Montgomery County, Pennsylvania:
The Valley Forge area...
- is the home of the first state park in Pennsylvania which later became Valley Forge National Historical Park.
- was the site of a six-month encampment from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778 when George Washington’s forces became an army. No battle was fought at Valley Forge.
- is considered the birthplace of the American Army and the site where the first Military Manual of Arms (Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States) was written by Friedrich von Steuben and used into the 19th century.
- was the turning point of the American Revolutionary War. Washington’s forces became trained soldiers under the direction of Drill Master Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Commander. Von Steuben spoke no English and was brought to America by Benjamin Franklin.
- is home to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Hopewell Furnace supplied cannons, cannonballs and flour to the Valley Forge troops.
- is named for the iron forge on Valley Creek, burned by British Forces in 1777.
- honors the 5,000+ African American soldiers who fought in the American Revolution with the Monument to Patriots of African Descent at Valley Forge National Historical Park. The sculpture’s shape, an arch, is symbolic of spirituality. The laurel wreaths represent honor and peace and the birds are symbolic of freedom.
- is home to Historic Yellow Springs, which opened in 1722 as a mineral water spa and inn. It became the principle hospital unit for the Continental Army during their Valley Forge stay.
- features the famous Overhanging Rock along Gulph Road, under which the heroes of the Revolution passed in their retreat to Valley Forge. The land surrounding the Overhanging Rock was donated to the Valley Forge Historical Society for perpetual preservation.
- is the site of the greatest number of Civil War Union generals buried in one place outside a National Cemetery.
- was originally inhabited by the Leni Lenape Indians.
- was in Colonial days a collection of small villages, either growing up around a crossroads tavern or starting as industrial communities by flowing streams. Many communities retain their “village” feel, and many buildings date to the 18th century.
- has the largest concentration of public gardens and arboreta in North America. Among them are a medicinal herb garden, colonial kitchen garden, historic rose garden, Japanese garden, 92-Acre Victorian landscape garden, fernery and formal English gardens.
- is the site of the first accredited women’s college. Pennsylvania Female Academy was established in 1851 in Collegeville (building since demolished).
- is located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. There are 17 Montgomery Counties in the United States. This is the oldest, established in September 1784.
- is third in population in Pennsylvania, preceded by Allegheny (Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia Counties.
- ranks fifth in travel expenditures, behind Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Philadelphia, Lancaster and Dauphin (Hershey) Counties.
- has more shopping malls than any other county in Pennsylvania in terms of square footage; The Plaza & The Court at King of Prussia is the nation’s largest retail shopping complex.
- hosts an impressive list of Fortune 500 companies.
- is the most affluent county in Pennsylvania (income per capita).
- employs more people in manufacturing than anywhere else in Pennsylvania.
- possesses the largest diversity of business of any county in the state
- is called “The Key to the Keystone State.”
Valley Forge Famous Folks
- The most famous of all those associated with Montgomery County is the father of our country - George Washington - who led the Continental Army to victory over the British. After the call to independence was sounded in Philadelphia, the battle was played out in the surrounding countryside. Washington and his troops battled for their freedom throughout Montgomery County, at Whitemarsh, Paoli and Gulph Mills; but the most famous site is one where not a single shot was fired: Valley Forge.
- King of Prussia, formerly called Reesville, was named in honor of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who was a valued ally of the British Army. The inn for which the area was named still stands today and is a historical landmark (1709).
- John James Audubon’s first and only surviving American home in the United States was Mill Grove, in Audubon, which is now a museum and wildlife sanctuary open to the public.
- Albert Coombs Barnes, multi-millionaire inventor and visionary art collector, lived in Lower Merion Township. The Barnes Foundation houses one of the world’s finest private collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern art, as well as extensive collection of African art.
- Morgan Log House, the only surviving 2 1/2-story log home in America, was built by Daniel Boone’s maternal grandparents. 90% of the house remains as it was in 1695.
- Hope Lodge is named after Henry Hope, a wealthy English banker. His family later gave its name to the famous diamond.
- Pearl S. Buck, whose home in Perkasie is now a museum, is the only American woman to receive the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Cheltenham Village when she wrote her famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- The Valley Forge area is the home of recording artist Chubby Checker, basketball star Julius Irving and baseball coach Tommy LaSorda.
- Joe Frasier, champion boxer, raised his family in Chestnut Hill. Baseball great, Reggie Jackson, grew up in Cheltenham Township. Bob Saget, comedian, actor and host of the TV show “American’s Funniest Home Videos,” grew up in Abington Township.
- Walter Annenberg, multi-millionaire former publisher who served as United States ambassador to great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1968-1974, lives in Montgomery County. He is the former president of Triangle Publications which published Seventeen Magazine and TV Guide. He is also president of the philanthropic Annenberg Foundation.
- Wharton Esherick, “the dean of American craftsmen,” is a Valley Forge area native. His unique, handcrafted studio/residence is now a National Historic Landmark for Architecture.
- Lucretia Mott, Quaker abolitionist and women’s rights activist, who was active in the Underground Railroad to assist slaves in escaping to the North and to Canada, lived in Cheltenham Township.
- John B. Stetson, manufacturer of the renowned Stetson hats, lived in Cheltenham Township.
- John Luther Long, author of the original story on which Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly” was based, lived in a Victorian mansion in Elkins Park which is still standing.
- Brilliant, controversial 20th century poet Ezra Pound was raised in the Wyncote section of Cheltenham Township.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, lived in Cheltenham Township and attended Cheltenham High School.
- Alexander Haig, Chief of Staff under President Reagan lives in Lower Merion Township.
Famous Houses of Worship
- Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Historical Park has one of the largest carillons (bell towers) in the United States. This Episcopal Church was built in the Neo-Gothic style, and is sometimes known as the American Westminster.
- The stained glass windows depict Washington’s life and the nation’s history. Elaborate carvings of soldiers decorate the choir loft.
- Beth Sholom Synagogue was the first synagogue designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
- The Valley Forge area is the site of the oldest German Lutheran Church (Augustus Luthern in Trappe) and the first German Lutheran congregation (New Hanover Lutheran) in the United States.
- Pennsylvania’s first Presbyterian church, Norriton Presbyterian Church, was built in 1690. Ben Franklin sometimes worshipped there.
- The National Centre for Padre Pio, Inc. is a religious organization built to educate the interested public in the life, and spirituality of Blessed Pio of Pietrelcina, a Capuchin Franciscan Priest, currently being considered for canonization in the Roman Catholic Church.
- The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is a Polish spiritual and pilgrimage center in nearby Doylestown.
Other Interesting Facts
- Valley Forge National Historical Park attracts 2.2 million visitors per year; Independence National Historical Park in nearby Philadelphia attracts 4.9 million visitors; Longwood Gardens hosts 900,000 visitors annually. More than 18 million shoppers flock to The Plaza & The Court at King of Prussia, and Franklin Mills reports attracting more than 18 million visitors per year.
- King of Prussia is the center of activity in Valley Forge. It is home to the nation’s largest retail shopping complex, The King of Prussia Mall.
- The footprint of The King of Prussia Mall is large enough to accommodate five of the Great Pyramids. There is enough marble flooring to cover the entire flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America. Two Louisiana Superdomes would fit on the acreage. The Plaza & The Court at King of Prussia serves enough meals per year to feed every fan at every home game of an NBA team for seven seasons. If you walked every corridor and every aisle of the mall, it would be equivalent of walking across Manhattan. The number of sodas sold each year would fill up four Olympic-sized swimming pools.
- The Valley Forge area is a good place to “hub and spoke.” Attached to most historic landmarks are legends and stories related to ghosts. Some preservationists embrace their ghosts, others fall silent when the subject arises, preferring to deal with documentable history. Reported historic haunts include Valley Forge National Historical Park, Historic Waynesborough, Harriton House, Cliveden and the Eastern State Penitentiary.
- The “Main Line” of Philadelphia, located in the Valley Forge area, dates back to 1692 when a group of Welsh Quakers purchased land from William Penn in hopes of developing a “Welsh Barony,” where they could be self-governing and hold fast to their heritage. Without the Welsh immigration necessary to support it, the dream ended shortly thereafter and the area was divided into townships. The name “Main Line” came from the “Main Line of Public Works” which was a system of railroads and canals established in 1828 linking Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and points west.
After the Civil War, the concept of developing a residential area linked by the railroad to Philadelphia became a reality. Towns were renamed to reflect the Welsh heritage, laws passed to outlaw offensive businesses and a way of life developed.
Forever immortalized in the movie The Philadelphia Story, the fabled area along the railroad line has a very interesting mnemonic to help the commuters remember the stops: “Old Maids Never Wed and Have Babies. Really Vicious Retrievers Snap Willingly, Snarl Dangerously. Beagles Don’t Period.” (Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. David’s, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford and Paoli.)
- Suburban Square, located in Ardmore, is the oldest shopping center in the country with the first suburban branch department store - Strawbridge & Clothier.
- The historic town of Wayne, formerly known as “Louella,” was named after the famous Revolutionary War general Anthony Wayne, and was one of the country’s first planned suburban communities.
- QVC, Inc. is headquartered in the Valley Forge area, and services more than 70 million American households and 91 million homes worldwide.
- The Valley Forge Military Academy is home to a monument honoring the 600,000 men and women who participated in the “Battle of the Bulge.”
- Conestoga Road, which runs through the Valley Forge area from Philadelphia to Lancaster, opened in 1792 and became the first paved and toll road in America.
- Pottstown is the location of the manufacturer of the first iron truss bridge in 1845 and the fabrication of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of whose girders is displayed at the Smithsonian Institute.
- The Devon Horse Show is the largest annual outdoor equestrian event in the U.S.
- Zern’s Farmers Market is the country’s largest Pennsylvania Dutch Market.
- Tourism is the second largest industry in Pennsylvania. Agriculture is the Commonwealth’s largest industry.