Borough Walking Tour
Elverson Borough Building
(Elverson Grade School)
Before Elverson Grade School, the town used two Methodist Episcopal Churches built where the Springfield Cemetery is located on Main Street. The first church was built in 1816 of logs and later, about 1823, a second church was built of stone. The churches were used for education during the week. About 1830, the third school in Springfield (Elverson’s former name) was held in a two-story building on Water Street (now Chestnut Street).
The Elverson School was built in 1873 and had one room for eight grades. Because of noise and confusion, in 1913 the School Board decided to enlarge the building. In 1914, an addition was built in order to have two rooms, one for grades 1-4 and the other for grades 5-8. After 8th grade, students went to Central High School in West Nantmeal Township and later to Caernarvon High School in Morgantown. At present, the building is the Borough Hall with one room used for offices and borough meetings, and the other room used by the Boy Scouts.
The School officially closed in 1967. Bets Witwer has a list of 28 different teachers, some teaching a few years and others as little as a 1/2 year. The three who taught the longest were Anna Dunlap, from 1891-1933 (42 years), Ester (Kline) McElroy, from 1924-1967 (43 years), and Myrtle Geiger, from 1942-1961 (19 years).
In 1987, the first Elverson Grade School Reunion was held with many former students attending. All had fond memories of all the old games played on the playground during recess, the cabins in the woods, the outhouses, the pranks played, etc. But, most were thankful for the great education they received.
Train Station Ticket Office and Freight Station
Situated along Main Street and adjacent to the railroad tracks, you will see our historic train station (or ticket office) and to the rear its separate freight station. Both were erected in 1870 with the advent of the railroad line coming through Elverson. The two were built in the Victorian style and continue to lend a certain charm to our historic district today. In the heyday of the railroad this site was the center of much commerce flowing both in and out of our small town, and it was where man men and boys would gather, as it was a hub for local and even national news.
When the rail lines were torn up in the early 1980’s, the train station was kept in good repair and became used as a district office for Pennsylvania State Representative Tim Hennessey. The freight station, however, fell onto hard times, until it was rescued by two different Elverson Boy Scout Eagle projects. In 1998 it was repaired and repainted, and in 2003 its missing loading docks were rebuilt as they had originally looked. Then in 2012 this historic shed became functional once again. A set of 60 cluster mailboxes were installed inside to serve residents of east-end Elverson. Once again it’s a place to meet your neighbor and exchange town news!
White Horse Tavern
An early drover’s tavern, The White Horse Tavern primarily served the men who worked the many iron furnaces in the area, as well as men hired to drive herds of cattle, called drovers. From 1811, the Tavern was owned by Daniel Mast and operated by John G. Jones, a father of 8, was the innkeeper from 1812 – 1823. Following its function as Tavern, the John Kerst family operated a mercantile store in the building.
The home of Charles Rettew, Springfield’s first postmaster, the building was a post office from 1849 – 1865. The present owner, Mr. Tom Fisher, operated an Antique Shop in the building. While remodeling, he uncovered a very old 1/2 pence and an 1808 coin underneath the porch.
Blue Rock Hotel / Elverson Deli
Built by Hannah and Evan Dampman between 1854 and 1860, this Italianate building was operated as a hotel and bar until the town voted it dry in 1980. Through 13 owners, the building has survived as a cornerstone of life in Elverson. The hotel served farmers transporting produce to Philadelphia, drovers moving herds, and people visiting friends and neighbors. The cupola served as a look-out for the hotel proprieter to spot a visitor traveling by stagecoach from miles away.
The establishment is known for its many social gatherings, including fox hunts, under the ownership of Joseph Buchanan. Locals like to tell the story of Joe Buchanan riding a horse right up his hotel’s front steps and inside to get a drink. Joe ran the Blue Rock for 30 years. Today the building houses several apartments, as well as the Elverson Deli, a deli-luncheonette on the first floor in the former bar-room.
Dolfinger Creamery / Vixen Hill
Since 1985, this brick and stone building has housed the Vixen Hill Manufacturing Co. which produces gazebos, shutters, and garden houses. Each of these is given a plaque inscribed “Made in Elverson PA, USA” and the structures are shipped all over the world.
But the origin of this building dates back to 1906 when it was erected as a milk shipping station and ice house along the west side of the then-existing railroad tracks that ran through Elverson. The Dolfinger Milk Depot and Creamery lasted only 18 years, as a fire in 1924 brought the business to an end with a tremendous explosion that caused residents in neighboring homes to run for their lives.
The building itself was not destroyed, however, and twelve years later a short-lived business set up shop here to make peach brandy and apple jack. The end of Prohibition in the 1930’s had sent many eager grass-roots entrepreneurs into distilling and/or brewing alcoholic beverages. The Old Orchard Distillery lasted only 2 years, yet is the reason that this short street we are on is named Brewery Lane. In retrospect it would have been more correct to name it Distillery Drive or, even more historic and appealing, to call it Creamery Lane, but Brewery Lane it is.
Most residents are probably familiar with the Elverson Supply Company which is still very much in operation today. Although the building is about 60 years younger than the Elverson Hotel we recently visited, this company is no doubt the longest-running, family-owned business in our town. In a few short years it will be turning 100 years old. The business now specializes in hardware, landscaping and building supply, but in its earliest years it was a coal depot and feed mill, as well as being a lumber yard which it still is today. Here is a photo from 1976 when grain and coal were still hot items. This business was begun by Robert Cook in 1919 and has been owned and operated by the Cook family for five generations now.
United Brethren Church and Cemetery
Christian Kurtz owned property east of town along Brick Lane, as it is known today. He was interested and had much to do with establishing the United Brethren Church. He gave a plot of land along Brick Lane to build the first church in 1870. The Church was built of bricks, but after 13 years, the congregation decided to relocate and build the second church on its present site on South Chestnut Street. Many of the congregation by this time had moved in off of farms. The new location made it more convenient to walk to church. Mr. Kurtz also owned the land at the South Chestnut Street location and exchanged the land to build the new church and establish a cemetery in 1883. Much of the materials from the old church were recycled into the new building. The cost of the new church was $2,551.75.
Christian was privileged to pick the first burial lot. His big memorial monument is in the center of the cemetery. Mr. Kurtz gave the cemetery lots, not to be sold, but given to those families who attended the church. Since they were free, it made it difficult to maintain the cemetery. There is no money from selling lots. There is a small fund in a certificate, and the interest from that is used for cemetery upkeep.
The Church went out of the United Brethren Conference when the United Brethren and United Methodist merged. The cemetery association has control of the building, and it is no longer under any denomination. Different churches have started out in this building. The Honey Brook Mennonites and Twin Valley Bible Chapel met there until they built their new churches. The Grace Full Gospel Church was there until they purchased a building up in the Welsh Mountains. Elverson’s Community Free Church used it as an educational building, the congregation meeting in the Elverson Fire Hall, until their new church was built on Brick Lane. Today, Warwick Bible Church, with George Pickering as Pastor, occupy the church.
Joseph Grier’s large black grave stone is located right inside the fence, along the sidewalk, in the cemetery. His name is mentioned many times in the affairs of the United Brethren Church, where he served as a Lay Leader. The epitaph of “He is not Dead” has brought many comments throughout the years from the children, who didn’t know that it meant he was eternally living. Some were afraid, and would run past, or cross to the other side of the street.
Dr. Mengel’s House
Built in 1832, 16 East Main Street was the office and residence of Dr. Matthias Mengel Jr. for more than 60 years of his life, following graduation from Reading High School and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. The quintessential country doctor, Dr. Mengel was proud of his closely knit small town of Elverson. He made a game of asking patients who were unable to find his office, “Didn’t you see the sign?” Fact was, there was no sign, and he was proud of that; he figured all of the locals knew where he lived. Dr. Mengel was known to have delivered more than 2,500 babies, with the nursing assistance of his wife, without losing a mother.
In Dr. Mengel’s day, the original stone house was stucco, with a Victorian portico surrounding the front door. The front parlor was packed with shelves of medicine and tonics, and the house was likely heated by one of the first Franklin stoves. Like today, the front yard was fenced, but shutters adorned the first floor of the house and a garage was situated in the rear. Dr. Mengel used innovative medical methods for his time, and embraced our small town of Elverson as his own for most of his life.
Elverson United Methodist Church
The Elverson United Methodist Church was not the first Methodist church to be constructed in the town (at that time called Springfield) and also is not the original site where area Methodists worshipped.
The first Methodist church, established as the Springfield Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1816 on a lot on the south side of Main Street. It was located near the front of the Springfield cemetery across the street from the current church, just west of the cemetery entrance. There are few pictures of this church in existence today, but facts available suggest that it was a fairly large frame building with a stone foundation. It was torn down when a new, larger church was deemed necessary in the mid-1860’s.
This new church, completed in 1868, cost approximately $10,000 to build and was officially dedicated as “the new Methodist Episcopal Church at Springfield in West Nantmeal.” It was 40 feet wide and 55 feet deep. Ten years later a stone parsonage was constructed, which is still in use today as a private residence. In 1892, horse sheds were added behind the church, to stand for 70 years before they were torn down. Land for the church hall (or Youth Center) was purchased in 1903. This building, built shortly thereafter and used for meetings of youth and community groups and for social functions, stood until 1969, when it, too, was razed.
The façade of this building has changed over the past 150 years. Originally built of stone, its outer walls were soon covered with stucco to add insulation and make it warmer in the cold winter months. The stucco remained until 1948, when most of it was removed to expose the lovely stones underneath. If you look closely, you will notice that the mortar between the stones is completely flat and even, indicating that it is probably really stucco on top of the original mortar. You can also see the grayer mortar at the edge of the stones. A small addition at the rear of the building was added in 1955.
The name of the church has changed several times. In 1916, seventeen years after the post office and town officially changed their names to Elverson and five years after Elverson was incorporated as a borough, the church was dedicated as the Elverson Methodist Episcopal Church. (This is the same year that electric lights were installed in the building and just a year after a steam furnace replaced the old stoves.) In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church joined to become the Methodist Church. In 1962, this church was officially incorporated as the Elverson Methodist Church. Finally, in 1968, the Methodist Church and the United Brethren Church joined to form the United Methodist Church, which changed the name of this lovely church once again, to what it is called today – the Elverson United Methodist Church.