“Out in the country Wayne and St. Davids have ready for you today the best homes that can be built.” In bold lettering this statement appears in the center of a 20 by 28 inch circular distributed in 1890 by Wendell and Smith to advertise the “Wayne Estate” houses that are to this day such an integral part of our community.
Built throughout both North and South Wayne as well as in St. Davids, these houses of substantial construction and roomy interior still survive among neighboring homes of newer design and of more modern architecture. They are not beautiful, and yet they have a charm of their own. Their elaborately gabled roofs are one of their most distinguishing exterior features. Most of them are of at least partial stone construction, some are shingled, others pebble-coated. Many originally had a stained-glass window or two somewhere in the house. Other windows are often of heavy plate glass while stairways and mantle places are of massive oak, often elaborately carved.
Alterations, remodeling and additions never disguise these houses, frequently as these changes have been made by succeeding owners. They are still the ornate houses of the 1890 period so aptly described by their original designations, “The Flemish House,” the “New Tower House,” the Round End House,” the “Gables Inn” and the “Pillar House.” The repetition of the same types throughout the community is a source of interest, often of amazement to the newcomer. It is, in fact, one of the most distinguishing features of our community.
Most of the houses have always been surrounded by spacious grounds. Few have been either demolished or destroyed by fire. Sixty years after their construction these Wayne Estate houses still stand serenely in our midst.
Wayne as a town was founded by Anthony J. Drexel and George W. Childs. From 1887 to about 1890 its population increased from 300 to 2500. Much of this increase was due to the large building operation sponsored by Mr. Childs and described in the advertisement which I have already quoted.
These “best homes” have “every city convenience, pure water in abundance, underground drainage, electric light and steam heating. The highways are spacious and substantial. There are good schools, stores and churches, a banking institution, fire department and police patrol.”
Other conveniences as listed included “telegraph, telephone and Adams Express Service, two newspapers, seven daily mails, a town hall for entertainments, a casino for recreation.”
Then, our description continues, “these varied conveniences, unobtainable elsewhere outside of large cities, put these places pre-eminently in advance of all suburban towns, and a salubrious climate, where malaria is unknown, give to home buyers extraordinary assurance for comfort and health. This opportunity will exist for a short time only, for when the ground that is connected with the water and drainage system is built up, each owner will demand a premium.”
“The advantages go to every purchaser and the prices are less than elsewhere, where these conveniences cannot be obtained. Business and professional people have made permanent homes here, which demonstrates that its worth has met with suitable recognition while the wisdom of locating here is acknowledged by the most conservative investors.”
Present day real estate ad writers could well take note of some of this phrasing. And this in not all, as the advertisement of sixty years ago continues, “This locality is far superior to the usual unestablished places in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It has every general improvement in perfect working order and was founded by George W. Childs, of Philadelphia, who is the protector of its prosperity, present and future, and who is personally represented by Mr. Frank Smith, the manager of Wayne Estate, under whose supervision all general improvements are made and maintained and who is always on the grounds to show visitors the properties. His office is now on Wayne avenue, south of the railroad.”
The office referred to is the shop now occupied by Wayne Frosted Foods, Inc. In addition to this Wayne office there was “the new one for the public comfort at St. Davids station.” This is the attractive small stone residence southwest of the station and familiar to all St. Davids commuters.
Wendell and Smith were the builders of these houses which will be described in succeeding issues of this column, since much interesting material has been made available to the writer by Miss Beatrice Tees and Joseph M. Fronefield, 3d.