In all Wayne there are perhaps no two pictures that illustrate as strikingly the changes that the last 75 years have wrought in our community as do the two shown with this week’s column.
The first is that of the Charles T. Mather home, recently sold to the Bell Telephone Company, as it looked in the early 1880’s. It belonged then to Mrs. Mather’s parents, the Theodore F. Ramseys. If plans go according to the Telephone Company’s schedule, as recently announced by Herbert J. Bruder, district commercial manager, the construction of a new dial office on this site will begin today. Completion of the building is scheduled for December, 1956. The first step in the building program will undoubtedly be the demolition of the Mather home to make room for the new building.
The original owner of this handsome Bloomingdale avenue house, with its mansard roof, so typical of the homes of the latter part of the 19th Century, was Dr. Wilson, who had purchased it from George W. Childs and Anthony J. Drexel, of Philadelphia. These two men, who foresaw the possibilities of suburban housing for Philadelphia business men and their families, might well be called the first real estate promoters of Wayne. They were responsible for the building of all the original homes on both sides of Bloomingdale avenue, between Lancaster and West Wayne avenues. Concentrated in this area, the homes antedated the well-known Wayne Estate houses by about 10 years.
Her father, according to Mrs. Mather, “farmed most of what is now North Wayne.” However, the inconvenience of driving along unpaved roads, when wagons were “hub deep in mud” made a more conveniently located home almost a necessity.
When Dr. Wilson was forced to sell his Bloomingdale avenue home at sheriff’s sale, the Theodore Ramseys bought it for $3,500! Seventy years later this is an almost unbelievable figure, in view of current Lancaster avenue property values. When the Ramseys bought this house they were living on their farm on the corner of Beechtree lane and Bellevue avenue, now owned by Miss Dorothy Finley, who has given space in it for the Headquarters and Museum of the Radnor Historical Society.
The picture in this column shows the Ramsey home as it looked during the first years of its occupancy by the family. The woman shown sitting on the steps of the front porch is Mrs. Ramsey, with her baby daughter, Ada, now Mrs. Mather. Later changes in the house provided more depth, with the old-fashioned kitchen made into a dining room and a new kitchen added to the rear, with corresponding second floor changes. The steep, narrow staircase that led almost directly from the front door to the second floor was widened and a turn made so that it led into the living room.
In 1907, when the Ramsey estate was settled, Mrs. Mather bought the share of it inherited by her sister, Mrs. DeWitt Pugh, who now lives on Croton road. The Mathers lived continously in the old home until its recent sale to the Bell Telephone Company. The new $325,000 structure planned by Bell will be fire-proof construction with brick walls. It will house the dial central office utility area, lunch facilities, meeting room and service center. It will also have a cable vault below street level.
Residents owning pictures, old deeds or other information that will aid Mrs. Patterson in continuing the story of the Bloomingdale avenue houses, can contact her at Wayne 4569.