The History of Horsham, PA

(click here for map) Horsham Township is named after the town of Horsham in West Sussex County, England. Horsham is one of several townships in Montgomery County whose name and size were determined by master survey lines drawn by William Penn's engineers as they first plotted this part of the colony for sale and settlement. Parallel lines, projected at intervals of a mile and a half and extending in a northwesterly direction from settlements along the Delaware, served not only as base lines for measurement of individual land grants but also as courses for future highways. County Line Road, Horsham Road, and Welsh Road are examples of highways so laid out. The effect of these survey lines upon the development pattern of Eastern Montgomery County is very much in evidence today.


In 1684, the entire township of 17 square miles was made available to individual purchasers. Samuel Carpenter, from the town of Horsham in West Sussex County, England, after which the township is named, purchased five thousand acres, forty two hundred of them within the present boundaries of the township. In 1709, Carpenter, then Treasurer of Pennsylvania, began to sell tracts of land to migrating Quakers. In 1717, Horsham Township was established as a municipal entity by a vote of the people.

 In 1718, Sir William Keith, then Provincial Governor of Pennsylvania, acquired twelve hundred acres of Carpenter's land on which he erected a house in keeping with the dignity of his office. The development of Keith's "plantation" proved to be a step in establishing closer ties between Horsham and neighboring communities, particularly those of Hatboro and Willow Grove. He was responsible for the construction of the present Easton Road (U.S. Highway 611) from the old York Road junction at Willow Grove to his mansion on County Line Road in 1722.

The first significant settlement in the Township centered around the junction of Horsham and Easton Roads and was known as Horshamville. Keith's extension of Easton Road prompted the establishment of the Horsham Friends Meeting House.

The township's early social and economic life revolved around this Meeting House. In a similar way, Prospectville, originally known as Cashtown, was established at the junction of two roads, Limekiln Pike and Horsham Road. This portion of Limekiln Pike was an extension of the original segment established in 1693 to provide a thoroughfare between Old York Road and the limekilns of Thomas Fitzwater in Upper Dublin Township. Prospectville, on a high elevation point within the township, offers a resting spot with a tavern for those traveling along either Limekiln Pike or Horsham Road. Here lived several generations of the Simpson family, one of whom was the mother of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States.

The hamlet of Davis Grove grew at the intersection of Keith's Road (now called Governors Road) and Privet Road and was once a focal point of community life. It was here the residents of the township came to vote, discuss politics, and attend community meetings. The "Golden Ball Inn", which at one time was used for housing guests of Governor Keith, enjoyed much Revolutionary splendor. The two roads were formerly through links. Keith's Road extended from Easton Road to Keith Valley Road and Privet Road, from Horsham Road to Easton Road. Expansion of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station caused the closing of these roads and the absorption of the hamlet. Today, there are virtually no remaining signs of the original settlement.

Through most of the early and the middle 19th Century, Horsham's population grew slowly. Its character was not altered in any significant way until about 1872, when the North Pennsylvania Railroad extended a rail line from Glenside to New Hope and established a station in the nearby community of Hatboro, two and three-quarter miles east of the nucleus of Horshamville. Horsham-Hatboro-Byberry Road provided easy access to Hatboro's station and, as a result, residential development began along the road virtually linking the two communities together. By 1890, the township's population reached 1,300.

In 1926, aviation pioneer, Harold F. Pitcairn, purchased a large section of farmland on the west side of Doylestown Pike (now Route 611) and constructed a hangar and a grass airstrip. From 1926 to 1942 Pitcairn used the airfield for numerous air shows and to design, construct and test a number of aircraft, including the Mailwing which was used by the United States Postal Service to carry the overnight mail between New York and Atlanta.

In 1942, the United States Navy purchased what became known as Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS-JRB) Willow Grove which had contributed to national defense for over six decades. Beginning with a small group of Naval Aviators, maintenance personnel, and biplanes and evolving into a home for aircraft and personnel from every branch of the United States Armed Forces, NAS-JRB Willow Grove maintained the finest traditions of excellence and service. The men and women assigned to and trained at NAS-JRB answered the call of their nation in time of peace, war and crisis.

In 2005, NAS-JRB Willow Grove was selected for closure by BRAC 2005 law. In late 2006, the Horsham Township Authority for NAS-JRB Willow Grove (HLRA) was selected as the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), and was charged with preparing the required reuse planning documents. In 2011, NAS-JRB Willow Grove was officially closed, 68 years after the base and its iconic hangars arose from the farm fields of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

The Navy and Marine Corps squadrons/units moved to McGuire Air Force Base in 2011. The 111th Fighter Wing of the PA Air National Guard will remain at their present site along with Army Reserve and Army National Guard units on the former U.S. Air Force Reserve Center facility. The U.S. Army Reserve, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and Pennsylvania Army National Guard units will be located on the approximately 200-acre base that is located near the intersection of County Line and Easton Roads. The name of the new installation is “Horsham Air Guard Station”.

On April 27, 2012, the Horsham Township Authority for NAS-JRB (HLRA) submitted the NAS-JRB Willow Grove Redevelopment Plan and Homeless Assistance Submission to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Navy. The redevelopment of the 862-acres of surplus property at the former base is an unprecedented opportunity for Horsham Township to establish a vibrant place for residents to live, work, play and raise a family within their community. Once the land is transferred, the surplus property will comprise approximately 8% of the Township’s total land area. With proper planning, the redevelopment of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove will become a centerpiece for economic development within the Township and surrounding region. The NAS-JRB Willow Grove Redevelopment Plan details the existing conditions, issues and opportunities, and recommendations that will guide the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority (implementing authority) for NAS-JRB Willow Grove in the redevelopment process. 


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