West Whiteland Township municipal offices are located at 222 N Pottstown Pike, Exton PA 19341.
Photo: Hewson Cox House, circa 1854, located on Church Farm Road (near Old Valley Rd). Listed on the National Register in 1984. Photographer: wikipedia username: Smallbones, 2010, (own work) public domain; accessed March, 2023.
Whiteland was formed in 1704; in 1765, it was divided East and West. West Whiteland [†] enjoyed an advantageous location in the Chester Valley (also known as the Great Valley), the natural features of which were conducive to early settlement, agriculture, industry and developments in transportation. In 1855, it was described "with its smiling farms and restful homes...as looking like...one vast and magnificent garden." To the north and south of the valley is hill and timber land.
The location and topography of the Township contributed to its prosperous and diversified rural agricultural economy which persisted into the mid-20th century. The Great Valley which cuts through the center of the Township, extends north and west for approximately 25 miles and contains most of the County's major towns, among them At glen, Parksburg, Coatesville and Downingtown. The Valley is particularly wide and level in West Whiteland and, with its limestone-enriched soil, is well-suited for agriculture. While the Valley floor was ideal for house and farm, the hills to the north-and south provided the timber essential for building and (until the acceptance of fossil fuels) energy for home and industry. It was common for a prosperous farmer to, have 100 acres or more of farmland in the Valley and a woodlot of 10 or 20 acres on the slopes.
West Whiteland also had its Barrens which was (according to 18th and 19th century connotations) hilly, scrubby, and partially open land. The Barrens are found in the Township's southwest corner.
With its underlying band of limestone, the Great Valley was found suitable for more than farming. The wide limestone deposit is largely dolomite, with isolated pockets of iron ore and marble. Marble deposits ranged in hue from nearly pure white to dark blue and black. To the north of the Township are quartz and quartz schist formations and, to the south, Wissahickon Schist. These resources were mined and quarried extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries; limestone continues to be extracted from one active quarry. Evidence of earlier extractions of local stone presents itself in the walls of the Township's predominantly stone houses. The combination of abundant limestone and timber contributed to the early success of a limeburning industry, the product of which was essential in mortar.and used as a soil supplement. The importance of this early industry cannot be over-emphasized; in fact, it may be argued someday that it was the limestone, and not the opportunity for agriculture, that induced settlement in the Great Valley.
By the mid-19th century, the water resources of the Great Valley were nearly legendary: "fountains of cold and pure water so numerous that almost every farm has its springhouse near the door..."
West Whiteland lies within the Brandywine drainage basin and is drained primarily by Valley Creek, which meanders in an east-west course across the Township. Broad Run, one of the Valley Creek's major tributaries, drains the southwest corner, and they converge in East Bradford. In addition to supplying domestic needs, the water powered grist, corn, clover, and saw mills.
The most significant man-made features of the Township, aside from its dispersed farm complexes and rural homes, are key transportation routes: the Lincoln Highway (the Nation's first turnpike, the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, 1792-17944), the Pennsylvania Railroad (one of the earliest railroads in the United States, 1833-4), the Chester Valley Railroad, 1850-1854, and the Trenton Cut-off, 1880-1904. It is along these significant avenues of travel that most of the Township's historic and architectural resources are located, including wayside inns, grist mills, outstanding farm complexes and manor houses, and late 19th century suburban homes.
As is typical of rural, agricultural communities, few of West Whiteland's buildings can be classified as high style. Rather, most are representative examples of vernacular architecture of southeastern Pennsylvania. This is particularly true of the Township's 18th and early 19th century dwellings, mostly sturdy stone houses of practical, traditional design. The completion, however, of the Lancaster Turnpike in 1794, prompted the construction of several architecturally distinguished manor houses along that route. Following the construction of the Columbia Railroad in 1833 and its expansion and development as the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1850 *s, the architecturally conservative landscape became dotted with some fine expressions of Victorian taste. In terms of style, the architecture of the Township reached its peak in the 1880s through 1920, during which period prominent Philadelphia architects were given a free hand in the design of certain homes and estates. It can be argued that West Whiteland was the westernmost extension of the "Main Line." It offers a full menu of late Victorian architecture including Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Stockbroker's Tudor, and an assortment of Period houses. Unlike most Chester County communities of the era, deliberate style was the rule, not the exception,
† Adapted from: Stephen Del Sordo and Diane S. Snyder, West Whiteland Historicl Commission; Steve Kouter and Martha Wolf, Brandywine Conservancy; West Whieland Township Multiple Resource Nomination, 1982 & 1983, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Nearby Towns: Birmingham Twp • Charlestown Twp • East Bradford Twp • East Caln Twp • East Goshen Twp • East Whiteland Twp • Pocopson Twp • Thornbury Twp • Upper Uwchlan Twp • Uwchlan Twp • West Chester Boro • West Goshen Twp • West Pikeland Twp • Westtown Twp •