James-Lorah Memorial Home History

The handsome Federal building at 132 North Main Street, Doylestown, known as the James-Lorah Memorial Home, was the home for 85 years of Miss Sarah M. James, a charter member of the Village Improvement Association when it was founded in 1895. Upon her death in 1954, Miss James bequeathed to the VIA the 17-room residence, its contents and a trust fund for maintenance.

The north wing was originally a saddler’s shop built in the early 1800s. Abraham Chapman purchased the property in 1824 and gave it to his grandson Henry as a wedding gift in 1824. Henry enlarged the shop for use as his law office. In 1844, Henry Chapman, by then a judge and widowed for seven years, built for his future bride “the finest house in the borough” joining it to the law office. A grandson, the noted Henry Chapman Mercer, was born in one of the bedrooms.

After 25 years of Chapman ownership, the house and six acres were sold in 1869 to Dr. Oliver P. James, a physician, who resided there with his wife, Sara Gordon James, son Oliver, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah. Martha married the Reverend Dr. George H. Lorah, a Methodist minister, in 1896. Following the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. James and Oliver, it became the summer home of Sarah James and the Lorahs, who spent winters at the church parsonage in Philadelphia. In later years, Miss James lived at the Bucks County Inn but continued to maintain the family home.

The bequest of Miss James established this home as the center of VIA activity.

As the membership grew and projects required expanded facilities, an auditorium complex was added and dedicated in 1964. The James-Lorah Memorial Home is a treasured house-museum commemorating the families who have occupied it. Today it continues to contribute to the ongoing life of the community and the VIA.

We have a wonderful auditorium available for event rentals. To learn more about the space, please visit the James-Lorah Auditorium page.

Contract Turning the House Over to the VIA
Contract Turning the House Over to the VIA