Old Wayne Hall (library), 1870-1871

27_image01The beautiful and spacious building which houses the Memorial Library of Radnor Township today is a far cry indeed from Wayne Hall, the small, quaint building pictured at right, yet it was in this building, then located on the northeast corner of Lancaster pike and Pembroke avenue, that the library was founded in Wayne, in 1882. As early as 1871, a group called the Wayne Library and Literary Association met in Wayne Lyceum Hall. The latter building was erected in 1870-71, on ground donated by J. Henry Askin, sometimes called “the founder of Wayne,” which forms the nucleus of the present Colonial Building.

The Wayne library, which used Wayne Hall, was provided by two farsighted women of the era of the early 80’s, Miss Anna Markley and Miss Anna Matlack. According to tradition, this library, sometimes called “the community’s pioneer enterprise,” started with two books, the Bible and a volume of Shakespeare!

Only a few years later, in March, 1886, Miss Matlack and Miss Markley were to be instrumental in starting still another “pioneer enterprise” in Wayne, the Saturday Club, second oldest woman’s departmental club in the state of Pennsylvania.

There is little on record concerning the work of this pioneer library. According to an official history of Radnor township libraries, compiled by Mrs. Marie Good Hunt, the present librarian: “The members of this group paid a subscription and from the funds books were purchased. These public-minded women donated their time and energy to the organization for many years.” However, there is more on record concerning Wayne Hall itself, which was one of the town’s early landmarks. Rumor has it that it was orginially one of the Centennial buildings, moved out from Philadelphia after the World’s Fair of 1776 was over. Other sources state that it was built by J. Henry Askin, of Louella Mansion fame. An early album of photographs from which the picture at the head of the column was taken, explains that it was “erected for public uses; for a Library Company; for lectures and other secular purposes, and for worship on Sunday.” At any rate, the old building was also the first meeting place of the Wayne Building & Loan Association and the Merryvale Athletic Association; afterwards the Radnor Cricket Club, and, in addition to all this, the old “Wayne Times” was at one time printed there. It was indeed a busy place in which to
start a small lending library as “one of Wayne’s pioneer enterprises.”

The nucleus of the present building was a small library on West Lancaster avenue, built in 1892-93 on ground given for that purpose by George W. Childs, well known philanthropist of his day, for whom the Library was for a time named. Money for this first building itself was raised mostly by popular subscription, although a mortgage was also necessary. The final payment on this mortgage was
made by Mr. William Henry Sayen in memory of his wife, who died in 1903. One of the pioneers in library work in the community, Mrs. Sayen was also one of the early presidents of the Board of Directors.

(to be continued)