Welcome to Phoenixville!
A mere 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia, at the intersection of the Schuylkill River and French Creek, Phoenixville PA is the perfect blend of urban experience and historic small town charm. Phoenixville is home to many local artisans and restaurants, including local favorites like Molly Maguire’s Pub and Iron Hill Brewery, both located on Bridge Street.
Back in the late 1600’s, Manavon, the area now known as Phoenixville, had a population of approximately 400 people, mostly Native Americans. The Lenape people farmed, hunted, and fished in the Schuylkill River. The first European settlers arrived in 1713 and around 1730 Moses Coates and James Starr purchased 1,000 acres of land along the French Creek. The town was settled in 1732 and was an important manufacturing center and the site of great iron and steel mills in its industrial heyday in the early twentieth century.
In 1790, a small nail producing mill was built where the Foundry Building now stands. In 1813, Lewis Wernwag invested in the nail works and renamed it Phoenix Iron Works. By 1830, Phoenix Iron Works was one of the largest nail factories in the U.S., with a maximum production of about three tons of nails per day. After a fire in 1848, the nail factory was destroyed and never rebuilt. The Foundry Building was constructed in its place in 1882.
The name Phoenixville derives from the nail mill owner, Lewis Wernwag, looking at the fiery red hot iron which would later be rolled and flattened and commented that the heat reminded him of the Phoenix. The Phoenix is the mythical bird that dies and then rises from its own ashes.
The Iron Works owned 800 houses in the mid-1800s, including the homes on Mill Street, known then as Nailer’s Row, as well as Puddler’s Row, so named for the residents of the homes who worked in the mill “puddling,” or melting down steel.
In 1862, the company patented the Phoenix Column, which was used to construct the elevated subway system in New York City, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, among many other projects.
By the end of WWI Phoenixville had experienced incredible growth. It had growing manufacturing businesses and retail stores, and four movie theatres, including the Colonial Theatre, which is still open today.
In 1958, the theatre, along with some other parts of the borough, was featured in the motion picture The Blob. Beginning in 2000, Phoenixville has celebrated this with the annual Blobfest. Festivities include a reenactment of the scene featuring the Colonial. The Colonial runs special programs some weekends in July, and an ongoing series of movies and events for children.
In March 2010, Philadelphia Magazine listed Phoenixville as one of “10 Awesome Neighborhoods To Call Home”.
Since 2004 on the first Friday night of every month, the downtown stores, restaurants and businesses and volunteer community groups hold special events including street musicians and entertainers and some outdoor concerts. This is referred to as “First Fridays” by the locals.
Also since 2004, Phoenixville has celebrated the “rebirth” of the town with the burning of a large wooden phoenix. The bonfire at the Firebird Festival is used to harden clay birds crafted over the preceding weeks.
More recently, Phoenixville has been making headlines due to its variety of restaurants, as well as a plethora of craft breweries (some are calling it a craft brewery explosion, and if this research is correct, it is now a top 10 brew city in the nation) and distilleries that have recently opened in the area. These “food and booze” articles are appearing more and more frequently on the Philadelphia Inquirer including one by food critic Craig LaBan in his “Best of the ’burbs” review of Chester County’s Top Restaurants and another titled “With a food and booze revolution, Phoenixville rises again.”