Dominating the intersection of State Street and Main Street, Lenape Hall is one of the most distinctive buildings in Doylestown. The building was dedicated on November 17th, 1874, and according to the late Doylestown historian Wilma Brown Rezer in her book Doylestown And How It Came to Be, it was originally designed to provide Doylestown with a town hall, a concentrated store area, and a much-needed indoor market. Before the construction of the indoor market, farmers came to town at 4am and lined the streets with their wagons, selling produce outside regardless of weather. The addition of an indoor market presumeably alleviated wagon traffic and protected the vendors and customers from inclement weather.
The construction cost was $50,0000, and it was built using a half million locally pressed bricks and trimmed with stone from Milwaulke and Ohio. It’s grand staircase was eight feet wide, made of ash planks two inches thick, with hand-carved railings and walnut balusters. Local jeweler Lewis Spellier built the gold-lettered clock at its peak. A wood awning was installed in 1876 and replaced with tin in 1898. The corner store was occupied by a drug store from its construction in 1874 until at least 1980, when Rezer wrote her history of Doylestown.
Writing in 1876, shortly after the Lenape building first opened, W.W.H. Davis reports:
The handsomest improvement, as well as one of the most useful, in the borough is the Lenape building… Its features are a market-house and six stores on the first story, a handsome and convenient hall that seats nearly eight hundred persons, and a stage equipped with beautiful scenery, four offices and dressing-room, on the second, and a beautiful lodge-room on the third. The building is brick, with stone trimmings, and is surpassed in beauty and convenience by but a few of the kind in the state.
The Lenape building remains a fixture of downtown Doylestown. The first floor still contains a number of shops, but the upper floors have been converted into apartments. It’s served different functions over the years, and it once even contained a bowling alley, as pictured below:
The Ship Tavern
The site of the Lenape building was originally the home of the Ship Tavern. In 1774, Samuel Flask purchased property south of present day East State Street and built the Ship Tavern at the crossroads. It stood for a century until it was demolished to make way for Lenape Hall in 1874.
The crossroads brought a lot of business to Doylestown, and The Ship Tavern competed for tipplers with two other bars at the intersection: Doyle’s Tavern (built 1752), now the Fountainhouse, and Magill’s Tavern (1805), now partially incorporated into building that houses the Paper Unicorn.
The cornerstone of the Ship Tavern was incorporated into the rear wall of Lenape Hall, and is still visible. The words “Doylstown 26 Miles to Philadelphia” are still visible on its surface. If you look up the alley between the Lenape Building and Finney’s Tavern, you’ll find the old milestone on the back of the Lenape Building where the stone foundation meets the brick, about eye level.