The Philadelphia Main Line Real Estate Agency
12 St. Albans Circle, Newtown Square, PA 19073
Office 610.325.4100 :: Direct 610.642.4607 :: Fax 610.642.1715 :: Cell 610.506.0802
A proven track record of exceeding buyer expectations!
We specialize in Merion home buying, financing and relocation. Merion is located on the Philadelphia Main Line.
|Merion is a residential
suburban community contiguous to Philadelphia and bordered by Bala-Cynwyd, Narberth, and
Wynnewood. Three of the oldest streets in Lower Merion form its boundaries: Old Lancaster
Road, City Line Avenue, and Lancaster Avenue. It is intersected by a fourth, Merion Road,
which began as a trail between the Darby and Merion meetinghouses.
Merion Friends Meetinghouse, at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Meetinghouse Lane, was built in 1695 and enlarged in 1714 by Welsh settlers who had purchased land from William Penn. A celebration of the stone building's bicentennial was held in 1895, when members and friends sat down in a large tent to hear historical papers, poetry, and a prayer by the young Rufus M. Jones, later to be cofounder of the American Friends Service Committee and a professor at Haverford College. Fifty years later, September 16, 1945, the 250th anniversary celebration took place and Rufus Jones again spoke, as did Justice Owen J. Roberts of the United States Supreme Court and a descendant of the pioneer John Roberts. In 1982 the Merion Friends marked the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of their meeting.
The meetinghouse stands just outside a walled graveyard in which members of the meeting, as well as a number of nonmembers, lie buried. Modern heating has been installed, and indirect electric lighting illuminates the plain white plaster and dark paneling of the interior. Upstairs a small schoolroom contains desks where Indian as well as white children once learned their ABCs. The Merion Friends Nursery School was organized in 1950 by a member, Juliet Mills, in the new Activities Building finished in 1949. The school closed in 1979 because of declining enrollment.
Next door to the Friends meetinghouse stands the General Wayne, a typical crossroads tavern of the early eighteenth century, where today luncheons and dinners are served. The inn was named for "Mad Anthony" Wayne, who was entertained here in 1796 after his victory at Fallen Timbers. Beginning in 1806 the Wayne became a polling place, and briefly in 1830 and from 1850 to 1882 served as a post office. Until about 1883 the premises were known to summer visitors as a hotel catering to city folk. The Lower Merion Board of Commissioners had its first meeting at the General Wayne in 1900, and held road repair contract auctions there for several years. During the Depression years the General Wayne ceased to operate as a hotel, was used as a gasoline station, and eventually reopened as a tavern. A fire in 1963 gutted a portion of the main building but left the walls standing and it was rebuilt. In 1980 Barton Johnson owned the restaurant: as founder and president of the Anthony Wayne Historical Association, Inc., he led the effort to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just behind the General Wayne Inn and across Meetinghouse Lane William McDowell sold seventy one acres in 1876 to the Belmont Driving Park Association for harness racing, then the most popular sport in America. An oval course eighty feet wide and one mile in length was laid out; later a half-mile track was built inside the larger course. The association built a frame grandstand and later added a four-story clubhouse with tower, cupola, and two long verandas overlooking the track. This building still exists in two parts, each made into a private residence. The culminating event in the nearly fifty years of the Belmont's history was the Grand Circuit of 1917, then as prestigious as the Kentucky Derby. In 192~ the park was sold to Martin Maloney, who developed it into 347 building lots in the section called Merion Park.
In 1881 the roughly rectangular area of Merion bounded east and west by Old Lancaster Road and Lancaster Pike, and north and south by modern Rockland Road and City Line Avenue, was owned by 31 families: the biggest landowners on both sides of the railroad were Isaac Hazelhurst, James Sullivan, William Simpson, William F. Potts, Joseph B. Townsend, and Thomas Suplee, each owning between 36 and 88 acres, and Jacob Stadelnan who controlled 155 acres along City Avenue stretching well beyond the boundary of Merion. In the following three decades however, executives of the Pennsylvania Railroad as well as other wealthy refugees from the city increased the number of owners in Merion's basic rectangle to 82 in 1900 and 189 in 1913.
The railroad was the community's lifeline to the city--even household supplies and groceries were patiently unloaded from the trains and left at the station for cooks and butlers to retrieve. Already a pleasant place, Merion improved after Edward W. Bok, who Lived on North Highland Avenue at Merion Road and was editor of the successful Ladies Home Journal, organized the Merion Civic Association in 1913. It chose the motto "To be Nation right and State right, we must first be Community right." So much was accomplished to make Merion the ideal suburb--paving, better lighting, fire and police protection, and ornamental trees--that President Theodore Roosevelt wrote an article in 1917 for Bok's magazine entitled "Model Merion." Bok and his wife, Mary Louise Curtis, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music, were patrons of the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose famous conductor, Leopold Stokowski, lived in Merion from 1917 until about 1920).
After World War I the people of Merion resolved to build a "Peace Memorial Community House." As they struggled to collect funds, the founder and president of the Victor Talking Machine Company, Eldridge R. Johnson, and his wife, Elsie Fenimore Johnson, residents of Merion, offered to give their home and eight acres on Hazelhurst Avenue, adding sufficient money to demolish the old house, build and endow "the most beautiful structure of its kind in this locality." Dedication of the Merion War Tribute House, as the community center was finally named, was held May 12, 1924. The Tribute House served as the meeting place for the Merion Civic Association, Marion Community Association (Board of Directors for the Tribute House), Merion Garden Club, Botanical Society of Lower Merion, and American Legion Post 545. More than one hundred party rentals each year help offset the cost of maintaining the building and grounds.
In World War II Merion had more than three hundred participants, including several women. Fourteen men died; one was the son of Waiter Karcher, codesigner of the War Tribute House.
In 1946 rumors circulated that planners in Philadelphia intended to develop one or more major arteries to the west to relieve pressure on Lancaster Pike. One of the suggested routes was Old Merion Road. Alarmed, the Merion Civic Association once again armed itself, as it had against apartment houses, duplexes, unwanted institutions, and the Like, to prevent the widening of Merion Road. Under the leadership of the president, Henry Hallowell, Merion united the civic groups along the Main Line to push for an alternate route, namely the "Valley Forge Parkway," today the Schuylkill Expressway.
Merion has two museums: the Buten Museum of Wedgwood and the Barnes Foundation museum. The Arboretum of the Barnes Foundation, based in part on the collection of trees and plants of Joseph Lapsley Wilson, former owner of the property, offers a three-year program of classes in botany, horticulture, and landscape architecture.
The Lower Merion Botanical Society was founded in 1944 to rescue sixteen weedy, rat-infested acres from developers. With the help of the township, the civic association, and Dr. and Mrs. Albert C. Barnes, the Merion Botanical Park was planted between Merion Road and the railroad south of the station.
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