On May 26, 1936, Mr. and Mrs. James Wendell invited citizens of Pottstown and vicinity to attend a meeting at the Hill School to discuss the formation of a Pottstown Historical Society. Over one hundred individuals attended the opening meeting. Marjorie (Mrs. James) Potts Wendell presided as acting chairman. Mrs. Wendell was a direct descendent of John Potts, founder of Pottstown. The object of the organization was to gather and preserve records and historical landmarks for the community.
In June 1939, the Society purchased Pottsgrove Manor, the home built by John Potts in 1752. Contributions totaling $4,461.00 were collected for this purpose and Marjorie Potts Wendell was authorized by the Society Board of Directors to borrow $1,000.00 to complete the purchase. The purchase price of Pottsgrove Manor in 1939 was $6,000.00. Pottsgrove Manor was sold to the Borough of Pottstown on February 6, 1940, for the sum of $1.00.
The state paid a curator to oversee the property, but most of the maintenance and events surrounding the property were arranged by the Pottstown Historical Society. Mrs. Wendell retained the services of G. Edwin Brumbach, an architect who was actively involved in restoration in Williamsburg, VA. The total cost of the restoration begun in 1939 was $25,000.00. WPA Grants covered a considerable portion of the restoration. The woodwork in Laurel Lodge, similar to the woodwork in Pottsgrove Manor was salvaged for use in Pottsgrove Manor when Laurel Lodge was demolished.
Work parties and fund-raisers were organized on a continuing basis to maintain and restore Pottsgrove Manor. Teas, card parties, and an annual June Fete were held on the Manor property. The June Fete evolved as a very popular “Country Fair” offering booths with fresh baked goods, white elephants, flowers, lemons with candy stick straws, and a lovely lunch served under a tented garden. The luncheon menu was traditional: chicken salad, tea sandwiches, and an exceptional variety of homemade desserts. Docents in period dress offered guided tours of the Manor. Later, when Pottsgrove Manor was closed for renovations, the June Fete was held at the Marshall Farm. Furnishings, period clothing, and artifacts were donated to the Historical Society on a continuing basis for use and display at Pottsgrove Manor.
In 1985, the State closed Pottsgrove Manor along with a number of other historical sites. As a result of this closure, the Pottstown Historical Society was effectively “locked out” of the site. The application was made to the State to have the Montgomery County Historical and Cultural Arts Department administer the property. The application was granted and Pottsgrove Manor was listed as a “Placed Property.” The County has invested considerable time, effort and funding to develop an exceptional historical site at Pottsgrove Manor.
The Historical Society continued its commitment to preservation in the community. The Security Trust Building at High and Hanover Streets was rescued from demolition as a result of a substantial contribution from the Society. Other contributions include a bronze plaque honoring the Lenape Native Americans and a plaque identifying the site of General Arthur St. Clair’s home on the southeast comer of High and Hanover Streets. We also collect and maintain a library of historic documents, genealogical records, and photographs.
Additionally, the Pottstown Historical Society has made substantial monetary contributions to the development of the John Potts Riverfront Park, the Carousel, the 250th Anniversary Celebration, and provided funding for a PA Historical Marker placed on High Street at Pottsgrove Manor.
In March 2000, the Historical Society purchased the Flower Shop at 568 High Street built in 1884 by Lloyd Keim. The building now serves at the Society’s headquarters housing its historical library and various collections. It offers rotating exhibits and interesting and informative lectures at the bi-monthly meetings.