The misnaming of Ivyland, Pennsylvania

There is no shortage of curious sounding town names in Pennsylvania. A person would only need to cross over the Lancaster County line to be surrounded by boroughs and villages, with names like Bird In Hand, Blue Ball, and Intercourse which makes one shake their head in disbelief.

Yet, even among the more traditional sounding cities, its naming might not be as straightforward as one might think.

Take Ivyland, PA for example.

This quaint borough sports one of the finest collections of Victorian era buildings in the state, but very few of them are covered by ivy. So why name it Ivyland?

The town was started in 1873 when Edwin Lacey, a Quaker farmer turned developer, who wanted to cash in on the thousands of people coming through the area to celebrate the Centennial Exposition of 1876 being held in nearby Philadelphia. Lacey sold his dream to investors who helped him lay out this twelve block village, complete with an addition to the North Penn Railroad, and a grand hotel in the center of it all.

Lacey’s utopia was quickly becoming a reality -- so he needed to call this area something that captured the essence of his new home. Thomas MacKenzie, a personal acquaintance of Edwin, stated that Lacey “envisioned lovely ivy-covered walls throughout his town”, and since there was an abundance of this beautiful, glossy, three-leafed ivy, it made perfect sense to call it, “Ivyland”.

Unfortunately, Edwin Lacey was no botanist, and mistook the glossy, three-leafed ivy for English ivy (which has a webbed maple leaf shape). Needless to say, the new settlers and town officials did not cover their buildings with this vine -- because it was POISON IVY!

In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing Lacey didn’t call the place what it actually was, because, who would want to visit Poison Ivyland, Pennsylvania? No one.


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