- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

PERKASIE, Pa. (AP) - Perkasie Park’s been a part of the borough since the very beginning.

“The original part of town was around Seventh and Market, which was where the train stopped,” Scott Bomboy, president of the Perkasie Park Association’s board of directors, said, “and the other half was the park.”

In 1882, when the PPA was formed and bought the land, it had nine members, Bomboy said. A decade earlier, though, even before Perkasie Borough was incorporated in 1879, it was Perkasie’s first public gathering place when it was used for church picnics and other gatherings, he said. Today, there are 60 cottages, used seasonally during the summer, on the 22-acre property on Ninth Street that was started as a religious camp meeting site.

The days of having 10,000 to 20,000 people out for a Sunday camp meeting (at a time when Perkasie’s total population was 1,000 or less) are over, but non-denominational religious services are still held in the open-sided camp meeting auditorium Sunday mornings between July 4 and Labor Day.

The park also continues to host traditional events dating back to earlier times, such as a Victorian tea on June 28, Bomboy said.

Perkasie Park is now applying to be put onto the National Register of Historic Places.

“We have more than enough history to get us qualified,” Bomboy said.

Much of the park, including the camp meeting site, with cottages arranged in a horseshoe shape around the auditorium, is much the same as 100 years ago, he said.

“It’s a classic example of the camp meeting style for the 1880s and 1890s,” Bomboy said.

The auditorium/chapel was designed to make it possible for the large crowds of people to all be able to hear, he said.

“The acoustics are really quite good,” Bomboy said. “You can hear a pin drop in here sometimes.”

That didn’t mean the cottage owners could just listen from the sidelines, though. Everybody was expected to be at the religious service.

“If you weren’t at the service, you were required to have your light on so they could see into the house and the porch and see why you weren’t at the service,” Bomboy said.

In the early 1900s, high school graduation was held there as well as other public activities, he said.

“They had concerts,” Bomboy said, and “very large family reunions.”

That included the Moyer reunion, which had a Moyer Orchestra, Moyer Choir and political speeches for the crowd of 5,000 to 7,000, he said.

“Every Moyer in the area would be here and there’s lots of Moyers in Bucks and Montgomery counties obviously,” Bomboy said.

A June 30, 1900, fire that went from cottage to cottage and destroyed the homes on one side of the park was second only to the 1988 one as Perkasie’s biggest fire, Bomboy said. In 1901, the homes were rebuilt and spread out a little more to try to prevent any similar fires.

A nationwide split in the Evangelical Association church in the late 1800s extended into Perkasie Park, leading to the start of Highland Park in West Rockhill and camp meetings there.

“The church split was so bitter they couldn’t physically be in the same place,” Bomboy said of the two sides.

The church groups later reunited, although the camp meetings did not, he said.

If Perkasie Park is approved for the historic register, it will be only the second site in the borough on the list, joining the South Perkasie Covered Bridge, accepted in 1980, according to a Perkasie Park release about the historic register application.

Wise Preservation Planning LLC, of Chester Springs, which has successfully prepared almost 30 National Register and National Historic Landmark nominations, has been hired to lead the application efforts, the PPA said.

The PPA has board minutes going back to 1882, Bomboy said. Barbara Gnau - “Her family’s been in the park since 1888,” Bomboy said - also provided and organized historical information, including rare historical photos, he said. In addition, he said, he has used Internet searches and reviewed old newspapers archived at the Spruance Library in Doylestown to find out about the history of the park.

More than 1,000 pages of original documents and hundreds of original photographs have been supplied to help with the application, the PPA said.

“It’s great that the Perkasie Park Association is able to provide so much information about the Camp’s early history. Fortunately the Camp looks much as it did in the past; architectural integrity is critical to the National Register evaluation process,” Robert Wise, president of Wise Preservation, is quoted in the PPA release.

“People today have no idea about the importance of camp meetings to the religious and social life of families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Camp meetings were spiritual retreats, usually found in very natural settings, which attracted thousands of urban and rural families alike. It’s wonderful that Perkasie is one of the few that survives to maintain this aspect of the nation’s spiritual heritage,” Seth Hinshaw, Wise’s senior preservation planner and a scholar in religious architecture, is quoted.

The application process is expected to take about a year, although Bomboy said it could be completed a little sooner than that since so much information has already been gathered.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1m5VlIy

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Information from: The Reporter, http://www.thereporteronline.com

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