NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Borough Council voted unanimously on October 13 to apply for a $10,000 PECO Green Regions grant for the creation of a pocket park at Court and Mercer streets next to the historic Bird In Hand building.
If successful, the grant would be used to match $70,000 the borough received for the project from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Community Conservation Partnership Program grant was announced in September by State Sen. Steve Santarsiero and State Rep. Perry Warren.
“The funds going to Newtown Borough to develop the Bird-in-Hand property will benefit the community by increasing accessibility to the area through the creation of pedestrian walkways, while also making improvements to the grounds that will highlight the historic home and lot,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “The partnership between the borough and the Commonwealth to preserve this property shows the commitment of both Newtown Borough and the state to developing outdoor community spaces for all to enjoy.”
“This historic property is a Newtown treasure,” said Rep. Warren. “Borough Council creatively structured a plan to purchase, protect and preserve the Bird-in-Hand lot, and this state grant helps the Borough improve this historic property for the benefit and enjoyment of our residents and for generations to come.”
Designed by NAM Planning and Design, the landscaping plan envisions an open grassy area in the middle of the property surrounded by benches and plantings with two garden trellises marking the entrances to the site.
“This is going to be a park where people can walk to and go and sit,” said Council Vice President Julia Woldorf, who has taken the lead on the project. “We don’t provide enough for the older population of the borough and the borough is getting older. We have playgrounds for younger kids, but we don’t have places for people who are more sedentary who would like to walk somewhere and sit and enjoy the greenery.”
Woldorf said the landscaping will emphasize the plants that were used historically in medicine, cooking and in the textile industry to reflect the history of the site.
The Bird in Hand property is the site of the only Revolutionary War skirmish in Newtown, a 1778 Loyalist raid on the Bird in Hand Tavern where tailors were making uniforms for the troops at Valley Forge. Five American soldiers were killed, four were wounded and others were captured.
The land also is part of the last remaining lot of the original six squares of property that comprised the layout of Newtown by William Penn.
Earlier this year, council hired NAM Planning and Design to develop a concept design for the pocket park, including benches, sidewalks and landscaping.
In addition, NAM produced the documentation needed to apply for the grant opportunities to fund the development of the project.
NAM recently designed the award-winning Newtown Common pocket park at the base of Green Street.
The borough purchased the property known as Lot B in January 2019 to preserve the site’s historic significance and to create a public pocket park that will enhance the surrounding historic Court Street neighborhood, a section of tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks, Colonial-era buildings and period street lighting.