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Oak Park

The Oak Park Historic District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.

The Oak Park Historic District ... contains excellent examples of Bungalow and Craftsman style architecture ranging from custom architect designed bungalows to more modest examples of the style. Also in the district are examples of other early 20th century styles including Cottage and Colonial Revivals, Ranch Style, Four Square, Tudor Revival, Prairie School, and Mission Revival. The neighborhood exhibits an evolution of architectural design. Early styles of architecture in the neighborhood are representative of the Arts and Crafts Movement and early suburban design, while later styles have characteristics of the suburban expansion that occurred after World War II. The period of significance is 1912 to 1948.

Lansdale began to be settled in the mid 1850s. Its growth was spurred by the building of the North Penn Railroad to Lansdale in 1856. The North Penn rail line was later extended to Bethlehem. By 1872, when Lansdale was incorporated as a borough, it was a growing community with well established businesses and industries that took advantage of the inexpensive transportation costs of the railroad. Adding to the development were two branch railroads, the Stony Creek line which ran from Lansdale to Norristown, and the Doylestown branch. In 1899 the Inland Traction Company built an interurban trolley line from Perkasie to Lansdale. In 1910, the Lehigh Transit Company purchased the Inland Traction Company line and completed a trolley route that connected Philadelphia to the Lehigh Valley.

Early in the year 1912, Harry Richardson began purchasing the land for Oak Park. He bought the land from several owners at the corner of Squirrel Lane and W. Main St. in Hatfield Township, about one mile from the central business district of Lansdale. Harry Richardson was the son of William Richardson, a successful builder in the Lansdale area. Deed recordings indicate that Oak Park was Harry Richardson's first attempt to establish himself as a builder and real estate developer on a large scale. The area he selected for Oak Park was easily accessible to downtown Lansdale and directly along the route of the Lehigh Transit Company. The trolley line ran out W. Main St. from Lansdale and then down Squirrel Lane towards Hatfield. In October of 1912 Richardson had L.P. Worthington, a local civil engineer, draw up plans that included Forest Ave, Oak Blvd, Park Ave, and 36 lots. It is not certain whether Worthington, Richardson, or some third party designed the street pattern. The plan was recorded in the Montgomery County Recorders Office on December 28, 1912 in Deed Book number 643, page 500. The streets of Oak Park are narrow and winding with a medial strip running down Oak Blvd and a triangle garden on Park Ave. The narrowness and the curving of the streets were in contrast to the conventional grid pattern of Lansdale. He essentially developed a small street-car suburb on the outskirts of the borough. The borough of Lansdale, having grown as a result of the railroad, contained many late Victorian houses. Harry Richardson, by developing Oak Park, offered not only an alternative street pattern, he also chose to offer an alternative architectural style in Oak Park as well. He wanted his Oak Park to offer bungalow style housing. Evidence of this is his business card. The card identifies him as being involved in real estate, with the by-line of "Oak Park Bungalows."

The first house built by Harry Richardson was a bungalow at 110 Oak Blvd in 1912. Richardson owned and lived in the house with his first wife Sally. Sally passed away around 1918. Richardson also operated a waterworks in Oak Park on the property next to his bungalow. Richardson eventually abandoned the waterworks business, removed the water tower, and later built a home on the property at 136 Oak Blvd, and it is likely that he built other houses in Oak Park as well.

Around 1915 a local architect named Walter Slifer designed a Dutch Colonial Revival home for his mother Hannah Slifer at 113 Oak Blvd. Walter Slifer was born and raised in Lansdale and eventually became a well noted architect in Morristown, New Jersey. Another local architect who worked in Oak Park around the same time was Milton Bean. He was known primarily for his Victorian style, and he designed many homes in the Lansdale area. He designed William Heebner's first house in downtown Lansdale. Bean also designed William Heebner's bungalow in Oak Park, which was built around 1915, at 38 Oak Blvd. Harry Richardson's house at 110 Oak Blvd is designed similarly to Heebner's house and it is possible that Milton Bean designed it as well. The other Bungalow in Oak Park that probably was architect designed is 1100 Park Ave. However the architect of the house is not known.

Another notable entrepreneur who built a home in the district was William Heebner, whose family business was the firm Heebner & Sons, also know as the Lansdale Agricultural Works, established in 1872. In 1876 the firm exhibited its farm machinery, which included the Little Giant Thresher and the Level Tread Horsepower, at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia; the firm entered and won a first at the exhibition and gained worldwide acceptance as a result. Heebner & Sons equipment was sold in Canada, most of Western Europe, and in Japan and Australia. Heebner pursued a variety of other local political and business activities. He served in the state legislature and is credited with calling for the vote to allocate State funding to purchase the land of what is now Valley Forge National Park. He diversified his business holdings and branched into water utilities, steam heating equipment, automobiles, newspapers, and patented a map roller that was used by the Federal Government. In 1910 Heebner licensed his entire line of farm equipment including the Little Giant Thresher and the Level Tread Horsepower to International Harvester as their Sterling Line. International Harvester continued to sell the equipment until 1923.

In 1915 Heebner purchased his bungalow in Oak Park as a second home. In 1881, he had a home built in downtown Lansdale directly across the street from the works; his house downtown still stands but has been converted to a restaurant. In 1925 he retired, sold his house in downtown Lansdale shortly after, and gave the business to his son. He had a house built in Orange City Florida and spent winters in Florida and summers in Oak Park. His house in Florida is on a local register of historic places.

School District: North Penn

Oak Park Map

Street Names
Emerald Avenue • Forest Avenue • Oak Park Road • Park Avenue • Pinegrove Avenue • Squirrel Lane

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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