This picturesque historic town is located at what is known as the “Forks,” the place where the West and North branches of the Susquehanna River converge. John Lowden and William Patterson acquired the tract from Thomas Penn in 1772 and laid it out around a common green in the manner of an English village. In accord with William Penn's sons' reversion to the Church of England, the street names pay homage to the British crown: the broad main street is King, paralleled by Queen and Duke to the south and Orange and Hanover to the north. At a later date, Priestley Avenue was named for Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), who spent the last ten years of his life here. Other properties related to the Priestley family are scattered throughout the town. Numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses in remarkable states of preservation are found on the tree-lined streets. Among the most notable is 384–386 Water Street, which was built as the market house on the town green, moved after the Civil War, and is now a private residence; the John Taggart House (c. 1835) at 250 King Street, an atypical Greek Revival essay; the Joseph W. Epler Funeral Home at 210 King Street, a lively Queen Anne confection originally built as the manse for the Presbyterian church; and the Front Street Station (2 Front Street), a freight and passenger depot designed by William Cookman for the Pennsylvania Railroad, but now a restaurant (four adjoining railroad cars now comprise its banquet room). The Northumberland Historical Society has produced a brochure to accompany a walking tour of the historic district.
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