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Thornbury Township

Chester County, Pennsylvania

Thornbury Township municipal offices are located at 8 Township Drive, Cheyney PA 19319; phone 610‑399‑1425.

Thornbury Township [†] is a primarily residential community that boasts amenities ranging from parks and trails to unique historic character and access to major roadways.

Like most Chester County townships, Thornbury's name has English roots, reportedly named after a town in Gloucestershire. The township acquired its present boundaries in 1786, when Delaware County was carved out of Chester County. Because property owners in Thornbury and Birmingham townships were given the choice of which county they wished to reside in, each township acquired an irregular southern edge.

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Neighborhoods

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For its first 270 years, from 1687 to approximately 1955, Thornbury was rural with scattered family farmsteads. During the nineteenth century many local farmers added acreage and turned increasingly to dairy farming to meet the demands of the Philadelphia and Wilmington markets. The latter was reached via Wilmington Pike (today's U.S. Route 202), along which an early village and post office, Darlington Corners, grew on the Westtown‑Thornbury border.

Access to Philadelphia improved when the Philadelphia and West Chester Railroad cut through the township shortly before the Civil War. The township's train station and post office (called Westtown Station in 1883) was completed in 1858. Rural isolation lessened, especially after a telegraph office was installed in 1873. The railroad also enabled city dwellers to build summer retreats; many of them remain as handsome and understated Victorian homes near the township's eastern end.

Although the automobile enabled many residents in the early twentieth century to commute to jobs in Media, Paoli, and Wilmington, the township remained rural and rather sparsely populated. That pattern came to an end in the mid-1950s, when in 1956 eager home buyers started moving into Thornbury Estates, the township's first housing development. The impact was significant; the township's population more than doubled, from 297 residents in 1950 to 746 a decade later, after the subdivision's completion. In 2018, many subdivisions later, its population exceeds 3,000, and open space is a general concern.

The township's history has been one of citizens living generally unremarkable lives, loyal to their families, flag, and faiths. Its one brush with national history was the 1777 Battle of Brandywine, fought on the township's western border. It was the largest engagement in America's war for independence, but one in which the Continental Army was defeated. Squire Thomas Cheyney, a local farmer, gained fame for attempting to warn General Washington of the British successful flanking action. Today a portion of Squire Cheney's farm is a township park and his house is under a preservation easement.

† Adapted from: Thornbury Township Comprehensive Plan, 2018, www.thornburytwp.com, accessed September, 2019.

Historic Site

Thornbury Lodge (also known as the William J. Barnard Residence), located at 920 East Street Road (Route 925) was listed the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. At time of registration the property was known as the Green Shadows Farm. Text, below, was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.

Green Shadows was designed in 1900 by W. E. Jackson, a Chester County born architect who practiced in Philadelphia. By September of that year the foundations were laid. The newly dug 60' deep artesian well still provides the house with water. Work was completed in 1907.

The design is unique to Thornbury Township, and perhaps, to Chester County. Architect W.E. Jackson had a career-long association with Wilson Eyre, a nationally prominent Philadelphia architect whose free and original interpretation of the Queen Anne Style is evident in "Anglecot" (Chestnut Hill) and the "Jeffords Mansion" (Ridley Creek State Park. Unlike Eyre, few of Jackson's individual commissions are known, much less survive; he seems to have worked largely behind the scenes with Eyre in a loose partnership, until his death in 1930. Through Green Shadows, some insight might be gleaned concerning the quiet architect's talents and his long-term Wilson Eyre association.

The fact that W. E. Jackson and William Jackson Barnard (for whom the house was designed in 1900) were first cousins was typical of the manner in which commissions were secured through family and friends. Because the architectural drawings have been preserved and the structure itself remains so true to the original specifications, Green Shadows may serve as the ideal model for further study of early 20th century construction techniques and architectural practices. As a result of the fortunate preservation of the plans, old photographs, and the structure so rigorously maintained, the Athenaeum and the American Institute of Architects have requested, and are receiving, a duplicate of the material submitted to the National Register, and also on file with the Library of Congress.

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