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)