North Wales, Pennsylvania

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Coordinates: 40°12′39″N 75°16′30″W / 40.21083°N 75.27500°W / 40.21083; -75.27500
Borough of North Wales
Borough
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Montgomery
Elevation 400 ft (121.9 m)
Coordinates 40°12′39″N 75°16′30″W / 40.21083°N 75.27500°W / 40.21083; -75.27500
Area 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)
 - land 0.6 sq mi (2 km2)
 - water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%
Population 3,229 (2010)
Density 5,848.7 / sq mi (2,258.2 / km2)
Incorporated 1869
Government Council-manager
Mayor Gregory D'Angelo
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Code 19454
Area code 215
Location of North Wales in Montgomery County
Location of North Wales in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Website: http://www.northwalesborough.org

North Wales is a borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is one of the three historic population centers that make up the North Penn Valley. The population was 3,229 at the 2010 census.

Like many small boroughs in Pennsylvania, North Wales is at "build out", meaning that its boundaries have not kept up with population growth. Summarily, many businesses and residences with North Wales addresses are located in outlying townships that were never annexed by the borough, such as the Montgomery Mall in Montgomery Township. North Wales is in the North Penn School District.

Location[edit]

North Wales is located at 40°12′39″N 75°16′30″W / 40.21083°N 75.27500°W / 40.21083; -75.27500 (40.210703, -75.274994)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2), all of it land.

History[edit]

As its name suggests, North Wales was settled by Welsh immigrants who named it after North Wales in Wales. (For more on Welsh settlements in colonial Pennsylvania, see "Welsh Tract".) Part of a 1702 William Penn land grant, this rich farming country was given the name "Gwynedd" for the homeland of the earliest settlers and it began as a pastoral village in agricultural Gwynedd Township.

Before 1850, a number of farms, plus a 1776 church, shared by the Lutheran and Reformed congregations, dotted the present borough's landscape. What is now Main Street was originally an old Indian trail, and was laid out as the Great Road in 1728. By 1828, it had become today's Sumneytown Pike, and was a toll road until 1914. It had always been an important route to Philadelphia, and continues to serve as a connection to Routes 202 and 309 to the east and the Northeastern Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the west.

Its rural character was abruptly disrupted by the building of the North Pennsylvania Railroad starting in 1852. Service from Bethlehem to Philadelphia through North Wales began in 1857. The town quickly grew around the railroad station, with hotels and restaurants lining Walnut Street and Main Street within walking distance. North Wales is the oldest of the North Penn boroughs, incorporated in 1869, by taking land from today's Upper Gwynedd Township, then the northern portion of Gwynedd Township.

Some of the large homes at the start of the 20th century were opened to summer guests from the city. "Idlewilde", still present on Main Street, hosted the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, when he was visiting Philadelphia to open the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exhibition with President Ulysses S. Grant.

During the late 19th and early 20th century, much of North Wales borough's housing was built. Most houses along South Main Street between Montgomery and Prospects Streets remain much as they were when built and are lovingly maintained. The borough also features a variety of single family homes, as well as twins, and rowhomes.

Between 1900 and 1926, Lehigh Valley Transit Company operated its Chestnut Hill Branch trolley line, which connected North Wales to surrounding towns through service to either Philadelphia or Allentown. The trolley ran down Main Street through the borough, but detoured onto Pennsylvania Avenue for two blocks to enable it to cross the North Penn Railroad on a bridge. The bridge was required because the railroad, citing safety concerns, refused to allow the trolleys to cross at the Main Street grade crossing. Lehigh Valley Transit Company's combined passenger/freight station was located on the north (east) side of Pennsylvania Avenue between Shearer Street and Montgomery Avenue. After Main Street trolley service ended in 1926, Lehigh Valley Transit high-speed trolleys continued to serve the Wales Junction station, located on Sumneytown Pike three-quarters of a mile west of town. High-speed trolley serviced ended in September 1951.

Passenger rail service to North Wales is currently provided by SEPTA. Many North Wales residents commute to Center City, Philadelphia by the Lansdale/Doylestown Line train. The 1870s-vintage brick railroad station, thoroughly restored in 2010, is open weekdays from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In 2000, the North Wales Historic Preservation District was established by Borough Council and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission to protect the architecture that is a visual reminder of the borough's past. It is the first Historic District in the North Penn boroughs.

Business District[edit]

North Wales' Main and Walnut Streets have been home to many businesses over the town's history and these two thoroughfares still serve the community today by providing a number of basic services such as a variety of hair salons and beauty parlors, a pharmacy, doctors' offices, a dry cleaner, a running and walking shoe specialty store, a yoga studio, two auto repair facilities, two auto body shops, two laundromats, a post office, convenience store, custom cabinetry shop, and a recording studio, among many others. Eateries and bars include two pizza parlors, a tex-mex restaurant, two cafes and two bakeries.

Community Outreach[edit]

The borough houses the headquarters for the Montgomery County Association for the Blind, as well as the non-profit organization The Lamb Foundation, which provides housing and life skills support to the area's mentally-challenged residents. The Lamb Foundation also runs a consignment/secondhand shop, Sweet Repeats, located on South 5th St. near the North Wales train station. The borough also is home to the Boy Scouts of America Pack/Troop 84, whose meeting place is located at Second and Church Streets.

Education[edit]

The borough is home to North Wales Elementary School, which is part of the North Penn School District. The building was formerly North Wales High School starting in 1927 until North Penn High School was built in the 1950s; it then became an elementary school. The original elementary school from the 1900s was located at the current site of Boro Hall.

The borough is also home to St. Rose of Lima Catholic School of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In January 2012 the archdiocese announced that St. Rose of Lima is merging with St. Stanislaus Parish School in Lansdale, with students attending classes in Lansdale.[2]

Library[edit]

North Wales Elementary formerly housed the North Wales Memorial Free Library from 1927 to 2009. Due to the growing number of students at school, as well as the library's need for more space, the library purchased and relocated to a much larger (10,000 ft2, over 900 m2) building at 233 South Swartley Street. They began operating with limited hours at the new location on January 4, 2010, and had their grand opening in April 2010. The library has also changed its name to "North Wales Area Library" upon its move. It is part of the Montgomery County Library System.

Parks & Recreation[edit]

Weingartner Park is located at Second and Summit Streets with a large variety of trees. There are many pathways and benches to enjoy and the park is particularly shady and breezy during the spring and summer months.

The Wee Walers park is on Shearer St. and it is a playground developed for children ages 2 to 10.

Second Street Park, located at Second Street & Prospect Avenue, is a tennis court area open to the public seven days a week, closing at dusk.

Ninth Street Park, located at Ninth & Church Streets is a watershed runoff area designed to attract birds. There is a trail that goes through park with footbridge over the drainage area and is a nice natural-feeling area.

The Fourth Street Park is an approximately 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) open area used for various sporting activities. The clay totem poles were made by residents.

Eighth Street Park, also known as "A Child's Garden," was developed by local children. It has a brick walking path, plantings and benches.

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 407
1880 673 65.4%
1890 1,060 57.5%
1900 1,287 21.4%
1910 1,710 32.9%
1920 2,041 19.4%
1930 2,393 17.2%
1940 2,450 2.4%
1950 2,998 22.4%
1960 3,673 22.5%
1970 3,911 6.5%
1980 3,391 −13.3%
1990 3,802 12.1%
2000 3,342 −12.1%
2010 3,229 −3.4%
Est. 2012 3,237 0.2%
Sources:[3][4][5]

As of the 2010 census, the borough was 87.7% White, 5.1% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American, 2.5% Asian, and 3.5% were two or more races. 3.8% of the population were of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.[6]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 3,342 people, 1,299 households, and 869 families residing in the borough. The population density was 5,848.7 people per square mile (2,263.8/km²). There were 1,330 housing units at an average density of 2,327.6 per square mile (900.9/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 90.31% White, 4.82% African American, 0.06% Native American, 2.09% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 0.78% from other races, and 1.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.50% of the population.

There were 1,299 households out of which 34.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.1% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the borough the population was spread out with 26.8% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 33.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 99.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.9 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $54,605, and the median income for a family was $63,235. Males had a median income of $41,265 versus $33,045 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $26,590. About 3.2% of families and 4.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.0% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.

Government[edit]

North Wales has a borough form of government with a mayor and a nine-member borough council. The mayor is Gregory D'Angelo and the President of Council is Michael McDonald.

The borough is part of the Thirteenth Congressional District (represented by Rep. Allyson Schwartz), the 61st State House District (represented by State Representative Kate Harper) and the 12th State Senate District (represented by State Senator Stewart Greenleaf).

Police[edit]

The North Wales Police Department, has four full-time and four part-time officers. The department was headed by Former Police Chief Chief Barry J. Hackert from 2003 - 2013, at which point Hackert was suspended for involvement in an off-duty assault in Poconos, PA. Hackert subsequently resigned. Alex Levy was hired as the new chief in 2013.[7]

Notable people[edit]

  • John Oates, of the popular Blue-Eyed Soul group, Hall & Oates was raised on Tenth Street in North Wales.
  • William B. T. Trego, well known historical painter, resided at 509 E Montgomery Avenue. There is a State Historical Marker at this site.
  • Sharon Little, Singer/Songwriter
  • Tom Cipriano (a.k.a. Captain Janks), prank phone caller, frequent guest on Howard Stern's radio program
  • Julie Woodward, a teen who took her own life; this event is one of the major events that brought about warning labels onto antidepressants (notably SSRIs) from the FDA stating effects they may have on children under 18 such as an increased risk in suicide

Titanic Connection[edit]

North Wales is also known to have a connection to the famed Titanic disaster, as one of the 1,502 victims of the 1912 tragedy was a native of the area. Austin Van Billiard was born and raised in North Wales, the only son of a local marble merchant, James Van Billiard. In 1900, Austin traveled to France in hopes of finding work at the Universal Exposition in Paris. After finding work as an electrician, he met a young English woman named Maud Murray, and the two were married that November. They lived in Paris for six years, during which time Maud gave birth to two sons, James and Walter. In 1906, Austin and Maud decided to try their luck at diamond mining in the Congo of Central Africa, where they lived for another six years. During this time, Maud gave birth to a daughter, Dorothy, followed by three more sons, Arthur, Richard and George. In 1912, the family decided that they would emigrate to Austin's native Pennsylvania and resettle in North Wales. They first traveled north from Africa to London, where Maud's parents lived. During their stay in London, Maud fell ill and it was decided that Austin would go ahead with James and Walter while Maud, Dorothy, and the younger boys would remain in London with Maud's parents while she recovered. Austin and his two eldest sons boarded the Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912, aboard which they were travelling in Third Class.

Tragically, Austin along with both James and Walter perished in the sinking. In the following weeks, the cable-laying ship Mackay Bennett was dispatched from Halifax to the scene of the disaster recover the dead, and the first body recovered was identified as that of nine-year-old Walter. Austin's body was recovered from the North Atlantic a few days later, but James was never found. The two bodies recovered were sent to North Wales after being collected by Austin's father, and interred in the family plot at Union Cemetery at Zion Lutheran Church in nearby Flourtown, Pennsylvania. Maud, devastated and heartbroken by the loss of her husband and two eldest children, was still determined to make a life for herself and her family in America, and in February 1913, Maud and her four remaining children sailed to New York aboard the White Star Line's Oceanic and settled in North Wales permanently.[8][9]

References[edit]

External links[edit]