Main content

Downingtown Area Historical Society photograph collection


Held at: Downingtown Area Historical Society [Contact Us]PO Box 9, Downingtown, PA, 19335

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Downingtown Area Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"Downingtown's origins...[stem from]...a small village located [in Chester County, Pennsylvania] midway between Philadelphia and Lancaster. The village was first known as Milltown since it was the location of the last mills on the edge of the unsettled western frontier [of Pennsylvania]. Thomas Moore erected 'a water corn mill' in 1716 and Roger Hunt established a gristmill in 1739. The deteriorated structure of the Roger Hunt mill and millrace still survives in Downingtown...and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1761, John Downing opened a tavern on the east side of the Brandywine Creek, which was first known as the Downing Mill Inn; not long thereafter, his father, Thomas, developed an industrial complex of mills on the Lancaster Road in Milltown.

"Around the time of the American Revolution, Milltown began being known as Downing's Town. During the Revolution, the town was used as a location for storage of food supplies; a forage magazine was constructed in Downing's Town to hold provisions for the troops. During the time of the Revolution, Richard Downing, son of Thomas, continued to operate and expand the family's mill complex and the Downing family continued to prosper in the small village.

"After the war of 1812, the village name of Downing's Town was changed to Downingtown. The development of stage coach service from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh through Downingtown influenced the village's growth and prosperity. As transportation changed from stage to railroads, Downingtown embraced the changes. New jobs became available and the population grew. The Industrial Revolution also affected the growth of Downingtown; industry and manufacturing facilities [were] located in Downingtown because of its central location and good access to rail transportation corridors.

"In the 1920s, many municipal improvements were undertaken such as the beginning of trash collection, erecting the Municipal Building and creating the Dr. Edward Kerr Memorial Park. A newly appointed park commission solicited funds for the planned park. The commission depended on public subscriptions plus annual contributions from the school board and the Borough Council to maintain the park.

"...The East Lancaster Avenue Historic District was placed on the national Register of Historic Places in 1979 and there are 20 historic structures within the district."


Quoted text from: Downingtown Area Historical Society. "History of Downingtown." Accessed July 11, 2014.

This collection consists of photographs and postcards pertaining to the people, businesses, churches, organizations, and schools of the Downingtown area (specifically, the region of the Downingtown Area School District -- encompassing the townships of East Brandywine, East Caln, Upper Uwchlan, Uwchlan, Wallace, West Bradford, and West Pikeland, as well as Downingtown Borough). Many of the photographs are captioned. An item inventory is available on-site; there are also paper listings in some boxes. The collection is organized by topic, including the following: businesses, streets, homes, churches, organizations, parades, celebrations, construction and maintenance, historical registers, portraits, and natural history. Featured are the 1959 Centennial (of incorporation of Downingtown Borough) parade, Flood of August 1942, Downingtown Log House, Lloyd family, and Good Neighbor Day.

The Downingtown Area Historical Society also has scans of some photographs that remain in private ownership, available for research use.

Photographs collected by the Downingtown Area Historical Society from various sources over time.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Downingtown Area Historical Society directly for more information.

Downingtown Area Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact Downingtown Area Historical Society for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest