In 1692, Hugh Roberts, a leading Quaker from the Welsh settlement in Lower Merion, while visiting northern Wales, convinced a group of other” Friends” living there to seek homes in Pennsylvania. They sent two men in advance, William John & Thomas Evans, to arrange for their coming. Reaching Philadelphia in late 1697, they bought 7,820 acres, part of the original Wm. Penn grant, and named the area “Gwyneth”, a word describing the terrain of north Wales, their homeland, later changed to Gwynedd. When the group of “Friends” arrived they bought parcels and settled in the area. The first record of a farm, part of which would become the Borough of North Wales was settled by Robert John, passed to descendants & divided. The name John became Jones. Our Borough was carved from the Jones farmlands.
As the area became more settled, a small village developed, attracting also people of German decent. A combined Lutheran & Reformed church sat where the Lutheran Cemetery is located on Main St. In those early years our Main St. was the main road to Philadelphia and other points & was called the Great Road, and then North Wales Rd. As the area grew, businesses developed both retail and manufacturing. The Pennsylvania Railroad came to North Wales in 1856. In 1868, talks began about detaching the village from the area known as Gwynedd and incorporating it as the Borough of North Wales. In 1869 this became a reality and we became the first incorporated Borough in the North Penn region. Growth continued in the Borough and it became a “very popular summer vacation spot” for Philadelphia city dwellers. Grand hotels, the Main St., Colonial & Central, along with large and small rooming houses, Verona House, Philadelphia House, Idle Wilde, Ivy Villa & Verview, were established to accommodate the summer guests. Among those guests, was the Emperor of Brazil, when he attended the Centennial International Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876. There were summer concerts, ice cream festivals, events at our Amusement Hall that seated 1000 people & at our outdoor Plaza Gazebo.
The trolley came to town and along with the train, offered transportation to almost anywhere you wanted to travel. In times gone by, our town contained churches, grocers, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, gift, furniture, shoe & clothing stores, and a kindergarten through twelfth grade school system. You could purchase most things right here in town and some very large manufacturers called North Wales home, among them Green Tweed, Teleflex, Stainless Steel to name a few. Some of our famous residents thru the years include, Austin Van Billiard, son of one of our early Mayors, who went down on the Titanic along with his 2 young sons; William Trego, renowned artist of Revolutionary War & other wonderful paintings; Edward Van Landeghem, sculptor of the Statue on the Capitol building of Montana & other famous works; Harry Foesig, author of books on Trolleys; and of course, John Oates, musical performer of Hall & Oates.
For more on our history, visit our Walls of History Museum on the 2nd floor of Borough Hall, open Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
The 150th Anniversary Committee was formed in the spring of 2018 to decide the best ways to recognize and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of North Wales. An Executive Committee was established:
There are three sub-committees:
Approximately 25 Borough residents are currently volunteering on one or more of these committees, working diligently to raise the necessary funds, build a website, and prepare the publicity – with the goal of making this 150th Anniversary of North Wales a year to remember!