MODERN MALE, SELLERSVILLE, PA, FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND
(A recent Pearl S. Buck pilgrimage took a friend and me also to surrounding towns in very rural Pennsylvania. Sellersville was a curious combination of past and present. We had to turn to Wikipedia to learn some of its past.)
EMMA, OUR CHARMING GUIDE TO NEARBY PEARL BUCK ESTATE
Sellersville was founded in the early 18th century. It was centered on a major road known as Bethlehem Pike that connected Philadelphia to Bethlehem and the rest of what was then far Western Pennsylvania.
(Wikipedia is rather voluble about this tiny burg surrounded by farmland, hills and almost-mountains of the appropriate shade of violet.)
(We had begun our Pearl Buck-quest at a delightfully vibrant and lively farmers’ market in Perkasie. First peaches joined healthy cabbage, vibrant tomatoes and a rainbow, so to speak, of fresh ‘greens’, sold by the farmers themselves.)
The ‘shank of the day’ was spent exploring the Pearl Buck Estate on nearby Dublin Road.
WELCOME TO SELLERSVILLE
Our finale was a bountiful and gracious late lunch at Sellarsville’s remarkably sophisticated Washington Inn, in what most people otherwise might describe as ‘a backwater’. The name of that Inn was just part of the constant Fourth-of-July references that peppered our adventure, –none planned and all greatly appreciated–, on our Country’s sacred Birthday weekend.)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR AMERICA, FROM SELLERSVILLE
The town was very small and was called Sellers Tavern. Its most notable feature was a large inn. The present Washington House in Sellersville, however, was not Sellers Tavern.
HOW WASHINGTON INN LOOKED FROM MAIN STREET IN ITS PAST
The town grew slowly over the years until the Industrial Revolution. In the 1860s the North Pennsylvania Railroad was built, running parallel to Bethlehem Pike: this stimulated the growth of light textile industries and brought a wave of population growth.
PROUD PAST – SELLSERSVILLE’S MAIN STREET
The East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek runs through the town, connecting it to an adjacent town of Perkasie. This creek was dammed in the early 20th century, creating a small body of water known as Lake Lenape. (So, even in Pennsylvania, places are named after those who were destroyed — these first settlers — in order that ‘progress’ might take place…)
Along the length of the lake, a park was built on Perkasie and Sellersville lands. In the 1920s and 1930s this park housed a carousel, a roller coaster and several other amusements.
The railroad brought hundreds of people from Philadelphia in the summertime. It became a well known vacation spot for blue-collar city workers.
SELLERSVILLE THEATER, 1894
The town was also home to the Radium Company of America, which was the largest uranium milling facility in the world at the time. (There seems to be no notice of the human toll of uranium milling, or the “luminescence” to follow. At Wheaton Glass Museum in South Jersey, the human toll of luminous glassware is frankly declared.)
TURRETED TOWN OF SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
The United States Gauge Company originated in Sellersville in 1904. It became a prominent manufacturer of gauges for military use, many of which were coated with radium-based paint for nighttime luminesence. The company later became instrumental in the production of nuclear weapons, leaving behind a legacy of industrial and radioactive contamination that has been well-hidden by local, county, state, and federal government agencies for decades. (Ironically, my friend – who had planned this intricate excursion- and I were actively speaking with longing of the healthy air, the healthy lives these fortunate residents must have!)
CLEMATIS EXUBERANCE, WASHINGTON INN
Today the town is still relatively small, sandwiched between a ridge line and the larger town of Perkasie. The center of town still runs along Bethlehem Pike, now called Old Route 309.
THE WASHINGTON INN, 2017
The Washington House still stands and has recently been restored to become an upscale restaurant.
HOTEL AND RESTAURANT: WASHINGTON INN
Next door to the restaurant was a livery stable, which was converted into a theater (later a movie theater) in 1894. It has since been restored. It was reopened in 2001 as Sellersville Theater 1894 as a live music venue. (The Washington Inn and the Sellersville Theater cooperate in evenings of food and drama. My friend and I signed up for chances on “A Big Night in Sellersville — involving gastronomy and theatre and ‘a night in the Tower.’)
PARISIAN CHAIRS, WASHINGTON INN, SELLERSVILLE, PA
The creek is still dammed but only the carousel in Perkasie remains of the amusements.
The textile industry has long moved out of the area. Sellersville has become mainly a residential town for people working in the many urban centers that are only a short commute away.
The town is surrounded on three sides by open country and spread-out housing developments.
TURRET OF YESTERYEAR, SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA