HISTORY

Villas at Linfield, Limerick Township and the Village of Linfield (Montgomery County) PA

Linfield is an unicorporated village, part of Limerick Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  It is approximately 35 miles north-west of Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill River.

 

Located on the Reading Railroad line to Philadelphia, Linfield was the industrial hub of Limerick Township into the 1960s.  Kinsey Distillery, Sanitary Corporation of America, and Trinley Mill provided the industrial base for the area.

 

The area called Linfield was originally called Limerick Station, named for the former Linfield Station.  In 1884, there was an attempt to incormate the area as a borough.

 

The Continental Army marched through Linfield during the Campaign of 1777.

 

Limerick, so-called after the city and county in Ireland, was formed into a township at least as early as 1722. According to tradition, the township’s name was selected by the Evans family, who came here in 1716. Though they were Welsh, they had lived for some years in Limerick, Ireland.

 

The early residents of Limerick and its neighboring lands were the Lenni Lenape Indians of the peaceful Delaware tribe. In those early years, the land which became Limerick was part of Philadelphia County. 
Records held by the township give 1826 as an official date for the establishment of Limerick Township. This area was first settled by the Welsh, Germans, Holland Dutch, and French Huguenots.

 

The story told by the residents of Parker’s Ford during the Revolutionary War was that George Washington and his soldiers crossed the Schuylkill River there and regrouped at the home of Mordecai Evans on Linfield Road in Limerick Township. This event took place on Friday, September 19, 1777.   They were on their way to Warwick Furnace in search of fresh ammunition and weapons.

This is a photo of the oldest home in Linfield, built by William Evans is located on Main Street near the railroad bridge.  George Washington stayed here in 1777.

 

Linfield’s two oldest homes were built by William Evans, son of William and Ann Evan, who came to this country from Wales in 1698. Both homes were still standing as late as 1985. The land where the first home  stood (now 206 Main Street), a 300-acre tract on what was called the “neck,” was purchased by William Evans in January 1716. The second home, faced the Schuylkill River was part of the Kinsey Distilling Corporation property from 1892. It was purchased in the 1940s by Publicker with the intention of using it to house company supervisors. In 1982, the plant and property was sold to Eugene Ostreicher, who lived in New York; this historic house stands vacant and in needs repair.

The earliest transportation in Limerick Township was provided by the Schuylkill River and this is why Linfield, once known as Fishtown, grew rapidly. The Indians traveled the river by canoe and the first settlers did the same, using this means of obtaining supplies from other river settlements. It was also possible to get from one side of the river to the other by wading or riding one’s horse across a ford (low place) in the river. One of these fords was located at Edward Parker’s house in Lawrenceville (now known as Parker Ford), Chester  County. In 1849, a covered toll bridge, known as the Lawrenceville, was built between present-day Parker  Ford and Linfield. This bridge was so important that the post office built on the Limerick Township side in 1850 took the name “Limerick Bridge.” This bridge was used until the 1920s, when it was replace with a more modern, but less picturesque bridge.

The first roads in this area were trails cut by the Indians as they moved from place to place. William Penn who had planned to lay out the main roads before settlers came into the territory gave each settler six acres for every one hundred acres of land he purchased, to be used for roads. This became standard procedure in granting land patents. Transportation was by horseback, sled, and horse/wagon. Later it became necessary to request permission of the Court of Quarter Sessions to establish roads. In laying out roads, surveyors generally followed division lines between adjoining tracts of land. Property owners would contribute half of the road bed, with no compensation. Some of the early roads include Swamp Road, from Limerick to Faulkner’s Swamp (1723); Lewis Road from Limerick to Providence (1742); Linfield Road from Sanatoga to Trappe (1754); and Limerick Center Road (1788).

 

In 1833, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company was chartered to build a railroad between these two cities, following the course of the Schuylkill River. The railroad proposed to carry iron and coal products. The first train departed from Reading on December 5, 1839 carrying flour, iron, coal, whiskey, and 60 passengers. The community now known as Linfield changed its name from Limerick Bridge to Limerick Station, taking the name given by the Philadelphia and Reading railroad to the station, which was located near the present Railroad Street Bar and Grill. The Limerick Station was abandoned after 1955 and fell into disrepair. It was purchased by the owner of the Linfield Hotel, now the Railroad Street Bar and Grill, and demolished in September 1985.

Several trolley lines also clanged their way through Limerick Township. In 1900, the Schuylkill Valley Trolley Company devised a plan to continue the line through Limerick to Pottstown and the very popular Sanatoga Amusement Park. Eventually a second branch of the trolley line was built from Limerick to Sanatoga ending near Sanatoga Inn (now Cutillo’s). In 1915, another branch of the trolley line was built between Church Street in Linfield and the trolley platform in the Sanatoga Amusement Park. The Linfield line made its last run in August 1927.

Limerick Township entered the air age in June 1927 when two men from Allentown landed their OX-5 Eaglerock biplane on a dairy farm off Ridge Pike in Limerick. One of the occupants liked the farm and purchased it the following year. In 1944, the airport was licensed as a commercial operation. In the 1940s, the airport was sold to Wes Nyce, a Limerick man who was considered one of the best aerobatic pilots in the business. In 1952, the airport was sold to Jacobs Aircraft Engine Company, who made numerous improvements including increasing the length of the two runways and installing landing lights. The airport was sold yet,again on March 28, 1968 to a Norristown real estate broker who died of a heart attack on December 7, 1968. At this time, the property was sold to the Philadelphia Electric Company. Edward Gruber, a local industrialist and pilot agreed to lease the airport and operate it as Penn Airways Inc. In July 1980, Keystone Helicopter Corporation took over the lease. In 2009, Exelon sold the airport now known as Heritage Field to Limerick Aviation LP.

 

The first schools in Limerick Township were subscription schools, sponsored by parents in neighborhoods which were interested and could support a teacher. Such schools were usually connected with churches. By  1831, Limerick Township had at least four such schools including the Davis Union School on Limerick Center Road at Cow Lane, now Ferndale Lane. The Common School Law of 1834-1835 provided for a general system of common schools throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The 1848 Montgomery County map shows eight subscription schools in Limerick Township at that time. In 1852, two public schools were established, one north of Ridge Pike named Henry Bauman and one south of Ridge Pike, the Barlow School. This brought the number of schools in Limerick Township to ten schools. A proprietary school was located on the north side of Church Road in Linfield before 1871 (It is now an apartment buiding.), but this school no longer appears on later maps of the  area.  St. Peter’s School replaced the Davis School in 1876. After this section of Limerick Center Road was straightened, the school ended up in a field on the other side of Limerick Center Road, adjacent to Wentzel’s Garage. It was used as a school until about 1920 when it was converted to a home. The Linfield School appears for the first time on the 1877 map. The two-story building is located on a hill at the rear of the Brownback mansion (the former Shearer Elegance) at Main Street and Limerick Center Road. It was remodeled into a home in 1924. Efforts were made to reduce the number of schools in the early 1900s. The four-room Linfield Elementary School on Church Road was dedicated in 1908 and replaced the Linfield and Yerger Schools. By 1929, the Linfield Elementary School was so crowded that classes were held at the Linfield Fire House. In 1950, Limerick Elementary School was built to consolidate all the remaining schools in the township. It had ten classrooms for children in grades one through six. In 1955, the Limerick school district joined with Royersford, Spring City, and Upper Providence to form the Spring-Ford Jointure; it took the name Spring-Ford Area School District in 1966.

 

When Garrett E. Brownback was Linfield’s leading citizen, he owned several farms including one on  Brownback Road called Farm #1, which he purchased in 1894. The barn, located on the southwest side of Brownback Road was destroyed by fire in 1966. It had been part of the 300-acre property purchased by John Davis in 1716. 1936 records show that this 76-acre parcel of land was sold at a sheriff’s sale for one dollar and was later bought by Elmer Louden. The farm changed hands in 1942 when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Stoudt. Wayne Reifsnyder purchased the property from the Stoudts in 1955, and in addition to farming it, sold off frontage on Limerick Center Road and other areas for building lots. When he was finished, the Davis homestead and 5 acres of land remained on one side of Brownback Road and the farming acreage including the barn remained on the other side. In 1957, the entire parcel was sold to the Francis Scullys. The barn caught fire in 1966 and only part of the stone wall still stands. The Kochs purchased the Scully property in 1968. The Villas at Linfield more than likely was built on part of this property sometimes known as “Pheasant Hill.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinsey Distillery now the Publicker Property off Main Street in Linfield has fallen into disrepair and is currently for sale (2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The former Brownback Mansion and Shearer Elegance B&B at Main Street and Limerick Center Road is now a private residence (2014).

 

 

 

This is what remains of Trinley Feed Mill, its smokestack.  It burned down in the 1950s-1960s.  The property is now a river park and residential community.