The Cold Point Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The Cold Point Historic District is an eastward extension of the current Plymouth Meeting Historic District. The Cold Point Historic District would begin on Butler Pike at the terminus of the Plymouth meeting Historic District, starting at Corson's (lower left hand corner above Plymouth Meeting) and extends along both sides of the Butler Pike, embracing Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships to the intersection of the Plymouth-Whitpain Township line with Butler Pike, approximately 1-1/4 miles distant.
It also includes the area along both sides of Narcissa Road in Plymouth Township from Butler Pike to Hickory Road. In Whitemarsh Township it follows both sides of Flourtown Road to the spur beyond the Trenton Cut-off. Finally it extends about .8 mile along Militia Hill from its intersection with butler Pike at Cold Point Hill Road.
The area includes the Village of Cold Point. Allan N. Corson's homestead House which is on the National Register, the Cold Point Baptist Church and burial ground, the Cold Point School (now a private residence), four houses currently on the State Register and forty-four other houses built between 1745 and 1878, including three houses owned and probably built by free black men, c.1810-1820.
The architecture of the area is predominately 2 1/2 story rubble stone single family dwellings, stuccoed, with gabled roof. A few show Greek Revival features, while others reflect the Gothic peak of the 1850's. Of the old homes in the only two are completely framed and one is partially frame. There are no old brick houses; however there are several that were built during the modern era. (The style of the houses reflects the English-Welsh Quaker heritage of the builders and the raw materials needed to supply the stone and stucco were found in abundance in the vicinity of Cold Point. In the 1789 Direct Tax, the so-called window pane tax, there were two brick dwelling listed in Whitemarsh (one of which was Hope Lodge) and one made of part brick and part stone. In Plymouth there was only one made of brick and it was located on Plymouth Road. These houses were mansion houses or capital mansions and carried a high valuation. Bricks apparently were expensive. Moreover, they were not burned in the area since no brick kiln appears on the 1798 Plymouth or Whitemarsh tax list.
The Historic District is composed of two residential areas:
The Village of Cold Point comprising houses, along both sides of Butler Pike in Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships.
Farms and farmsteads in contiguous areas in Plymouth and in Whitemarsh.
The Village of Cold Point remains essentially the same as it was depicted on Scott's Atlas of 1877. The earliest settlement in this area was made by William Dickinson c. 1703/4. At that time the lime kilns were located nearby on property Owned by John Ridwitzer.
After Samuel Maulsby's estate was sold in 1838, the principal purchasers of his estate, George & Elias Hicks & Dr. Hiram Corson built houses and the first two mentioned brothers established the business which is known today as G. & W.H. Corson-Lime Merchants, a subsidiary of I.U.E. Industries.
On the Whitemarsh side of the Village, from Corson's to the Gravel Pit on Militia Hill Road, known early as The Road to Mather's Mill, only three of the houses that appeared on the 1877 Scott's Atlas Map (and the toll house) are not standing today. Moreover, there are only 4 modern houses, built during the period 1920 to 1960.
Passengers traveled via the Plymouth and Reading R.R. arriving at Cold Point Station which was located on Flourtown Road at the present Reading Railroad (SEPTA) crossing. The Plymouth R.R. was chartered in 1836 primarily to serve the lime industry in Plymouth and Whitemarsh Twps. By 1886 it extended from Conshohocken to Oreland in Springfield Twp., Montgomery Co., where it connected with the North Penn Railroad. Passenger service on this line was never large since its entire course was through a farming district.
The Historic District is essentially as it was in 1840 – a residential farming area with a neighboring lime industry. However, the lime industry has moved from Butler Pike at Corsons to Flourtown Road, SE of Butler Pike. Of the 50 structures in this area identified in Scott's 1877 Atlas, 21 of 23 that were in the Village are still standing. In Plymouth 18 out of 20 remain while in Whitemarsh 8 out of 8.
The Village of Cold Point is a well preserved, eastern Pennsylvania rural community of the nineteenth century. It retains its rural, agricultural and early industrial character and features. Approximately 91% of the houses appearing on the Scott's Atlas of 1877 are still standing and retain their integrity of workmanship and style.
The architecture of Cold Point reflects the growth of the community. There are 26 houses built prior to 1843 (the date of the sale of Samuel Maulsby's estate). During the period of development and expansion by the Corsons, 1843-1910, 24 houses were built. From 1910 to 1930 13 houses were built while 40 have been added during the last 50 years.
The village of Cold Point was first known as Plymouth and according to William Buck in his History of Montgomery County, it was located on the township line at the head of the Plymouth Railroad about a mile above Plymouth Meeting House. In 1859 it contained a store and five houses in Plymouth Township and seventeen houses and a Baptist Church on the Whitemarsh side.
All of the houses that appeared on the Village of Cold Point map in Scott's Atlas of 1877 are still standing today, except for two. Of the 18 houses built in the Village after the date, 2 were built between 1878 and 1930 and 8 were erected in the last 50 years.
A unique feature of Cold Point and its neighbors was the ownership by free black men of property with dwellings. Two of the houses are still occupied while a third has been altered substantially. However, these black men undoubtedly helped build several other houses that are still standing in Cold Point. One of these men, Thomas DeMott, was employed by Alan Corson in the construction of houses.
Slave holding was condemned in 1754 by the Society of Friends and so it is not surprising to find very few slaves in Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships. In 1785 there were 2 slaves in Whitemarsh and none in Plymouth; in the entire County of Montgomery there were 108. By 1810 there were only 3 slaves in the county and by 1830 only 1.
The houses are rubble stone construction, two stories with gable roofs and stuccoed. These materials were available in the area. A few of the houses built at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century are frame with German siding. While later 20th century construction combines wood stone and stucco, in Cape Cods, ranchers and two story substantial stone dwellings.
The historic district stretches along several ancient roads through an area that still retains its rural appearance. In the Village of Cold Point, there are eight intrusions that appear along Flourtown Road, Butler Pike and Militia Hill Road. Interspersed among the trees and shrubs they blend into the fabric of the Village. The houses on Brooke Lane are screened by vegetation and the bank of the hill on Butler Pike. Moreover the appearance of 30-50 year old houses clustered on Cold Point hill does not detract. These latter intrusions blend into the white stucco theme of the Village.
Plymouth Twp. was purchased from William Penn by a group of Friends who came from Plymouth in Devonshire, England, and who wanted "the most convenient place for the encouragement of the woolen manufacture, intended to be set up by them." The original settlers abandoned the area and tracts were sold to Welsh Quakers.
Limestone was discovered early in Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships. Dr. Nicholas More in his letter dated the 13th of September, 1686 to William Penn states "that Madam Farmar has found out as good limestone on the Schuylkill as any in the world and is building with it. She offers to sell ten thousand bushels at six pence the bushel upon her plantation where there are several considerable hills." This is the earliest record of lime burning in Whitemarsh Twp.
On Jan. 16. 1688 James Fox wrote to William Penn and told him that he had found limestone on one part of his land and that he had started delivering it to Philadelphia in January 1688 at 12 shillings a bushel slacked. He also points out that he and other members of Plymouth Township had been attempting to have a road laid out from Germantown to Plymouth, a distance of about nine miles. This is the earliest record of lime burning in Plymouth Township. Lime was burned in Cold Point at least as early as 1703 for at that date John Redwitz in his deed, reserved the right to enter his lime kilns through property conveyed to William Dickinson. Eventually every farm had a lime kiln basis for an industry but it also made magnesium into the poor red shale soil agriculture.
The concentration of lime burning activities in the Plymouth Meeting area undoubtedly suggested to Alan W. Corson the desirability of organizing a company to quarry, burn and cart lime to the surrounding countryside. He and his son, Elias Hicks, must have learned about lime burning from his brother-in-law, Thomas Egbert. In 1824 Egbert was secretary of the Montgomery County Lime Burners' Association which included Daniel Davis, Abraham Marple and William Hellings, who were also Cold Point lime burners.
George Corson, Alan W. Corson's younger brother, married Martha, the daughter of Samuel Maulsby who had quarries and lime kilns on his 128 acre estate. Consequently George became interested in lime burning and quarrying. In 1843 he was joined by his nephew, Elias Hicks Corson, who had been engaged in the lime business in Chester County. Together they purchased Maulsby's quarries and kilns. Today the company known as George and W.H. Corson Co. can claim its origin from that venture. However, there is evidence that lime was burned on that property at least as early as 1798 when the "window pane tax" shows Thomas Davis as living in a stone dwelling on Maulsby's estate (probably either the Hovendon House, now on the National Register, or the Cater Corner House). On the Whitemarsh tax assessment for 1798 Thomas Davis is listed as a lime burner. There is also evidence that Davis was a free black man. This is not unusual since Samuel Maulsby was a strong supporter of the abolition movement as was his son-in-law, George Corson, the builder of Abolition Hall.
After George Corson's death in 1860 his widow, Martha, sold to Elias Hicks Corson. He in turn died in 1877 and his sons George & Walter H. continued the business which still bears their names. In 1972 this corporation became a subsidiary of I.U. International Corp.
In 1849 a newspaper correspondent reported that he noticed immense piles of dry wood (about 6,000 cords) which had been taken in exchange for lime by the "Messers Corson." Their trade was largely farmers in Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia County. They burned about 150 bushels a year in six kilns with coal, employing 20 men and they worked 15 horses.
Today this company produces 1,000 tons per hour of raw material that supplies modern gas fired kilns and stone crushers. G. and W.H. Corson is the oldest continuously operated lime business in the United States.
The Headquarters was moved about 1910 from Butler Pike to Joshua and Stenton Avenues, one half mile east in Whitemarsh Twp. The Village of Cold Point that this industry created still stands essentially the same as it was when George, Elias Hicks and Hiram Corson expanded the earlier cross roads hamlet called Plymouth to the lime burners village of Cold Point.
Cold Point was originally settled by Quakers who attended Plymouth Meeting. The later German settlers worshipped at St. Peter's of Barren Hill in Whitemarsh Twp. or at St. John's in Whitpain Township. In the 1830's there was a renewed interest in the tenets of the Baptist Church. A church was organized by members of the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church and early worship services were held at the Cold Point School on Cold Point Hill Road. A church building was constructed about 1845; the current edifice was built in 1869.
The old church building was the headquarters for the Cold Point Castle No. 103, Knights of the Golden Eagle, which was organized at the church on June 7, 1886. It also served as a meeting place for Camp 53 Patriotic Order Sons of America. These societies, as well as the Cold Church were composed largely of members of the Cold Point Baptist Church. Incidentally the Cold Point Grange No. 606 met initially at Lysinger Hall and in 1876 was considered the model grange. At one time it was the banner grange, having 300 members.
On May 20, 1778 a British force under General Grant left Whitemarsh in an attempt to cut off Lafayette who was positioned at Barren Hill, east on Germantown Pike. The Red Coats passed along Militia Hill Road and when they arrived at Cold Point Hill they turned Southwest and proceeded through Cold Point along Butler Pike to the Plymouth Meeting House located at the intersection of Butler Pike and Germantown Pike. General Lafayette was warned of the approaching British troops and he skillfully retreated to Matson's Ford (present day Conshohocken). Samuel Mausby's observations of this event, as a lad of ten, have been recorded by John Fanning Watson in his Annals of Philadelphia.
The burial ground adjacent to the Cold Point Baptist Church is the resting place for many of the residents of Cold Point who were not members of the Society of Friends. The structure is located on top of Cold Point Hill, the promontory for which the era is named.
In 1904 Edward Matthews stated in a newspaper article, "The site of the Cold Point Baptist church was aptly named many years ago, for it is a cold point, when wintry winds sweep across the exposed elevation from west and north. A high ridge, which extends eastward across Whitemarsh, here rises to the greater height, and comes to an abrupt termination in a narrow peak. The township line road, separating from Plymouth and leading from Broad Axe in a straight line to Plymouth Meeting Village, was laid up this hill and down again, but the gradient is so steep on the southwest side that teams rarely pass up and down it. So, long ago, another road was made, passing around the upper side of the hill, and this is in universal use. The site is pleasant, breezy and healthful on summer days, and the view attractive. Looking west and southwest over the fertile limestone region below, thickly dotted with farm houses, lie the villages termed Cold Point and Plymouth Meeting. For a rural region the population is quite dense."
While the Cold Point School was the second public school that was established in Plymouth Township (1817) it is the oldest one still standing. However, it is now occupied as a private residence. It was built on ground donated by Thomas Egbert for the use of three contiguous townships, Plymouth, Whitemarsh and Whitpain. In 1817 seventy-five subscribers from Cold Point and its environs pledged $167.50 for the erection of the school. Some of those dollars were pledged in lime instead of cash. The school served the community until 1915 when the school directors of Plymouth sold the building and lot to Evan Brooke. He was active as a builder of houses in the Cold Point-Plymouth Meeting area. Brooke Lane on Cold Point Hill was named in his honor.
Joseph Foulke was the teacher at the Friends School at Plymouth Meeting from 1811 through 1816. He lived at Cold Point for one year on a 14 acre tract that he subdivided and sold at the end of 1816. His house, located on Narcissa Road, was destroyed when the Pennsylvania Turnpike was constructed. Thomas Egbert's lot was part of Foulke's subdivision.
During the period of the formation of Cold Point School, Alan W. Corson operated a boarding school on his fifty acre farm which was located about 1/4 mile east of Cold Point Hill. He continued to teach until the mid 1830's. Prior to establishing this school he taught at the Friends School at Plymouth Meeting.
Alan Corson, according to Thomas Mean, Editor of the History of Montgomery Co., published in 1884, was "without doubt the best known and most justly celebrated scholar and scientist in Montgomery County." His house, in the current Cold Point Study, is listed separately on the National Register.
‡ Adapted from: Edward T. Addison, Plymouth Meeting Historical Society, Cold Point Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Butler Pike • Militia Hill Road • Narcissa Road