Radnor Fire Company: responds to trolley & train crashes, 1951-1952 report, Radnor High School boys training to fill spots of firemen gone to WWII

The report of Edwin J. Clark, chief of the Radnor Fire Company for the year extending from April 1, 1951 to April 1, 1952, shows that in that period of time 608 calls were answered by the Company. Of these, 279 were fire calls and 329 were those for the ambulance.

The fire trucks travelled a total of 2,907 miles answering calls, that in variety ran all the way from the Ryan and Christie fire in Bryn Mawr to a “cat in the tree” and “birds in the chimney” as these last two calls are listed in the report.

The men went out in all sorts of weather, including 24 rainstorms and eight snowstorms. And while 201 of these calls came in form 6 A. M. to 6 P. M., 78 of them came between 6 P. M. to 6 A. M. Average hours of service were 217 1/2 for each fireman. With the exception off one full time employee who lives at the Fire House to receive incoming calls, none of the active firemen receives any compensation.

Responding to the multiple fire alarm for the Ryan and Christie fire, Radnor men and apparatus arrived in Bryn Mawr at 8:00 o’clock on Wednesday evening, February 28, 1951, and remained through the bitter cold of that winter night on until 11:00 o’clock Thursday morning. Dense smoke, with little flame, made the work of the firemen difficult from the beginning. Some 30 men from the various companies were overcome by smoke, while one Bryn Mawr fireman died a few days later as a result of the injuries he sustained. Throughout the night and early morning fire ambulances, including Radnor’s, stood by, ready for any emergency that would necessitate a run to nearby Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Two disastrous accidents in 1951 brought out the Radnor Fire Company, the first on April 26, when an East-bound and a West-bound trolley met in a head-on collision just west of Wayne-St. Davids trolley station. The second occurred on May 16, when the “Red Arrow” train of the Pennsylvania Railroad plowed intuit he Philadelphia Night Express west of Bryn Mawr station. Radnor firemen, arriving without delay on the scene of the first accident, freed the seven seriously injured passengers from the wreckage and within half an hour’s time had all of them in Bryn Mawr Hospital by way of their own ambulance and those from Berwyn and Paoli.

At the Pennsylvania Railroad wreck, which resulted in the death of eight persons and the injury of 60 more, three Radnor fire trucks with the ambulance were on duty for hours, the former assisting with the work of rescue and the latter with the transportation of injured to the Bryn Mawr Hospital. They were but one of many such groups that responded to the emergency call. Thus far in 1952, the two most serious fires to which Radnor has been called have been that at Dr. McFarland’s Paoli home, which resulted in a loss of about $25,000, and the Smith warehouse fire in West Chester, with a loss of $100,000 or more.

In discussing the matter of training volunteers for their important work of firefighting and rescue, Mr. Clark says that not only does he have no difficulty in obtaining these men, but that usually there is a waiting list for any possible vacancies that may occur. Once admitted to the Fire Company, there is a six months’ period of probation before final acceptance. Also, for three months no new fireman is permitted to go into a fire unless accompanied by an old-timer.

In the meantime, there are fire drills for new and old firemen alike. From April 1 until October 1 these are of weekly occurrence, while from October 1 until April 1 they are held monthly. Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown each year by the Pennsylvania Department of PublicInstruction. Radnor Fire Company endeavors to send one or more representatives to each session, Chief Clark himself rarely missing one.

At the local fire drills  not only these newest techniques are taught but amateur firemen learn all ladder practices, including the proper raising, carrying and climbing of ladders. From discarded lumber a two story house has been erected on the old sewage plant on Ivan avenue. Here firemen are taught the putting out of blazes by fog methods, and techniques of rescue.

For the latter a smudge fire is usually started in the frame building, and somewhere in the depths of it, most often on the second floor, a dummy is hidden. Wearing masks and carrying a litter, firemen are trained to find and to rescue this dummy, just as they may be called upon to rescue persons overcome by smoke. Other fire drills, pertaining to the proper use of ladders, have been held on the outside of the Wayne Primary School building from time to time.

First Aid training is also given though a great deal of the knowledge comes through actual experience on the ambulance. Those who attend the Fire School in Lewistown receive courses in advanced first aid.

Due to the fact that several of the active firemen were called into the service following America’s entry into World War II in December, 1941, a number of High School boys were trained as active firemen to take their places. Well does the writer remember the pride her own son took in this assignment, the discipline and the training, which were to serve him in such good stead less than a year later when he, too, entered the service.

The first group of boys to be trained consisted of Malcolm Murphy, Davis Washburn, Joe Young, Carter Lippincott, Jack Fogarty, George Ott, Tom Mell, Bill Clark and Bill Patterson. There have been many others since then, each in turn considering it a great honor to be chosen. At present the group is limited each year to six senior class boys, who must have special releases from the school as well as written permission from parents. While they are firemen, they are not allowed to participate in any school sports. They may leave any and all classes at the first sound of the siren, and run to the Fire House, which conveniently adjoins the High School. They have, according to Chief Clark, proved of invaluable assistance, especially for daytime fires.

Exclusive of these six school boys, the total crew numbers 33 men, headed by “Eddie” Clark, who has been Fire Chief for the past 20 years. Leslie D. Wilkins, who is not only the chief engineer, but the secretary of the company, has served in the latter capacity for 17 years. Both men are sons of charter members of the company.

Assistant Chiefs are James Kane, Wells Walker and Edward Gallagher, Jason L. Fenimore is president of the Company; William M. Zimmermann, Jr., vice-president; Arthur T. Stillwell, treasurer. Directors are Hon. Benjamin F. James, Ralph Robson, Harry Simes, Grover Lengel, Rocco A. Odorisio, Harry Campbell, Jr., and John Ferguson.

The Fire Company’s budget is met each year by a certain amount derived from taxes, by contribution from the Township Board of Commissioners and yearly dues varying from three dollars for annual membership to $25 for sustaining members. The company has recently been the recipient of funds derived from the Wayne Rotary Basketball Tournament, and the Lions Main Line Charity Ball, to be held on Friday evening, April 18, will be for their benefit. These funds will be used for maintenance expenses. Among the most needed pieces of new equipment are a smoke ejector, two 500-gallon capacity fog nozzles, new ladders, two “walkie-talkie” radio sets and additional radio equipment. Other desirable additions would be two more portable oxygen units and a modern and a portable pump unit which would make it possible to draw water from a distance of 500 feet, at the rate of 250-300 gallons each minute.

It has often been said partly in jest, partly in earnest, that “you don’t have to be half crazy to be a volunteer fireman, but it helps an awful lot.” Residents of Radnor township, however, like better the definition of a volunteer fireman as given by Judge MacDade, when he described the former as “one who lives as close to the Ten Commandments as any human being can . . . for who else would get up in the middle of a cold winter’s night to help his neighbor?”


The old Eagle railroad station – PRR

During the past weeks the historic part of our present neighboring suburb of Strafford has been recreated in many of its picturesque aspects for our readers, through descriptions of the old Spread Eagle Inn and the settlement of Siterville, which grew up around it. Much of the historic interest and importance of our locality centers around this old settlement, the name of which came from early owners of the Inn, the Siter family, whose descendants later became large landowners in Radnor township.

As the Pennsylvania Railroad increased in importance, travel along the old highway gradually decreased and the importance of even the finest of the old wayside inns, such as the Spread Eagle, diminished until many of them fell into disuse.

The first station of the Railroad to be located in the general vicinity of old Siterville was known as Eagle Station, which in its original form is remembered by only a few of the oldest residents of Strafford. Among them is Martha Wentworth Suffren, to whom the writer is indebted for her information on Eagle station which, as explained in last week’s column, took its present name of Strafford from the family estate of Mrs. Suffren’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Langdon Wentworth.

The old station stood near a grade crossing about one-third of a mile west of the site of the present Strafford station, at a point where the old Lancaster road crossed the two-track line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The building Mrs. Suffren describes as a substantial one, built of brick and two stories in height, the lower floor divided into two rooms. The one on the West side served as the passenger waiting room and was heated by a coal stove. The Eastern room housed the express office, the telegraph office and the “Spread Eagle” Post Office, all presided over most efficiently by Miss Annie Bloomer.

A few feet to the west stood a large stone house built in 1762, where for many years Mrs. Miflin Lewis, her daughter, Louise, and another daughter, Mrs. Rush, ran a very successful boarding house. At present this is the home of the Rosato family. At one time an uncovered bridge extended from the second floor of the boarding house to the second floor of the station building, showing that the upper floor of the station was used as an extension to the boarding house.

A few may still remember the Lewis boarding house, where many prominent Philadelphia families summered in the days, now long past, when it was noted for its abundant and delicious food. Before the introduction of the Springfield water system, all the water for use throughout the large house came from a pump that stood in the yard between the station and the boarding house. This water was pumped and carried by a squat and elderly colored man known as “Old Charlie”. Near the pump stood a Paulownia tree which cast its blue flowers over the ground in the late Summer. The Spread Eagle Post office took its name form the Old Inn which was about a third of a mile east of Eagle Station.

In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s the Pennsylvania Railroad had many plans for local improvements in the system, most of which were carried out. In 1871 they straightened the line of the road and at about the same period elevated the road bed for several miles, so as to lessen “the tug of the upgrade that the engines had to make to reach a height of 540 feet at Paoli.”

The four-tracked road replacing the two-tracked one as far as Devon was finished in 1886. This meant doing away with all grade crossings, including the one at Old Eagle Station. Since it was impossible to tunnel under the railroad there, due to the steep upgrade, ground to the East was bought from Mr. Wentworth. This allowed for the necessary tunnelling. After World War I, the grade of the Old Lancaster road, west of the former grade crossing, was lowered three feet as part of a WPA project.

Strafford Station in its present form is a relic of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition held in 1876, where it was originally known as the Japanese Building. Built by Japanese workmen, it was put together with wooden pegs instead of iron nails. When the Pennsylvania Railroad first bought it at the close of the Centennial, they placed it at Wayne. However, in 1887 it was moved westward to Eagle, after the Drexel and Childs real estate development made a larger station at Wayne imperative. Soon thereafter the name of Eagle was changed to Strafford.

Mrs. Suffren also tells an interesting tale of the naming of Daylesford Staiton, which centers around one Warren Hastings, an Englishman born in 1732, who 18 years later went to India, where he took employment in the famous East India Company. In recognition of his efficiency he was appointed Governor General of British India in 1774. His rule, while severe, was a just one, which however, brought impeachment proceedings against him by Edmund Burke.

He returned to England, where his trial dragged out until 1795, when he was cleared of all accusations. however, he had spent all his fortune in his defense and in consequence was penniless. With an annuity for life from the East India Company, in addition to a large load, he bought an English estate which he named “Daylesford”. One of his interested friends in the United States was Richard Graham, who had bought a large tract of ground near the present station of Daylesford. When the railrad sought a name for its new station Mr. Graham suggested Daylesford, in honor of his friend. And by that name it is known today.

Agricultural past

Last spring when I was describing in this column Wayne as it was in the seventies and early eighties, I quoted from notes of Joseph M. Fronefield, Jr., who came here in 1881 to start a small drug store on the eastern end of Lyceum Hall. The latter was the nucleus of the large old building now standing on the northeast corner of Wayne avenue and Lancaster Pike. Mr. Fronefield had written “The surrounding country was farm land. I could look out the drug store 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. This was but one of many farms in this vicinity, among them the Izzacki Fritz place, the Mifflin’s, the Wilds’ the George’s, the the Jones’, the Ramsey’s, the Cleaver’s, (later the Hugh’s) and others of which the writer has no written record.

Evidently the entire Main Line looked much as Wayne did, according to the quaintly worded description of it as given in the “Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad”, printed in 1855, from which I quoted last week. In describing the route of the railroad from Philadelphia to Paoli, it says “The country through which we have passed is thickly dotted with neat farmhouses and barns, and all sorts of comfortable out-houses for pigs, and poultry, sheep, cattle and horses. The large fields of grain and grass which greet one’s eyes in the summer season, the herds of cattle, and flocks of sheep, everywhere to be seen, indicate great agricultural thrift in the inhabitants of Delaware, Montgomery and Chester Counties, thorough the luxuriant grass, are spring-houses. We may observe the patient cows standing around, with their white udders swollen with milk, waiting to yield it to the milkmaid’s pail, from which it is poured into earthen or tin pans, and those are placed in the clear cool water of those houses where the rich cream is formed for the butter.

“From these houses is taken the far-famed Philadelphia butter, superior to that, it is said, of any city in the world. The secret of its superiority lies in the green grass peculiar to this rolling country, and the cool springs that rise from its hills. No prairie land, how rich soever it may be, can ever produce butter equal to that made in the rolling counties around the city of Philadelphia.” (In this connection I recall almost the first request made by my husband’s grandmother, a woman then already in her eighties, when she visited us in Wayne many years ago. She would like to see the Chester Valley, she said, because she had heard what good butter they made there!)

Those of us who travel west along the Lancaster Pike in our automobiles nowadays are familiar with the beauty of the scene that stretches for miles before our eyes soon after we pass Paoli, “the celebrated Chester County limestone valley” as it is called in our booklet. Because of the quaint wording of that description as given almost a hundred years ago I feel it should be quoted just as it was written. Few, if any, of my readers have failed to feel the breathtaking, yet homely beauty of the valley extending as it does “easterly and westerly some 20 miles in length and averages 2 miles in width. It is skirted on both sides with high hills covered with timber, from which issue innumerable springs of pure water, converted into perpetual fountains in the valley, and affording a never-failing supply for man and beast, at the house and barn. This valley is noted for its fertility and beautiful farms. As the cars descend the hill, on an easy grade, the passenger may take in at one view many miles of this magnificent panorama, interspersed with comfortable and neat farm-houses, spacious barns, and other necessary buildings. Hundreds of fields of waving grain, the deep green corn, and luxuriant timothy and clover, pass in review before him.

“Here, the farmers may be seen driving their teams a-field, and there cattle, horses and sheep, feeding in the pasture, or reclining under the trees. This valley supplies the finest beef for the Philadelphia and New York markets. The cattle are brought, when poor, from the regions of the north and the west, and fattened here in the rich pastures of Pennsylvania. The beef of Philadelphia, like the butter, is nowhere else to be found.”

Thus was the beautiful and fertile countryside of our Main Line section a century or more ago.

“Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad”

A quaint, little, faded book, its pages brittle with age, has recently come into my temporary possession through the courtesy of Herbert S. Casey. Printed in 1855 by T. K. and P. G. Collins, of Philadelphia, it is entitled, “Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad, with an Extensive Map; including the Entire Route, with all its Windings, Objects of Interest, and Information Useful to the Traveler.” It is indeed an extensive map . . . its pages, too frail for this writer to dare to unfold many times, measures some two yards in length! Those two yards of map cover the route of the railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Going back as it does to a period now almost one hundred years past, those entire two yards are of vast interest to the historian. But of particular interest to the writer and to her readers are the first few inches which include that part of the railroad between Philadelphia and Paoli, our own “Main Line” of the present day! The book is a first edition, and obviously very rare.

Even one hundred and more years ago, the Pennsylvania Railroad was recognized as n almost indispensable link between “the eastern or Atlantic cities and those situated on the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers”. Back in the 1830’s there seemed some doubt, however, whether the Allegheny Mountains could be passed on a direct route to Pittsburgh, without an inclined plane. In 1838, the first survey was made by William E. Morris, an engineer, while in 1841 Charles L. Schlatter was appointed by the Board of Canal Commissioners to make a full survey for a railway from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.

Our “Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad” relates that “The first meeting of the Citizens of Philadelphia in relation to building the road, was held at the Chinese Museum, on the 10th of December, 1842. It was an unusually large meeting, at which a determined spirit was manifested to prosecute this great work. Thomas P. Cope was called to the chair. A preamble and resolutions urging the importance of the work, were offered by William M. Meredith, and unanimously adopted. A large committee on memorials to the Legislature, praying for an act of incorporation, and a committee of nine to prepare and publish an address to the citizens of Pennsylvania, setting forth the views and objects of the meeting, were appointed.”

At this meeting, Thomas P. Cope was chosen president. He was the great-great-grandfather of Herbert S. Casey, president of our Radnor Historical Society, and long a well-known citizen of Radnor Township. Mr. Cope was a close friend of Stephen Girard and one of the executors of his famous will. Of Girard College, our “Guide” States, “it is principally composed of marble, is the grandest building in America, and the most richly endowed charitable institution, by a single individual, in the world”. Stephen Girard’s will took care of this endowment, of course. Thomas Cope was one of the three Cope brothers who organized the first group of packet ships between England and America.

As soon as the act to incorporate the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was passed on April 13, 1846, a large town meeting was called in Philadelphia for the purpose of taking measures to bring the corporation into existence. A specially appointed committee prepared an address to be issued in pamphlet form. Private and corporate subscriptions soon rose to a total of two and a half million dollars. From this meeting in April, construction of the road was authorized and begun with a charter bearing the date, April 13, 1846.

By the time the first “Guide of the Pennsylvania Railroad” was published in 1855, the line of road between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was complete. At that time it had three owners. The State of Pennsylvania owned that part extending from the city to Dillersville, one mile above Lancaster, consisting of a double track, in length 69 miles. From Dillersville to Harrisburg, the Portsmouth Mount Joy and Lancaster Railroad took over that distance of 36 miles. The remaining 248 miles between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh was the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

According to our two yard map the old depot seems to have been on the Delaware River at the foot of Market street. According to the description given in 1855, “The cars are drawn from the depot by horse or mule power, out Market Street, and across the Schuylkill Permanent Bridge, at the west end of which they take the locomotive . . . After taking steam we pass up the Schuylkill in full view of the light and graceful Wire Bridge on the right, the Fairmount Water Works, and the beautiful fall of water over the Dam, as well as the placid sheet which it makes as far as the eye can reach. The new bridge at Girard Avenue may also be seen, and the Girard College, with snowy Whiteness and its magnificent marble columns and marble roof, overlooking the city and surrounding country for miles.

“The State locomotive engine house is immediately on the road to the right, a few hundred yards from the place of starting. Thence passing through a deep cut, we curve round and pursue nearly a westerly course, leaving the city and its busy multitudes behind. In rounding the curve to the left, we may observe the West Philadelphia Water Works, being a very high iron column cylinder, encircled by a neat and tasty iron stairway, winding around it from its base to its summit. At a distance of 3 miles from the depot we pass Hestonville on our left, then Libertyville, and Athensville, and arrive at White Hall, 10 miles from the city.”

Hestonville, Mr. Casey tells us, was a little village near what is now 52nd Street in Philadelphia. His grandfather, Francis Cope Yarnall, was much interested in the well-known little Episcopalian Church in this section. Libertyville is our present suburb of Narberth, while Athensville later became Ardmore. Athens Avenue still commemorates the old name. White Hall later became Bryn Mawr, although the location of the Railroad station was considerably changed from its original site near the present Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Just before arriving at White Hall “we may observe to the left”, to continue with our description of the route, “a large building with an extensive lawn, and a handsome wood between it and the railroad. This is the Haverford College, belonging to an association of Friends, and conducted by them, where a classical education may be obtained by the youth of that denomination, but which is not confined exclusively to them. This College is in Delaware County . . . we next pass on to the stations of Villa Nova (a Roman Catholic College), Morgan’s Corner, and the Eagle, and arrive at the Paoli, 20 miles on our journey. The train frequently stops here for refreshments. Near this place 150 Americans, under General Wayne, were killed and wounded on the night of the 20th of December, 1777, by a detachment of English under General Gray. This action is frequently called the Paoli Massacre”.

Villanova retains its original name, while Morgan’s Corner has now become Radnor. In regard to the name of “The Eagle”, now Strafford, the writer of this column has recently had a letter from Mrs. Charles Carrol Suffern, of Strafford, who says that since she is “over ninety-one years of age”, she can remember much of the “old set-up”. Mrs. Suffern writes, in regard to a reference to old taverns, “You tell of ‘the Eagle’ – it was known as “The Spread Eagle’, and the post office at the old Eagle Station, midway between Strafford and Devon, was also so called, taking its name from the old tavern”.

Wayne is not on this 1855 map. It may have been a little later that trains began to stop to take on milk at the Cleaver Farm, now known to most of us as the old William Wood property, recently sold as a business site. The milk stop was called “Cleaver’s Gate”, or Cleaver’s Landing”. Later this became Louella, and then Wayne. The first station was a large, square wooden pillar laid on its side where passengers sat while they waited to flag the train. An old wagon bed, which took the place of this pillar, was burned on one Fourth of July. Then a small box-like station was built with a house attached in which the ticket agent lived. J. Henry Askin, one of Wayne’s pioneers, of whom much has been written in this column, is said to have had a private waiting room in this station for his family! The original station still stands, being used now as sleeping quarters for employees of the Wayne Hotel.
(To be continued)

“The Old Main Line” part 4: Life in the “60s” – Drexel & Childs

On the way of life in the sixties in the Philadelphia suburban area, Mr. Townsend, in his book, “The Old ‘Main Line’” gives us many brief, but telling insights. Old men and young children alike wore long tail coats and stiff starched shirt bosoms in the morning as well as the evening. “At college”, our historian tells us, “the Sophs forbade the Freshmen to wear high silk hats. Imagine a youth today of any class at college wearing this doubtful ornament. . .” And at that, Mr. Townsend was writing almost thirty years ago, when dress was a little more formal than now!

In the sixties well dressed men often wore leather boots that came to their knees, and into them tucked their trousers on stormy days. For a comfortable evening at home these were replaced by canvas slippers, with “flowers worked on their tops by devoted wives or best girls”. Women’s clothes likewise were far more formal in the sixties than in later days, with wasp-like waists and sweeping trains even on the street! Food, though plentiful then as now, did not have the wide variety that greater transportation facilities and increased refrigeration has made possible. Mr. Townsend writes in nostalgic vein of the delicacies prepared by Augustine, the great Philadelphia colored caterer. He ells of a trip on a Pennsylvania Railroad private car which “was stocked as usual with Augustine’s viands . . . a noted Englishman, who had just landed to visit the Centennial Exhibition of ‘76 was one of the party that sat down to the first luncheon in the little dining room of that car . . . one delicacy after another tickled his Anglican palate as never before and turning around, he whispered, “If this is what you Americans have on a railway car, I wonder what you have at home.” Mr. Townsend slyly adds, “We did not tell him we did not always have Augustine at home.” However, regular dining cars were an unknown quantity in the sixties and seventies. On a trip of any length passengers dined at railway restaurants along the route.

Among the many things that would seem unsanitary to us of a later day were the prevalence of flies and the lack of screening in the sixties. Stables bred flies by the millions during a time when wire screens were unknown, though, according to Mr. Townsend, “a few houses had flimsy pink mosquito netting over a few windows . . . some householders had canopies of such netting over their beds, some had wire cages to cover each dish on the table, some had a mechanical fly fan in the middle of the table . . . in hotels, the colored waiters, with large palm leaf fans, kept the flies off a part of the time”.

Of medicine in the sixties, Mr. Townsend says that “homeopathy was being experimented with by many, but its small pellets were laughed at by the ‘Old School’, which was then wedded to its searching draughts”. Professional massage, or osteopathy, as it was later known, was not practiced at all in those days. No one had operations for the removal of the appendix or tonsils or adenoids, as their presence, for good or evil, was not recognized then. As Mr. Townsend states it, “If any of these things went wrong, you were blissfully ignorant of it and there was a chance of getting well, or at least of dying a natural death . . .Neither did you have to have your teeth X-rayed and yanked out.”

Telephones were not introduced until the late seventies, and did not become at all prevalent until the early eighties. Even then many hesitated to have them installed. One thing that graced practically every house, however, was the lightning rod, in fact sometimes several of them, and certainly the barn and stable had to have their share also! “The Lightning Rod man was a feature in country life”, our humorous historian tells us, “he went up and down the breadth of the land, persuading every one that life depended upon having lightning rods . . . He was succeeded in his ubiquity by the life insurance man and later by the bond salesman.”

In the absence of automobiles, cattle could safely roam the roads, and they did. Tramps did the same. It is said that cooks in some of the large houses sometimes fed a dozen or more in a day. Private chalk marks made on gate posts by these hoboes indicated “the quality of the fare or the character of the dog”. Conditions were particularly bad before and during the great railway strikes of ‘77. In one nearby Rosemont section a “Relief Association” was started by John B. Garrett when the hungry who were traversing the roads were fed. A business revival in 1879 eased the employment situation somewhat. However, some of the habitual tramps “had become so enamored of the free and easy life that they never could return to work . . . they wintered in the County Poor Houses and with the first robin, would begin their summer wanderings, sleeping in barns and empty houses and feeding at kitchen doors.” Lancaster Pike was of course the best traveled highway of all for these “knights of the road.”

Business along the Main Line in the sixties and seventies was practically non-existent. About all that was necessary was an occasional small country store and a blacksmith shop. Among these old store was the “West Haverford Store”, on the Pike in Rosemont, later occupied by Lippincott and Eadie.

To Mr. Cassatt, of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Main Line section owes its township government. As the Suburban communities began to get more thickly settled, he saw that some form of local government would become necessary, especially as regards police protection. And so Mr. Cassatt was instrumental in having the State legislature enact a law for the government of “Townships of the First Class” having a certain number of inhabitants. Lower Merion Township was the first to qualify while Haverford Township followed in a few years. The governing body of such townships has always been a small number of elected Commissioners. In a similar manner the affairs of township schools are in the hands of a school board elected by the voters.

Among the prominent men of the period of which we have been writing were George W. Childs, editor of the Public Ledger, and Anthony J. Drexel, a prominent stockholder in that newspaper and one of the wealthiest men of his time. It was these two men who founded the town of Wayne as a real estate operation. When Mr. Childs was asked one day, according to our historian, why they built their new town so far up the road, when there were numerous properties just as available nearer to Philadelphia, he quickly replied that it was “in order to give the new settlers more time to read the Ledger on the train!” Mr. Childs lived on a large property on Bryn Mawr avenue which was then a new road that had just been laid out southward from Whitehall. His place was called “Wootton”, and because Mr. Childs’ “Herat was as big as his house”, it became “Welcome Hall” for all visitors, whether of distinction or otherwise.

Among other early famous men and large property owners of the Main Line were John Converse, who built his mansion on the Pike at Rosemont; Samuel Vauclain, president of Baldwin Locomotive Works, who built near the Converse place, and T. Wilson Brown, who settled in Villanova. The latter had a large part in the founding and the maintenance of the Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Among many other names mentioned by Mr. Townsend is that of a man well known in our community, since up to the time of his recent death, A. J. County made his home here. Coming to this country as a young Irish lad, he became associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, eventually becoming one of its vice-presidents.

“The Old Main Line” part 3: Bryn Mawr in the “60s” – PRR, Baldwin School

We have noted before in this column that the Pennsylvania Railroad ran considerably to the south of its present right of way, in what was later the Bryn Mawr section. At one time it stopped right at Whitehall Hotel, which was directly across the present Glenbrook avenue from the old Bryn Mawr Hospital building. Later the railroad built a station a few yards further west of Whitehall, which to this day forms the nucleus of the Bryn Mawr Thrift Shop building. The tracks were originally located here because, according to Mr. Townsend’s book on “The Old Main Line’”, the railway “took the easiest courses around hills, or swerved here and there to suit some politician’s pleasure, having been built by the State.”

In the late sixties, however, the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to eliminate the long detour past Whitehall Hotel. But when they found it necessary to make a deep cut through the high ground covering the proposed cut-off, neighboring farmers claimed heavy damages for the right of way. And so the railroad decided to buy the large tract of ground which later proved to be the beginning of the suburb of Bryn Mawr. It included nearly all the land between Penn street, Gulph road, Roberts road and the present railway tracks. This they plotted into building lots and to make it exclusively residential, “all the deeds of sale prohibited all manufactures, stores, shops, livery stables or buildings for any offensive occupation.”

It is interesting to note that the Baldwin School started on the northwest corner of Morris and Montgomery avenues in a double frame house, originally built by the railroad with the idea that the purchasers of their lots would reside there while their own homes were being built. Later this house was much increased in size and became the “Lancaster Inn”. Another building erected by the railroad was the Bryn Mawr Hotel, to which many aristocratic Philadelphia families came in the summer. Within a few years’ time the original hotel was burned to the ground, whereupon a neighborhood syndicate built a new one at the cost of a half million dollars. After the foreclosure of the mortgage on this building it was rented to the Baldwin School.

Compared to the grounds now around the School the surroundings of the hotel were quite unattractive, for in the front of it were two large ice ponds fed by a small stream. Although these were merely mud holes in dry weather, it was necessary to have them, since the country in the sixties and seventies depended on ponds for ice. The hotel building itself boasted gas lights and bath tubs, the latter to the extent of only one on each floor for the use of about fifty people!

“Country summering” was becoming increasingly popular with city folks, as indicated by a small prospectus issued by the Railway Company in 1874, when it listed 54 boarding houses from Overbook to Downingtown with accommodations for 1330 guests, exclusive of the Bryn Mawr Hotel, which held 250. The largest of these houses was “Summit Grove”, a frame building on the south side of Bryn Mawr Station with a capacity of about 80 boarders. Its memory has been preserved in the name Summit Grove avenue.

“The Main Line showed the first symptoms of getting gay”, writes Mr. Townsend, “when the hotel got well under way in its second summer of 1873. The Bryn Mawr Assemblies’ were the events of the season and were run by George Kimball . . . about 500 people attended each of these ‘assemblies’. Other entertainments of the summer were a magic lantern exhibition by Will Struther, a comic talk by Benjamin Franklin Duane, a Mock Trial, and an Orpheus Club concert. This was soon after the Club started forty-six years ago* . . . It is curious to consider that these functions continued through the whole of hot summers . . . Philadelphians had not yet acquired the expensive and unnatural habit of seeking distant climbs for cold in summer as well as for heat in winter.

Mr. Townsend’s account continues, “The hotel life was quite similar to that of the old boarding houses, only it was gayer and more formal . . . In the afternoons nearly everyone drove or rode. Cavalcades of perhaps twenty-five riders would go out together and explore the country roads for miles around. Women and girls used only side saddles; bifurcated riding would have been looked upon with horror. The Radnor Hunt had not started and little hunting or jumping was indulged in. The roads were all dirt roads except Lancaster Pike, which was very rough and ridgey, without any smooth surfacing. The dirt roads were fine for horseback, but became a foot deep in mud when it rained, and in winter were almost impassable. The old Haverford road that ran through the Whitehall district was then a ‘plank road’, that is, one-half of it had heavy boards laid close together, unpleasant to ride on but a great boon in muddy weather”.

When the Bryn Mawr tract was laid out, its avenues were covered with a coarse gravel which made for very slow travel. These roads exasperated Mr. Cassatt, vice-president of the railroad, who was fond of driving his four-in-hand coach. He accepted the position of township road supervisor and was instrumental in obtaining macadamized roadbeds. He also got a company of his friends to buy Lancaster Pike as far as Paoli and to make a macadamized road of it. Toll was charged to keep it in order and “it was a great boon” to the driving public for many years. In later years the toll gates were abolished when the State bought the PIke and maintained it by taxes.

The Railway Company gave its new village the name of Bryn Mawr from the home of Rowland Ellis, who in Colonial times settled the tract on Gulph road opposite where Bryn Mawr College now stands. Mr. Ellis had brought the name from his old home in Wales. The old town of Humphreysville, consisting of a few dwellings on Lancaster Pike, also took the name of Bryn Mawr. Mr. Townsend, writing in 1922, says “there are now several thousand residents using the station, from the Schuylkill hills on the north to Newtown Square on the south. All of this territory calls itself Bryn Mawr, while the girls’ college which soon started in the new settlement seems to think the name belongs to it exclusively!”

So much for the interesting early history of a section of the Main Line, a large section of which lies in Radnor Township and is therefore an integral part of “Your Town and My Town”. For all that part of Bryn Mawr south of County Line road between Gulph road and Coopertown road (now known as Llandover road) is part of our township.

(to be continued)

*Mr. Townsend dates the beginning of the Orpheus Club 46 years before 1922.

“The Old Main Line” part 1: The area in the “60s” & “70s” – Lancaster Pike

A little book entitled “The Old ‘Main Line’” has come my way recently through the courtesy of Herbert S. Casey, whose interest in matters of a bygone day is evidenced by the fact that he is president of the Radnor Historical Society. Originally printed more than thirty years ago in pamphlet form, tis book was rewritten in 1922 by its author, J. W. Townsend, as the “meanderings of an old man’s memories jotted down for his amusement . . . they do not pretent to accuracy, in which memory often fails, but a wide margin will allow the reader to make corrections as desired”.

Mr. Townsend was a member of the large Joseph B. Townsend family who were among the first to own country places near “City Line.” Although the book has few specific references to Wayne as a community, it does contain much of general interest about the Main Line section of which this suburb is so integral a part.

A quaint picture of a locomotive of this sixties in the front of the book dates the contents, which are mostly of that decade and the following, the seventies. At that time this section was not even designated as the “Main Line” since the Lancaster and Columbia Railroad, predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, had only one line then. By the first settlers of this part of Pennsylvania the section was known as “The Welsh Barony” which consisted of some 30,000 acres. Several railroad stations and many country estates have Welsh names derived from the names of the places from which these early settlers migrated to America. SOme of the early deeds signed by William Penn are still held by present land-owners.

Early Philadelphians “who craved country air and more room to breathe” settled north of the city first, however, “because the journey by horse or foot to the city from the West and back again involved the sun in the traveler’s eyes both ways”. (Many a commuter by automobile in these days notices this, too!). Although this was not the main factor, it could be one of the reasons why Germantown and Chestnut Hill had become favorite places for country residences of Philadelphia some time before the Main Line was settled.

Germantown, of course, dates back to the Revolution and Chestnut HIll has long been a popular residential section. It was in the late fifties, according to Mr. Townsend, that “a new migration began beyond the western ‘City-Line’ and a few city people began to locate along the ‘Pennsylvania Central Railroad’ soon after it took over the old Columbia State Road”. The first stop was “Mantua”, now almost in downtown Philadelphia, and the second was “Hestonville”. described as “a small village in the midst of a farming country”. This is our present 52nd Street Station! Next was “City Line Station”, where the tracks crossed a creek. When later a culvert was built for it, the new Station was appropriately called “Overbrook”. What remains of the stream site parallels the railroad near the Station, as the west bound commuter looking from his window can see. Mr. Townsend makes an interesting comment when he writes “It is curious to note that the railroad does not cross any sizable stream until far into Chester Valley, showing that it was laid out on a ridge, from which the waters flow in both directions.”

In the sixties there were only six trams a day each way on the railroad. After the six o’clock from Philadelphia in the evening there was nothing until “the Emigrant” at midnight which was a through train for arriving foreigners, stopping only at each destination for which these foreigners were booked. According to Mr. Townsend’s description, “the cars were lighted by oil lamps and in cold weather, red hot coal stoves stood at each end. A brakeman at each car turned a wheel such as those that the present freight cars have. The city terminal was a small square brick building near the present West Philadelphia Station.”

The “Old Lancaster Road” and “The Lancaster Turnpike” of course predated the railroad by many years. The former, later known as Conestoga Road, was originally an Indian trail from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. The latter, laid out late in the eighteenth century, had in the early sixties some 67 taverns on it between Philadelphia and Lancaster, or about one a mile! Among them were “The General Wayne”, near Merion; the “Red Lion” at Ardmore; the “Old Buck” at Haverford; “The Eagle” at Strafford; the “Old Ship”, near Exton, and many others.

These old Turnpike Taverns of Revolutionary days were utilized by some of the first Philadelphians to come out to the Main Line for two or three summer months in the sixties and seventies. But the largest aggregation of all, according ot our historian “summered” in “The White Hall Hotel,” the site of which is now occupied by a row of houses opposite the old Bryn Mawr Hospital building on Glenbrook avenue, formerly Railroad Avenue. When the last disreputable old ruins of White Hall were torn down more than thirty years ago “they did not look as if they had ever houses a gay crowd of Philadelphia’s elite”, Mr. Townsend writes, “but it was”, he continues, “the place for large dances for both city and country people. The railway then went by it, and the trains stopped at its door, though later a station was built a few years further west.” The original building of this old Lancaster and Columbia Railroad company now forms the nucleus of the building that houses the well-known Bryn Mawr “Thrift Shop”. A study of its quaint architecture is well wroth a few minutes of the passerby’s time.

Whitehall Hotel held about eighty people. Another popular summer place on the Main Line was the Wildgoss Boarding house near Haverford College, which was kept by an elderly lady of that name. In winter her daughters had a school for children in the house which had ten acres of woods in the rear to make a pleasant recreation spot for boarders in summer and the school pupils in winter. Life in Wildgoss Boarding House, as colorfully described by Mr. Townsend, was probably typical of the many summer hotels on the Main Line in the sixties and seventies, such as the old Bellevue Hotel and Louella Mansion in Wayne. A summary of this description will be given in the newest article of this series.

(to be continued)

In order to complete an extra scrap book of the “Your Town and My Town” series, Mrs. Patterson need a copy of the Suburban of July 15. Anyone who has such a copy to spare will please call Wayne 4569. Such a scrap book, when completed, will be lent to anyone who is interested in the series, or who may have missed some part of it.

Early Main Line train commuter anecdotes – George Schultz

From time to time the author of this column receives, either by letter or by work of mouth, some interesting bit of history about Wayne and its residents of a by-gone generation. This type of contribution to the column is always welcome, aud will always be used as the proper opportunity presents itself. This week’s column is, for the most part, founded on “Anecdotes of an Old Commuter”, as given the writer by George Schultz, of Reading.

His commuting was done, of course, on our well-known Main Line, on that section now covered by the famous Paoli Local. From another source the writer learns that “the new Main Line, which later became the route of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was opened for traffic October 14, 1850.” Nearly on hundred years ago! According to Mr. Schultz, the suburbs of the Main Line began to develop importance around 1880. He writes “probably the beginning of the subsequent exodus of well-to-do families of Philadelphia was due to liberal immigration. The country was rapidly expanding and prosperity – of industry – created a demand for manual labor. So about this time, many Greeks arrived to open small restaurants, and there was a large influx of Negroes from the South who filled the lower city wards. Many Irish arrived, who became members of the police force, firemen, etc.”

And so it was that “the fashionable people South of Market Street and around Rittenhouse Square, finding their seclusion, peace and quiet invaded, gradually adopted the plan of closing their city houses all summer and betook themselves to the country with their horses and carriages.” Later on these same families in many instances sold their city homes and became all-year-round residents of the Main Line. The men of the family thus became daily commuters, since greatly improved Main Line service enabled them to reach their offices in short order. Most of the offices of that period were “down town”, that is, near the river front.

Mr. Schultz writes that Alexander Cassatt and other Pennsylvania Railroad officials were responsible for planning the attractive appearance of the Main Line stations, which were cottage-like structures surrounded by grass lawns and flower beds. Here the agents, who were ticket sellers and telegraph operators, lived with their families.

The names of the villages and stations were changed as the building of country houses increased in the Main Line section. Ardmore was originally known as “Athensvillie”; Radnor was “Morgan’s Corners”; St. Davids was “Fisher’s Hill”; Bryn Mawr was “Whitehall” (from an old plastered station house) and Devon was “Reeseville”. Old Lancaster Pike toll road, which was about parallel to the railroad, was a popular dive with old inns providing stopping places for rest and refreshment. Among these inns were the Red Lion at Ardmore and the Sorrel Horse at Radnor.

Two anecdotes of the commuters of the period are related by Mr. Schultz, who writes: “Occasionally the daily Main Line commuters would encounter or even participate in some amusing happenings on the train. One dark winter evening the gas light of a car gave out and the conductor came in and lit candles which were encased in bronze fixtures, fastened to the sides of the car. Francis Fenimore, of St. Davids, was sitting with John Galloway, of Bryn Mawr, (descendent of the Galloway who owned Durham Iron Furnace in Revolutionary days). Fenimore remarked that the candle was so short it would soon burn down, but Galloway proceeded to explain that it was pushed up by a spring in the lower cylinder. He got up from his seat and unscrewed it, saying: “See? It works like this.” As he turned a ferrule the candle shot out of its place and his squarely on the nose of a gentleman facing them in the far seat of the car! “Who threw that – who hit me?”, he angrily asked. Mr. Fenimore had a hard time preventing a fight. Imagine anything like that today disturbing the Main Line Local!

“On another occasion in summer, a prominent gentleman from Haverford, after carefully placing a paper bag in the rack over heard, seated himself beside his dignified elderly friend. As the train stopped at their destination, he reached for the bag, accidentally punching the bottom of it. The result was that both gentlemen were cascaded by a quart of two of huckleberries on their spotless Panama hats! Efforts to stop the flow only increased it, until finally the owner of the bag dashed it to the floor as he and his friend hurriedly left the train ‘midst the smiles and laughter of those who saw the fun.”

Vintage train fares, S. Wayne houses

The Wayne Estate booklets from which the writer of this column has been quoting so freely, abound in glowing descriptions of this entire neighborhood in which these houses were being located in the late eighties and early nineties.

George W. Childs and the firm of Wendell and Smith were obviously proud of what they were doing. “The handsomest suburb, perhaps, in the country is Wayne,” they announce in what might be termed a rather sweeping statement since “this country” obviously means the entire United States. The description continues by stating that Wayne is “on the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a pleasant twenty-five-minute ride from Broad Street Station, through a district of unexceptional rural beauty, and reached by sixty-four daily trains at convenient hours (Time Table in back of book).” The territory of this charming town embraces an area of about six hundred acres of plateau (four hundred feet above the level of Philadelphia) environed by woodlands; its population, 1500. Wayne is a town far superior to the usual unestablished places in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It has every general improvement in perfect working order.”

The train schedule in the back of the book shows the following fares to Philadelphia. Two-day excursion ticket was seventy-three cents, while a monthly ticket was $7.05 and a monthly school ticket was $4.70. Fifty-trip book for family use was $14.70 and a three months ticket was $19.00, which figured out to ten and a quarter cents per ride. An interesting note was attached to the schedule indicating that “Market baskets, bicycles and baby coaches are entitled to free transportation!”

The writer, note-book in hand, took a leisurely walk through St. Davids recently, in an effort to identify one or two houses of each of the types not already described in last week’s column. A phrase from one of the booklets came into her mind immediately since its truth was so evident. “There is no crowding; we have left a vacant lot between each house, and sell it on easy terms, should more ground be needed.” Some of the early owners evidently took advantage of this opportunity to enlarge their real estate holdings. But in many instances “this vacant lot between each house” is now occupied by a house of a later date to break the sometimes monotonous effect of block after block of Wayne Estate architecture. The 200 block of Windermere avenue on the south side is solid with these houses. They abound also in the 300 and 400 blocks of Midland avenue as they do along the same section of Lancaster pike, especially on the South side.

Houses like those at 210 and again at 226 Windermere avenue were very popular apparently. They were priced at $8,250 “and upwards” and had “a very picturesque exterior. Large porch across the front of the house. First floor – vestibule, spacious hallway, dining room, reception room, library with open grate, mantel and tile work, pantry, kitchen, out-kitchen and back staircase. Hall and stairways connected by archways for curtains. Second floor – Five chambers of good size, three of them across the front, en suite. Bath room and nine closets. Third floor – two servants rooms, a large hall and store room. Special features, open grate in lower hall, dining room, removed from kitchen odors, library has a private entrance to front staircase.”

All of the houses built in South Wayne and St. Davids at this particular time were of about the same size, particularly in the matter of the “five chambers” on the second floor. More of them will be described in next week’s column.

Early Wayne, Railroads – Cleaver Farm, Conestoga Rd. & Lancaster Turnpike

The story of Louella House as given in last week’s Suburban was founded upon information gathered from various sources by Miss Josephine W. Scott for a paper she read several years ago for a group from her Church Missionary Society. In this meeting the members of the society were assembled in the same large room in Louella Apartments which was described in last week’s article as the formal parlor of Louella House. Fortunately the notes for this talk were preserved and from them has been drawn the description we give you for this week of the Wayne of an earlier day.

Back in 1868-70 when Louella House was built, most of what is now Wayne was rolling farm land, where cattle grazed as they stood in the shade of chestnut, hickory and oak trees. On the site of what was known until very recently as the William Wood property on the north side of West Lancaster avenue, the Cleaver Farm was located. The Cleaver house, built in 1775, was sold by that family to J. Henry Askin, who in turn sold it to W. D. Hughes. Later it became the property of William Wood.

The first railroad station took its name from the Cleaver Farm. This station was called “Cleaver’s Gate” or “Cleaver’s Landing,” since trains stopped there to take on milk. The Pennsylvania Railroad company, originally known as the Lancaster and Columbia Railroad Company, had built double tracks along the Main Line in the early 1860’s. Later, “Cleaver’s Landing” was known as Louella and then as Wayne.

The first station was a large square wooden pillar laid on its side where passengers sat while they waited to flag the train. An old wagon bed which too the place of this pillar was burned one Fourth of July. Then a small box-like station was built with a house attached in which the ticket agent lived. This house is still standing on its original site, considerably to the south of the present tracks, however, as the road bed was moved a one time. It is now used by the Wayne Hotel as sleeping quarters for employees. Even a casual glance easily identifies it as a one-time railroad station! A path past the old Presbyterian Church led to the station in its early days.

North of the railroad there was but one farm. On it was a lovely little lake and many beautiful trees. Later this property became the home of Dr. George Miles Wells. The Wells home still stands on its original site on Walnut avenue, though it has now become a small apartment house. The spacious ==== lots on which many homes have been constructed, some facing on Poplar avenue, some on North Wayne avenue and some on Walnut avenue.

The two main highways of Cleaver’s Landing in the 1860’s were Conestoga road and the Philadelphia and Lancaster turnpike. At that time the former had already been in existence for more than a hundred years, having originally been an Indian trail from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. The latter was the first turnpike built in the United States, dating back to 1792-93. With its toll gate it went from Philadelphia to Lancaster and points West. What is now West Wayne avenue was the Wayne road, built in 1808. It was but 33 feet wide.

Where the Saturday Club now stands there was a little bridge coming from the Cleaver Farm. Church road, going from Five Points to Old St. David’s Church, was built in 1863 and like Wayne road, was 33 feet wide.

So much for roads. As to the pavements, they were originally of “the kind of mud where overshoes lost in the Fall, reappeared only when the frost came out of the ground in the Spring!” Later there were boardwalks, the loose boards of which were apt to spring up at unexpected intervals and tip the unwary. Then followed cinder paths, later stone slabs and still later, concrete walks.

On the corner of Conestoga and Wayne avenues there stood at the time the old Radnor Baptist Church, organized in 1841, through the untiring efforts of Mrs. Emily Worthington Siter. The original building was destroyed about 1889. Back of the church building was one of the first schools in the community. On Conestoga road, near what is now Wayne-St. Davids station of the Philadelphia and Western Railway, was the famous old Conestoga Potteries.

Fire protection, even in the early days of Wayne, was considered very essential. Each householder was provided with a fire horn three feet long, to be blown when the occasion demanded. The horn call is described as something like a sick cow! A fine of five dollars was imposed for any unwarranted blowing of a horn. Early records also state that a bucket of water was behind the front door of each home, also that householders took nightly turns in patrolling the neighborhood. The present Radnor volunteer Fire Company, chartered in 1906, represents the consolidation of several small fire companies which served various parts of the community earlier.