The Grove Historic District was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Text, below, was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.
The Grove Historic District is representative of a 19th century crossroads village. It consists of ten contributing structures, one of which is the Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, a cemetery and one intrusion. The cluster of buildings which comprises the Grove Historic District is located around the intersection of Boot and Whitford Roads in the southwest corner of West Whiteland Township. Despite rapid suburban growth throughout the Township in the last few decades, Grove alone has retained its village character and appeal.
Although the buildings are compactly grouped and the intersection now heavily trafficked, Grove's rural quality persists. Contributing to this is the Grove Cemetery which occupies over eight acres in the southwest corner of the hamlet. In addition, mature trees, one of which is a large oak dating back to the village's origins, dot the area. The houses, plain, practical and amply porched, are at home in their crossroads setting. Appropriately, the architectural and cultural focal point of the district is the Methodist Church (present building, 1888), distinguished from other nearby structures by its Gothic styling, cut serpentine stone construction, stained glass, and steep slate roof. The integrity of this group of 19th century buildings is complete.
A variety of historic uses and vernacular interpretations are represented within the village. Dwellings which doubled as shops and stores are built of frame and stone and generally date from the first half of the 19th century. Grove's one room schoolhouse (1870) of stuccoed stone is currently used by the Grove Church as a sexton's residence. The old general store is now a dwelling, as is the Grove Tavern, a popular drover's stop on the Boot Road for over 60 years. The Grove Church, built in the Gothic mode, is the third building on its site. The adjacent cemetery has been enlarged several times since its establishment in the late 18th century and the progressions from a "thickly settled" plot to a grave yard of deliberate design is evident. The overall architectural quality of the buildings within the hamlet is harmonious.
The pivotal structures—the church, inn, school and parsonage—are noteworthy examples of regional architectural traditions. Although the buildings in Grove are constructed of varying materials and represent several uses, they are unified by common setback, scale, and orientation to the intersection.
The construction of a Methodist meeting house in 1783 near the intersection of Whitford and Boot (an early route from Downingtown to Chester) Roads was the primary factor behind Grove's origins. A strong Methodist community subsequently became established in the vicinity. Grove appears to have been entirely settled and built by Methodists. One of its first structures was a log house built by George Given between 1796 and 1798 where the Grove Tavern later stood. The village grew during the first half of the 19th century to include a store, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, the Tavern, the Church, a school and a few dwellings on small lots. Despite the apparent willingness of large landowners to sell "building lots," Grove failed to expand or develop further and by 1843 its post office was closed. The village's present configuration closely conforms to its mid-19th century appearance, although a few buildings, such as the blacksmith and wheelwright shops and an older school have been demolished, and the church rebuilt. Those buildings that remain have been prudently maintained; few have been "restored." The Methodist influence continues to be strong and the congregation is justifiably proud of its history and mindful of its old buildings.
Grove is one of the last remaining crossroad villages along the old Boot Road. It is the only historic district to have been identified in West Whiteland Township following a comprehensive historic sites survey. Although small, Grove retains all of its key historic structures which are certainly enhanced by their integrity of setting.
The contributing sites and structures consist of two small frame houses, an old store, the Grove Parsonage, the Grove School, the Grove M.E. Church and Cemetery, the Grove Tavern, and two 19th century dwellings on S. Whitford Road.
One acre lot purchased by Riter Boyer and his brother in 1833 for $50.00 from Benjamin Green of West Goshen; each held 1/2 interest until 1859; frequently advertised for rent for a tradesman; in the 1870's owned by W. H. Speakman, a carpenter.
The store was advertised for rent by Riter Boyer in 1849 and frequently thereafter. In 1856 an ad noted the store was frame and the adjoining storekeeper's house stone. Some of its storekeepers were: S. L. Fisher (1868), Ruel Speakman (1869), Mahlon Hoffecker (1887), and Charles Ganer (1893).
Grove Methodist Church
Samuel Fisher House
John Fisher House
The village of Grove originally developed as a settlement for members of the Methodist sect in the 1770's but quickly grew to become an economic and social center for a growing community and the surrounding agricultural areas. The pattern of initial religious settlement followed by economic growth and prosperity that was based on non-religious activities is a common one in Pennsylvania. As an example of a crossroads community dating from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Grove Historic District is eligible under criterion A as a well preserved example, of this type of community. The district is also eligible under criterion C for the collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings in the community that both reflect the initial development of the crossroads and the high aspirations of its members as reflected in the 1888 Gothic-Revival Church.
Unlike many early hamlets, Grove failed to expand beyond its modest origins, nor has its integrity been diminished by modern development or road reconstruction. It appears much as it did during its so-called "peak" which occurred towards the middle of the nineteenth century. By this time the village offered most of the essential services to neighboring farmers and travelers general store, blacksmith, wheelwright, school, church and the diversion of a tavern. It continued to function as a small rural service center through the end of, the nineteenth century.
The village at Grove is located in an area known as the "Barren Ridge" and was the last region within the township to be settled. By the early 1770's, a group of German immigrants had settled in the area and were issued legal patents for the land. George Hoffman, an early and leading settler in the Grove area, emigrated from the Palatinate region of Germany in 1754 during the peak of German immigration to Philadelphia. It was not until 1774 that the Nicholas Boyers, another prominent Grove family, arrived from Germany at the Port of Philadelphia. Germans had begun to settle in the township after 1740 but their number was small and by 1765 amounted to only 8% of the population in the township. The apparent reason for the influx of Germans into a predominantly Welsh/English area was the unclaimed land around Grove. Having arrived later than the Welsh and English waves of immigration, the Germans took up the only land remaining close to the major population center of Philadelphia, the less desirable and less productive land. While it might be assumed that all available land would be claimed, as late as 1760, Chester County officials reported that 44% of their land area remained unsettled.
Grove is additionally significant as an area of Methodist settlement. Its early landowners, particularly the Hoffman and Boyer families, figured prominently in the development of the first Methodist church of Chester County, and the village remained strongly Methodist into the 20th century. The Grove M.E. Church is recognized as the oldest society in Chester County continued from its first formation and one of the oldest in the Philadelphia Conference.
John Wesley's Methodism (founded 1739) reached American shores in the 1760's. The first American Methodist Society was formed in 1766 in New York by a colony of Germans. Two years later a mission was opened in Philadelphia and in 1773 the first Philadelphia Conference was held. Ten circuit preachers then branched out into the provinces to spread the tenets of the new religion. A group formed under Richard Webster in the Great Valley. George Hoffman became a life-long member who donated land for the site of the church. He has been recognized as the first Methodist in Chester County. The Goshen or Valley Meeting became known as the Grove Meeting after a permanent meeting house was built on land he provided in 1784.
There have been three Methodist churches built at Grove since 1783. Prior to this, meetings were held in homes and a log school. The first, known as the "Old Stone Chapel," was 30x40 feet with doors on the north, south, and west (front) sides. This building had an end gallery on the west and a tub pulpit opposite. In 1844 a new church was erected on the site of two and one-half stories in stuccoed stone. The entrance was to the south, away from Boot Road, later regarded as a "mistake." In 1888, this church was replaced by the existing building of Gothic styling in the then fashionable green serpentine stone.
The church expanded and matured throughout the 19th century. In 1828 the Sunday School was established. In 1843 the Grove Circuit was formed and in 1867 Grove became a Station. Always proud of its history, Grove sponsored the 1873 Centennial on the Introduction of Methodism.
The church dominated the village physically, spiritually and culturally. In 1857 it acquired a parsonage west of the village but in 1863 bought a house within the village for that purpose. The church purchased the former Grove School in 1942 for use as a sexton's residence.
The church was used by local residents as a meeting hall for Temperance Society (1849), the Grove Lyceum (1880's), and other groups. It was quite literally the center of the community.
The Grove Cemetery expanded several times since its late 18th century establishment to now comprise over 8 acres. The first enlargement was made in 1813 on land obtained from John Boyer, and in 1851 one half acre was purchased from Riter Boyer. Other parcels were added in 1867 and 1907. The 1867 addition was carefully laid out in lots with walks and a center plot. In 1891 the stone wall was repaired and partially rebuilt and superfluous trees were removed. The cemetery is the resting place for the remains of many early Grove and area residents, along them the Hoffmans, Boyers, Whites, and Merediths.
Grove was a small but essential commercial center catering to the needs of the farmer and traveler alike.
The earliest mention of a commercial enterprise in the village, other than the Grove Tavern, is in 1819 when Alexander Brooks announced his intention of opening a hatting business in a house near the tavern. The fate of this business has not been determined, but it is known that a general store operated in Grove for over 50 years. The store seems to have been first owned by Riter Boyer. Despite his repeated attempts to sell or rent the store and a stone dwelling from the 1840's through 1850's he was unable to dispose of the property until 1860. Later owners and storekeepers were S. L. Fisher, Ruel Speakman, Mahlon Hoffecker and Charles Ganer.
A number of blacksmiths and wheelwrights worked at Grove, prior to 1862 in properties rented from Riter Boyer. After Boyer's death in that year, his extensive holdings in the area were broken up to settle his estate. An 1862 sale notice implies that the frame house opposite the Grove Tavern was the dwelling adjacent to which were the blacksmith and wheelwright shops. John Fisher ran a wheelwright shop in Grove during the 1880's. William White, James Maroney and George Maxton were among the blacksmiths who worked at Grove.
By far Grove's most successful commercial establishment was the Grove Tavern, a landmark on the Boot Road throughout the 19th century. It so dominated the village that, according to Pinkowski, author of Chester County Place Names, Grove was once known as "Mamy Shade's Tavern" in reference to Mary Shade who ran the Tavern between 1816 and 1826. The first liquor license was obtained by Isaac Few, a cordwainer and later an innkeeper, in 1808. Licenses were renewed annually until 1871 under the names of Grove Tavern, Sign of the Grove, and the Grove Sun. Conard Shearer and later his wife operated the tavern between 1836 and 1871. The popularity of the tavern is attested by the contents of various inventories filed at the Chester County Courthouse which lists barrels, casks (empty and full) kegs, bar and contents, draught, and numerous chairs, tablecloths, bedding, etc.
Grove was a religious, commercial and finally cultural/educational center. An early school of log construction was established prior to the building of the "Old Stone Chapel" in the late 18th century. Here some of the first meetings of the Grove Methodist Church were held. A second school was begun in 1856 in a building sold by Riter Boyer to the Directors of the Common School on the south side of Boot Road and east of the church. In 1856 mention is made of the rather unusual existence of two schools at Grove, "the scholars being divided by merit." At that time the schools at Grove were thought to offer one of the best educations in the County. By 1873 there was a new school at Grove which seems to have replaced the earlier two. The Grove School was also the headquarters of the Grove Lyceum and Literary Society in the 1880's and numerous functions of a social nature were held there. It had an average attendance of approximately 30 pupils. The school was used until 1941 and in 1942 was sold to the Grove M.E. Church.
The structures in the Grove Historic District are for the most part a collection of vernacular buildings built for either commercial or speculative reasons. The one exception is the Grove Methodist Episcopal Church which is similar in design to Gothic-Revival churches depicted in late nineteenth century pattern books. These books by practicing architects enabled groups like the Grove congregation or even private individuals to have a high style popular building without the expense of securing a unique set of plans from an architect.
The rest of the buildings are firmly rooted in local building traditions with brace-framed upper floors and stone foundation walls. The stone walls in the foundations are readily observed in the basements. They are laid in a loose lime and sand mortar. The stones are small, mostly flat and are not the massive dry laid walls often associated with southeast Pennsylvania architecture. They are more similar to the light stone walls often seen in buildings further to the south of southern New Castle County, Delaware and Cecil County, Maryland where stone is not so plentiful.
The floor plans of all except two of the buildings reflect current trends of the nineteenth century with their use of balanced facades and corresponding interiors. The Boyer/Blacksmith House shows the German influence of members of the founding families of the community. The 3 room interior chimney plan so often seen further to the west is rare in central Chester County and helps to point out the slow adoption of changes in the interior arrangement of dwelling houses. The other dwelling with a non-typical floor plan for the second quarter of the nineteenth century is the Boyer/Speakman House. This house is based on a hall-parlor plan which was widely employed during the early settlement years of the county but was replaced by more modern arrangements by the close of the eighteenth century.
Two additional buildings in the community reflect the influence of Federal architecture. The 1819 Grove Tavern s a clear example of a 2/3 Georgian double pile plan house. The use of quarter round gable end windows in the ends and the interior wood work all reflect current building trends and as befits a tavern the structure is very massive, To help support the weight of the upper story, there is a full support wall in the basement that runs from gable end to gable end. The common rafter pairs are tied into a king post truss system as additional support for the roof.
The very Federal c. 1820 Grove Parsonage displays the fully developed vocabulary of Federal design. The use of rounded window reveals, the interior woodwork and the fan light over the front door all show close attention to detail and an attempt by the builder to produce a high style that is somewhat out of keeping with its vernacular neighbors but would reflect the status of the shopkeeper for whom this house was built.