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Jane L. S. Davidson research files for "A History of Downingtown"


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

Jane L. S. Davidson (1939-2012) of Chester County, Pennsylvania was an award-winning advocate for historic preservation, long-time Chester County Historic Preservation Coordinator, and co-founder of the Chester County Historic Preservation Network.

Jane L. Smoker was born in 1939 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and attended nearby Millersville University. In 1961 she married Lester Davidson, a restoration builder. The couple had two children.

Davidson dedicated her career to identifying historic structures across Chester County, Pennsylvania. She helped set up a partnership between the Chester County Historical Society, the Brandywine Conservancy, and volunteers to conduct a historic sites inventory between 1979 and 1982. Based on the research conducted in this project, Chester County successfully listed more sites on the National Register of Historic Places than any other Pennsylvania county besides Philadelphia.

In 1981 Davidson helped create and served in the first governmental historic preservation office at the county level in Pennsylvania, serving as the Chester County Historic Preservation Officer. She taught local history and genealogy research at West Chester University for a decade, and authored over a dozen publications, including A History of Downingtown (1982).

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush added her to the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In 2000, she was named Outstanding Woman in Historic Preservation by the National Park Service. She retired from the county in 2006 and passed away in 2012.


Lemar, J. and Lois Ann Mast. "President Appoints Davidson to Preservation Council." Tri County Record, July 7, 1992. Clipping found in Wallace Township Historical Commission subject files.

Rellahan, Michael P. "Longtime Historic Preservationist Jane Davidson Dies." Daily Local News, December 17, 2012. Accessed July 25, 2014.

This collection consists of research materials and notes used by Jane Davidson to write A History of Downingtown (1982). Most of the collection is photocopies of primary-source documents such as land records, legal documents, federal censuses, images, and other materials. There are also several photocopies of newspaper articles; original newspaper clippings; and research organized into files on various topics (people, buildings, organizations and clubs, railroads, and other subjects) relating to Downingtown and nearby locations. The collection contains only a few primary-source documents, including one blueprint and some handwritten research notes and annotations made by Davidson.

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.
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