Downingtown, Pennsylvania

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Downingtown is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 33 miles (53 km) west of Philadelphia. Downingtown has been in existence since the early 18th century and has a number of historic buildings and structures. The town was originally named Milltown due to its number of mills along the Brandywine Creek, the first of which was founded by Thomas Moore. The Bicking family also had paper mills in the area, with Frederick Bicking from Winterburg, Germany, being the patriarch of the Bicking paper families.


Around the time of the American Revolution, Milltown became more commonly known as Downing's Town because Thomas Downing, a 1717 Quaker immigrant from Bradninch, Devon, England, owned a number of those mills. The town's name officially became Downingtown in 1812. The east branch Brandywine Creek runs through the middle of the town. The town is located along US route 30 which runs from the East Coast to the West Coast, and was an early westward road in the wagon days as the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. This was the first paved road to cross the nation from Atlantic to Pacific. The Pennsylvania Turnpike started construction in the early 1940s and was completed in the early 1950s; it runs north of US 30 bypassing Downingtown. The famous Irish patriot and martyr Theobald Wolfe Tone briefly lived here. President Lincoln's funeral train passed through Downingtown. The 1958 movie, The Blob, was filmed in and around Downingtown and in fact, the diner in that movie is actually called the "Downingtown Diner" now named "Chef's Diner". [1].

Downingtown is known for its history. The Downingtown Log House was built about 1705 by John Hickman. In 1713 Hickman sold the 1½ story, 21' 9" × 25' structure to Thomas Moore and his wife Mary. Thomas Moore moved from the Log House in 1729 and died in 1738. Thomas Downing acquired the Log House in 1739. It remained in the Downing family until 1940 when Thomas W. Downing died and left it to the Borough of Downingtown. The Borough did some restoration work to the Log House in 1947. It served as home to the Downingtown Chamber of Commerce from 1950 until 1988. But the Log House was deteriorating. It was 18 inches below street level causing water damage due to run off from Route 30, and being within feet of the road, vibration from traffic was slowly taking its toll. From 1988 until 1990 The Downingtown Historical Society did an extensive restoration and relocation of the Log House with money raised for the project. It now sits approx. 70 feet west of its original location, 22 feet from the Route 30 side walk, and slightly above street level. [2]

The center of Downingtown has recently undergone some widespread and continuing renovation, particularly to the streetscape and many of the commercial buildings. There has also been residential development on recovered industrial lands in the southeastern part of the borough. Downingtown is home to some large regional and national businesses, including DNB(Downingtown National Bank), First National Bank of Chester County and Victory Brewing Company. In 1988, a stall in its farmer's market was the first place pretzels were sold by the founders of Auntie Anne's, now a global company with 1,000 stores and $375 million in annual sales. [3]

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