North Wales Historic Commission
North Wales, Pennsylvania
Titanic Plaque on Display
by Bradley Schlegel
One hundred years ago, the red brick house, owned by James Van Billiard, with two front doors at 116 West Montgomery Ave. served as the site of a wake for victims of the HMS Titanic.
Austin Van Billiard, accompanied by two sons, booked third-class passage on the ship’s maiden voyage, according to information provided by the North Wales Historic Commission.
One of six children of James Van Billiard — the borough’s mayor and owner of the North Wales Granite Works — Austin wanted to surprise his parents in the Spring of 1912 after leaving the country 12 years earlier to work as an electrician at the Universal Exposition in Paris, according to the commission.
Austin, 35, and his two oldest sons James, 10 and Walter, 9, decided to make the journey before wife Maude and their four other children.
However, the trio perished in the ship’s tragic sinking after striking an iceberg on April 14, 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The body of Walter Van Billiard was the first to be recovered by the RMS Carpathia, the recovery ship, according to Phyllis Byrne, chairperson of the North Wales Historic Commission.
The sign on front of the historic Van Billiard House in North Wales on Tuesday October 9,2012. Photo by Mark C Psoras\The Reporter
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