Pennsylvania Magazine Traces the History of Phoenixville from Small Nail Shop to Iron Works

The Phoenixville mural dramatizes the city's historic connection to the iron industry. The mural was removed last year because it was falling apart--via
A view of the Iron Works from across the Schuylkill.--via
A view of the Iron Works from across the Schuylkill.–via

Originally called Manavon, Phoenixville got its name in 1849 from one of the major employers at the time, Louis Wernwig, the founder of the Phoenix Nail Works. He decided to name his business after the mythical Egyptian bird, the Phoenix, after looking out at night from a high bluff, watching flames erupt into the dark sky out of the stacks of his nail factory only for the landscape to become peaceful again with the coming of dawn writes Cindy Ross for Pennsylvania Magazine

Nails were a valuable commodity back in the early days of this nation and as a result, the Phoenix Nail Works grew to become a hugely successful iron company that helped a large number of locals become rich. Today, this is still reflected in the number of beautiful and historic homes that can be found throughout Phoenixville as it has 1,200 nationally registered properties in its historic district, which is the largest in Chester County.

Even after Phoenix Steel Corporation closed in the 1980’s local residents have fought to maintain the beauty of the area and have supported extensive revitalization programs to improve the quality of life in the area. This has helped the borough to evolve into a hip and creative place to live and work while still keeping its small-town charm.

The 2015 Phoenixville Firebird–via

To celebrate the continuing success of Phoenixville, the town holds the Firebird Festival each year which is a one day celebration of the art, culture and history of the community and concludes with the dramatic burning of a thirty foot high wooden sculpture of a phoenix that is built by local volunteers.

Outside of the festival season, the town has become a destination for the creative with a constantly evolving music and art community as an increasing number of up and coming artists move to the area, helping support its thriving, growing community. The town now has numerous galleries where exhibitions change monthly and the Phoenix Village Art Center is now home to many artists working in rented studio space.

Another sign of a community’s success is great restaurants, which Phoenixville has in abundance. The town is known for some of the best culinary destinations in the region outside of Philadelphia and is the home to Majolica, an unusual BYOB restaurant run by Chef Derry, voted the best chef in Chester County. This is just one of the great bars and restaurants located in the town such as the Black Lab Bistro, Black Walnut Winery Tasting Room and for fabulous mesquite barbecue, the Great American Pub on Bridge Street.

Music is also at the heart of the community with locations such as the Steel City Coffee House which offers year round live music and is a haven for local and upcoming talent. Just this location alone holds more than 150 musical performances a year in addition to improv comedy and art exhibits, all of which showcase the depth of talent from the surrounding area.

This level of success is truly heartwarming and is in stark contrast to a lot of industrial communities that have fallen apart after their local industry moved away, but Phoenixville, true to its name, has risen and flourished despite its previous economic depression, held together by the support of the community and its’ fighting spirit.

You can find the full article in Pennsylvania Magazine at local bookstores or wherever magazines are sold.

Connect With Your Community

Subscribe to stay informed!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.