Album of photographs from J. Henry Askin’s Louella House

Among the first gifts to be presented to the Radnor Historical Society when it was founded several years ago, is a priceless book of old photographs of “Louella, Home of J. Henry Askin, Wayne Station, Pennsylvania Railroad”. The pictures include “Views of Mansion, Farm Houses, Surrounding Scenery, etc.” These pictures were taken about 1872 by F. Gutekunst, of 712 Arch Street, Philadelphia, well-known photographer of his day.

Three of these books of photographs were ordered by Mr. Askin, whose name has come down through the years as the founder of Wayne. One remained in the possession of the Askin family with one of the Askin daughters as its custodian. The latter died in Media only a few years ago.


Another was placed in the possession of the John L. Mather family. The third was given by Mr. Askin to Frank Smith, of the old real estate firm of Wendell and Smith. [This was later corrected by Mrs Patterson in her 10-24-1952 article to confirm this was a different Frank Smith, not of Wendell & Smith. She points out that the correct Frank Smith was originally private secretary to George W. Childs who, with Anthony J. Drexel, founded the Wayne Estate. He later became the manager of this building operation for Drexel and Childs.] He, in turn, presented it to Herman P. Lengel. And through the generosity of Mr. Lengel, this book of photographs has become the possession of the Radnor Historical Society.

“Louella” was the second name to be given to Wayne, the first being Cleaver’s Landing, so called because trains of the Old Lancaster and Columbia Railroad stopped just west of the present Wayne station to pick up milk, to be shipped to Philadelphia from the Cleaver farm.

The name “Louella” is a combination of “Louise” and “Ella” as Mr. Askin’s two daughters were called. Though Louella later became Wayne, the former name still lives on in the community, “The Louella Apartments”, and “Louella Avenue”.

Our first picture shows one of the two Askin daughters mounted on “Billy Button”. Whether Billy’s owner and rider was Louise or Ella Askin is not recorded, but charming, indeed, is this rider with her small front-tilted hat and her riding habit with its graceful, full skirt.

In the background of this picture of “Billy Button” and Miss Askin are the Askin Cottage and the Summer house. The former is shown in more detail in our second picture. Presumably the gentleman on the porch is Mr. Askin himself.

26_image02The cottage, which was occupied by the Askin family during the period when the more pretentious Louella Mansion was under construction, stood well to the northeast of the latter, with its back to the railroad. The small summer house was located between the Cottage and the Mansion.

The third picture shows the front of the original Louella Mansion, which forms the nucleus of one of Wayne’s landmarks, now the Louella Apartments. This faced on Lancaster Pike at the 13-mile stone. This main building, as well as the surrounding improvements were laid out and completed in 1866-67, the time occupied in erection being one year, less two days.

26_image03The two wings, one to the east and the other to the west, were added later, the former taking the place of the greenhouse shown in this picture. With its mansard roof and its tower commanding a far flung view over what were then farmlands in all directions, it was an imposing building of its period.

To the present day onlooker the picture has a singularly bare look, since in the years succeeding the building of the Mansion, great trees have grown up on all sides of it. What was then the long central flower garden is now the pathway flanked with trees that leads from the apartment house to the right and left of this walk. Louella Drive with these shade trees is somehow reminiscent of the more gracious living of a century now past.

The fourth picture shows Louella Mansion as it looked from the railroad side, with its long French windows opening onto the wide porch in front of the mansion. In the far background the ploughed fields across the Pike are discernable. The large iron dog to the right of the porch is still one of Wayne’s landmarks. Known as “Caesar”, it was given at a somewhat later date to Mr. and Mrs. Wiliam D. Hughs, when they lived with their young family on what was later known as the William Wood property on Lancaster Pike, west of North Wayne avenue.

26_image04Within the past few years “Caesar” has been transferred to the grounds of the old Dr. George Miles Wells property, north of Wayne railroad station, now a small apartment house where the Hughs daughters, Mrs. William A. Scott, Mrs. Frederick J. Higgins and Mrs. Malcolm Sausser live. He is still an object of much interest to all passers-by, including any real dogs, who actually bark at him.

(To be continued)