Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
|Elevation||184 ft (56.1 m)|
|Area||3.8 sq mi (9.8 km2)|
|- land||3.8 sq mi (10 km2)|
|- water||0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%|
|Density||1,625.5 / sq mi (627.6 / km2)|
|- summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
It is the northern terminus of the "Blue Route" and the southern terminus of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension (both on I-476). The population was 6,177 at the 2010 census. Plymouth Meeting is home to the Colonial School District, the recently renovated Plymouth Meeting Mall, and several large office parks and shopping centers. It is home to Ikea's U.S. headquarters. The confluence of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 476 (The Blue Route) and the 476 Extension (formerly the Northeast Extension) occurs in Plymouth Meeting. This mid county interchange contributes heavily to regional commerce and was a major driver for business and retail development in the area.
The area was originally settled by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, who built the Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse in 1708. They sailed from Devonshire, England, on the ship Desire, arriving in Philadelphia on June 23, 1686. The settlement takes its name from the founders' hometown of Plymouth in Devon.
During the Revolutionary War, in May 1778, the Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse served as a temporary military hospital. General George Washington, then at Valley Forge, learned that a British force intended to seize the area and cut off movement of the Continental Army. He sent the Marquis de Lafayette and 2,100 troops to counter. They camped around the meetinghouse on the night before the May 19 Battle of Barren Hill. The next morning the British arrived with a massive force of 16,000, and tried to cut off any escape route. But Lafayette took advantage of the Americans' knowledge of local roads, and managed to successfully escape with minimal casualties.
Slave holding was condemned in 1754 by the Society of Friends and so it is not surprising to learn very few slaves lived in Plymouth Township in the late 1700s and only one by the year 1830. During the Civil War in the 1860s, several Plymouth Meeting residents hid runaway slaves in underground rooms or vented attics. In fact, when most doors in Philadelphia were closed to Abolitionist speakers, a local homesteader George Corson built a large barn on his 1767 farm that could be used as a local anti-slavery meeting place and safe haven. Called Abolition Hall, the hall could accommodate up to 200 people and since the Corson farm had already served as a station on the Underground Railroad for many years, it was easy to pack the room with Abolishinist speakers such as: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott, Mrs. Stephen Foster, and William Lloyd Garrison.
In later years (1881-1895) Abolition Hall became the art studio of one of the nation’s most famous painters, Thomas Hovenden. Married to George Corson’s daughter, Hovenden was best known for painting realistic scenes taken right out of American lifeas he experienced it in the farmlands of Plymouth Meeting. A modest man who lived simply and embraced his in-laws’ Quaker faith, his depictions of everyday life during the Civil War feel as if one is looking at photographs rather than oil paintings. One of his most famous paintings,“Breaking Home Ties,” (shown below) as well as several others, can be seen in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hovenden succeeded Thomas Eakins as the principal painting instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1886 after the latter was forced to resign for inappropriate use of nude models. In 1895, Hovenden died suddenly at the age of 55 when he was run over by a train at the crossroads in Germantown while trying to rescue a small girl who had wandered onto the tracks. Sadly, just six years after his death a fire claimed the art studio, historic building and all its contents. Fortunately, his widow had already removed many of his paintings and historical artifacts collected over his lifetime but the destruction of the building is a tremendous loss to historians. For decades after his death, art critics and collectors dismissed his work as old-fashioned. It was only in 1995, a hundred years after his death, when an exhibition of his life’s work finally brought Hovenden recognition as America’s best-known painter of heroic scenes of the Civil War era.
Growth continued for Plymouth Meeting during the 1900s which saw the advent of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Plymouth Meeting Mall, many high-rise and garden apartment complexes, significant modern industries and offices buildings. Many notable businesses maintain their American headquarters in Plymouth Meeting, most notably the Swedish furniture company, IKEA. So when you next sit at the traffic light at Germantown Pike and Chemical Road, look up and appreciate the historic Lime Kilns that still stand just across the street. Or, perhaps stop by the Plymouth Monthly Meeting and wander through the cemetery just behind, where Thomas Hovenden’s simple headstone lies humbly at the foot of an old pine tree.
What is now Germantown Pike was ordered laid out by the Provincial Government in 1687 as a "cart road" from Philadelphia to Plymouth Meeting. The actual road was not finished until 1804, when it was built at a cost of $11,287. A road from Plymouth Meeting to Gwynedd appears to have been built in 1751. What is now Chemical Road, following Plymouth Creek, was opened in 1759 to provide access to a new gristmill.
In the early 19th century the Hickorytown Hotel, on Germantown Pike opposite Hickory Road, was a prominent road house. Robert Kennedy, an officer in the Revolution, operated the inn in 1801. In 1806 it was kept by Frederick Dull and in 1825, Jacob Hart. In the beginning of the 19th century it was a training place for the 36th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia and the Second Battalion of Montgomery County. The Friendship Company for the Protection against Horse Stealing was organized there in 1807. Township elections were held there as well, and a post office was established there in May 1857. The Plymouth Meeting Post Office appears to have been established sometime prior to 1827.
In 1754, Benjamin Davis received a license to keep an inn on Ridge Pike at Plymouth Creek. This inn, the Seven Stars, was shown on maps as early as 1759. The inn was demolished in 1975 to make way for the Midcounty Expressway.
Early records indicate that one person was elected as "road supervisor" and tax collector. The roads were mostly dirt, and the repair and maintenance was often auctioned off to the lowest bidder, usually a farmer who had large properties and kept many men and horses, and the smaller farmers worked on the roads for them.
Tax records show that the taxpayers had the privilege of working out their taxes on the roads. From 1846 to 1854 the road supervisor was paid one dollar per day for his work as supervisor and collector of taxes. Men working on the roads received $.80 per day and boys received $.40 per day. For the use of a double team of horses with a wagon or cart, one was paid $1.75 per day. Among the 1850 assessments may be found such familiar present-day names as Corson, Cleaver, Davis, Evans, Williams, Fischer, Gillinger, Hallman, Jones, Marple, Rodenbaugh, Sheppard, Shoemaker, Staley and Wood.
Among early industries in Plymouth Township was the Hickorytown Forge operated by the Wood family, and a forerunner of the present Alan Wood Steel Company. The name Plymouth Furnace appears in the records about 1847 and was engaged in the manufacture of nails.
In 1863, a company named Plymouth Iron Company was organized with a capital of $30,000.00. The company purchased the property of Colwell Furnace, which is located just west of the present Colwell Lane adjoining the development known as Farmview Village.
The Plymouth Railroad was built in 1836 to serve some 20 lime kilns operating along the route between Conshohocken and Cold Point. In 1870, the line was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and was rebuilt and extended to Oreland at a junction with the North Penn Railroad. The line was abandoned by the 1970s.
Prior to the building of the Plymouth Railroad, the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad was built along the Schuylkill River through Plymouth Township and commenced operation in 1835. For most of its history, this railroad was part of the Reading Railroad system. Today these tracks are SEPTA's Manayunk Norristown passenger train line.
The Schuylkill Valley Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad was built parallel to the Reading Railroad tracks along the Schuylkill River, opening for service in 1884. Rail service ended in the 1970s and the track-bed is now occupied by the multi-use (pedestrian and bicycle) Schuylkill River Trail.
The Trenton Cut-off branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1891. The Trenton Cut-off is now owned by Norfolk Southern and is known as the Morrisville Line.
Later in the 1890s electric trolley lines were built through Plymouth Meeting. The trolleys that ran on the shoulder of Germantown Pike connected Chestnut Hill and Norristown. The trolley on the shoulder of Butler Pike was a short shuttle known as the Harmanville Dinkey, with a single car running only between Germantown Pike and Ridge Pike (0.7 miles). Dinkey passengers transferred to Conshohocken-bound trolleys at the corner of Ridge Pike and Butler Pike. For most of their existence the trolley lines were operated by the Reading Transit & Light Company (no relation to the Reading Railroad). In addition to passengers, during the 1910s freight was also handled by the RT&L trolleys; an abandoned wooden track-side freight platform near the northwest corner of Germantown Pike and Butler Pike survived into the 1950s. The Harmanville Dinkey was replaced with buses in 1927. The Germantown Pike trolleys ceased operation in December 1931. The trolley that ran from Norristown to Conshohocken through Black Horse, Seven Stars and Harmanville was replaced with buses in September 1933. The roadside trolley tracks were quickly torn up and the adjacent two-lane Ridge Pike, and Butler Pike south of Ridge Pike, were widened to accommodate ever-increasing motor vehicle traffic.
The first school in the township was established by the Plymouth Meeting Society of Friends in 1780, although some records indicate a school in operation there before that date. A school was established at Cold Point in 1821. Public schools, established under the system authorized by the legislature in 1834, included Cold Point School on Cold Point Hill, Plymouth Valley School on Butler Pike adjacent to the Friends meeting property, the Eight Square school on North Lane (then known as Spring Mill Road), the Sandy Hill school in Black Horse (now the site of L. Frank Markel and Sons factory) and the North Star school on Germantown Pike on property presently housing Plymouth Center Union Mission church.
Plymouth became a township of the first class in January 1922. Mr. Isaac J. Sheppard became township secretary at that time and served as secretary until his voluntary retirement in 1952. Under the new form of government the board changed from one of three "road supervisors" to one of five "Township Commissioners". Many gradual changes commenced at that time. Street lights were installed in the built-up sections, fire hydrants were installed at critical locations. By 1924, two fire companies were in operation, the Plymouth Fire Company and the Harmonville Fire Company.
In 1925, the Board of Health was organized. Plumbing inspection began in 1934. In 1939, Plymouth adopted a "modern" zoning ordinance. A building code ordinance was also adopted. In 1947, the first subdivision ordinance was adopted. In 1952, the Township Planning Commission was created, and a Recreation Committee was established to study the recreation needs of the township. Growth continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, which saw the advent of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Plymouth Meeting Mall, high rise and garden apartment complexes, and many modern industries and offices.
Plymouth Township adopted a Home Rule Charter in 1972. Government under a Home Rule Charter allows a municipality to take any governmental or administrative actions it requires, unless such actions are prohibited by general laws of the Commonwealth. With this charter in place, citizens and their elected officials are given more governing power, and there is more of an opportunity for public involvement in governing procedures and decisions.
From as early as 1688, lime kilns have been a large, productive and profitable business in Plymouth Meeting and continue to be so today.
The Plymouth Meeting Historic District, Alan West Corson Homestead, Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse, and Hovenden House, Barn and Abolition Hall are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Plymouth Meeting is located at  It lies primarily within Plymouth Township, with a smaller portion lying within Whitemarsh Township. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2), all of it land. Plymouth Township is immediately adjacent to the Schuylkill River, but all river frontage is occupied by industry. Currently a bike trail is under development for river access.(40.108545, -75.282378).
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,593 people, 2,215 households, and 1,557 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,478.8 people per square mile (571.3/km2). There were 2,285 housing units at an average density of 604.2/sq mi (233.4/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 89.34% White, 3.40% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.14% from other races, and 0.73% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.91% of the population.
There were 2,215 households, out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.5% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 25.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the CDP the population was spread out, with 22.7% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 94.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $57,601, and the median income for a family was $71,585. Males had a median income of $50,813 versus $38,906 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $31,254. About 3.0% of families and 4.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.2% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
The historic Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse, built in 1708, is located within the town.
Plymouth Meeting is home to the Plymouth Meeting Mall, which has AMC Theatres adjacent to it, as well as dining and entertainment spots such as Benihana, Redstone American Grill, P. F. Chang's, and Dave and Buster's. The largest Whole Foods Market in the Philadelphia area opened on January 12, 2010. Macy's and Boscov's serve as the anchor stores to the mall. It should be pointed out that historically, Plymouth Meeting referred only to the small village at the crossroads of Germantown Pike and Butler Pike. The present-day Plymouth Meeting Mall is located a mile north on Germantown Pike from Plymouth Meeting, at the locale once known as Hickorytown.
Plymouth Meeting lies in both Plymouth and Whitemarsh townships. The two townships share a high school with the borough of Conshohocken. The term Plymouth Meeting generally refers to most of Plymouth Township, as the township's ZIP code is congruent with that of Plymouth Meeting. The Plymouth Meeting post office, however, is actually located just outside Plymouth Township within Whitemarsh Township. The entire area is generally referred to as "Plymouth Whitemarsh", as is the high school. The Colonial School District maintains its headquarters just south of Plymouth Meeting in Whitemarsh Township. Colonial is regarded as one of the top school districts in the state with consistently high standardized testing results.
Villanova University maintains its baseball facilities on the grounds of the Greater Plymouth Township Community Center. The park has a walking trail, sand volleyball courts, indoor basketball and a swimming pool. Concerts are held in the summer, as well as a bocce league.
Plymouth Meeting is the home of Odyssey Fastpitch Softball, a competitive girls travel/tournament softball organization.
Plymouth Township has an extensive park system. Plymouth Township has the Greater Plymouth Community Center and 11 parks comprising approximately 149 acres. Parkland includes 71 acres for active recreation and 78 acres for passive recreation.
Maple Acres Farm is a family owned farm in Plymouth Meeting open to the public with home grown fruits and vegetables as well as house made jellies and crafts.
- IKEA: Global furniture chain
- Harry Foesig, Trolleys of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, 1968, ASIN: B0029HAHZU (no ISBN)
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
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