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Royersford Borough


Royersford Borough municipal offices are located at 300 Main Street, Royersford PA 19468; phone: 610-948.3737.

The borough is part of the Spring-Ford Area School District. The borough was incorporated in 1879 from Limerick Township land.

One finds single family residences in the borough that were built circa 1789 through 2005. The median age is circa 1920. We estimate the following types: slightly more than 20% are detached, single family homes; slight more than half are twins (semi-attached); just over 15% are town/row homes; less than 10% are condominiums which are found primarily at the intersection of Pine and 5th Streets.

The early history of the borough is intensely integrated with the history of the Continental Stove Works operated by the company variously known as, Francis, Buckwalter & Company, Sheeler, Buckwalter & Company, and finally, Buckwalter & Company. In 1865 Joseph Addison Buckwalter settled in what would become Royersford a decade and a half later.

The Continental Stove Works was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places about 1986. Text, below, is excerpted from a copy of the original nomination document. The document has a generous amount of information about the boroughs beginnings and its early leaders.

Continental Stove Works[†]

The Buckwalter Stove Company operated only one plant during its existence: the Continental Stove Works. This stove works served several important roles during its seventy years of existence ... First, it, more than any other firm or event, acted as the catalyst for the formation of Royersford Borough by attracting many workers to the area and sponsoring the development of homes and service organizations within the borough. Second, it was the major stove manufacturer in the area, a region noted throughout the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the manufacture of stoves. Third, it pioneered many advances in the stove industry. Finally, the major partner of the firm, Joseph Addison Buckwalter, guided not only the success of the business but also the birth, growth, and development of the community of Royersford.

Royersford started its existence as a crossing on the Schuylkill River. Across the river lay Chester County. A town, Spring City, was founded on the Chester County side. The Montgomery County side of the river seemed destined to remain farmland. Perhaps some suburban developments to Spring City might have sprung forth. This changed in 1830 when the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad laid its tracks on the east side of the river, compelling residents of Spring City and Chester County to cross the river to catch a train for Philadelphia, Pottstown or Reading. However, Royersford did not become a rival for its Chester County neighbor overnight. Hotels and inns constituted the entire trade of the small village until 1865 when "the first steps were taken toward making of Royersford the great manufacturing center that it has since become. A local company was formed to do business under the title of the Royersford Iron Foundry Co.[1] This company "erected the foundry buildings now owned and occupied by Floyd Wells & Co., designing them for the manufacture of stoves. The newly organized Francis, Buckwalter & Company having made them a good offer, the buildings were leased to them at once for a period of ten years."[2]

Joseph Addison Buckwalter (1836-ca. 1925) moved to Royersford in 1865. On 1 January 1866, he founded the firm of Francis, Buckwalter & Company with his brother, Henry L. Buckwalter (1830-1882), C. S. Francis, Henry Francis, and John Sheeler.[3] They titled their foundry the Continental Stove Works. The location of the plant was ideal: situated on both the Schuylkill River and the main line of the Reading Railroad. This location attracted another stove company to Limerick Township in the following year. March, Brownback & Company (founded 1848) moved to Limerick Station from Chester County and established a new plant for its National Stove Works. March, Brownback & Company had started as March & Buckwalter. Isaac Buckwalter was the partner in this firm. It is not known what relationship, if any, existed between Isaac Buckwalter and the Buckwalter brothers, Francis, Buckwalter & Company.[4]

The firm of Francis, Buckwalter & Company underwent several management changes during its initial ten years. Both C. S. Francis and Henry Francis withdrew or retired from the firm and by 1874 the name had changed to Sheeler, Buckwalter & Company. Business boomed. Even though it had enlarged the original works once, it was unable to keep pace with the orders pouring into its office. As a result, the partners decided to build a new plant north of Main Street.[5]

The plant consisted of a one-story office building (Building 19(, a five-story woodwork and fitting rooms and storehouse (Building 1), a one-story iron foundry (Buildings 6-9), a one-story lumber storehouse (Building 16), and a detached one story blacksmith shop and shed (demolished). Sheeler, Buckwalter & Company employed some 55-60 men at the same time.[6] Even with the new plant, business continued to expand and additions were made to the works in 1881, 1882, and 1887. These included the present building 2, expansion to buildings 9 and 16 and the beginning sections of Building 19.[7] John Sheeler died in 1880 and the firm name was shortened to Buckwalter & Company. Two years later, Henry Buckwalter died, leaving Joseph A. Buckwalter as the only surviving original partner.[8].

On 14 June 1879, Royersford became a borough, carved from Limerick Township. In the first election, Joseph A. Buckwalter won the post of burgess, which he held for four years, overseeing the formation of the new borough. Henry L. Buckwalter became one of thee six councilmen and I. Newton Buckwalter held the position of Assistant Assessor. The first census of the new borough, taken in 1880, showed a population of 558 persons.[9]

In 1884, it was estimated that the borough contained 1,000 persons. The establishment of several new industries and the enlargement of the Continental Stove Works contributed greatly to this 100% increase in five years. The Buckwalter firm generally employed about 10-20% of the total population of the borough during its early years. Throughout its existence, the Buckwalter Stove Company continued to be the largest employer in Royersford, routinely employing between 125 and 200 men up until 1900 and probably even more after 1905.[10]

J. A. Buckwalter reorganized the company and incorporated it in 1887 as the Buckwalter Stove Company. At that time, the plant had an output of over 25,000 stoves and ranges a year.[11] As one history of the firm related: "From its very start, this company has built a reputation for honest goods, has employed the best workmen and the best material obtainable, and has contributed much to the development of the industry."[12] It introduced both the plain finished stoves and ranges as standard items and its line of goods. The enameled stoves of Buckwalter, introduced in 1908 and intended originally to be a novelty item, became the mainstay of the entire stove industry in the United States.[13]

Under Buckwalter's guidance, the firm continued to grow. Soon most of the area between the lines of the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads north of Main Street was filled with industrial buildings erected to manufacture Buckwalter stoves. The company opened sales agencies in several of the largest cities in the country, including Philadelphia, New York and Chicago.[14] Around the Buckwalter plant appeared the buildings of the Royersford Foundry Company, the Royersford Gas Light Company, the Home Water Company and the Royal Gas Stove & Foundry Company.[15] Between 1902 and 1909, the Buckwalter Stove Company purchased the grounds and buildings of the Gas Light Company, the Home Water Company and the Royal Gas Stove Works. It demolished the buildings of the former two companies and appropriated the works of the latter company as its Foundry or Plant Number 2. Most of these buildings had been constructed between 1898 and 1902.[16]

In addition to his position as president of the Buckwalter Stove Company, Joseph Addison Buckwalter served as president of the Home Water Company, and, as noted before, became the first burgess of Royersford, holding that position for several years. As head of the Continental Stove Works, Buckwalter garnered a national reputation as one of the leading manufacturers in America. In Royersford, he was interested in every public movement that promised to benefit his fellow citizens. He was a stockholder and president of the Home National Bank, and president of the Industrial Savings Bank. In 1902, both banks merged to become the Royersford Trust Company, with Buckwalter as president. He also owned a large amount of rental property within the borough limits. As one biography praised him, "He has done more than any other man in building up and maintaining the prosperity of Royersford."[17] His younger brother, Isaac Newton Buckwalter (1838 - ??), also exerted himself for the benefit of the town in many ways. As noted before, he served as the first Assistant Assessor of the borough in 1879. He served three years in the town council, became an active member of the Royersford Fire Company and a stockholder in both of the above named banks before their merger. He also owned large pieces of real estate and in 1896 altered and constructed "the Buckwalter Block".[18]

Despite the Buckwalter Stove Company's dominance of the industry in Royersford, other stove-related manufacturers also found Royersford and Spring City ideal locations for business. As related before, the National Stove Works moved to Limerick Station a year after the founding of the Buckwalter Stove Company. Shortly after Buckwalter moved into its new quarters, the firm of Schantz & Keeley operated the old works for about a year. Schantz & Keeley also had another location in Chester County and called their operation the Spring City Stove Works. After Keeley's death in 1883, the firm of Floyd, Wells & Company occupied the plant. This complex eventually burned during the early 1970s. Three years before the arrival of Floyd, Wells & Company, Grander, Rogers & Company, later the Grander Stove Company, was founded. The existence of a thriving stove industry in Royersford and Spring City induced other service firms to come to the borough including Rogers, Benjamin & Company in 1884 and Lewin, Thomas & Company in 1894. Both were manufacturers of stove linings, firebrick and facings.[19]

After J. A. Buckwalter's death in the late 1920s, a singular lack of foresight occurred throughout the local industry. This became apparent in the 1930s when none of the above businesses, including the Continental Stove Works, survived. By and large, they suffered a double blow: not only did they suffer severe financial losses during the Depression, the entire gas stove industry collapsed owing to the increased use of electrical appliances for which none of these firms had prepared. No stove-related industry remains in Royersford today. The Continental Stove Works' buildings exist as the only stove manufacturing buildings still standing within the borough limits in 1985.

The complex of buildings left behind by the Buckwalter firm stayed vacant until a Philadelphia firm occupied them in 1941. Since then, they have seen many uses, the most recent as a tire warehouse for S & D Industries in Plant Number 1 and a styrofoam warehouse for the French Creek Products in Plant Number 2.

Footnotes:

  1. Book of the Archives of Royersford, PA, Royersford: circa 1898, p.12
  2. op. cit. p.12
  3. op. cit. p 27; Theodore W. Bean, History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck. 1884, p. 626; Clifton S. Hunsicker, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, a History. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc. 1923, pp. 3801-381
  4. Bean, op. cit. pp. 608-609
  5. Bean, op. cit. p 626; Hunsicker, op. cit. pp. 380-381; Book of the Archives p. 27
  6. Ernest Hexamer, "Continental Stove and Hollow Ware Works, Sheeler, Buckwalter & Co.", from the Hexamer General Surveys. May 1878
  7. E. Hexamer & Son, "Buckwalter Stove Co., from the Hexamer General Surveys 8 December 1887
  8. Book of the Archives p. 27; Bean, op. cit. p. 626; Hunsicker, op. cit. pp 380-381
  9. Book of the Archives pp. 15-16
  10. Bean, op. cit. p. 797; Book of the Archives p. 27; E. Hexamer & Son, op. cit.; Sanborn Map Company, "Insurance Maps of Royersford and Spring City, Pennsylvania", April 1902
  11. Book of the Archives p. 27; Bean, op. cit. p. 626
  12. Hunsicker, op. cit. pp 380-381
  13. Hunsicker, op. cit. pp 380-381
  14. Ellroow Roberts, editor, Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania New York: Lewis Publishing Company. 1904, p. 154
  15. Sanborn Map Company, op. cit., April 1902
  16. Sanborn Map Company, "Insurance Maps of Royersford and Spring City, Pennsylvania" 1909
  17. Roberts, op. cit., p. 154
  18. Roberts, op. cit., p. 234
  19. Book of the Archives pp. 28, 29, 35, 42

Moak, Jefferson M., Continental Stove Works, (Buckwalter Stove Company), nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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