Wayne Estate era Churches – Presbyterian, St. Mary’s Memorial Church

At a later date the writer of this column wants to devote an entire week’s space to each of the churches in the Township, giving in some detail their history and development. For the moment, however, it is interesting to note just what churches were here at the time when the Wayne Estate houses were built, giving their history up to about 1890. For this information the column is mostly indebted to the two Wayne Estate booklets from which so much of its material for this period has been drawn.

One of these booklets states, “Protestant, Episcopal, Baptist and Presbyterian churches in the town and Roman Catholic churches at Villanova and Berwyn, not far off”. Although the oldest church now standing in Wayne is the Presbyterian on Lancaster avenue, the Baptists had had a meeting house at the corner of Wayne avenue and Conestoga road since 1841. The present building as we now see it, although in disuse as a church for some years past, was erected upon the site of the old building in 1889.. The pastor, the Rev. John Miller, was called to the church January 7, 1889, and entered upon the work “the first Sabbath in March of the same year”.

These services must have been held elsewhere for a few months as the church which is described as a “neat and attractive structure” was not opened for service until the 3rd of January, 1890. Most interesting of all is the fact that it was dedicated, free of debt, November 30, 1892, the 50th anniversary of the church under charter.

The original Presbyterian Church, of which the cornerstone was laid May 12, 1870, by the Rev. John Chambers of Philadelphia, stands to the right of the present building, and is known as “the Chapel”. This church building, without encumbrance and with a small endowment was presented to the Presbyterian congregation by J. Henry Askin as a memorial to his father and mother. At this juncture it is interesting to quote from the recent brochure issued by the church in connection with its building fund.

“Right from the beginning, those Charter members of the Wayne Presbyterian Church saw clearly the broad scope of their responsibility. In the building of this new community it would not be enough simply to maintain services of public worship. There would be need to be a teaching ministry for the children and youth and a friendly outreach to foster community fellowship.

“It was on June 12, 1870, that the Sunday School was first connected. From that humble beginning, with only five children, the Wayne Presbyterian Sunday School grew rapidly. As early as 1889, its enrollment of 87 (a figure substantially larger than the Church membership of that year) necessitated the building of a chapel to accommodate the steadily increasing Sunday School.”

By 1890 “the parallel growth of the Congregation and Sunday School required the making of — plans for the development of new facilities”. On May 12, 1892, the corner-stone of the new church was laid, “a stately and costly structure of the early English Gothic style of architecture,” to quote again from the Wayne Estate booklet, which also describes the location as “desirably situated on Lancaster avenue, and its center position makes it easy of access from all parts of the village.” This building is the Presbyterian Church as we now know it except for the Church School building, which was added to it in 1922.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, according to the pictures in the real estate brochure, looked in the early nineties just as it does today, even to the H. L. Badger house directly to the South of it, and with the stone pillars of Dr. Elmer’s driveway just showing across the street. The church is described as “beautifully situated at the corner of Audubon and Runnymede avenues – the dates of the principal events in its history may serve as illustrating the growth of Wayne itself. The first service was held in April, 1890, The corner-stone of the church was laid in September, 1890, and the edifice was dedicated June 28, 1891. On the first anniversary of dedication, June, 1892, the new and beautiful pipe organ was dedicated.”

Interior and exterior pictures of St. Mary’s Memorial Church built in 1889-90 “on a lot of ground at the intersection of Lancaster and Louella avenues, presented by the Wayne Estate” show the church little changed in the sixty years that have passed. “The total length of the building, exclusive of the porch”, so reads the description, “is 113 feet, and its width across the trancept is 82 feet. In style it is an English Village Church, with a massive tower at the corner of the north trancept, rising to the height of about 80 feet, and containing an exceptionally fine chime of ten bells, varying in weight from 230 to 2100 pounds. The material of the Church is Avondale stone with cut work of Indiana limestone. The nave occupies the entire length of the building, the roof being supported by heavy Gothic braces. The base of the Tower forms a spacious Baptistry, floored with mosaic, and there are clergy and choir vestries on the South of the chancel. The chancel itself has a depth of 33 feet, and is separated from the nave by a richly carved oaken Rood-screen.”

Opened for service on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1890, the building is a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Conrad of Philadelphia. Its memorial character has been “accentuated by various gifts, such as windows, brass work, paintings, etc., in memory of others. A parish house, connected with the church by a porte-cochere and corridor, is 56 by 54 feet, and contains Sunday and Infant School rooms, class rooms, a library, kitchen, etc.”

The entire group of buildings, including the Rector’s house, stood originally on an undivided lot of nearly four acres. The Township Building was the original Rector’s house, the present Rectory having been built at a later date.

Finley House, other old buildings – Radnor Baptist Church (1st Baptist)

Another farm which Joseph M. Fronefield, Jr., describes in his chronicle of early Wayne days from which I quoted at length last week, is the Ramsey place, which has been mentioned earlier in this column. Situated in North Wayne on what is now Bellevue avenue, the lovely old farm house remains, much as it was when it was built in 1789. Occupied by Miss Dorothy Finley, one room is now the headquarters of the Radnor Historical Society.

Miss Finley tells me that when her family acquired it in 1889 the original old barn was then standing. Her father had it torn down but the stone in it was used to build the addition on the north side of the house. The room which houses the treasures now being acquired by the Historical Society was the basement kitchen of the original old house.

Of the Ramsey place, Mr. Fronefield writes “North of the railroad was the Ramsey farm, the house now being the home of W. H. Finley. Its entrance was from Eagle road. Many times during the winter Eagle road was so blocked with snow that the occupants of this farm had to cross the railroad tracks and the Jones farm to the Lancaster Pike.”

“There was also an old stone farm house standing at what is now the corner of Walnut avenue and Oak lane. The spring house on the property is now in the rear of the home of Dr. Smith.” (This property is now owned by C. W. T. Stuart and the spring house is clearly visible to the passerby as he turns off Walnut avenue onto Oak lane.)

Of the old buildings of that period Mr. Fronefield describes the Radnor Baptist Church as “a rectangular building, with its sheds close by on the corner of Conestoga road and Hall lane. This building was replaced after some years by the present building and the name changed to the First Baptist Church of Wayne.” Although long vacant now, the old church building still stands on Conestoga road. Even before the original building became a church, Mr. Fronefield states it was a public hall known as Radnor Hall. From this building Hall lane took its name. As it went in a northeasterly direction from the old church the lane “passed over the ground where Lienhardt’s store and La Dow’s drugstore now stand, crossed Lancaster Pike diagonally, passed over the ground upon which the Presbyterian Church now stands and terminated at the station which was close to the point where the back of the Waynewood Hotel now stands.” (La Dow’s drugstore is now the Sun Ray Store, and the Waynewood Hotel is now called the Wayne Hotel).

“The old presbyterian Church was standing on the east side of the station road with its sheds on the west side” according to Mr. Fronefield. This first church building still stands to the east of the present Presbyterian Church and is known as the Chapel. In 1870 it was given to the charter members by one of Wayne’s most distinguished citizens, J. Henry Askin, whose home “Louella House” has already been described in this column. The present church building was erected in 1890 and the present Church School was added in 1922.

Other buildings of that early period included “the Radnor Lyceum Hall, a frame building which stood on the north side of the Lancaster Pike, east of the point where Pembroke avenue now crosses it. This old building can be credited with the birth of Radnor Library (afterwards known as the George W. Childs Library and the Wayne Library), the Wayne Building and Loan Association and the Merryvale Athletic Association, afterwards changed to the Radnor Cricket Club.”

Mr. Fronefield’s description continues “a fine old, stone house, known as the Manley House, stood on the eastern end of the Louella grounds and near the railroad. This house was occupied by J. H. Askin before building Louella House . . . it was subsequently torn down.

“The large farm barns, of which there were two with the Askin farm, stood on the north side of Lancaster Pike, one about where Hale’s garage now is and near the Pike, with the other back about where Love’s garage now is. A harness room facing the pike was the place at which William P. Sassaman started his Wayne career when Wayne was in its infancy. These barns were used as a boarding and livery stables and housed some of the finest equipages in this country.

“Just east of the barns was that gem of the neighborhood, a grand little old white-washed, rose-covered clapboard, story-and-a-half tall house, sheltered by a couple of enormous willow trees and no doubt built about 1792, when the Lancaster Pike was laid out. Davis Whiteman, the local shoemaker, occupied it and repaired shoes while his good wife collected the toll. This house made way for improvements in the very early days. Near it, and in the meadow north of the Lancaster Pike, about back of the house of A. L. Weadley, stood a square stone house over a spring . . . this also departed in the early days.”

(To Be Continued)