YARDLEY BOROUGH >> A new mural at Buttonwood Plaza is creating a lot of buzz in downtown Yardley.
Commissioned by Experience Yardley, the mural painted on the side of the Firehouse Cycles building at 15 South Main Street borrows from Bruce Springsteen’s famous 1973 record album cover, “Greetings from Asbury Park,” and gives it a distinctive Yardley Borough theme.
Each letter in the word Yardley includes imagery of the town, from Lakeside, Yardley Borough Hall and the Old Library to locations of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by African-Americans to escape slavery.
The imagery featured in the mural is from the book, “Images of Yardley,” compiled by borough historian Vince Profy and published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series.
“In this era of hardship from the pandemic, this brings good feelings to the community. And it will also have an economic impact on our businesses because this will draw people here to our town center to see it and have their pictures taken next to it,” said David Appelbaum of Experience Yardley.
The colorful mural was designed by retired Pennsbury art department chair Tony Napoli and painted by Napoli and a team of students, parents and staff from Pennsbury. For nearly 30 years, Napoli coordinated the renowned Pennsbury Prom, transforming the high school in Fairless Hills into an evening to remember with eye-popping murals and breathtaking displays.
“Tony’s background in sign painting and his nearly 30 years of coordinating the prom made him the perfect candidate to lead this effort,” said Experience Yardley President and Founder Jef Buehler. “Because of the mutual admiration between Tony and the PHS art students, as well as some parents and staff, he built a team of enthusiastic painters who helped make the project move along at unprecedented speed.
“It was wonderful to watch the daily stream of young people showing up at the site to participate in making great art with their good will for the community,” said Buehler, as the mural came together during the month of August.
Between now and October 17 when it will be formally dedicated, the art crew will be putting the finishing touches on the “Greetings from Yardley” mural and protecting it with an anti-graffiti covering.
Buehler came up with the “placemaking” idea for the mural while thinking of ways to enhance Buttonwood Court where Music On Main, a series of outdoor concerts typically takes place in late spring and throughout the summer.
“A few years ago I had been thinking about the success of Music on Main and the placemaking project I organized and wrote grants to support for while on Council that added colorful outdoor seating, tables, planters (maintained by Ye Olde Yardley Florist), and cafe lighting.
“It effectively created what I call ‘Buttonwood Plaza,’ which used to just be an overly-wide sidewalk and driveway. And during the concerts the plaza effectively fills the street between the two historic buildings owned by Tom Cramer of Cramer's Bakery.
“So my vision was always to continue this placemaking, finding ways to bring art into the heart of the downtown. The 'Greetings From' mural concept had been used all over the country, but at that time nowhere in Pennsylvania. And since there is only one Yardley in America (and for that matter in the entire Western Hemisphere) I thought, ‘Let’s put something on that wall in the center of town right in the midst of Music on Main that people will recognize as an icon - sort of a modern-day postcard that they can use on Instagram and social media to say, 'Hey I'm from Yardley and it's awesome!' or 'I visited Yardley and it was awesome!' Because, let's face it, not a ton of people still send postcards but pretty much everyone shares digital memories and moments.”
Buehler also thought the mural could become a great photo and selfie spot for residents and visitors alike and help spread Yardley’s image throughout the world via social media posts and shares.
“Specifically for Music on Main I knew that all of our great bands before or after the show or maybe even during it would want photos in front of that iconic mural. If you think about it, those bands, residents of the area, visitors, and just random people driving down Main Street are going to want that photo,” he said.
“And they're going to share that photo,” he added. “And, organically, other people who see that unique image are going to want to come to Yardley - maybe for the first time and maybe just to get a photo with the mural, but then they'll find there is so much more.
“And maybe they'll shop at our specialty stores here, or eat and drink at our independent restaurants, or come to other events, or choose to start a business here, or even decide to live here,” he said.
The mural project, which is funded by donors and grants from the PA Council on the Arts, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and Visit Bucks County, “provides immediate tangible beauty, creativity, and local authenticity, with a long-term goal of increasing our community's vitality,” said Buehler.
About the Imagery
Y - Historic Yardley Borough Hall + the Yardley Community Center
A - Lakeside - one of the earliest homes in Yardley. The land for Yardley was purchased from Willam Penn, namesake of Pennsylvania.
R + D - The Old Library by Lake Afton - The picturesque & historic heart of Yardley.
L - Yardley Veteran’s Memorial (the former bridge to NJ destroyed in the flood of 1955) & bike path
E - The Yardley Grist Mill - built in 1769 by Thomas Yardley, and in constant use since then
Y - Yardley was home to several stops on the Underground Railroad in the 19th century including that same Grist Mill & the Continental Tavern.
And of course there’s also the Canal Mule Barge carrying the “Greetings From” message up top. Completed in 1832, the 60 mile long Delaware Canal was designed to transport coal from NE Pennsylvania to the cities. Mules were used to pull the barges along the towpath. Today, the Delaware Canal Towpath is a vital recreational and natural feature in Yardley and adjacent towns.