As the population of Central and Upper Bucks County grew throughout the 18th and into the 19th century, discontent developed with the county seat’s location in Newtown, where it had been since 1725. The county seat moved north to the more centrally located Doylestown in 1813. An outgrowth of Doylestown’s new courthouse was the development of “lawyers row”, a collection of Federal-style offices. One positive consequence of early 19th-century investment in the new county seat was organized fire protection, which began in 1825 with the Doylestown Fire Engine Company. In 1838 the Borough of Doylestown was incorporated.
An electric telegraph station was built in 1846, and in 1856 the North Pennsylvania Railroad completed a branch to Doylestown. The first gas lights were introduced in 1854. Because of the town’s relatively high elevation and a lack of strong water power, substantial industrial development never occurred and Doylestown evolved to have a professional and residential character. During the mid-19th century, several large tracts located east of the courthouse area were subdivided into neighborhoods. The next significant wave of development occurred after the Civil War, when the 30-acre (120,000 m2) Magill property to the southwest of the town’s core was subdivided for residential lots. In 1869 Doylestown established a water works. The first telephone line arrived in 1878, the same year that a new courthouse was erected. 1897 saw the first of several trolley lines connecting Doylestown with Willow Grove, Newtown and Easton. A private sewer system and treatment plant were authorized in 1903. The Borough took over and expanded sewer service to about three-quarters of the town in 1921.
In the early 20th century, Doylestown became best known to the outside world through the “Tools of the Nation-Maker” museum of the Bucks County Historical Society. Henry Chapman Mercer constructed the reinforced concrete building in 1916 to house his collection of mechanical tools and utensils. Upon his death in 1930, Mercer also left his similarly constructed home Fonthill and adjacent Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, to be operated as a museum. The home was left on the condition that his housekeeper be allowed to live there for the rest of her life. She lived there and gave tours until the mid-1970s. In 1916, Doylestown Country Club was established and still operates a private golf course and caddy program.
By 1931, the advent of the automobile and improved highway service had put the last trolley line out of business, and Doylestonians were forced to embrace the automobile as the primary means of travel within the region. The Great Depression took its toll, as many grand old houses constructed a century earlier fell into disrepair. During the 1930s, the Borough also expanded its land area to the north by admission of the tract known as the Doylestown Annex.
In the decade following World War II, Doylestown’s business community boomed. During the 1940s, streets were paved for the first time in two decades and parking meters were introduced downtown in 1948. However, the Borough’s post-war housing boom did not begin in earnest until the 1950s, when 550 new homes were built. This housing boom continued into the 1960s and 1970s, as more than 1,600 new homes were built during those decades and the Borough’s population grew from 5,917 in 1960 to 8,717 in 1980. As with many small towns across the country, the growth of the post-war decades also brought a new competitor to the downtown business district—the shopping mall. By the 1960s, the toll could be seen in Doylestown by the numerous vacant buildings and dilapidated storefronts in the center of town. The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority responded with a federal urban renewal scheme that called for the demolition of 27 historic buildings. The local business community objected to such wholesale clearance and responded with its own plan called Operation ’64, the Doylestown Plan for Self-Help Downtown Renewal. This private initiative was successful in saving Doylestown’s old buildings and historic character, while improving business at the same time. One historic landmark that could not be saved was the 80-year-old courthouse and clock tower, which was replaced by the present county complex in the early 1960s. By the end of the 1980s, the downtown business district was again showing the toll of massive new competition from the latest wave of suburban shopping centers, as well as the recession that hit hardest in the northeastern states. In response, the Borough Council established a volunteer group of civic-minded representatives from business organizations, government, and the residential community to begin formulating plans for the downtown area in 1992. This effort resulted in streetscape improvements composed of cast iron street lamps and brick pavers, facade improvements and other beautification efforts, and the establishment of a Main Street Manager Program.
As the 1990s progressed, the downtown area rebuilt itself largely by turning to an out-of-town audience. Doylestown had long been respected as a bucolic tourist destination. The gentry of Philadelphia and New York, including figures of the Manhattan theater and literary scenes, maintained country estates in the area and often summered there. The Mercer Museum, Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and the local National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa brought a regular stream of short-term visitors through the area as well. With charitable support, the art deco County Theater was restored and reopened showing art-house fare, and a new main library and art museum were built around the ruins of the old stone jail, across the street from the Mercer Museum. An official “resort town” designation exempted the area from liquor license caps, and empty commercial space began to fill with a dense and vibrant nighttime scene of bars and restaurants. This development goes hand in hand with the broader development of the region. As the Philadelphia metropolitan area expanded from southern into central Bucks County, the fields and farms of the communities around Doylestown quickly began to sprout housing developments. This development brought thousands of people to the area, but the neighborhoods created often lacked longstanding institutions or discernible centers. Doylestown, more centrally located than Delaware River border town, New Hope, PA, which had traditionally served this function, was able to position itself as the regional center of culture and nightlife. Archival collection and community programming are two functions of the Doylestown Historical Society, established in 1995, whose mission is “to commemorate and preserve the history of Doylestown so that its people, places and events may long be remembered.” The Doylestown Historic District, Pugh Dungan House, Fonthill, Fountain House, Oscar Hammerstein II Farm, James-Lorah House, Mercer Museum, Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and Shaw Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doylestown,_Pennsylvania