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R5 train entering the Paoli station.

The Main Line is an unofficial region of suburban Philadelphia comprising a collection of affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (currently Amtrak's Keystone Corridor and SEPTA's R5 line) which runs northwest from Center City Philadelphia. The rail line, from which the area affectionately got its name, was central to creating the Main Line communities which in the 19th century became home to many sprawling country estates built by Philadelphia's wealthiest families.

Contents

History

The Main Line around 1895.
The old clubhouse of the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford (1892).

The area comprising the Main Line was once home to the Lenni Lenape Indians. The Main Line was settled by Europeans in the 1600s, when William Penn sold a tract of land (the Welsh Tract) to a group of Welsh Quakers for ten cents an acre.[citation needed] This accounts for the many Welsh place names in the area, though not all date to the 1600s. For example Bryn Mawr was thus named only in 1869, previously being named Humphreysville.

The Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was constructed during the early nineteenth century as part of the Main Line of Public Works that spanned Pennsylvania. Later in the century, the railroad, which owned much of the land surrounding the tracks, encouraged the development of this picturesque environment by building way stations along the portion of its track closest to Philadelphia. The construction of sprawling estates attracted Philadelphia elite, many of whom had one house in the city and another larger "country home" on the Main Line. In the 20th century, many of these families relocated to the Main Line suburbs, part of the national trend of white flight and suburbanizaton. As a result, the Main Line saw rapid investment, prosperity, and growth into greater Philadelphia's most affluent and fashionable region.

The railroad placed stops approximately two minutes apart, starting with Overbrook. The surrounding communities became known by the railroad station names which started at Broad Street Station in downtown Philadelphia and went on to 32nd St. Station, and then the stops were named Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli. Malvern was added to regular suburban service later. At least five of these station buildings, along with the first Bryn Mawr Hotel, were designed by Wilson Brothers & Company. Broad Street Station was replaced with Suburban Station in 1930, and 30th Street Station replaced 32nd Street three years later. Suburban service now extends to Malvern, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale.[1] The train that served these stations was known as the "Paoli Local", and that name became a near-synonym for the Main Line itself.

The actual railroad line then continued on to Chicago, with major stations at Lancaster, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The railroad, since taken over by Amtrak, is still in service, although its route is slightly different from the original. It also serves the R5 line of the SEPTA Regional Rail system.

The Main Line today

Downtown Wayne (located in Radnor Township) with an AT&T tower in the background

Today the Main Line is another name for the western suburbs of Philadelphia along Lancaster Avenue (U.S. Route 30) and the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, extending from the city limits to traditionally Bryn Mawr and ultimately Paoli, Pennsylvania[2] comprising an area of approximately 200 square miles. The upper/upper middle class enclave outside of Philadelphia has historically been one of the bastions of "old money" in the Northeast along with places such as Westchester County, New York and Greenwich, Connecticut. It is home to some of the wealthiest places in the United States, such as Gladwyne, Pennsylvania which has the 14th highest per-capita income in the country with a population of 1,000 or more, as well as Lower Merion Township which has the 5th highest per-capita income in the country with 50,000 or more.[citation needed]

The Main Line was also the setting for the classic Hepburn/Grant/Stewart motion picture The Philadelphia Story. With diverse topography, steep cliffs along the Schuylkill River, rolling hills, and open meadows, the region has benefited from the early planning of William Penn. The Main Line is known for its multimillion-dollar stone Colonial homes, exclusivity, and upscale shopping at celebrated destinations like Suburban Square in Ardmore and the King of Prussia Mall, one of the largest in the country. There is some disparity on the Main Line, with smaller homes and walkable village life in Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, and Narberth contrasting with the more established suburban landscape. There are also established African-American residential areas, in enclaves paralleling Lancaster Avenue said to have once housed people serving on the estates of the wealthy. The Main Line is home to some of the better colleges in the country, including Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Eastern University, and Villanova University, as well as some of the most famous and exclusive private schools in the United States. The Haverford School for Boys, The Agnes Irwin School, Friends' Central School, Baldwin, and The Shipley School are especially prestigious institutions.

Communities on the Main Line

The Main Line proper is a line of communities extending northwest from the City of Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, the stations on what is now referred to as the R5 train line are: Overbrook,[3] Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr, which inspired the mnemonic "Old Maids Never Wed And Have Babies". The other rail line communities are outside the traditional Main Line and sometimes considered the Upper Main Line: Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, Paoli, and Malvern. In recent years, the R5 train service has extended to the west of Paoli. Some communities, most notably Gladwyne, Bala Cynwyd, and Penn Valley, are included in what is commonly accepted as the Main Line, as they are typical Main Line communities, are adjacent to Main Line towns. Neither, however, is located on the rail line for which the area is named and therefore they may be considered culturally rather than geographically on the Main Line.

The Main Line by community:

The Main Line by municipality:[4]

Demographics

There are no collective data for the Main Line so all data are by ZIP code. In comparison, the median family income and home price for the state of Pennsylvania are $68,646 and $155,000, respectively.[5][6] The following ZIP codes are those within the previously mentioned municipalities that make up the Main Line. All data, with the exception of average home price, are as of the 2000 census.[7]

ZIP code Towns/Aliases Population Median family income* Average home price
19003 Ardmore 12,902 $72,990 $299,746[8]
19004 Bala Cynwyd, Belmont Hills 9,299 $98,183 $511,381[9]
19010 Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Garrett Hill 21,485 $110,956 $866,346[10]
19035 Gladwyne 4,050 $200,000+ $1,372,038[11]
19041 Haverford 6,652 $121,046 $1,168,496[12]
19066 Merion 5,951 $118,083 $635,481[13]
19072 Narberth, Penn Valley 9,824 $106,057 $718,746[14]
19085 Villanova, Ithan 9,189 $174,511 $1,435,844[15]
19087 Wayne, Radnor, St. Davids, Strafford, Chesterbrook 30,892 $105,680 $737,025[16]
19096 Wynnewood, Penn Wynne 13,299 $111,683 $500,719[17]
19301 Paoli 6,804 $87,946 $526,731[18]
19312 Berwyn 10,911 $110,083 $741,338[19]
19333 Devon 7,408 $101,279 $1,355,923[20]
19355 Malvern, Frazer 22,605 $90,606 $850,250[21]

For comparison, the median family income of Beverly Hills, California is $110,040.

Recreation and attractions

Rider jumping in a sidesaddle class at the Devon Horse Show.
  • The Appleford Estate: A 300-year-old 24 acre estate located in Villanova. Today it is carefully maintained as an arboretum and a bird sanctuary. Its gardens were designed by renowned landscape architect Thomas Sears and include woods, meadows, formal gardens, brick walkways, rhododendron tracts, a stream, pond, and waterfall. Visitors are welcome to visit free of charge and the house is available as a rental for special events.[22]
  • Barnes Foundation: An educational art institute located in Lower Merion. The Foundation possesses more than 2500 objects, including 800 paintings by artist such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso.[23]
  • Bryn Mawr Film Institute: A non-profit community theater founded in 2002 in the old Bryn Mawr theater building, built in 1926, which it is in the process of significantly restoring and renovating. The institute offers showings of classic movies of the 20th century, opera, film education courses, and film discussions.[24]
  • Chanticleer Garden: located in Wayne
  • The Devon Horse Show: The oldest and largest multi-breed horse show in the U.S.
  • Harriton House: Located in Bryn Mawr, it was built in 1704 by a Welsh Quaker named Rowland Ellis. He named the estate "Bryn Mawr", meaning "high hill" in Welsh, which is where the community gained its name. The house's best known occupant was Charles Thompson, the first and only secretary of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.[25]
  • King of Prussia Mall: An upscale shopping mall which is arguably America's largest shopping complex at one location.
  • Merion Golf Club: Ranked America's 7th best golf course in 2008 and will host the U.S. Open in 2013.
  • Philadelphia Country Club: One of the first 100 golf courses established in the USA. Hosted the 1939 U.S. Open.
  • Radnor Hunt Club: A club for country horse riding and for a yearly spring fox hunt in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
  • Valley Forge National Historic Park: The site where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777–1778 during the American Revolutionary War.

Sporting and social clubs

Looking down the first fairway at Merion Golf Club.

Private Clubs played an important role in the development of the Main Line, offering social gathering places, facilities for sports such as cricket, golf, tennis, squash, and horseback riding, for the families relocating from Philadelphia to the suburban region. Many of the clubs are known for their award winning golf courses, grass tennis courts, exclusivity, and social functions. Some of these clubs include:

Education

One of the best assets of the Main Line is its numerous nationally ranked public and private schools. The school districts that serve the Main Line are Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County, Radnor Township School District and School District of Haverford Township in Delaware County, and Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and Great Valley School District in Chester County. In addition to the Main Line's nationally ranked public schools, the region is also home to some of the best and most exclusive private schools in the country.

Public High Schools

Private Schools

Catholic Schools

Higher education

Corr Hall at Villanova University

Transportation

The Main Line is served by numerous different modes of transportation, and benefits from an ideal position within the Philadelphia region. U.S. Route 30 (Lancaster Avenue) is the main thoroughfare through the Main Line; running east to west, it is the backbone of the region and runs through the large majority of its towns and municipalities. The Main Line benefits from numerous highways, including the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) which connects it to Center City Philadelphia, I-476 which runs north to south connecting the region with the Northeast Extension and the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the north, and to Philadelphia International Airport and I-95 to the south. The Main Line is served by three train lines operated by SEPTA, the R5 and the R6 which connect the region with Center City Philadelphia, and the Route 100 Highspeed Line [26] which runs between 69th terminal in Upper Darby to Norristown. Amtrak also serves the region at certain stations along the Keystone Corridor.

Main Line in books, movies, music and television

Cover of The Philadelphia Story

Notable Main Liners, Past and Present

Grace Kelly, former Princess of Monaco

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.septa.com/service/sched/r5s_wk.html Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA")—Thorndale and Paoli to Central Philadelphia train schedule
  2. ^ Philly NRHS - PRR History
  3. ^ The community of Overbrook is a neighborhood within the city limits of Philadelphia and so is generally not regarded as being part of the Main Line.
  4. ^ Local Information. Main Line Chamber of Commerce. Accessed 15 October 2009.
  5. ^ http://www.brainyzip.com
  6. ^ http://www.zip-codes.com
  7. ^ http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en
  8. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/ardmore-real-estate-market
  9. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/bala-cynwyd-real-estate-market
  10. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/bryn-mawr-real-estate-market
  11. ^ http://www.forbes.com/zipcodes/2009/zipspage.html?zip=19035&city=Gladwyne
  12. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/haverford-real-estate-market
  13. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/merion-station-real-estate-market
  14. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/narberth-real-estate-market
  15. ^ http://www.forbes.com/zipcodes/2009/zipspage.html?zip=19085&city=villanova
  16. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/wayne-real-estate-market
  17. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/wynnewood-real-estate-market
  18. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/paoli-real-estate-market
  19. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/berwyn-real-estate-market
  20. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/devon-real-estate-market
  21. ^ http://www.altosresearch.com/research/PA/malvern-real-estate-market
  22. ^ http://www.applefordestate.com/appleford_history
  23. ^ http://www.barnesfoundation.org
  24. ^ http://www.brynmawrfilm.org/bmfi.htm
  25. ^ http://www.harritonhouse.org/history.htm
  26. ^ http://www.septa.com/maps/route_100.html

External links

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