|Vest-pocket park next to the Historical Society
Doylestown is the hometown of writer James Michener, who graduated from Doylestown High School in 1925, before going on to Swarthmore College and then fame and fortune as author of Tales of the South Pacific -- made into the movie South Pacific -- along with Centennial, The Source, Hawaii, Chesapeake, and a couple dozen other mammoth historical novels.
(How many Michener books have you read? I've done Chesapeake, Poland, The Convenant. I started a couple of others but never got through them. Now that I'm retired, maybe I'll try another one!)
|Moravian Pottery and Tile Works
Other luminaries who have lived in Doylestown include authors Dorothy Parker and S. J. Perelman, and musicians George S. Kaufman, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim . . . as well as the contemporary singer Pink, born as Alecia Moore in Doylestown in 1979.
But the most amazing character we found from Doylestown -- the most idiosyncratic anyway -- was a man named Henry Chapman Mercer (1856 - 1930).
|Interior of the Tile Works
Mercer traveled through Europe studying historical sites; he took a job as a museum curator in Philadelphia; he researched ancient tool-making and apprenticed himself to an old Pennsylvania potter. He was also a co-founder of the Doylestown Historical Society.
Then 1898 he founded the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, where he produced handmade clay tiles that soon became very popular. They were used to decorate buildings from the Rockefeller estate in New York to the Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg to a theater in Hollywood.
|A Moravian tile
The three buildings are now all open as historic monuments in Doylestown. They are not the most attractive structures, but they certainly are sturdy -- and the subject of a lot of curious conversation among residents and visitors alike.
|The Mercer Museum in downtown Doylestown
At first, the people of Doylestown made fun of his buildings. But to prove his point, Mercer lit a bonfire on the roof of his mansion to demonstrate that the place was indeed impervious to fire. After that, people began to appreciate the artistry -- and the employment opportunities -- brought to this small Pennsylvania town by the idiosyncratic offspring of a wealthy American family.
You could almost write a novel, or a musical, about it. Don't you think?