For some months now the center of interest for Wayne citizens, young and old, has been the re-modeling of the old building located at the northwest corner of Lancaster and North Wayne avenues, long known as Miller’s Store. Commuters hurrying home in the dusk of the evening have taken a moment in passing to glance at what progress has been made since they left in the morning. School children as they crossed the pike under the vigilant eye of Officer Botts have looked across at what has been for many years the most interesting store in all Wayne to all of its small fry. Housewives have glanced up from marketing lists to speculate on how the new store would look when it was on street level. For there are few in this vicinity who have not at one time or another climbed the well worn steps that led to the variety store established by William A Miller in 1921.
Mr. Miller, and later his widow, somehow had the happy faculty of keeping in stock many of the small articles for which one searched in vain elsewhere. And for twenty-eight years Wayne’s children bought their lollipops, their ice cream cones, school supplies, comic books, toys and games at the corner store. The death of Mrs. Miller early this year marked the passing of one of Wayne’s real landmarks.
Today Cobb and Lawless have the formal opening of their large electrical appliance and floor covereings shop in the remodeled Miller store and in the store just to the west of it which they have now occupied for some time. Joined together and placed on street level, the two shops now form a spacious whole with large show windows on both Lancaster and North Wayne avenues.
Like many another Wayne shop of our time, this was once an attractive and spacious home. The original red brick house was built about 1890 (perhaps before) when Wayne was just coming into its own as one of the first suburban communities in the country. Lancaster turnpike with its toll gates had then been in existence almost two hundred years – years full of change and development. North Wayne avenue from the pike to Eagle road was the first street built in Wayne by A. J. Drexel and George W. Childs.
The house at the northwest corner of these two roads was purchased in 1897 by Lizzie Pugh Fronefield, its present owner, from Christopher Fallon and Emma L., his wife. At that time it was a residence with the post office at the rear of the building, facing on Wayne avenue. Theodore F. Ramsey and his wife, Sallie Pugh Ramsey, were the postmasters from 1889 to 1893. J. M. Fronefield, Jr., succeeded them, his term lasting from 1893 to 1897.
About 1900 the post office was moved and the former residence was remodeled into two stores, one on Wayne avenue, and the other on the corner. The latter was leased by Mr. Wemmer, who operated a drygoods business known as the “Wayne Mart.” About 1910 he sold out to Mr. Stafford, who continued the business under the same name until 1921 when a third store was built facing on Lancaster avenue. This third store was occupied by N. P. Pechin aas an electrical shop.
About 1905 an addition had been made on the Wayne avenue side, which was occupied until 1915 as a tailor shop by Louis De Louis. In 1915, David H. Henderson moved into this location which he operated as a fish market until his death about two years ago, when it was taken over by Earl Frankenfield, whose widow now operates the business.
Back in 1890 the original house stood at some distance back from the pike, since that road was only a narrow thoroughfare then. There was room for a lawn and a picket fence while the house itself had porches. It was surrounded by both business and residential properties. The Wayne Title and Trust Company was founded in that year. The old opera house had been standing for some years on the northeast corner of the pike and North Wayne avenue. Neighbors then and later on Wayne avenue included among others the George W. Browns, the I. H. B. Spiers, the W. A. Pattons and Dr. and Mrs. Joseph C. Egbert.
To the west of the pike on the present site of the Anthony Wayne Theatre, was the home of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Cook who came there in 1888. They were the parents of Mrs. Walter Peirson, who now lives in the Kingsway apartments. Next door to Mr. Cook lives his business partner, William D. Hughes and his family, in what was later to become the William Wood property. Next to the Hughes home was the old Bellevue Hotel which burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in the winter of 1900.
In reminiscing about her childhood in the old Lancaster pike home, Mrs. Peirson recalls a family whom many old timers in Wayne will remember, the William T. McNeelys. They lived in the Wood home in the summer with their four children: George, Wilson, Helen and Katherine, who were lively playmates for the neighborhood youngsters. Wilson, it seems, had a pony cart in which he took many of them for rides in the country, But on many occasions he also left them there to find their way home on foot!
For the information in today’s article the writer is deeply indebted to Joseph M. Fronefield, 3rd, to Mrs. Walter Peirson, Jr., and to the 1948 edition of the History of Wayne.