What’s in a name? How the village of Intercourse got its name is a hot topic among visitors to the area. Many theories abound. We know that the town was originally called Cross Keys after a local tavern. The Cross Keys Tavern was located at the intersection of the Old Provincial Highway (now the Old Philadelphia Pike) and a former Indian trail now named Newport Road. Perhaps the name Intercourse simply stands for the joining of two major highways. One theory holds that the name evolved over time from a sign at the entrance of a race course that read Entercourse. Still others believe that the town was named Intercourse as part of a real estate transaction in the hope that the town would become a center of trade.
Founded in 1754, the town grew slowly. By 1880, Intercourse had a population of only 280 people. In 1892 the entire town was nearly destroyed by fire. It was gradually rebuilt and stage coach service was established in 1898. As the twentieth century progressed, Intercourse evolved into a hub to the local tourist industry. In 1985 it was a primary location for the filming of the Hollywood blockbuster Witness, adding to the town’s mystique.
With a population of nearly 5,000 people and more than 100 businesses, Intercourse has become the hub of commerce that it was once envisioned to be. The mix of unique Amish businesses and surrounding farmland make it the perfect place to explore Pennsylvania German culture. Today Intercourse is a mecca for visitors looking for handmade furniture and quilts, antiques, art and food made from recipes handed down for generations.
Despite the eye-catching name, it’s the captivating glimpse into a simpler time that makes Intercourse a key stop on any visit to Pennsylvania Dutch Country.