Doylestown is named after the Doyle family. The Doyle family originally came from France (their name was D'ouilli at that time), but moved to Ireland during the Inquisition. Around 1600 their name was changed to D'oyley and later it was changed again to Doyle. Edward Doyle sailed to America in 1640 and lived in Rhode Island for a time until he then moved to Bucks County after receiving a land grant from William Penn in 1692. He died in 1703.

Edward Doyle's children remained in Bucks County and settled in the area of Doylestown. In 1730 Edward Doyle Junior (born 1690) bought 150 acres of land in what is now Doylestown. Further land purchases were made in the area by the Doyle family in 1737. The Doyles built an inn in 1745 and the town was known early on as "William Doyl's Tavern" and "Doyle's Town." In 1752 a second tavern was built, which still stands today (although modified from its original state). In 1776 the inn was sold by William Doyle (born in 1712, son of Edward Doyle Junior), who moved to Plumstead, Bucks County, where he died in 1780. After the sale of the tavern the town became known by its present name. More information can be found accompanying the picture of the tavern, below.

George Washington and his Continental army camped in the Doylestown area in June, 1778, on their way from Valley Forge to fight the British fleeing Philadelphia for New York. Doylestown was made the county seat in 1813. In 1856 a railroad line was completed between Doylestown and Philadelphia. The current train station in town dates from 1876.

Doylestown designated parts of the older (historic) part of town as a historic district, which limits the type of changes people can make to the structures in order to preserve the historic integrity of the area. There is also a federal National Register Historic District which was established by the Department of the Interior in 1985. Doylestown was featured in a recent National Geographic Publication in their "Guide to Small Town Escapes." And even more recently, in 2001 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the town as one of its "Dozen Distintive Destinations." The trust stated that Doylestown is a place "where four world-class museums are within walking distance," and further went on to say that it "rivals many large cities such as nearby Philadelphia with its world-class cultural facilities, elegant Victorian architecture, and historic attractions. Its commitment to the arts is exceeded only by its engrained preservation ethic."

It almost did happen this way, though. When a new shopping center started drawing customers away from the old part of town in the early 1960's, the historic section of town began to decay. The County tried to step in to restore the area with urban renewal funds, but their plan included razing more than 20 buildings to make room for more modern structures. The Fountain House, a landmark of town (see photos below) was to be torn down to make room for a parking lot. Fortunately, the citizens of Doylestown rejected that plan and the town has blossomed in the years since.

Doylestown has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Just read this excerpt from a recent newspaper article describing what makes Doylestown so special:

"The town is handsomely improved, affording most of the streets, delightful shady walks; a beautiful promenade in the public grounds; and we have first rate ice creams and mineral waters, not exceeded even by the Chestnut Street [Philadelphia] vendors. Our landlords, we know, have a few spare well-furnished rooms, and we have no doubt, would do all in their power to render city visitors very comfortable and at reasonable prices."

Of course, in this case, "recent" is a relative term. The quote above comes from the Democrat newspaper of July 7, 1841. But the fact that it is still so applicable today is a testament to how the city has retained its charm over the years.

At the bottom of this page you will find a link to the Doylestown Historical Society. Doylestown has preserved a lot of its historic character because of the efforts of this society. Please consider joining or making a donation to help them continue the great work they have been doing.

This is a picture of the civil war memorial and other buildings. The civil war monument was erected in 1868 to honor the 104th regiment. This regiment, formed from local Doylestown citizens, saw much action in the South during the civil war. The 104th suffered 501 casualties during its service in the war. The bloodiest day was on May 31, 1862, where half of the 293 soliders were killed or wounded. The structure in the background to the right of the monument is the Intelligencer Building, named after the original builders, the Daily Intelligencer Newspaper, which is still published in Doylestown to this day. This building was constructed in 1876 and replaced a previous structure built in 1843, which itself had replaced a log cabin that had been there since 1804. The log cabin is where the town's first newspaper was printed. The little street to the left of the building is still known as "Printer's Alley."

A closeup view of the civil war monument. Carved in the side is the phrase "TO THE MEMORY OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTH PENNSYLVANIA REGIMENT, WHO FELL IN THE LATE WAR"

A 1907 photo of North Main Street in Doylestown. The civil war monument can be seen at the right of the photo.

 
Photo by Chuck Rudy
 
Civial war reenactors represening the 69th Pa Irish Volunteer regiment at the 2007 memorial day parade in Doylestown.

 
Photo by Chuck Rudy
 
The 69th Pa Irish Volunteer regiment.

This is a picture of the Fountainhouse from 2002, after it had been renovated and converted into a Starbucks. It was originally known as William Doyle's Tavern, built around 1752. In the past the inn had also been known as "Fox Chase" and "Brower's Hotel." The inn once had a well in front, but in 1872 the well was changed to a fountain and the name of the tavern was changed to the "Fountainhouse" which is the name it is still known by today. The roof (known as a French Mansard Roof) with the five windows is not the original and was added to the structure in 1873.

Interestingly, the tavern changed hands several times soon after the sale by William Doyle in 1776. William Doyle sold the tavern to Daniel Hough, who subsequently re-sold the tavern a day later to Richard Swanwick. Swanwick held the tavern for a little under two years until May, 1778, when it was discovered that he had joined the British Army. He was arrested for "High Treason" and his land and the inn were confiscated. The tavern was then sold to the highest bidders, Joseph and Samuel Flack, in August 1779. The inn has had multiple owners since that time. In 1971 the inn became a bank, Girard Bank, which then became Mellon Bank. In the last couple of years it has gone through yet more change. As is the case of virtually every place in America these days, the main floor has now been converted into a Starbucks.

A view of the Fountainhouse from a 1940s postcard.

Inside the Fountainhouse when it was still an inn. This is from a postcard which stated "Cafe and Lower Grill Room, Fountain House."

This view shows Main Street in Doylestown around 1915. You can see a small portion of the Fountainhouse to the left. The old trolley tracks, no longer present, are also visible.

Another old image of the Fountain House.

Still another view of the Fountain House from long ago.

Many beautiful buildings surround the intersection where the Fountain House resides. The buidling in the foreground is across the street from the Fountain House. It was built in 1833 as a hardware store run by Charles Harvey, on the site of a general store that stood at the same location. This building served as a hardware store for over a century. It was also the location of Doylestown's first telegraph line which was installed in 1845.

 
Screen shot from 1954 short film "Our Town"
 
A similar view of the intersection near the Fountain House in 1954.

Catercorner from the Fountain House is the Lenape Hall building. It was built in 1874 and originaly served as an indoor market as well as a meeting place. Before the days of paved roads it had an awning covering the sidewalk where local farmers often sold their goods. At the time it was built it was considered an architectural masterpiece, and it is fortunate that it has been preserved to the present day. To the left of the structure can be seen the County Theater. Lenape Hall replaced the Ship Tavern (built 1774, demolished 1874) which had stood at the same site. A cornerstone from this hotel that states "Doylstown 26 miles to Phila" is supposedly preserved and embedded in the foundation of Lenape Hall.

Almost directly across the street from the Fountain House is the Doylestown Inn. This in has served guests for over a century, since 1902, and was renovated in 2001.

 
Screen shot from 1954 short film "Our Town"
 
A 1954 view of the Doylestown Inn (on the left), seen from the opposite direction.

The steeple of the Landmark Building. The buidling was constructed between 1868 and 1876 and originally was the First Baptist Church. It now houses offices.

An old home in Doylestown.

The building in the foreground is across from the Courthouse at the corner of South Broad and East Court Streets. It has the date 1886 on it and was originally the Bucks County Trust Company building. The basement of it was, for a time, the Melinda Cox children's library. It was eventually supplanted when the newer library was built next to the Michener art museum.

The historic section of Doylestown is best explored by foot. Doing so will allow one to appreciate the fine architectural detail of many of the old homes, such the one one in this picture.

A Doylestown street scene, along East Court Street.

This is another street scene in Doylestown, on West Court Street. This building dates from 1832.

This church was built between 1902-1903 and served originally as a Methodist Church.

This is the Doylestown train station, the last stop on SEPTA's R5 line. The station was built of stone in 1876, replacing a wooden structure.

 
Screen shot from 1954 short film "Our Town"
 
The Doylestown train station in 1954.

This is the Doylestown Agricultural Works building. It was originally built in 1867, and was partly rebuilt in 1913 after a fire. It sat in ruins for many years until the 1980's when it was completely renovated and turned into retail shops. It is located across the street from the train station.

Another view of the Agricultural Works buidling. The historic marker in front states, "Constructed in 1867, this factory produced farm machinery and ironwork and was, for many years, the area's largest employer. It sold products around the world and, like other midsize metalworking firms, contributed to America's industrial growth. In its declining years it was owned by Genera Motors' Sampson Tractor Division (1920-21) and others. Ceased manufacturing operations in 1937."

A typical Doylestown Street, near the Ag Works. This is South Main Street.

A Doylestown building along South Main Street.

This home can be found along East Ashland Street, near the Mercer Museum.

 
Photo by Richard Hanauer
 
The County Theater was built in 1938, and was the fourth movie theater in Doylestown (the first dating from 1907). It was built in what is known as art-deco style. Time and the emergence of multiple other leisure activities took its toll on the theater and it was closed in 1990 and then again in 1992. In 1993 it was re-opened as a non-profit venture. Major renovations were begun in 1997. Today the theater continues to operate with the help of community and member support. (The preceding history is a brief encapsulation of what can be found on the theater's official website, link below).

 
Screen shot from 1954 short film "Our Town"
 
The County Theater as seen in 1954.

 
Photo by Richard Hanauer
 
This building houses the headquarters of the Doylestown Historical Society. Dating from around 1814, the structure was purchased in October 2001 by the Historical Society (founded in 1995) and was then renovated.

Doylestown would not be what it is today without the hard work of the Doylestown Historical Society. The Society, founded in 1995, has not only made great efforts to preserve the town's rich history, but has also sought to showcase and publicize the historic importance of the town as well. They have done this, among other ways, by erecting historic markers and through their publication called the "Doylestown Correspondent", the newsletter of the Doylestown Historic Society. They are always in need of volunteers as well as money to help support their non-profit activities.

Doylestown has several small "pocket parks" scattered around, including the one shown in this photograph which is directly behind the Doylestown Historical Society.

Part of this old building now serves as a used book store.

Photos by Richard Hanauer

The four photos above were taken at the 2002 Doylestown Art Fair

More street scences in Doylestown

This ordinary looking building at the corner of Pine and Oakland Streets was Doylestown's first hospital. It was founded by the Village Improvement Association in 1923 and served as a hospital until 1939 when it moved to a larger location. Dr. Hayman was one of the founding physicians. A friend of Henry Mercer, he used to make house calls in a horse and buggy.

More street scences in Doylestown

More street scences in Doylestown

More street scences in Doylestown

The free library at Doylestown, next door to the Michener art museum.

 
Photo by Richard Hanauer
 
This is the Bucks County Courthouse in Doylestown. It's located here since Doylestown is the county seat of Bucks. It was built in 1960 and, while architecturally interesting, does not fit in well with the rest of the historic buildings that surround it.

 
Photo by Richard Hanauer
 
Another view of the Bucks County Courthouse.

 
Photo by Richard Hanauer
 
The courthouse pictured here is actually the third courthouse to be located at this spot. The first one was built in 1812 and razed in 1877 for construction of another courthouse which was itself razed in 1960 for the current structure. As the county has continued to grow, the courthouse has again become inadequate to meet the current needs and much talk is currently underway to determine where a new courthouse should be built. Interestingly, in a clear display of how history tends to repeat itself, the following are a few quotes about the inadequacy of the courthouse, quoted from two 2002 Daily Intelligencer articles:

"Bucks County faces a huge decision, one that will hit every taxpayer in the wallet, one that will change the daily routines of anyone who lives in, works in or travels to Doylestown ... What to do about the overcrowded--and some say dangerously inadequate--courthouse on the hill..."

"Each choice for solving Bucks' courthouse space crunch will be costly, disruptive and time consuming. Also, any plan accepted by the commissioners is going to have opponents."

Compare that to what was stated about the original courthouse, soon after the second one was built. This quote accompanies the picture below.

 
 
This is second courthouse to stand at the same location. It was built in 1877 and torn down in 1960. Compare the quote above, about the current courthouse, to what was said about this courthouse soon after it was built:

"The erection of a new Court House had been agitated several years without success, many reasons being urged against it, among others the great cost. While the old building had answered every purpose when built and for many years after, the business of the courts had outgrown the accommodations. It lacked every modern convenience."

 
 
This is the original courthouse in Doylestown, built in 1812 and torn down in 1877.

Related items of interest:

A link to the Doylestown Historical Society

A live web cam showing various views from the heart of Doylestown at the corner of Main & State Streets provided by the web site, Doylestown's Front Porch.

A short film of Doylestown from 1954 called "Our Home Town"