Each summer, the Chester County Town Tours and Village Walks offer residents and visitors an intimate look at places that are often seen but dimly by motorists driving through.
From June 12 to Aug. 21, strollers will be treated to free tours of 10 sites on Thursday evenings. Now in its 14th year, the tour attracts around 2,500 people to county hamlets and historical sites.
Most of the tours are led by knowledgeable locals like Bill and Florence Supplee of Marshallton, who've lived there for more than 50 years, and Pat Gaines, head of the Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, who will lead a Lionville walk. And some towns, like West Chester, offer several tours, with different themes, starting at the same time and place. Although the tours are free, reservations are required for most - but not all - of them.
Karen Marshall, heritage preservation coordinator for the county department of Parks and Recreation, promises they will appeal to a range of interests.
Modena is new on the tour, which Marshall described as a "little industrial borough." Marshalltown is the "quintessential pristine village." Kennett Square and Malvern are focusing on the famous residents who lived in their towns. East Pikeland is touring the cemeteries.
Marshall hopes people come away from the tours thinking, "I will never drive by one of those hamlets. I'm going to slow down and take a look." Here's the schedule:
June 12, West Chester:
A Ramble 'Round Mr. Everhart's Grove.
Tour starts at Rustic Shed in Everhart Park, Union and Brandywine Streets, at 6:30 p.m. Call 610-918-7348 for reservations.
Following tradition, West Chester starts the summer tour series after the 6 p.m. opening ceremony. There will be eight tours to choose from, focusing on topics from architecture, the development of West Chester and the history of the park itself.
The park's namesake, William Everhart, developed the borough's first neighborhood when he bought a 110-acre farm and divided it up in lots to be sold.
June 19, Kennett Square Historic District:
Tour starts at Genesis Walkway at State and Union streets at 6 p.m. Call 610-444-6020 for reservations.
One of the two tours focusing on town residents, the tour will focus on the home of Bayard Taylor, described as the 'native son of Kennett Square" by Dan Maffei, the chair of Kennett's historical commission. Baseball Hall of Famer Herb Pennock also had a home in town. Another home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
"We wanted to do a different spin by focusing on the people in the town. We still have characters in town who are living," Maffei said and laughed.
June 26, Lionville:
Historic District: South Village Avenue.
Self-guided tour with guides stationed at every historic sites. Tour begins at 6 p.m. Call 610-363-9450 for reservations.
Part of Lionville's National Historic District, South Village Avenue will be part of the town tours for the first time. Many of the original buildings have been adapted for reuse. An 1834 house with a walk-in fireplace is now office space for a local company. An old church is now a daycare center. The 1929 firehouse how houses a dance studio.
July 10, East Pikeland:
Hill Churches and Cemeteries on Clover Mill Road.
Tour begins at 6 p.m. at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 1239 Clover Mill Rd. For more information, call 610-933-1770Tour organizers here decided to focus on residents six feet under. The tour will take people through the graves at two historic churches in the town, St. Peter's Lutheran Church and St. Peter's Pikeland United Church of Christ. The earliest grave in town dates to 1690.
A Revolutionary War general is buried there, along with two nurses who served at Yellow Springs when the facilities were being used as a Revolutionary War hospital. Two men who worked at Good News Productions, makers of the locally made film
, also rest there.
July 17, Modena:
Modena's Mode Family.
Tour begins at 16 Union St. at 6 p.m. Call 610-384-6777 or 610-470-7162 for reservations.
A newcomer to Town Tours, Modena is the smallest municipality in Chester County, according to borough Councilman Jim Corle. Situated along the Brandywine Creek, Modena flourished as a mill town. The first mayor was a woman, Annie Mode, a member of the founding family.
July 24, Malvern:
Women of Malvern.
Tour begins at McGuigan Hall, Warren and First Avenues, at 6 p.m. Call 610-644-2602 for reservations.
Women played a key role in the development of Malvern. The Club of Little Gardens, founded in 1930, is a women's gardening club that still meets today. A group called the Monday Afternoon Club of Malvern helped raise money for various organizations in the area. Though that group is now defunct, its building is used as a school today.
July 31, Marshallton:
Historic Marshallton Village
Tour begins at Marshallton Methodist Church, 1282 W. Strasburg Rd., at 5:30 p.m. Call 610-486-0790 for information. Reservations not required. No children allowed.
Bill and Florence Supplee have lived in the same Marshallton house for 53 years. Florence is chair of the town's historical commission and Bill is a descendant of the town's founder, Humphrey Marshall. The couple themselves, both 78 years old, can regale visitors with stories of what life was like in the last century.
The old schoolhouse, where Bill attended the first grade, will be on the tour. Marshallton Inn, a historic inn where people still stay, is another stop. Next door is the Four Dogs Saloon, which used to serve as a horse stable for the inn.
Aug. 7, – Historic Yellow Springs:
Chester Springs Soldier's Orphan School Days.
Tour begins at Washington Building at 5:30 p.m. Call 610-827-7414 for registration.
Costumed guides will tell visitors what life was like in the school built for children whose fathers who were killed or injured during the Civil War. The Victorian Dance Ensemble will entertain with period dancing and lessons about costumes and etiquette. For the first time, the new Orientation Exhibit at Historic Yellow Springs will open up.
Aug. 14, Anselma:
The Mill at Anselma: A National Historic Landmark.
Tour begins at the mill at 6 p.m. Call 610-827-1906 for information. No reservations required.
A working flour mill in Chester Springs that's the only one of its kind on the National Historic Landmark list, the helpful staff will demonstrate how the 16-foot diameter waterwheel can help put food on the table. Visitors can buy organic and nonorganic flour ground at the mill itself. There will also be a baking demo, along with a child-size waterwheel for kids to play with.
Aug. 21, Crossroads of Chester County:
Lincoln Highway and Pottstown Pike: Most people know this as the heart of Exton, Routes 30 and 100.
Tour begins at Zook House at the Exton Mall at 6 p.m. Call 610-363-9525 for registration.
Across from the Exton Mall are four historic sites, often overlooked by shoppers. The Zook House, a stone house owned by the mall, belonged to eight generations of the Swiss Anabaptist Zook family. The Malvern Federal Savings Bank is in what used to be a farmhouse, built in 1810.
After the tour, visitors will be treated to locally made ice cream, a tribute to the now-defunct Guernsey Cow Dairy Barn, which once stood at the intersection offering its own famous ice cream.
To Find Out More
Go to the county Parks and Recreation Web site:
dsf.chesco.org/ccparks, look for "Upcoming Events," and click on "Town Tours."