Louella Mansion and early Wayne – Cleaver’s Landing, Lyceum

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.

The Saturday Club – Red Cross Emergency Hospital for Influenza patients

The Saturday Club

At the annual meeting held in April 1887, it was voted to reduce the dues from three dollars to two dollars. However, “All men becoming life members pay $3.00 and this gives them a membership for life.” Apparently not many availed themselves of this opportunity, for at a meeting held a year later it was “moved that the money be refunded to these gentlemen who have paid their dues for this year and that those who have assisted us be elected honorary members.” Dr. Egbert and Dr. Abbott being the only ones who had paid these dues, the secretary was instructed to return $3.00 to each one.

When Mrs. Stocker was elected president in 1891, she said in her inaugural address, “The Club movement for women is a factor for modern progress. It has stimulated an intellectual and social life without in the least detracting from the duties of wifehood and motherhood. On the contrary, the conscience as regards these duties has been quickened, the ideas broadened and activities stimulated. It is impossible for men to comprehend the narrow groove in which the majority of women have ben forced to live, more and have their being in the past. Club life has revealed women to each other; it has established fellowship on purely human foundations and has opened the doors for a new Heaven and a new earth in which all differences are melted in a simple gospel of unity.”

Club House Built

On October 17, 1898, the board authorized the president and secretary to sign a contract with J. D. Lengel of Wayne for the building of a club house on a lot purchased from the Wayne Estate. Mrs. Ralston C. Ware was chairman of the building committee. David Knickerbocker Boyd was the architect and the total cost of lot and building was $5,145! Then in June, 1912, during the presidency of Mrs. Marshall H. Smith, the contract for alteration to the club house was signed with Mrs. Parke Shoch as chairman of the building committee. These alterations included changes in the basement to provide a dining room and the erection of a stage at the west end of the building. This is the building as the community knows it now, except for the enclosure of the porch which was done in 1930. It is the oldest Woman’s Club House in Delaware County and one of the oldest in the state.

In October, 1907, the twelfth annual meeting of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women’s Clubs was held at the Devon Inn with the Saturday Club as hostess club. Some four hundred women from all parts of the State were in attendance. Mrs. Sayen (then Mrs. Campbell) was State president at the time.

Aids War Effort

During the years of World War I, the Club devoted much time to Red Cross, to talks on food conservation, to canteen luncheon, to Liberty-Loan programs. In October, 1918, the Club House was turned into a Red Cross Emergency Hospital to care for influenza patients who could not gain admittance to regular hospitals. The children’s ward was in a large tent outside the Club House.

Again in World War II, the Club dedicated itself to the Red Cross by giving the use of its building as an emergency hospital which was also used for all Blood Donor days; by having surgical dressings classes and by maintaining membership in the Wayne Camp and Hospital Committee.

Today the Saturday Club functions as a departmental club with membership in the Delaware County Federation of Womens Clubs, the Pennsylvania State Federation and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. With a membership of more than 200 it meets each Tuesday, October through May, alternating stated meetings with departmental work. Now more than ever before, the Club House is the center of much community activity. Here the First Church of Christ Scientist of Wayne holds its meetings; the Wayne Footlighters give their plays and various dancing groups are in session throughout the week. In addition other community groups meet here less frequently from time to time.

Presidents of the Club during its sixty-three years of its existence include in the order of their terms of office: Mrs. Jane Campbell, Miss Anna Markley, Miss Buxton, Mrs. George R. Stocker, Mrs. E. L. Campbell, Mrs. Charles B. Stilwell, Mrs. Henry Birkenbine, Mrs. Stilwell (2nd term); Mrs. W. B. McKellar, Mrs. George M. Wells, Mrs. C. W. Ruschenberger, Mrs. R. C. Ware, Mrs. E. L. Campbell, Mrs. W. A. Nichols, Mrs. Clarke J. Wood, Mrs. M. W. Orme, Mrs. Parke J. Schoch, Mrs. Marshall H. Smith, Mrs. Henry Roever, Mrs. Smith (2nd term); Mrs. W. Allen Barr, Mrs. John J. Mitchell, Jr., Mrs. Walter H. Dance, Mrs. C. H. Howson, Mrs. Henry Roever, Mrs. F. A. McCord, Mrs. E. E. Trout, Mrs. W. W. Crawford, Mrs. T. Magill Patterson, Mrs. H. H. Kynett, Mrs. F. A. Wallace, Mrs. J.S. freeman, Mrs. A. E. Livingston, and Mrs. Richard Howson, the current president.

The Saturday Club, Part 1

“The Suburban” this week begins publication of a series of articles under the caption “Your Town and My Town”, written by a well-known resident of Wayne, who has been for many years an integral part of our community life. “Your Town and My Town” will give the historical background of the cultural associations which have made Wayne and Radnor township famous along the Main Line. The writer’s commentaries on these various institutions should prove interesting alike to our older and newer residents.

The Saturday Club

In April, 1890, what is now the most powerful and influential organization of women in the world was founded – the General Federation of Women’s Clubs with a membership at present exceeding three million women in America alone. Affiliated membership in foreign countries raises the total to more than five million women.

The Saturday Club of Wayne was already more than four years old when it became one of the first groups to enter the General Federation. Founded in February, 1886, it was the second Departmental Club in Pennsylvania, the first being the New Century Club of Philadelphia. When the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women’s Clubs was organized in 1895, a charter member of the Saturday club, Mrs. Ellis Campbell, now Mrs. William Henry Sayen, became its first president. Mrs. Sayen, one of the founders of the Saturday Club was also one of its early presidents and during the past sixty-tree years has always maintained an active interest in the Club for whose existence she was so largely responsible.

The Junior Saturday Club was founded in 1907 as one of the first Junior organizations, not only in Pennsylvania, but in the entire United States.

The names of the first members of the “ladies organization,” which was later to become the Saturday Club of Wayne, are still legible in a well-worn, black bound book. They are written in an exquisitely fine hand on age-yellowed leaves with an ink now dim with time.

“On February 16, at four in the afternoon, nine of the twelve ladies invited to be present, met in the library room, Wayne Hall, where after some formal remarks, Miss Markley was invited to preside.” But even before this “on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there gathered in Mrs. Sayen’s parlor several bright congenial women, who, over steaming cups of tea, dared discuss the subject of Women’s Clubs – then almost a tabooed subject.” (From an article written for the SUBURBAN of March 29, 1907, by Mrs. A. A. H. Canizares on the occasion of the 21st Saturday Club Birthday Party.)

The first order of business at the meeting of February 16 was the election of officers for the temporary organization. Mrs. James Campbell was elected president with Anna Markley and Mrs. P.W. Ver Planck as vice presidents, Mrs. G. E. Abbott as secretary and Miss Helen Erben as treasurer. In addition to these officers, others, who made the original twelve were Mrs. W. H. Sayen, Miss Phillips, Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Henry Pleasants, Jr. A little later “there were nominated for membership six other ladies all of whom gave great vitality to the infant club. They were Miss Matlack, Mrs. Stocker, Mrs. E. L. Campbell, Miss M. Rogers and Mrs. Fallon.”

So great was the enthusiasm that club meetings at first took place even during the summer months. Programs were usually in the form of papers written by the members. In one meeting Mrs. Abbott had prepared a paper on chemistry, but “there being so few present it was decided by motion to give the paper into the hands of the entertainment committee to be used again.”

Different “sections” of the club work included science, art, music, literature and household. There were papers on such diversified subjects as “Climatology,” “Materialism,” (so popular it was repeated a second time by Dr. Abbott) and “Geology of the Surrounding Country.” There was also the reading of a few extracts from a book, “Plumbing and Doctors,” and there was a lecture on “Emergencies” by Dr. Egbert and one on Nursing,” by Dr. Wells.

There is an occasional mention of tea, the first at the meeting of October 9, 1886, when “The Club meeting was called to order by the president while presiding at a table, laden with pretty little china cups from which was to be sipped the fragrant tea.”

To be continued