In the end, the hope is to create a historic district throughout downtown Hatboro.
But, for now, the Millbrook Society is poring over maps from 1887 and 1915 in an attempt to catalogue all of the borough’s historically significant properties in the first of what could be a multi-faceted historic resource inventory.
“This is possible,” Hatboro historian David Shannon said. “What we have to do is we all have to look at thinking outside the box and utilizing resources.”
Shannon, who is working with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to head up the effort, said the borough provided Millbrook with 200 numbers for potential historic properties.
“There are historical buildings in Hatboro that date to the colonial period,” Shannon said, referring to the Miller property, as well as the Old Mill Inn and the building that houses Spa Escape. All of those properties are for sale and the latter pair are under current threat of demolition and development from Wawa.
In the south end of Hatboro, the borough boasts six dwellings that could support the creation of a historic district, he said. On Mill Road, early cataloguing shows three houses dating from 1715 to 1780, Shannon said. And, from Byberry Avenue to Mill Road, Shannon said Millbrook has identified 20 properties.
“Some of this history has been buried behind modern façade,” Shannon said.
At the outset, Shannon said volunteers are identifying buildings that are 150 years or older. Subsequent work on the project - which began in July - will involve cataloguing Victorian style dwellings, gothic revival architecture, modernistic architecture and more, he said.
“Daddypops is a historic feature because it’s a type of diner that’s unique,” Shannon said. “It’s been there for over 50 years.”
Cory R. Kegerise, a community preservation coordinator for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, said the state has maintained a database of historic properties since 1966.
“Surveys like this can be somewhat cyclical,” Kegerise said. “Communities that did a survey 30 years ago are going back and updating it again. It’s almost continuously ongoing.”
Kegerise, whose office is located at Graeme Park in Horsham, said the survey is the first step in any type of preservation effort.
“Before you can really make any decisions,” Kegerise said, “you’ve got to know what those resources are.”
Shannon hopes to identify the borough’s resources in enough time that markers could be placed in front of historic homes to guide visitors on a walking tour for Hatboro’s 300th anniversary in 2015. He encourages property owners of historically significant dwellings to reach out to Millbrook and “get involved in what we’re doing.”
Over time, Shannon said he hopes property owners would add their homes to the national historic register.
For now, Shannon said Millbrook is racing against time to finish the first phase.
“We’re looking at unknowns: Is Wawa going to come back?” Shannon asked. “We don’t have the luxury of time. We’ve got to do it and we’ve got to do it as quickly as we can.”