Friday, August 24, 2012

Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park is a 1,711 acre small but beautiful and historic state park. It has no connection to my own family history aside from the fact that my parents currently live in walking distance to it. If you're a history lover, the thing you'll most enjoy about the park is the historic houses, some dating back to colonial times. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down any specific information on them while I was there - I thought the park office would have a pamphlet or something but apparently the history of the area is only worth a small little corner of their park information pamphlet.

So what it does tell us is that the land was owned by George F. Tyler, who acquired it in stages between 1919 and 1928. So prior to his ownership, portions of it had been broken up and owned by different people. Tyler's family originally lived in the Solly Farm House (right) until their mansion (above) was built but they continued to vacation in it after moving into the mansion. The mansion is now the administration office building for the Bucks County Community College and Solly House was functioning as a hostel up until recently but is now vacant, though Hostelling International are still leasing it apparently. Sadly, it doesn't appear that anyone is taking care of it right now and if someone doesn't start soon, this local icon could deteriorate fast. I can only hope there are future plans for it. The above/right photo of Solly House is merely the original house, many larger extensions were added to the back, as you can see below.

The Tyler's farm had one of the finest herds of Ayrshire diary cattle in the county, as well as poultry, sheep, pigs, and a stable of about 25 horses. Their plentiful crops were mainly used to feed their livestock. They also had several servants - a dozen in 1920 including but not limited to five maids, two laundresses, a cook, and a governess for the family's children who were twelve, nine, and five years old at the time. By 1930, the Great Depression may have even been influencing them as their staff had reduced almost by half, dropping to only seven, mostly maids and also a cook and a butler. By 1940, the servant numbers had gone back up to ten including three maids, two waitresses, a cook and a valet, all working 60 hours a week. Before purchasing the land that would become Tyler State Park, the family lived at 296 Old York Road in Montgomery County. They only had one child at this time and employed a maid and a cook. This information was obtained from census records, hence my inability to make out some of the occupations of servants. George Frederick Tyler had been born in Newport, Rhode Island on August 10, 1883 and married his wife Stella Elkins around 1907. They had three children: Sidney, Molly, and George Jr.

Another icon of Tyler State Park is the Schofield Ford Covered Bridge. Originally built in 1874, it burnt down in 1991 and was rebuilt with authentic materials and methods in 1997. It's the longest covered bridge in Bucks County, shown below.

I wish I could say more about some of the other beautiful historic homes in the park which have been kept up better. Ten of them are currently leased out to residents who care for them. I also wish I had more information on the different pieces of land before they all came into Tyler's possession - after all, he only acquired the first portion of it in 1919 but the land had been settled since colonial times. And I'm sure the Solly House was once owned by a family named Solly but whether it has any connection with the other Solly Farm currently in another area of Bucks County, I don't know. These were the things I was hoping to find out from the park office. Regardless, below are some of the other lovely historic houses and barns to be found in the park and more photos of the back of the Tyler mansion as well.

Addendum: I was browsing the Library of Congress (great resource, by the way) for maps and came across one for Philadelphia and Bucks County from 1681. Curious to see if I could find the area that would become Tyler State Park, I attempted to overlay Google Maps on it and then drew a rough outline in Photoshop. Below is the result, though keep in mind that it's approximate - I could not quite get the maps to line up exactly right and I'm not sure the scales were entirely equal. But this should give you a rough idea of who the original lands of the park area were owned by.


  1. Found your page looking for information on the historic buildings in the park. I recently acquired from a construction friend of mine, a 7ft piece of floor joist that was removed from one of the structures when it was reconstructed 25+ years ago. I will try to find out exactly which building it was. I didn't realize there were so many. The beam is solid oak 1' x 3" thick. I intend to use it as a fireplace mantel in my daughter's house and was hoping to tie some history to it.

    1. Interesting, I'd love to hear what you find out!

  2. I currently rent a property in Tyler State Park and was interested in the history of the homes. The best resource I could find was the archives at Northampton Library. I am told that the Community College (one part of the Tyler's estate) also has information and old pictures. I can not confirm that though as I haven't gone to investigate yet.

  3. I am curious about what significance the two cats over the main entrance to the main house may have. I can't seem to find them mentioned anywhere...

  4. For the 1681 map, Anthony Tomkins is my 9th great grandfather and it was originally sold to him by Wm Penn as two 500 acre lots.

    The lower left corner is the current 2nd st pike. The southern boundary is ST 332 and goes to the old mill. The 2nd st pike boundary goes north to what is now Twining bridge rd. The northern boundary goes from 2nd st pike to the covered bridge (which wasn't built until the late 1800's)

    I did an overlay using the current map and had it verified by the township historian and both are on my Ancestry tree.

    My name is Stephen Smith. What is ironic is that as a young boy I hung out there and had no idea it was ancestral land until decades later

  5. The Anthony Tomkins tract was sold to him by Wm Penn as two 500 acre parcels in 1681. The lower corner is 2nd st pike and rt 332 which extends to the neshaminy creek. From 2nd st pike north to what is now Twining bridge rd and which aligns with the covered bridge. Although the bridge would not have been built for another 190 years. The neshaminy is the northern boundary of his property.

    On my ancestry page I did an map overlay and had the township historian verify my work. What is ironic is that while I hung out there as a teen I had no idea if the ancestral link until decades later.

    The same map you show also shows nearby to Penn's property on Bucks counties heel another ancestor (Dungan) who was also an original land holder in current Bristol.