Over a cup of tea in the pleasant living room of Miss Josephine Scott’s home in Louella Court Apartments, one afternoon recently, we fell to discussing the old building which housed us. It was built more than eighty years ago, Mrs. Scott said, by J. Henry Askin, as a home for his family and was called Louella House, thus combining the names of two of his daughters, Louise and Ella.
It was a truly beautiful estate with its mansion house and its various cottages. Only the main part of the building as we now see it was built originally, the east and west wings having been added at a later date. Around the south, west and north sides of the mansion, the wide porch extended continuously. Miss Scott visualizes the parlor in the front part of the house as a very elegant and formal room with its heavy hangings, its massive furniture, its steel engravings on the walls and probably its wax flowers under glass on its pier glass tables!
Louella House, with the old Presbyterian Church and the Lyceum formed the nucleus then of the little hamlet first known as Cleaver’s Landing, later as Louella and now as Wayne. The Lyceum, later called the Opera House, is the large old building on the northeast corner of Lancaster avenue and North Wayne avenue which now houses several stores and apartments. Back in 1867, when Louella House was completed, there was no North Wayne avenue. West from the Lyceum on the turnpike was the Cleaver farm and past that the Tom Jones estate.
As Mr. Askin stood on his wide front porch and looked up the hill to the south he saw the Mifflin farm located in what is now the Upland way section. Almost across the turnpike from Louella House Fr. Askin could see the pumping station, while slightly to the southwest up the hill was the reservoir which supplied Louella House and all of its buildings with water. On the former site St. Mary’s Church was built in 1889 and slightly to the east of the latter site Windermere Court apartments now stand.
As Mr. Askin looked east from his porch following the line of the turnpike he saw the Louella stables, a barn and various other small buildings. Beyond that was open country as far as the Presbyterian Manse, later bought for a home by Mr. Lofland. The original Presbyterian Manse still stands facing south in the block between Pembroke avenue and St. Davids road. The gracious old house set well back from the highway now belongs to Walter Lister, managing editor of the Evening Bulletin.
Later on in its existence Louella House became Louella Mansion, advertising itself in an attractive little brochure of which Miss Scott has a copy, as “A Care-Free Summer Home for You.” It was open from June first to October first, but guests were urged to come early as “a steam heating system with radiators in each room insures comfort on chilly days.” The “premises” were described as “four hundred feet above sea level, and fourteen miles from Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, on the Main LIne of the Pennsylvania Railroad. More than ten acres of beautiful grounds, old trees, shrubbery, rose garden, walks, drives and tennis courts, surrounding Louella Mansion, a three-story massive stone building; a three-story stone and brick cottage and a two-story frame casino. The shaded boardwalk extends directly (six hundred feet) between the P. R. R. Station and the main building. The porch extends continuously along the south, west and north sides of the main building.”
“Table” is described as “plenty of the best grade brands, an experienced chef and staff, and proper service, while under “house-keeping” the brochure states “there are white maids and waitresses enough to keep the house clean and in order.” There was “an abundant supply of sparkling spring water of guaranteed purity, furnished by pipes in all the buildings, and there is no restriction or limitation as to its use by guests.” While both electric and gas lights were provided, lamps and candles were furnished upon request.
There is a very cheery note in the paragraph on children which states: “A hearty welcome for the little ones; play rooms away from the grown folks, and an experienced kindergarten teacher to direct the play.” And harking back to a day long past, there were “accommodations and special rates for children’s nurses, lady’s maids, coachmen, etc.”
There was certainly no lack of amusement at Louella Mansion as the Casino contained “shuffleboards, a pool table and gymnasium apparatus. The mansion itself contains library, smoking and music rooms, orchestral music every Saturday evening. Extensive room for dancing.” then there was ample provision for “equipages” in the way of “a public livery stable, and accommodations for private horses on adjoining premises, subject to telephone orders.”
Later still the original Louella House became the Armitage School for Girls. Now known as Louella Court Apartments, it contains a number of apartments, all with the high ceilinged rooms reminiscent of the gracious living of a past era.