape along Byers Road remains intact because few buildings were built or demolished in Byers after the surge of construction in the late 1800s.
Comparative Patterns of Development and Architecture
Byers Village developed far differently than most villages in Chester County, and there are many examples to attest to this. Byers began after 1870; most villages and towns throughout the county were established long before this, many in the mid 18th century such as Eagle. Indeed, very few villages in the county began as a railroad station; a notable exception is Mendenhall, in Kennett Township (see below). Unlike most villages that grew and continue to grow through time (like Eagle), the vast majority Byers' resources were constructed within 10 years — the 1870s. Very few resources were constructed after this time period. The basis for the community was the railroad station. Most railroad stations were located within or adjacent to existing towns, villages, or industries; Byers was located in a farm field; it was also the terminus for the line. As a result, users west of Byers had no choice but to use the station, thus helping Byers to grow into a substantial village. This contrasts to railroad stations constructed throughout the county, where building activity never amounted to more than a handful of buildings, constructed in an unplanned fashion. As the trains stopped running and the rails were removed in the 20th century, many of these station "villages" remain with little more than a few buildings, if that. For example, on the west side of the township along the former East Brandywine and Waynesburg Railroad, the former stations of Dorlans Mills, Brooklyn and Reeds Road experienced little commercial or residential development. Very few buildings exist denoting the location of those stations today. Although it survives as a linear community, subsequent development has not "connected" the village to Eagle nor expanded it beyond the east and west ends of Byers Road (as has occurred in Guthriesville, East Brandywine Township, Chester County). As a result, the village character — a concentration of resources within relatively open space — remains intact. There are few, if any, villages in Chester County where one architectural style, besides the vernacular, is so prevalent. There are many places were Colonial or Early Republican architecture dominates, such as Marshallton in West Bradford Township, Chester County, but it is rare that the Italianate style is so pervasive in a small village. This, of course, coincides with the fact that members of the Todd family, and their builder, B.H. Downing, constructed the houses, while the style itself was still popular. Finally, the village has lost most of its past transportation, commercial and industrial buildings, yet it remains as a fully intact residential village. It has survived.
The villages of nearby Lionville (Uwchlan Township, Chester Co.) and Mendenhall (Kennett Township, in southern Chester County) offer several comparisons and contrasts to Byers Station. Lionville is located approximately three miles southeast of Byers, presents both similarities and contrasts. Listed on the National Register in 1980, Lionville is much older than Byers Station, and traces its earliest settlement to religion, rather than a railroad station. Lionville's Uwchlan Meetinghouse was built in 1716, heralding in what would become the principal community of Uwchlan Township until the mid-20th century. Lionville was a planned community. Soon after the original meetinghouse was replaced with the current building in 1756, Dennis Whelen, like John Todd the following century, planned and sold building lots along the provincial road. Although never achieving Whelen's expectations, Lionville did prosper throughout the nineteenth century. Like Byers Station, it had several stores, a factory, doctors' offices, an "oyster saloon" (the Byers Hotel also had an oyster restaurant in the nineteenth century), blacksmith shops, etc.
In Kennett Township, the village of Mendenhall developed much like Byers. Indeed, the nearby village of Fairville (listed on the National Register in 1996) was, like Eagle, settled in the eighteenth century. After the Civil War, the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad constructed a station to serve the village. Fairville's train station was located well outside of the village, in this case approximately one mile away. Like Byers Station, the village that grew up around the new station, eventually called Mendenhall, competed economically with Fairville. Far enough away to become a self-contained village, Mendenhall rendered Fairville nearly obsolete as a market-oriented village, as business, now reliant on the railroad, shifted north to Mendenhall. Today, Mendenhall survives as a small village situated along Route 52, at its intersection with the railroad tracks, which are still in place. Like Byers, most of the existing buildings are frame buildings constructed in the late 19th century. However, Mendenhall contains commercial businesses, such as a gas station, general store, and large hotel, called the Mendenhall Inn. There is also a church and a handful of houses. Both villages make evident the respective railroad stations' impact on the 19th century landscape, which endures to this day.
The Byers Station Historic District is significant for its association with community development and architecture. The village of Byers Station was a natural outgrowth of the nearby village of Eagle, propagated by the establishment of the railroad station in the nineteenth century and the discovery of nearby graphite. During the years 1871 to about 1930, Byers Station was an important economic center in Upper Uwchlan Township. Byers Station's intact buildings and streetscape make evident its village character, in contrast to the sprawling suburban landscape that surrounds much of the Byers Station Historic District. Architecturally, Byers probably has the finest intact concentration of Italianate-influenced houses in Chester County, including the high Italianate-style J.H. Todd House.
Estelle Cremers and Pamela Shenk. The Upper Uwchlan: A Place Betwixt and Between (Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 1999), p. 81.
A photograph of former Byers general store owner George Dewees Lumis that appeared in a 1987 article in the "Daily Local News" shows Lumis holding a pamphlet for a program at the Masonic Hall. The pamphlet is called "Chautauqua."
Ibid. p. 81.
Ibid, p. 71.
Boyd's Chester County Directory, 1870 and 1884-85.
Brody, Susannah Wilson. A History of Uwchlan Township 1682-1782. Upper Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, 1983.
Chester County Deed Records, 18th, 19th, 20th centuries. Chester County Archives, West Chester, Pa.
Chester County Road Dockets: Uwchland Township, 1812, Vol. 29, 202; Uwchland Township, 1854, Vol. 78, 210. Chester County Archives, West Chester, Pa.
Court of Quarter Sessions, Index to Road Papers, book 4, Uwchlan and Upper Uwchlan, Chester County Archives, West Chester, Pa.
Chester County Tax Records, 18th, 19th centuries. Chester County Archives; Chester County Historical Society. West Chester, Pa.
Chester County Tavern License Petitions. Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pa.
Cope, Gilbert, and Henry Graham Ashmead. Historical Homes and Institutions and Genealogical Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania. New York: de Lewis Publishing Company, 1904.
Cremers, Estelle and Tucci, Elvira Ann. The Butler Family Homestead (draft), National Register Nomination, 1980.
Cremers, Estelle, and Shenk, Pamela. The Upper Uwchlan: A Place Betwixt and Between. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press and the Tri-County Heritage Society, 1999.
Davis, Eleanor. Early Residents of Upper Uwchlan Township 1715-1800. (unpublished report) Upper Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, 1990.
Futhy, J. Smith, and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. Philadelphia, PA: Louis H. Everts/Press of J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1881.
Grubb, Richard and Associates. Todd Farm, Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form, 1996.
Hare, J.V. History of the Pickering Valley Railroad Co., 1869-1912. From "Pilot," 1 August 1912, Manuscript Department, Chester County Historical Society.
Quillman, Catherine C. The Story of Milfpord Miolls and the Marsh Creek Valley. (unpublished report) Devon, Pa.: Anro Printing (printer), 1989.
Quillman, Stuart H. History of the Conestoga Turnpike through Chester County, Pennsylvania. Pottstown PA: Tursack Printing, Inc., 1993.
Reed Carson Deed Research, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pa.
Wise, Robert. Fairville Historic District. National Register Nomination, 1997.
American Republican: 10/22/1811, 12/22/1811, 4/3/1844, 9/6/1859.
Daily Local News: 11/22/1872, 5/2/1873, 10/31/1873, 1/9/1874, 11/10/1874, 12/6/1875, 2/29/1876, 12/28/1876, 12/5/1878, 4/29/1881, 12/4/1881, 4/23/1884, 6/10/1884, 3/13/1885, 4/17/1885, 5/25/1886, 6/3/1883, 11/12/1887, 8/25/1888, 1/10/1893, 11/26/1907, 4/17/1923, 5/19/1937.
Journal: 5/28/1870, 9/23/1871, 5/8/1872,6/1/1872,7/13/1872, 12/16/1881.
Village Record: 12/31/1855.
Miller, Florence. "The Village Store Became His Focus: Interview with George Dewess Lomis." Daily Local News, June 28, 1987.
Newspaper Clippings from unknown sources: 2/26/1876, 9/25/1884, 9/25/1884, 12/4/1887, 5/1890, 2/10/1893, 7/17/1901. Clipping File, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA.