East Goshen Twp, Chester County, PA

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The Goshenville Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.


The Goshenville Historic District is significant for religion and community development within the context of early Quaker settlement and community development patterns in Chester County. Goshenville literally grew up around a Quaker meetinghouse after being settled in the first decade of the eighteenth century. It also was developed in response to the needs of the largely Quaker agricultural community surrounding it. As a village, Goshenville supplied basic needs of this community - places for worship, cemeteries, a blacksmith/wheelwright shop, a post office, a school, a mill, a general store and a grange, all situated along an important transportation route. It would also offer area residents with the services of a doctor, lawyer, and several trades, as well as the local seat of government. Large Quaker families, particularly the Garrett family, heavily influenced its development. Significant for religion, Goshenville is the story of Quaker religion, tradition and history and its influence on its community development patterns and architecture. The district's intact eighteenth and nineteenth century architecture and setting continue to express this Quaker history. This history is made evident in the district's meetinghouses, cemeteries and farmhouses, all of which maintain their eighteenth or nineteenth century architectural integrity. The district's commercial resources, including the blacksmith shop (c. 1740) and general store/post office (1806-1828) not only display the vestiges of their namesakes, but, in the case of the blacksmith shop, continue to function. Goshenville's period of significance begins c. 1740 with the construction of the blacksmith shop and ends c. 1880, when the Sharpless stable was constructed.

Historic Significance

Quaker Settlement and Development as part of the 40,000 acre "Welsh Tract," the area that became Goshenville began to be settled in 1683. In that year, Edward Jones and 17 Welsh Quaker families left the then frontier outpost of Edgemont south of the district and entered into the undeveloped wilderness of Chester County. They settled around what would eventually become North Chester Road. "Goshenville" was derived from the Biblical name "Goshen," a promised land named by the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Then part of Westtown Township, Goshen Township - a name adopted from Goshenville and the only municipality in Chester County with a Biblical name - was organized in 1704. It was split into East and West Goshen Townships 1817. North Chester Road, which connected the village to the city of Chester to the south, was laid out in 1693 and in place by 1699. It was extended north to Frazer in the first decade of the eighteenth century.

Like many Welsh settlers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, the Welsh settlers in Goshenville came to the colonies to escape religious persecution in England. Here they were able to conduct their religious beliefs, which were Quaker, in peace. Most were farmers; they found the land in Goshen, like much of Southeastern Pennsylvania, plentiful and productive. (Within four years of settlement, Pennsylvania began exports of wheat to the West Indies.) Like most Quaker settlements, there was no "village" to speak of. Quakers usually settled on their farmland and not in organized villages, much to the demise of Penn's original planning. As such, many villages in the Quaker settlements of Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Goshenville, were simply collections of religious, social, and commercial activity that became concentrated, over time, in buildings built along roads or near other entities. In Goshenville, these activities, and the buildings associated with them, became centered along the North Chester Road and in the midst of the surrounding Quaker farms. Settlement specifically centered around the meeting house.

Once settlement began, the village of Goshenville grew up around the Goshen Meetinghouse. Because the history of the Meeting is closely linked to the development of the district, its history is described below. The Meeting was organized by the Chester Monthly Meeting as the Goshen Preparative Meeting in 1702. Meetings were first held at the home of David and David Jones in Whiteland, before meeting at the home of Roben Williams the following year. Williams, who is thought to be the first permanent settler of the immediate Goshenville area, lived almost one mile east of the present village. In 1708, 100 perches of ground were given by Griffith Owen, landowner on the east side of North Chester Road, for the establishment of a cemetery and meetinghouse. In fact, the Goshen Preparative Meeting records show that this land was "near Robert Williams' land," indicating that he may have been the closest person living near the meeting house property. (This transfer, however, was not recorded until 1812 by then landowners Joseph and Marry Garrett. The Garrett family, who would become instrumental in the development of the district, owned the farm directly east of the meetinghouse property.) The Goshen Preparative Meeting erected a log meetinghouse on the property in 1709. The adjacent burial ground had already been established.

After 1709, the Goshen Meetinghouse became the centerpiece of Goshenville. Aside from its religious, educational and social activity, its very physical presence at the corner of what would become two busy roadways became the township's main focal point. The ensuing years produced the more substantial building (1736, now demolished), an additional meetinghouse and cemetery (1849), and the present Goshen Meetinghouse (1855). The collection of buildings, wall structures and cemeteries are a microcosm of the history of Quakerism in the Greater Philadelphia area. It is graphic evidence of the history of Quaker settlement, development, expansion, dissension, demise, and reconciliation. The meetinghouse complex also provides an architectural record to the history of the Friends at large. The location of these important buildings and structures, first along one, and then two, heavily traveled roads, on relatively flat land, near a major creek, made it an ideal location for a community.

In 1722, the Goshen Monthly Meeting was organized and began using the Goshen Meetinghouse. Begun by the Chester Quarterly Meeting, the Goshen Monthly Meeting met alternately at the Goshen Meetinghouse and at meetinghouses at Uwchlan and Newtown Square. During the Battle of the Clouds, September 16, 1777, a British contingent visited the meetinghouse, which was in session, and stole several horses that were tied up outside the meetinghouse. Hessian soldiers are believed buried in a mass, unmarked grave in Section A (east side) of the cemetery. In 1801, the Goshen Monthly Meeting moved its headquarters from Goshen to the newly constructed meetinghouse in nearby Willistown; the Goshen Preparative Meeting remained in Goshenville.

The 1827 "Separation" of the Friends brought several more changes to the Goshen Meetinghouse. First, the Goshen Preparative Meeting separated, and for several years, both Orthodox and Hicksite Friends groups worshiped separately, and in separate parts of the meetinghouse. Nearby, the Hicksite meeting retained the Willistown meetinghouse, which prompted the return of the Orthodox contingent of the Goshen Monthly Meeting (who had moved to Willistown in 1801) to the Goshen Meetinghouse.

In 1849, the Orthodox Friends purchased two lots immediately south of the original property and erected the present serpentine stone meetinghouse. The Hicksite Friends retained the 1736 structure and cemetery. A new cemetery, north of the new Orthodox Meetinghouse, consisting of 153 perches, was also acquired in 1849 from John Massy for use by the Orthodox Friends. The first burial at the Orthodox Meeting burial ground was in 1851. Thus, by mid-century, Goshenville was home to two meetinghouses and two Quaker cemeteries. Although the meetings followed the partition practice of most area meetings and the construction of a new meetinghouse, few areas boast both meetinghouses as Goshenville does and on the same site. For example, at the Birmingham Meeting (Birmingham Township, Chester County), the meetinghouse buildings are separated by a road and several hundred yards and under separate ownership. In 1855, the Goshen Hicksite Meeting constructed the present meetinghouse to replace the building constructed in 1736, which burned.1

In 1891, after most of its Goshenville Orthodox members had moved away or died, the Orthodox meeting was "laid down." The Orthodox meetinghouse was sold in 1920 to the Goshen Grange, No. 121. (In 1990, the Goshen Meeting repurchased the building. It is currently used as a classroom and offices by the Goshen Friends School, an elementary school operated by the Friends. The Grange, founded in East Goshen in 1874, continues to hold its regular meetings there as well.)

The growth of the village around the meetinghouse complex was, to a large degree, predicated on the surrounding Quaker settlement. It was a pattern of settlement characteristic of Quaker settlement throughout Chester County. In addition to the establishment of the meeting, this pattern included the ownership and agricultural development of large parcels of land around the village (such as at the Garrell, Sharples, Ashbridge and Hoopes farms), the construction of substantial residences and farmsteads, the placement of farmsteads well outside of the villages, and the ownership of farms by generations of the same Quaker families. In response, villages would often grow up near entities most frequented by the farmers, such as meetinghouses or mills, and along major roadways or crossroads. Goshenville was no exception. The development of the land east of North Chester Road by the Garrell family makes evident this pattern. Of course, it should be noted that the development of a community based on a linear pattern along a central road with early religious and commercial buildings as a core is not strictly a Quaker pattern of development. This is especially true with the melding of cultures in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Aside from the development of the meeting houses. Quaker history was made evident in the social development of the district. Goshenville is part of a 755 acre parcel granted via patent to Griffith Owens from William Penn in 1703. In 1715, Samuel Garrett (1642-1744) of Upper Darby purchased a 33-acre parcel on the east side of North Chester Road. In 1725, Samuel passed this land and 250 additional acres to his son, Joseph Garrett I. The purchase by Samuel and subsequent settlement by Joseph began the ownership of much of the historic district by the Garrett family. The family would be instrumental in the development of the district. Eventually the 33-acre parcel also contained a mill (located outside of the district and east of the present day Bellingham housing development). Its millrace that once brought water through the district from west to east, remains visible.

The first Garrett to settle on the land was Joseph Garrett I, in 1725. A deed dated 1731 to William Garrett et al. (recorded 1812) noted houses, stable, buildings, etc. It is probable that the original building could have been the small farm or tenant house north of Paoli Pike but that is uncertain. In addition the deed also stated that approximately .75 acres were given to the Goshen Meeting for the cemetery. The William Garrett et. al. ownership is questionable; for Joseph Garrett II inherited the land upon Garrett I's death in 1770 (recorded in 1792). The inheritance was stipulated in a will dated 1769 which also gave an additional 1,700 square feet of land to the Goshen Meeting. In any event, Joseph Garrett I (1701-1770) and Mary Garrett (1702-1780) eventually built the Garrett farmhouse. The solidly built stone farmhouse reflects the Quaker building traditions found elsewhere in Goshenville and throughout Chester County. The Georgian house, substantial yet not opulent, incorporates the use of serpentine stone, with additions reflecting the growth of the family within. The large house was necessary because, per Quaker tradition land was usually passed down from generation to generation. Several generations of families often lived in the same house thus the necessity of constructing additions. Also in the tradition of Quaker development the house was not located within the village. Instead it was located just east of the village near the center of the farm.

Various members of the Garrett family lived in the house until it was sold out of the family to Laura Dickson, a non-Garrett in 1900. The Garretts were active in the Hicksite Meeting; Benjamin Garrett was also in charge of the Quaker school in 1828.

Two other significant landowning families that also reflected Quaker traditions were the Sharpless and Ashbridge families. The Sharpless family was one of the oldest and most prolific families in Chester County. In Goshenville, the family owned land on the west side of North Chester Road, and to the west and south of the district. One family member, William Sharpless, operated the blacksmith shop for much of the latter half of the nineteenth century, and lived across the street. In 1878, Mrs. Joseph Sharpless donated land to develop the Presbyterian Church, now demolished. The Ashbridge family owned land south of the district, but became prominent in East Goshen Township and Goshenville's social and business affairs. The Ashbridge family is listed in the first assessment in 1715; the Sharpless family is listed in the 1753 Goshen taxables.

As the farms around the village began to be settled and developed, there was a growing need for services and markets. Goshenville was the central location in Goshen Township and along an important road. As such, and because of the location of the stream and meetinghouse, people began to locate their businesses in Goshenville. One of the first such business was a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. The Sharpless Blacksmith Shop, as it came to be called, is thought to be the oldest building in the district (c. 1740). Between 1806 and 1808 James Garrett owned the shop. Throughout much of the nineteenth and part of the twentieth century, however, the Sharpless family owned the shop as well as the land south and west of the shop. In the late 19th century, William Sharpless operated the shop and lived in the house across North Chester Road. The shop provided the forged implements necessary for the surrounding farms. In addition to the blacksmith shop, it was also known as a coach shop and a wheelwright shop. The Sharpless family owned it until the Great Depression in 1929. The last blacksmith was "Uncle" Wiebe Velde, who operated the shop until 1940. Mr. Velde and his wife are buried in the Friends graveyard. (In the 1980s the shop was restored and functions as a township meeting and educational center. Its blacksmith facilities are intact and still used for demonstrations.)

Another business that operated in the village was a general store and post office. The general store and post office was located on the west side of North Chester Road opposite of the blacksmith shop. Business began operating there in 1806, when Jonathon Field, a tailor from Marple, Delaware County, purchased the six-year-old house from Jesse Reece. Reece constructed a small addition on the north side of the building, that was followed by a larger, retail extension on the east side. (It should be noted that the house was constructed on a 3/4 acre lot specifically subdivided from the larger Hoopes property as a "building lot.") As was often the custom at the time, the general store also contained the post office. In fact, Goshenville had a post office from 1828 until 1904. Azariah Williamson was the first post master. Its location, at the intersection of Boot and Chester Roads and across from the blacksmith shop, provided the proprietor with excellent visibility and convenience for most everyone in the Township. Its huge loading dock along North Chester Road became a local landmark.

Aside from Quakerism, by the mid-nineteenth century, there was a need for other houses of worship. In 1878, a Presbyterian Chapel was constructed on the west side of North Chester Road just south of Ridley Creek. Mrs. Joseph G. Sharpless and Mrs. Samuel Esler donated the land for the church. Though restored by the congregation in 1928, the chapel was sold in 1943 and demolished in 1965.

In addition to the religious, blacksmith and general store operations, Goshenville satisfied other social needs. It was the township seat and it contained the public school (highly altered and not included in the district), and a tavern (now demolished). Some entertainment functions such as orchestra events were held in the Presbyterian Church. By the end of the nineteenth century, Goshenville continued to make evident its place as a nearly full service community. The 1884-5 Boyd's Chester County Directory listed a carpenter, blacksmith, and a doctor. William Priest (general store owner and post master), and a lawyer. By and large, however, with the advent of the automobile, basic needs of the community began to relocate from the village. (Today, only the Goshen Meeting and cemetery, the Goshen Friends School, and the Grange continue to operate within the district, although the blacksmith shop remains operational.)

For over a century and a half. Goshen was a major destination for Goshen Township residents. Its influence declined after surrounding railroads contributed to the growth and of surrounding communities, such as Malvern and West Chester. Built around its meetinghouse complex, and until recently surrounded by farms, Goshenville's individual resources and general appearance continues to convey this pre-railroad, Quaker-influenced history.

Architectural Significance

The district's architectural resources are an exemplary collection of buildings constructed mainly in the vernacular tradition. They are, however, an outstanding record of a certain time, place, social and vocational activity occurring from the mid-eighteenth to late nineteenth century. Given the small size of the district, each building is important to the district's history and its visual appearance of both today and during the period of significance. In addition to the appearance of the individual resources, their collective setting is of equal importance. For example, the meetinghouse complex makes evident Goshenville's importance as a center for Quaker life in the township. The blacksmith shop opposite of the Priest General Store makes evident the district's commercial importance. Finally, the Garrett farmhouse, and to some extent, the farmhouse of the Maple Lane Stock Farm, and the fields beyond, convey the connection between the village and the former agricultural community.

Specifically, both the Orthodox (1849) and the Hicksite (1855) meetinghouses exhibit fundamental design elements indicative of meetinghouses constructed in Southeast Pennsylvania during the mid-nineteenth century. Each meetinghouse has symmetrical facades, end gabled roofs, and two front entrances. The former Hicksite Meetinghouse, which is still used for meetings, has a highly intact interior, with dual meeting areas, floor to ceiling wood paneling, and a wood paneled partition. Although the other meetinghouse is less decorated inside than the original Hicksite Meetinghouse, its two front entrances (male and female) reflect the Quaker religious practices at the time.

Goshenville's highly intact commercial buildings covey its importance as an early rural commercial center. The Sharpless Blacksmith/Wheelwright shop, seemingly has changed little from its mid-eighteenth century (the blacksmith shop section) and early nineteenth century appearance (the wheelwright section). Across North Chester Road, the general store continues to tell the story of commerce in the village for both retail as well as post office use. Its several additions make evident the necessity of expansion to meet the material and communication needs of the surrounding farmers. That said, the highly intact building itself exhibits several features quite rare in Chester County architecture. First, its main retail space features a large, clear span room with hooks and other remnants of the general store. Second, its large stone loading dock, with its arched basement entrance doorway, is a prominent albeit utilitarian feature. Attached to the front of the main retail space, the large loading dock is a rather unique feature.

Goshenville's residential architecture are also significant. Its two most dramatic resources are the Garrett and Hoopes farmhouses. Both symmetrical, end-gabled, two story serpentine stone houses sit prominently on grassy slopes. Each house exhibits large rear additions, indicative of the Quaker practice of enlarging houses to meet the multi-generational needs of the families. Held by prosperous families, each house conveys the minimal decorative details denoting refined Quaker elegance. For example, the Garrett house has a frieze band of escalloped shingles under the eaves across the front facade. The Hoopes farmhouse features octagonal serpentine stone on the main Georgian facade. Several large serpentine stone additions were also constructed on the rear of the original house. While these traits may have been Quaker practices, they were by no means limited to the Quakers. There is, in fact, no "Quaker style" of architecture, yet the trends described here are quite prevalent in Quaker buildings.

Elsewhere, the residential resources in Goshenville are smaller, vernacular resources, conveying a more village setting. Examples are the William Sharpless house and the Esler house. The latter is considered noncontributing, yet its main facade continues to convey its original, village scale. Both resources were constructed close to the roads they face, although Boot Road no longer runs in front of the Sharpless house.

Goshenville has few outbuildings. The most significant may be the mid to late nineteenth century carriage house on the Garrett Farmstead. Designed with a combination of the Greek Revival style and vernacular traditions, the stone building features an overhanging frieze band over its three bays. Its design conveys the prosperity of the Garrett family, which owned the farm for nearly 200 years.

Surrounding Historic Districts

The settlement and development of villages throughout Chester County are the result of several influences. These include transportation routes, such as roads and later railroads, surrounding farms, the ability to harness water in that location for milling and industrial purposes, topography, a favorable place to worship, demand for housing, a tavern sites, government seats, and later as a location for the exchange of goods, services, and communication. Depending on the village, the level of influence of these and other factors vary. For example, the village of Eagle (Upper Uwchlan Township), grew up in the eighteenth century around a tavern and crossroads. Nearby, the village of Byers (Upper Uwchlan Township), grew up in the late nineteenth century around a railroad station. Waterloo Mills (Easttown Township), developed around a grain mill, and later a blacksmith shop. The village of Whitehorse (Willistown Township) developed at a crossroads. Fairville (Pennsbury Township) grew up along a major roadway surrounded by no less than five mills and forges. Sugartown, also in Willistown Township, was the result of several influences, including the meetinghouse location and as a seat for local government. In Goshenville, the major influence was the meetinghouse, followed by the proximity of the surrounding Quaker owned farms, the early development of North Chester Road, and later, Paoli Pike, and of course, water for milling operations.

To a limited degree, the presence of two meetinghouses in the same village is a pattern repeated elsewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. Very few places, however, have adjacent, intact meetinghouses forming the basis for the village. One of the two meetinghouses in West Chester, for example, was demolished. However, approximately 10 miles south of Goshenville is the Birmingham Meetinghouse. The meetinghouse is located on the Brandywine Battlefield National Historic Landmark in Birmingham Township, Chester County. Like Goshenville, the oldest meetinghouse sits astride its cemetery. Across Birmingham Road is the Orthodox Meetinghouse, a serpentine walled building similar in design and age to Goshenville's Orthodox Meetinghouse. (It is now a private residence.) The histories of both organizations are similar. The oldest section of the Birmingham Monthly Meetinghouse dates to 1763, although, like Goshenville it replaced an earlier meetinghouse constructed of logs (1721). Both meetings also had graveyards partially surrounding their respective buildings, which in turn were surrounded by stone walls. Each meetinghouse played a role in the Revolutionary War, with the Birmingham Meetinghouse the main defensive position of General Washington's northern contingent during the Battle of Brandywine. For a time, the stone walls around the cemetery helped protect Washington's troops from the British. It also served as a hospital before and after the battle. The Separation also affected the Birmingham Meeting. After 1828, the Orthodox and Hicksite congregations met in separate sides of the meetinghouse, then on alternative days. In 1845, the present Orthodox Meetinghouse was constructed across Birmingham Road, approximately 1/10 of a mile south of the original meetinghouse. The two meetings reconciled in the 1930s.

In contrast to Goshenville, Birmingham never became a village, in the sense of the word. Some current maps continue to call the area "Birmingham," yet the real village was approximately 1.5 miles southeast at Dillworthtown. In any event, Birmingham, like Goshenville, had a school. (The Friends believed everyone should have a basic education, boys as well as girls.) Although the hexagonal school constructed next to the meeting in 1819 was considered a "public" school, it was mainly attended by Quakers. Quakers, like in Goshenville, made up the majority of the surrounding agrarian population. In addition, a general store also opened up in Birmingham in the early nineteenth century, yet it was approximately 1/4 mile from the original meetinghouses with nothing in between. Building lots were not developed until the 1960s, and thus Birmingham never acquired a "village" setting like Goshenville.

There are several National Register historic districts with a rural cross roads and/or linear orientation near the Goshenville Historic District. Two of the closest districts provide a fine comparison and contrast with Goshenville. The first district—Sugartown (listed 1984)—developed in a nearly parallel fashion to Goshenville. Waterloo Mills Historic District (listed 1995), while highly intact and for a time an important commercial center, never became a highly developed village center like Goshenville. Both districts have fewer resources than Goshenville, yet the core villages of all three districts are approximately the same size.

Sugartown Historic District is in Willistown Township, approximately 2 miles northeast of Goshenville. The two villages are historically connected by the Goshen Preparative Meeting, which constructed a Quaker school in Sugartown. Both districts evolved into rural crossroad villages that provided the basic needs for the surrounding Quaker farmers, became the seats of local government, and later experienced a decline in commercial importance due to changes in transportation patterns in the late nineteenth century. Each village exhibits highly intact, late eighteenth and nineteenth century stone and stucco architecture. Like Goshenville, Sugartown's buildings were used for many purposes. There were/are local government buildings, a school, an Odd Fellows Hall, a store, an inn and tavern, and a blacksmith shop at Sugartown. Although both districts retain their historic village characteristic, suburbia has encroached on Goshenville while Sugartown maintains its rural setting.

Another nearby village on the National Register is the Waterloo Mills Historic District, in Easttown Township, approximately 4 miles to the east. Like Goshenville, Waterloo was settled and developed by Quakers. It too contained a mill, a blacksmith/wheelwright shop, a post office, and a small number of residences arranged in a linear arrangement along what became Waterloo Road. In southeastern Pennsylvania rural tradition, the architecture is mainly vernacular, masonry (stone and/or stucco) resources. In Waterloo Mills case, all are highly intact. Waterloo, however, never became the social, religious, local government or transportation center that Goshenville became. Whereas the focal point in Goshenville was and is the meetinghouse, the mill was and is the focal point Waterloo Mills.


Although the landscape around the village of Goshenville has evolved from agricultural use to modern suburbia, Goshenville retains the integrity of its eighteenth and nineteenth century setting. Few noncontributing buildings within the district have been built; few contributing buildings have been demolished. Most importantly, its historic core—the Goshen Friends Meeting complex—remains, virtually unchanged since its present building was erected in 1855. The collection of intact vernacular and higher style houses surrounding the complex are indicative of the Quaker building tradition and stylistic influences incorporated into buildings constructed throughout rural Chester County during the mid-eighteenth to late nineteenth centuries. The district's mainly linear layout along North Chester Road is also indicative of rural development patterns at this time. Most buildings retain their early appearance, including massing, scale, materials, and setback proportions. The few noncontributing buildings do not disturb this setting: In conclusion, the Goshenville Historic District is East Goshen Township's best-preserved, compact, historic village. No other village in the township contains such a large, intact concentration of mid-eighteenth to late-nineteenth century religious, commercial, and residential architecture.

  1. It is possible that some of the original burial records may have been destroyed in the fire.

Selected Bibliography

Newspaper Clippings:

Adapted from: Robert Wise, Jr., Preservation Consultant, Goshenville Historic District, Chester County, PA, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Chester Road • Paoli Pike • Route 352

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