Philadelphia Main Line
The Main Line is an unofficial historical and socio-cultural region of suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along the former Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which runs northwest from downtown Philadelphia parallel to Lancaster Avenue (US Route 30).
The railroad connected the Main Line towns in the 19th century. They became home to sprawling country estates belonging to Philadelphia's wealthiest families, and over the decades became a bastion of "old money". Today, the Main Line includes some of the wealthiest communities in the country, including Lower Merion Township, Radnor Township, Gladwyne, and Villanova.
- 1 History
- 2 The Main Line today
- 3 Communities on the Main Line
- 4 Demographics
- 5 Transportation
- 6 Recreation and attractions
- 7 Sporting and social clubs
- 8 Education
- 9 Higher education
- 10 In popular culture
- 11 Notable Main Liners
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The Main Line region was long part of Lenapehoking, the homeland of the matrilineal Lenni Lenape Native Americans (the "true people", or "Delaware Indians"). Europeans arrived in the 1600s, after William Penn sold a tract of land, called the Welsh Tract, to a group of Welsh Quakers in London in 1681. This accounts for the many Welsh place names in the area.
The Pennsylvania Railroad built its main line during the early 19th 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 benefits of what was touted as "healthy yet cultivated country living" attracted Philadelphia's social 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 moved to the Main Line suburbs. Part of the national trend of suburbanization, this drove rapid investment, prosperity, and growth that turned the area into greater Philadelphia's most affluent and fashionable region. Estates with sweeping lawns and towering maples, the débutante balls and the Merion Cricket Club, which drew crowds of 25,000 spectators to its matches in the early 1900s, were the setting for the 1940 Grant/Hepburn/Stewart motion picture The Philadelphia Story.
The railroad placed stops about two minutes apart, starting with Overbrook. The surrounding communities became known by the railroad station names which started at Broad Street Station in Center City Philadelphia and went on to 32nd St. Station, and then the Main Line stations: Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli. 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 the western Main Line communities of Malvern, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale.
The 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 Paoli/Thorndale Line of the SEPTA Regional Rail system.
The Main Line today
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, an area of about 200 square miles (520 km2). The upper- and upper middle-class enclave has historically been one of the bastions of "old money" in the Northeast, along with places like Long Island's Gold Coast, Westchester County, New York, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
It is home to some of the wealthiest communities in the United States, such as Gladwyne, which has the 14th highest per-capita income in the country for places with a population of 1,000 or more. The eastern section of Villanova also was ranked 39th in "The Elite 100 Highest Income Neighborhoods in America" with a median annual household income of $366,904.
Neighborhoods along the Main Line include nineteenth and early twentieth century railroad suburbs and post-war subdivisions, as well as a few surviving buildings from before the suburban area.
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 Paoli/Thorndale (formerly "R5") Line are: Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr, which inspired the mnemonic "Old Maids Never Wed And Have Babies". The Main Line now encompasses many communities past Bryn Mawr including the Upper Main Line communities of Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford and Paoli. Western Main Line communities start at Malvern and include Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale.
There is collective data for the Main Line, so all data is by ZIP code. In comparison, the median family income and home price for the state of Pennsylvania are $68,646 and $155,000, respectively. 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. For comparison, the median family income of Beverly Hills, California is $110,040.
|ZIP code||Name/Aliases||Population||Median family income||Average home price|
|19010||Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Garrett Hill||21,485||$110,956||$866,346|
|19072||Narberth, Penn Valley||9,824||$106,057||$718,746|
|19087||Wayne, Radnor, St. Davids, Strafford, Chesterbrook||30,892||$105,680||$737,025|
|19096||Wynnewood, Penn Wynne||14,179||$111,683||$500,719|
The Main Line is served by numerous different modes of transportation among which are three commuter rail lines operated by SEPTA. Connecting the region directly with center city Philadelphia are the Paoli/Thorndale Line which shares the former Pennsylvania Railroad four track Keystone Corridor grade with Amtrak, and the Manayunk/Norristown Line which operates over the former Reading Railroad Norristown grade. The light rail Norristown High Speed Line runs over the Philadelphia and Western Railroad line between 69th terminal in Upper Darby to Norristown. Amtrak's intercity Keystone Service (New York to Harrisburg) and Pennsylvanian (New York to Pittsburgh) also serve the region with stops at the jointly operated Amtrak/SEPTA stations at Ardmore and Paoli.
The main thoroughfare through the Main Line is U.S. Route 30 which follows Lancaster Avenue (formerly the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike) running east to west and serving as the backbone of the region by connecting a large majority of its towns and municipalities. Other highways serving the area are the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) which connects it to Philadelphia, and the "Blue Route" (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.
Recreation and attractions
- The Appleford Estate: A 300-year-old 24-acre (97,000 m2) 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.
- 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.
- 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 Thomson, the first and only secretary of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
- Friends of the Willows Cottage: The mission of the Friends of the Willows Cottage is to preserve, restore and facilitate the adaptive reuse of the historic gatehouse of the Willows estate in Radnor Township, Pa.
- The Woodmont Estate
Private clubs played an important role in the development of the Main Line, offering social gathering places and facilities for cricket, golf, tennis, squash, and horseback riding to wealthy or socially connected families. Among them are:
- Aronimink Golf Club
- Merion Cricket Club
- Merion Golf Club: Ranked America's 7th best golf course in 2008 and hosted the U.S. Open in 2013.
- Overbrook Golf Club
- 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.
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. The region has numerous nationally ranked public and private schools. Among them are:
Public High Schools
- Bryn Mawr College
- Cabrini College
- Eastern University
- Harcum College
- Haverford College
- Rosemont College
- Saint Joseph's University
- Valley Forge Military Academy and College
- Villanova University
In popular culture
- Happy Tears
- In Her Shoes: Toni Collette's character attends a Main Line wedding and jokes about what she should wear.
- Kitty Foyle
- Taps starring Timothy Hutton and Tom Cruise, filmed at VFMA, featuring scenes in Wayne (at Farmers Market and North Wayne Avenue)
- The Art of War
- The Happiest Millionaire
- The Young Philadelphians
- The Philadelphia Story
- The Sixth Sense: The wake scene was set in Bryn Mawr
- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar: Patrick Swayze's character is from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. The gang makes a detour to see his family home located on Bala Cynwyd's extremely wealthy Highland Avenue (the house shown in the movie still stands today, although it has been recently repainted), just in time to see his snobby-looking mother going into the house. Although Highland Avenue runs through Bala Cynwyd, the home is technically on the neighboring Merion side of the street.
- Trading Places
- Wide Awake
- A Stranger is Watching: The main character's murdered wife Nina grew up in a wealthy Philadelphia Main Line Family. In the book, it mentions that Nina went to Bryn Mawr College.
- Blackbird Sisters mystery novels by Nancy Martin
- Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks
- Official Preppy Handbook, by Lisa Birnbach
- Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard
- Pterodactyls, by Nicky Silver. The play is set in a Main Line house.
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. The character First Corinthians is educated at Bryn Mawr College.
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Valley Forge Military Academy (where Salinger attended for 2 years) is the basis for Pencey Prep. Additionally, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, believes Jane Gallagher to have gone to Shipley, a Main Line private school.
- The It Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar
- The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
- The Man of My Dreams, by Curtis Sittenfeld
- The Badge of Honor Series, by W.E.B. Griffin The main character, Matt Payne, is from Merion.
- All My Children
- My Super Sweet 16
- One Life to Live
- Philadelphia: Andrew Beckett visits his family during Thanksgiving in Lower Merion Township.
- Pretty Little Liars
- How To Get Away With Murder
Notable Main Liners
- Walter Annenberg, billionaire, philanthropist
- Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II; General of the Army, General of the Air Force
- Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies
- Hobart "Hobey" Baker, amateur hockey and football player, member of the Hockey Hall of Fame
- John Bogle, founder and CEO of the Vanguard Group
- David Boreanaz, actor
- The family of Georg Ludwig von Trapp, the family depicted in The Sound of Music
- Kobe Bryant, NBA player
- Tory Burch, fashion designer and New York City socialite
- Alexander Cassatt, former president of the Pennsylvania Railroad
- Chubby Checker, musician
- Pete Conrad, NASA astronaut; third man to walk on the moon
- Kyle Eckel, NFL player
- Julius Erving, NBA player
- Gloria Braggiotti Etting, wife of artist Emlen Etting, author, photographer and hostess
- Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada
- Gideon Glick, actor
- Alexander Haig, U.S. Secretary of State, White House Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
- Andy Hertzfeld, computer scientist (Apple)
- John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado
- Allen Iverson, NBA player
- Hilary Koprowski, polio vaccine pioneer
- Kyle Korver, NBA player
- Patti Labelle, musician
- Jeffrey Lurie, billionaire
- Teddy Pendergrass, musician
- Ronald Perelman, billionaire, controlling owner of MacAndrews & Forbes and Revlon
- J. Howard Pew, son of Joseph N. Pew, founder of Sun Oil Company (Sunoco), The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Andy Reid, former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles
- Alex Scott, founder of the nationwide U.S. charity Alex's Lemonade Stand to raise money for children with cancer
- M. Night Shyamalan, film director
- Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor
- John Spagnola, former NFL player
- Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774–1789
- Emlen Tunnell, NFL Hall of Famer born in Bryn Mawr
- Harris Wofford, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
- Edward T. Welburn, Vice President of Global Design, General Motors
- "Top-Earning Towns". Money.cnn.com. 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
- "Top-earning towns: 20. Radnor Township, PA". CNN Money. 14 July 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
- "America’s Richest Zip Codes 2011". Bloomberg.
- "America’s Richest Zip Codes 2011".
- D'Apéry, Tello J. (1936). Overbrook Farms. Its historical background, growth and community life. Philadelphia: Magee Press. p. 4.
- Fodor's Philadelphia & the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, 16th Edition (Fodor's Gold Guides), New York, p. 106.
- Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA")—Thorndale and Paoli to Central Philadelphia train schedule
- Philly NRHS – PRR History
- The Elite 100: America’s Highest Income Neighborhoods
- The community of Overbrook is a neighborhood within the city limits of Philadelphia and is no longer generally regarded as being part of the Main Line.
- U.S. census
- Ardmore Real Estate Market Today
- Bryn Mawr Real Estate Market Today
- 19041 Zip Code Detailed Profile
- Haverford Real Estate Market Today
- Merion Real Estate Market Today
- Narberth Real Estate Market Today
- Villanova Real Estate Market Today
- Wayne Real Estate Market Today
- Wynnewood Real Estate Market Today
- Paoli Real Estate Market Today
- Berwyn Real Estate Market Today
- Devon Real Estate Market Today
- Malvern Real Estate Market Today
- Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
- Appleford Estate, history
- Bryn Mawr Film Institute
- Harriton House history
- Browning, Charles H. (1912). Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: William J. Campell.
- Harding, George (2011). Main Line by Rail: Its History and Transformation.
- Jones, Dick, ed. (2000). The First 300: The Amazing and Rich History of Lower Merion. Ardmore, PA: The Lower Merion Historical Society.
- The Lower Merion Historical Society: Historical Main Line Maps
- Maps of the Pennsylvania Railroad
- Around Main Line
- Best of Main Line
- Main Line Times
- Main Line Today