Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area

204 Church Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460

610-935-7646   hspa@verizon.net

www.hspa-pa.org   or   www.phoenixvillehistoricalsociety.org





 

 

Museum
 

Brief Society History:   The Society was organized in 1977 from a Bicentennial planning group. The Society acquired the former Central Lutheran Church at Main & Church Streets in Phoenixville in 1980.  The Museum opened on November 1, 1980.

The building houses the administrative offices, Museum, and social hall at the Church Street level with additional storage upstairs. The present building was erected in 1873 to replace a smaller church of plainer architecture.  The 1873 structure is an English Gothic style building made with Chester County fieldstone.  Below are pictures of the structure that currently houses the Society when it was the Central Lutheran Church in the 1940s and in 1910 and a pre-1875 photo when the structure was a Mennonite Meeting House.

 

Museum Hours:  The Museum is open all year to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 am and 3 pm and the first Sunday of each month between 1 pm and 4 pm. The Society, but not the Museum, is also open on First Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

Visitors needing research assistance should call or visit during our open hours.

Please click to view our Archives Research Guide. 

Please click here to view a list of old local newspapers in our collection.

Please click here to view a list of old Society newsletters with the ability to then click to access them.

 

Pictured is a recent photo of "Nailer's Row" that was built around 1847.  Of the 100 or so homes that were built by the Phoenix Iron Company, many are still occupied today.

The Society has information about local genealogy, information and photos of some old buildings and homes, old local newspapers on microfilm, old photographs of people and the Phoenixville area, yearbooks from Phoenixville High School, many historical artifacts, a Phoenix Steel Column, and many pieces of Etruscan Majolica that were made in Phoenixville in the late 1800s by Griffen, Smith & Hill.  The museum has information about early Phoenixville leaders, such as Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker who was born in Phoenixville in 1843.  He served as Pennsylvania Governor from 1903 to 1907. 


Above is the front page of a Majolica Catalogue.   Please click for a link to the Majolica International Society.

The Museum has a collection on display of Native American relics that are of Lenni Lenape origin.  They were donated by the McAvoy family.  Please click here to view an article on the connection between the Schuylkill River, Shad, and the Lenni Lenape Native Americans.

 

The Phoenix Bird Sculpture by Doris Sams was made from wooden patterns that were found in the Phoenix Iron Company's pattern house.  The schulpture is currently on loan to the Schuylkill River Heritage Center in Phoenixville and is on display at their Foundry Building. The Foundry Building is the home of the Schuylkill River Heritage Center.   Please click here to link to their web site. 


The Society has many Phoenix Iron and Phoenix Steel Company artifacts, including a sample of the famous Phoenix Steel Column.  The drawing on the left is of the Phoenix Steel Column.  The Phoenix Steel Column was invented in 1862.  It was a terrific innovation because it greatly facilitated the construction of tall buildings, bridges, and elevated rail lines. 

 

 

 

The Museum has several large canal boat models and information about the Schuylkill Navigation Company, 1825-1931.  Please click to view a brief history of the Schuylkill Navigation Company.

The Society welcomes children to view the artifacts in the museum.  Items of special interest to children of various ages are displayed allowing children to handle the objects whenever feasible.  Museum guides relate the artifacts to children's experience in today's world.  Society representatives go to schools and other gatherings to bring museum artifacts to children as well as to adults.  Teachers and program planners may contact the Society about subjects and available times for museum visits.

Please click here to link to the Chester County Archives and Records Services.  The Chester County archives are free and open to the public during normal business hours. Their records include old documents from the Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans' Court,  Recorder of Deeds, Clerk of Courts, Prothonotary, County Commissioners, Coroner's records, Directors of the Poor (1797-1937), Veterans Burial Records (1885-1979), and the Chester County War Aid Association (1917-1921).  Other records include Road & Bridge papers (1692-1995), Tavern License Petitions (1700-1923), Naturalizations (1798-1989), and Civil War Bounty records (1864-1865).

Please click here to view an article about the Heritage Quest Online, which is available from the Chester County Library System.  It requires a username and a 14 digit Chester County Library System card number for remote access.  Heritage Quest Online provides access to genealogy and local history resources including the 1790 to 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the full-text of over 25,000 family and local histories, the PERSI index (PERSI is an index maintained by the Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN) of 6,300 local history and genealogy periodicals out of a total index of 2.1 million genealogy and local history articles, Revolutionary War pension and land grant records, and the records of the Freedman's Bank from 1865 to 1874.  That bank was created in 1865 for the benefit of freed slaves after the Civil War.  Please click here to link to the site.

A Brief History of the HSPA Building:  In 1794, Jacob Buckwalter gave the property to the Mennonite Church who then erected a stone meetinghouse on the site later that year.  They also began using the adjacent property as a cemetery.  It is the oldest religious site in what is now Phoenixville and has served as the starting place for at least seven other congregations including Baptists, United Brethren, Presbyterian, and Lutherans.

Matthias Pennypacker was the first Mennonite to preach at the site and did so from 1794 to 1808.  The Mennonite Church's original building stood on the site for 79 years when due to its rundown condition it was replaced with a new structure.  With permission of the Chester County Court, the congregation sold some of the adjoining ground and cemetery and erected a new church in 1873.  The building constructed at that time is the main church portion on the eastern end of the property.  The rear addition was constructed in 1905.

The cemetery contained the graves of the parents of Govenor Samuel Pennypacker (PA Governor from 1903 to 1907) and the forebearers of former U. S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts (5/2/1875 to 5/17/1955).  He was one of three Supreme Court Justices who voted against FDR's Executive Order for Japanese American internment camps during World War II.  When the Fisher Memorial Parsonage was constructed in 1923, the remaining markers were interred and the entire graveyard was leveled and landscapped.

Shortly after completion of the new structure in 1873, it became apparent that the Mennonite Congregation had become so depleted in members that it would be unable to continue holding regular services.  In 1875, the property was turned over to the newly formed Central Lutheran Church.  The Lutherans had been using the building for services since 1873 when the Mennonites gave Thomas King, a representative of the English-speaking Lutherans, permission to hold services there.  Central Lutheran Church was officially organized on December 25, 1875.

The Fischer Memorial Parsonage, which is adjacent to the Church, was completed in 1926.  The Social Room in the basement on the Western side of the building was completed in 1939 and a general renovation program was completed in 1950.  The Felgemacher Pipe Organ was completely renovated in 1949 along with the interior of the church.

In 1969, the Central Lutheran Church consolidated with the St. John's Lutheran Church.  Lutheran church worship services continued in the building until 1971.  After 1971, the building was used by a community oriented mission and also served as a home for several congregations that needed a place for services in Phoenixville.  The Society acquired the building in 1980.   One congregation continued to use the building for worship services for a while after 1980.

Please click here to view a brief history of Phoenixville or click here to view an article written by the Society's Susan Marshall about the fascinating story about the March 1849 incorporation of Phoenixville as a Borough.  

 



 


Above is a drawing of a barge on the Schuylkill Canal.

 

Photo of Phoenix Iron Company

 

A 1910 photo of a parade on Main Street.   Note the Savoy Threatre.

 



 

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