Milford Square

Milford Square

For years, Milford Square has always been a quiet, rural community between Quakertown and Pennsburg. But now, with Route 663 and a popular entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension, major changes have begun.

One of seven historic villages in Milford Township, located in far northwestern Bucks County, Milford Square is situated in the middle of the township. It took its name from the multiple mills that stood on the banks of Licking Creek, a branch of the Unami Creek. The 3.5-story Achey’s Mill, built of fieldstone in 1786 on the Unami Creek, still stands at Hillcrest Road and Milford Square Pike.

“If you stand back from a tax parcel map, you can see a now-fragmented, big rectangle of the Growden tract that was granted by William Penn in the ‘Great Swamp’ to settle a land dispute.” says Jeffrey Vey, Milford Township’s manager. “A 1725 deed selling a portion of the Growden tract references the mill.”

Mennonites fleeing violence in the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany first settled the area in the early 18th century, according to “Wandering Through Milford Township: A Glimpse at its Past and Present” by the late Dr. Roger Baldwin, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Muhlenberg College who wrote the book in celebration of Milford Township’s 250th anniversary in 1984.

Some of the first families, including the Schelles and Clymers, built blockhouses from the square to the Milford Township village of Steinsburg at Allentown and Steinsburg Roads to protect themselves against Indian attacks.

Up until the mid-19th century, Milford Square had been known as Heistville.

In addition to its mills, Milford Square gained a reputation for coach manufacturing, the publishing of one of the area’s first newspapers, and even the production of handmade cigars. Baldwin’s book cites a 1969 series on the history of Milford Township published in the Quakertown Free Press that included memoirs of longtime Milford Square resident Thomas Boyer. Ninety at the time, he recalled making 500 cigars a day at the Theobold and Oppenheimer cigar factory and earning $15-$16 a week. The factory produced cigars from 1900 to the 1920s.

At the end of the 18th century, Milford was the center of the Fries Rebellion. Most commonly considered to be a revolt against property taxes levied by John Adams in anticipation of war with France, the rebellion was fueled by underlying tensions between the English speaking government and German speaking residents. Adams pardoned those sentenced to be “hung by the neck until dead” and some historians feel that action played a role in his loss of the presidency to Jefferson.


From its beginnings as a center of milling, Milford Square is undergoing transformative changes as it evolves into a hub of health care and senior living with the arrival of a 132,000-square-foot, $100 million St. Luke’s University Health Network hospital and a neighboring assisted living facility by LifeQuest. The new developments on 200 acres at Route 663 and Portzer Road were made possible by an arterial mixed-use overlay zoning district that was created by the township in 2007, Vey says.

To accommodate traffic from the developments, Portzer Road is now being widened to three lanes southbound, including right- and left-turning lanes, and a left-turning lane for northbound traffic. Route 663 will also be widened at the intersection to accommodate left turns from both directions.

A traffic signal is being installed at the hospital’s planned entrance, as well as left- and right-turning lanes into the property from both directions of Route 663 (John Fries Hwy).

“We are trying to stay a step ahead, rather than playing catch up later by widening Route 663 and coordinating traffic signals.” Vey says. “Portzer Road and Route 663 are getting widened in phases as development progresses based on a 5 lane template (two lanes in each direction with turning lanes at intersections).

“The traffic signal at Portzer Road is being connected via fiber optic cable with the signal at St. Luke’s and that signal is being connected to Commerce Drive via radio in the interim. A modem drop connects these signals to the Traffic Management Center at PennDOT District 6-0.” said Vey. “In the next phase our intention is to have fiber connect to Commerce Drive with radio communication to the Route 309 closed loop system now being installed. Traffic Adaptive signal controls will sense vehicles and move them more efficiently. In addition, a roundabout is going in at Old Bethlehem Pike and Portzer Road.”

St. Luke’s was drawn to Milford Square because of its strong roadway connections to Routes 663 and 309 and the turnpike, says St. Luke’s Quakertown President Dennis Pfleiger.

“It provides a great location for a hospital, easy access, and great visibility,” he says. “It definitely made it a great spot for us to look at.”

While many of the features of the 80-bed St. Luke’s Upper Bucks Campus share the designs and features of other St. Luke’s facilities, including the brick and stonework exteriors, the new community hospital will offer amenities and services to provide easy access for patients, families, and visitors.

“Off the main lobby, for example, is everything you need as a patient or family member when you come in,” Pfleiger says. “When you walk in the main lobby, you’re greeted, and registration is right there. Outpatient diagnostic services are at the entrance as well. The cafeteria was brought up to the front, and the waiting room is right in the main lobby.”

When you’re waiting for a loved one in surgery, you don’t have to wander around wondering where to get a cup of coffee and sit and relax, he says.

“Inside the main entrance is a fireplace with a stone wall—reminiscent of the farmhouse feel of the community here in Milford Square and Upper Bucks,” Pfleiger says. Private rooms, a first in the Upper Bucks region, include a section for families to be part of their loved one’s care and a pullout sofa if an overnight stay is desired. Beds are by a window, and there’s a separate space for privacy for exams and bedside procedures; bathrooms are located at the head of each bed to encourage patients to get up, with minimal steps to reduce the risk of falls, Pfleiger notes.

“Those types of touches set this design apart and make it a true part of this community,” he says.

The public can tour St. Luke’s Upper Bucks Campus during a Community Day planned for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 16. The hospital will officially open in December.

“We’re excited to get the facility open and start serving our community,” Pfleiger says.

Signs of a Growing Economy

Thanks to many years of planning, leadership, and investment from LifeQuest and St. Luke’s, Milford Square is undergoing meaningful changes from humble beginnings as a milling center into a prosperous community hub. Economics for development are centered around growing needs for senior living and health care. 

Over a decade in the works, The Village at LifeQuest, a modern concept for today’s assisted living community, celebrated its ribbon cutting in August showcasing the expansion of its existing campus to include 123 new units. Aside from a long list of unique amenities, development included 18 companion suites, 49 one-bedroom units, and 56 studio units.

St. Luke’s Upper Bucks will boast medical, surgical, diagnostic, critical care, emergency room and surgical services. The new hospital will have the region’s only fully accredited Level 4 Trauma Center and designated Center of Excellence in Hernia Surgery. Upon its opening, no emergency services will be available at St. Luke’s Quakertown campus.  Stay tuned for exact dates.

From a planning perspective, the 200 acres of new development on Route 663 were made possible by an arterial mixed-use overlay zoning district. And, rather than playing catch up, 663 is being widened in phases as development progresses based on a 5-lane template (two lanes in each direction with turning lanes at intersections).

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