The Radnor War Memorial, part 1 – “Society Circus”, WWI, Chew Family

July 4, 1951, passed as quietly in Wayne as many another July 4 of other recent years has done. On Monday, September 3, Labor Day will pass just as quietly. Practically the only outward indication of a holiday on these occasions is the constant flow of traffic from early morning until late at night along our great Lancaster highway. In the past there have been big celebrations in our small suburb, such as the “Society Circus” on Labor Day, 1913, when some 10,000 people gathered on the School Field to participate in a day and an evening of much fun and frolic. And this has been but one of many large holiday celebrations in Wayne.

But Memorial Day is somehow different, perhaps because of the feeling that we who live must never fail to pay tribute to those whose lives have been given for their country. Of late years ceremonies have been small and quiet. But, at least, there is always the decoration of graves and the march to the Radnor Township War Memorial on Lancaster and Ivan avenues. Its dedication on Sunday, May 28, 1922, was a solemn and impressive occasion. At that time it was the memorial to some 20 men from Radnor township who had given their lives in World War I. Within the last few years there has been another dedication added to the men and women of our community who lost their lives in World War II, in the Memorial Library of Radnor Township.

From the time of the conclusion of World War I, citizens of Radnor township had felt that their township, like many of its neighbors, must commemorate its war dead in some fitting way. Various plans were informally discussed from time to time, but it was not until the fall of 1921 that definite action was taken.

The first meeting of which there are minutes is the one of October 24, held at the home of Mrs. Robert G. WIlson in St. Davids. Those present in addition to the hostess were Mrs. William Henry Brooks, Mrs. Benjamin Chew, Mrs. Adolph G. Rosengarten, Mrs. J. S. C. Harvey, Mrs. Walter S. Yeatts, Mrs. A. A. Parker and Captain Clifton Lisle. Committee members who were absent included Mrs. Louis Jaquette Palmer, Mrs. Lewis Neilson, Miss Grace Roberts and Monsignor C. F. Kavanagh.

The form of the memorial had evidently been decided upon previously, as a large boulder with a bronze tablet and surmounted by a bronze eagle. Later there was an alternate plan for a “doughboy” instead of the eagle.

The big question of the moment seemed to be the selection of a suitable site for this boulder. Mrs. Brooks, as chairman of the committee on location, reported that her committee had made a tour of possible sites along Lancaster avenue from Rosemont to Wayne. As they progressed westward the first location to which they gave favorable consideration was the point where Radnor road meets Ivan avenue at the Pike, on the property owned in part by the Chew estate and in part by S. Deas Sinkler. “This location,” the minutes of the meeting state, “is considered to be the nearest to the geographical center of the township on the highway, and is desirable for the reason of the available space and the improvement it would be to the present dangerous crossing.”

Other possible sites, in the estimation of the committee, included the corner of Pembroke and Lancaster ovenues and the grounds in front of the Library. The triangle in the center of Pembroke avenue where it meets the Pike seemed to present a natural setting. Also this site was close to the center of Wayne. Still another location was brought to the attention of the committee at a later meeting when Oswald Chew spoke of the gold course, with the beauty of its background.

At the next meeting of the general committee, it was unanimously voted to place the memorial on the south side of Lancaster Pike at its intersection with Ivan avenue. The ground for this was given by the Chew family.

The plans for a large boulder were soon abandoned in favor of those for the memorial as it now stands. This was designed by Louis S. Adams, a well-known Philadelphia architect who lived in Radnor township. Appropriately Colonial in style and set against a background of trees, its design called for a low wall of stone with benches of stone in front of it. In the center there was to be a bas-relief of bronze showing a group of soldiers going over the top, bayonets in hand. This was to be the work of Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, of the University of Pennsylvania.

With definite plans in hand the committee set to work to raise the $10,000 which was the estimate cost of the entire project. Some few checks had already been received before letters were mailed to all citizens of the township, giving each one an opportunity to contribute in any amount, however large or small, to a project that was to be one “of the entire township, not of any special organization.” From that point work on the memorial was so steady and so rapid that it was easily ready for unveiling on the Sunday before Memorial Day of 1922.

Mrs. Robert G. Wilson was general chairman of the entire project form its beginning, while Miss Mary DeHaven Bright was secretary and Miss Grace Roberts, treasurer. In addition to those already mentioned in this article the following served actively on the Memorial Committee: Rev. Dr. W. G. W. Anthony, Mrs. Archibald Barklie, Mrs. W. Allen Barr, Rev. J. W. Brooks, Rev. J. C. Burbage, A. W. Canizares, Robert K. Cassatt, Captain Benjamin Chew, David S. B. Chew, Charles E. Clark, William S. Ellis, Rev. J. W. Elliot, Mrs. F. B. Embick, Rev. R. H. Gurley, Miss Nancy Hallowel, C. Willing Hare, Horace B. Hare, Mrs. C. C. Harrison, DeWitt P. Henry, William K. Holman, Dr. G. L. S. Jameson, Dr. Guy C. Lawson, John D. Lengel, Rev. Crosswell McBee, George McFadden, Mrs. Paul Denckia Mills, Mrs. W. A. Nichols, Major M. A. Pugh, Henry Roever, S. V. Rowland, Rev. E. W. Rushton, Rev. Charles Schall, Mrs. Emilie Sayen Schultz, C. C. Shoemaker, S. Deas Sinkler, Mrs. A. G. H. Spiers, Louis H. Watt, W. A. Wiedersheim, 2d, James M. Willcox, Mrs. John P. Wood and William T. Wright.