Finley House, other old buildings – Radnor Baptist Church (1st Baptist)

Another farm which Joseph M. Fronefield, Jr., describes in his chronicle of early Wayne days from which I quoted at length last week, is the Ramsey place, which has been mentioned earlier in this column. Situated in North Wayne on what is now Bellevue avenue, the lovely old farm house remains, much as it was when it was built in 1789. Occupied by Miss Dorothy Finley, one room is now the headquarters of the Radnor Historical Society.

Miss Finley tells me that when her family acquired it in 1889 the original old barn was then standing. Her father had it torn down but the stone in it was used to build the addition on the north side of the house. The room which houses the treasures now being acquired by the Historical Society was the basement kitchen of the original old house.

Of the Ramsey place, Mr. Fronefield writes “North of the railroad was the Ramsey farm, the house now being the home of W. H. Finley. Its entrance was from Eagle road. Many times during the winter Eagle road was so blocked with snow that the occupants of this farm had to cross the railroad tracks and the Jones farm to the Lancaster Pike.”

“There was also an old stone farm house standing at what is now the corner of Walnut avenue and Oak lane. The spring house on the property is now in the rear of the home of Dr. Smith.” (This property is now owned by C. W. T. Stuart and the spring house is clearly visible to the passerby as he turns off Walnut avenue onto Oak lane.)

Of the old buildings of that period Mr. Fronefield describes the Radnor Baptist Church as “a rectangular building, with its sheds close by on the corner of Conestoga road and Hall lane. This building was replaced after some years by the present building and the name changed to the First Baptist Church of Wayne.” Although long vacant now, the old church building still stands on Conestoga road. Even before the original building became a church, Mr. Fronefield states it was a public hall known as Radnor Hall. From this building Hall lane took its name. As it went in a northeasterly direction from the old church the lane “passed over the ground where Lienhardt’s store and La Dow’s drugstore now stand, crossed Lancaster Pike diagonally, passed over the ground upon which the Presbyterian Church now stands and terminated at the station which was close to the point where the back of the Waynewood Hotel now stands.” (La Dow’s drugstore is now the Sun Ray Store, and the Waynewood Hotel is now called the Wayne Hotel).

“The old presbyterian Church was standing on the east side of the station road with its sheds on the west side” according to Mr. Fronefield. This first church building still stands to the east of the present Presbyterian Church and is known as the Chapel. In 1870 it was given to the charter members by one of Wayne’s most distinguished citizens, J. Henry Askin, whose home “Louella House” has already been described in this column. The present church building was erected in 1890 and the present Church School was added in 1922.

Other buildings of that early period included “the Radnor Lyceum Hall, a frame building which stood on the north side of the Lancaster Pike, east of the point where Pembroke avenue now crosses it. This old building can be credited with the birth of Radnor Library (afterwards known as the George W. Childs Library and the Wayne Library), the Wayne Building and Loan Association and the Merryvale Athletic Association, afterwards changed to the Radnor Cricket Club.”

Mr. Fronefield’s description continues “a fine old, stone house, known as the Manley House, stood on the eastern end of the Louella grounds and near the railroad. This house was occupied by J. H. Askin before building Louella House . . . it was subsequently torn down.

“The large farm barns, of which there were two with the Askin farm, stood on the north side of Lancaster Pike, one about where Hale’s garage now is and near the Pike, with the other back about where Love’s garage now is. A harness room facing the pike was the place at which William P. Sassaman started his Wayne career when Wayne was in its infancy. These barns were used as a boarding and livery stables and housed some of the finest equipages in this country.

“Just east of the barns was that gem of the neighborhood, a grand little old white-washed, rose-covered clapboard, story-and-a-half tall house, sheltered by a couple of enormous willow trees and no doubt built about 1792, when the Lancaster Pike was laid out. Davis Whiteman, the local shoemaker, occupied it and repaired shoes while his good wife collected the toll. This house made way for improvements in the very early days. Near it, and in the meadow north of the Lancaster Pike, about back of the house of A. L. Weadley, stood a square stone house over a spring . . . this also departed in the early days.”

(To Be Continued)

J.M. Fronefield’s account of early 1880’s Wayne

Among Wayne’s outstanding citizen’s of an earlier day, Joseph M. Fronefield, Jr., who came here in 1881 to establish a small country drug store, contributed greatly to the growth and development of the community during nearly 60 years of residence here.

After his death, in August, 1940, his son, Joseph M. Fronefield, 3d, found in his desk an old stenographic notebook in which is father had written in longhand a vivid description of Wayne as he knew it in the early 80’s. The notebook was tucked away among some books on local history, in which the elder mr. Fronefield had always taken a deep interest. Though a few of the first pages of this account were missing, there is still page after page of facts that are invaluable in re-creating a picture of the Wayne of many years ago.

Old landmarks are listed, forgotten roads and lanes are retraced, old churches, business buildings and houses are described and dated in the pages of a chronicle written by a man who remembered them all vividly. “The little drugstore which brought the writer to Wayne,” Mr. Fronefield notes, “occupied the pike side of a small road on the eastern end of Lyceum Hall. The Childs and Drexel office was in the rear. The second floor was a public auditorium and the third floor a lodge room.”

This was Wayne’s Lyceum Hall before the addition at the western end was constructed. The building on the northeast corner of Lancaster avenue and North Wayne avenue, now occupied by “My Country Store” and several other shops on the pike side, was added later. At one time the building was known as the Wayne Opera House.

This early Wayne Lyceum Hall is described by Mr. Fronefield as “a plastered mansard roof house of a dull, grayish-brown color, occupied on the first floor by a general country store which sold dry goods, groceries, hardware and farming implements, under the proprietorship of J. Harry Brooke, who, many years afterward, was real estate officer of the Merion Title and Trust Company. Mr. Brooke, his clerk and the writer occupied the green room and stage wings of the auditorium on the second floor for sleeping quarters. More than once my cot and rug were used for stage decorations at a time of concerts.

“The building was piped for gas and had a spring feed gas machine which was under my charge. A barrel of gasoline poured into the outside tank, plus the strength of six mules to wind up the machine, made sufficient lights for months and months. This building was later greatly enlarged and its name changed to the Wayne Opera House.”

In describing the immediate vicinity of Wayne Lyceum Hall in the 80’s, Mr. Fronefield continues: “The surrounding country was farm land. I could look out the drugstore door (it had no window on the pike) and see cattle grazing in the meadow where the business block, fire house and school houses now stand. This was part of what was known as the Siter Farm. Its buildings stood on Conestoga road, about where the residence of the late F. A. Canizares now stands. The old Siter home burned in later years when owned and occupied by R. H. Johnson. the spring house was near the rear of what is now the Wayne Apartment house at the corner of West Wayne and Bloomingdale avenues.

“The Izzacki Fritz farm adjoined it and had its buildings near where the Presbyterian parsonage now stands on Audubon avenue. the buildings included some sort of an old stone mill. The Mifflin property lay south of the Siter and Fritz properties and faced on Conestoga road. The buildings were where he home of Mr. Forsythe now stands on Upland Way. It had an entrance lane from Lancaster pike which left the pike at the big tree where St. Mary’s Church now stands.

“The Wilds farm had its building east of where Midland and Pembroke avenues intersect. The old apple trees on the property of Mr. Helms are the last of the family orchard. The spring house was in the rear of the home of Mrs. W. A. Nichols.

“The George farm had its buildings on the north side of Lancaster pike west of St. Davids road, now the home of Mr. Rollin H. Wilbur. The Thomas B. Jones farm on West Lancaster pike near Bloomingdale, was the last to feel the imprint of development, it having been bought from the Jones Estate in recent years by Mr. H. R. Harris, who is developing it.”

The years that have passed since Mr. Fronefield wrote these notes have brought changes in ownership of properties which it may be well to insert here in order to identify locations mentioned.

The F. A. Canizares house on Conestoga road, is now the property of Cornwall Miller. D. C. Mills is the owner of the Forsythe home on Upland Way; the Helms house on Midland avenue is occupied by A. W. Moseley and family. Dr. G. W. Huggler owns and occupies the former Nichols home and the Wilbur residence, long known as “Old Stone House,” is owned by Dr. R. J. W. Kimble.

(I wish to acknowledge my deep gratitude to Joseph M. Fronefield, 3d, for the use of his father’s notes for this and for several other articles which will follow.)

(To be continued)

St. David’s Golf Club, continued

The following is the conclusion of the article on St. Davids Golf Club which appeared in this column on April 22:


By 1899 so many building lots had been sold on the Fenimore land that St. Davids Golf Club, then in the beginning of its fourth year, had to seek a new location. The sites committee interviewed Miss Martha Brown and Mrs. Chew in regard to a lease on a large tract of land along both sides of Lancaster pike between St. Davids and Radnor. These two ladies were amenable to a reasonable lease, provided there was no liquor served in the old farmhouse which was to be used as a clubhouse. They also objected to Sunday golf. A compromise was reached on this when club officers stipulated that there was to be no playing before 1:00 o’clock, so that there should be no conflict with any church services.

The outside of the old farmhouse was improved by the addition of a long, wide porch; rooms were papered and painted. A caddy and professional’s house was also built. Much of this was done at the personal expense of some of the members. Members also did much of the manual work of improving the links and of keeping the clubhouse and grounds in order. The eighteen-hole course was very attractive, with plenty o hills and shade.

Initiation fees and annual dues were still kept low, but the club prospered because officers saw to it that they lived within their income. In addition to doing much of the work on the property and on the course themselves, members contributed the cups for which contests were held. Tournaments and matches then were popular and well attended.

Another early president, in addition to Dr. G. L. S. Jameson, was Lewis Neilson, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. George W. Schultz, to whom this column is indebted for much of its information on the club, was an early vice president and chairman of the Greens Committee. Some of the club champions and lowest scorers included George Crump, Gus Gallagher, William Moorhouse, Gus Bergner and Herman Wendell.

Later on, a number of women joined the ranks of players, becoming very active members of the club. Various professional teachers were employed from time to time, among the most popular being Jimmy Govan, who was a skilled clubmaker. His output was in demand from some of the best players in other clubs.

By 1900 golf as a game had attained such popularity that a National Amateur Championship tournament was held at the Atlantic City Golf Course. It was won by an Austrailian, Walter J. Travis, who was one of the very first column writers on golf. His long approach putts with anew kind of aluminum putter did much to bring the championship his way.

St. Davids’ only entrant in the tournament was Gus Gallagher who qualified, but was soon beaten. Rodman Griscom, of Merion, lasted up to the fourth round. A year r so later Harry Vardon, the great English pro, gave his first American exhibition on the Philadelphia Country Club course. Many St. Davids members who were gallery spectators, were greatly impressed by his skill.

St. Davids Golf Club remained in its pike location until 1927, when it removed to its present sit on Radnor and Gulf roads, purchased a few years earlier from A. J. Paul and Paul D. Mills. Donald Ross, famous golf architect, laid out the new course, which was constructed by Fred A. Canizares, president of the R. H. Johnson Company, of Wayne. A farmhouse on the property served as the first clubhouse.

A year later the St. Luke’s School property was purchased, and its principal building utilized as a clubhouse. In 1929, this property was sold to the Valley Forge Military Academy, after fire had destroyed the Devon Hotel property, which was its home. The present clubhouse was built during that year.

St. David Golf Club is considered one of the best courses in the metropolitan area and many championship events have been played on its links. The Main Line Golf Club, a course open to the public, now occupies the site on the pike formerly belonging to the St. Davids club.


(The interest evidenced in this column by so many residents is a source of pleasure to the author and to The Suburban. That all may feel a personal responsibility for its authenticity and full coverage, we invite items of interest of Radnor Township’s development from sources with such material to offer. Edi.)