Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania
|Elevation||302 ft (92 m)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (EST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (EDT)|
|Area codes||610, 484|
Bala Cynwyd ( / / BAL-ə-KIN-wuud) is a community in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania. It is located on the Main Line in Southeastern Pennsylvania, bordering the western edge of Philadelphia at U.S. Route 1 (City Avenue). It was originally two separate towns, Bala and Cynwyd, but is commonly treated as a single community. This came about when a single US Post Office served both towns (the "Bala Cynwyd" Branch) using ZIP code 19004. The community was long known as hyphenated Bala-Cynwyd. Bala and Cynwyd are currently served by separate stations on SEPTA's Cynwyd Line of Regional Rail.
Bala Cynwyd lies in the Welsh Tract of Pennsylvania and was settled in the 1680s by Welsh Quakers, who named it after the town of Bala and the village of Cynwyd in Wales. A mixed residential community made up predominantly of single-family detached homes, it extends west of the Philadelphia city limits represented by City Avenue from Old Lancaster Road at 54th Street west to Meeting House Lane and then along Manayunk and Conshohocken State Roads north to Mary Watersford Road, then east along Belmont Avenue back to City. This large residential district contains some of Lower Merion's oldest and finest stone mansions, built mainly from 1880 through the 1920s and located in the sycamore-lined district between Montgomery Avenue and Levering Mill Road, as well as split level tract houses built east of Manayunk Road just after World War II.
The oldest commercial district and the original center of Bala Cynwyd straddles the bridge over the old Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, originally belonging to the Columbia Railroad and now part of the SEPTA Cynwyd Line, along Montgomery Avenue at Bala Avenue. This district, long on the National Register of Historic Places, was settled shortly after William Penn's landing in Pennsylvania in 1682 and contains the village's oldest commercial buildings, some dating to the earliest years of the 19th century. Bala Avenue itself is an extension of this original town center and comprises a specialized commercial district of its own more than a century old; it has long been known for its children's clothing stores, women's dress and consignment shops, the Bala Theater and a number of small restaurants. The remainder of Bala Cynwyd's original commercial district extends south along Montgomery Avenue as part of the Bala Cynwyd-Merion Commercial District and is coextensive with the commercial center of Merion, with its popular delicatessens and restaurants.
Bala Cynwyd has long been home to most of the broadcasting outlets in the Philadelphia region. In 1952, CBS television station WCAU-TV built its headquarters at the corner of City Avenue and Monument Road. Now an NBC owned-and-operated station, the station was located there until 2018, when the studios moved to the Comcast Technology Center in Center City Philadelphia, though some operations remain at the former studios. A decade later, ABC affiliate WFIL-TV moved to a new studio directly across the street from WCAU on City Avenue, just inside the Philadelphia city limits. The station, now ABC O&O WPVI-TV, is still based there today. Bala Cynwyd is also home to Beasley Broadcast Group's WBEN-FM, WMGK, WMMR and WPEN. iHeartMedia's WDAS-FM, WDAS-AM, WUSL, WRFF, WUMR, and WIOQ radio stations are located on Presidential Boulevard; independently owned WBEB is located on City Avenue. CBS's WGMP (now WPHT) left Bala Cynwyd to move to Philadelphia when NBC and CBS swapped stations in 1995, as did WTEL (formerly WIP) and WIP-FM (formerly WYSP). As of 2016, after some moves in and out of Philadelphia, CBS stations WXTU, WOGL, and WTDY are located in Bala. Bala Cynwyd is also the corporate home of Entercom Communications Corporation, which is poised to be the second largest owner of radio stations in the United States, following its announcement of a merger with CBS Radio February 2, 2017.
The Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center, completed in 1957, lies a half mile to the south of the village center, bordering Philadelphia on City Avenue. Its major outlets are Acme Markets, Olive Garden, US Mailroom and LA Fitness; Saks Fifth Avenue is located a block to the East.
The village is home to houses of worship of many religions. The oldest of these is Saint John's Episcopal Church on Levering Mill Road, founded in 1863. Saint Matthias Catholic Church is also found one block south of Montgomery on Bryn Mawr Avenue. Bala Cynwyd has also drawn a number of Modern Orthodox and Conservative Jews who live within walking distance of Lower Merion Synagogue and Congregation Adath Israel on Old Lancaster Road where Bala Cynwyd meets Merion. Churches of other denominations are located in nearby Narberth, Wynnewood, Merion, and Wynnefield/Overbrook.
The Neighborhood Club of Bala Cynwyd, established in 1906, works to preserve the residential character of the neighborhood and promote civic welfare and community spirit. It sponsors an annual Independence Day celebration on July 4 which begins in front of the Union Fire Association on Montgomery Avenue and ends at the Bala Cynwyd Playground. The parade features neighborhood children riding decorated bicycles, marchers in costumes, clowns, floats, fire trucks, police, and public officials.
The Lower Merion Historical Society recently[when?] relocated its headquarters from Ashbridge House in Rosemont to the ancient Cynwyd Academy building, adjacent to Bala Cynwyd Middle School on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Cynwyd.
Bala Cynwyd is served by the Lower Merion School District with its headquarters in Ardmore. Public school children of area residents attend the Cynwyd Elementary School on Levering Mill Road, Belmont Hills Elementary School on Madison Avenue, and Bala Cynwyd Middle School on North Bryn Mawr Avenue. High school students living in Bala Cynwyd may choose between Lower Merion High School in Ardmore and Harriton High School in Rosemont.
Another school in Bala Cynwyd is Kohelet Yeshiva High School on Old Lancaster Road. Located on Montgomery Avenue at Bryn Mawr Avenue is Kosloff Torah Academy, an Orthodox Jewish, private all-girls high school serving the local and general Philadelphia region. The private, Catholic Merion Mercy and Waldron Mercy Academies are only a quarter mile up Montgomery Avenue in Merion. The bilingual French International School of Philadelphia, on North Highland Avenue, teaches approximately 320 children from pre-kindergarten (K3) to eighth grade in French and English.
The Bala Cynwyd Public Library, part of the six-branch Lower Merion Library System, occupies a modern facility on Old Lancaster Road. It is home to more than 221,000 items and features up-to-date computer facilities and a dedicated children's library on the second floor. The system as a whole, with its central library located at Bryn Mawr's Ludington Memorial Library on South Bryn Mawr Avenue, is home to more than 1.4 million items and stands in the 99th percentile nationwide for annual resident visits and volumes per resident capita.
- Hobey Baker, namesake of NCAA men's hockey award
- Tom Baker, Professor at Penn Law and Reporter for the forthcoming Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance published by the American Law Institute
- Chuck Barris, American game show creator, producer, and host; songwriter; author
- James A. Bland, 19th century minstrel and composer (Oh, Dem Golden Slippers, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny) is buried here at Merion Memorial Park
- Kobe Bryant, NBA Basketball player, attended Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Lower Merion High School
- Paul Cava, photographer, resides here
- Robert Fagles, translator and Lower Merion High School graduate
- Stan Fine, magazine gag cartoonist
- Bob Garfield, co-host of On the Media on National Public Radio
- Alexander Haig, United States Army general and later United States Secretary of State
- Antonio Guiteras Holmes, Cuban politician in the 1930s, was born in Bala Cynwyd
- Skip James, blues musician, is buried here at Merion Memorial Park (https://www.merionmemorial.com/)
- Bruce Marks (born 1957), American politician
- Mirah, singer-songwriter
- Julie Nathanson, voice actress, hails from here
- Jane Norman, actress best known for her role as Pixanne in the children's television program of the same name
- Samuel Proof, starred in Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on the Adult Swim network
- Jack Rose, guitarist
- Ben Shibe, historic sporting goods and baseball executive
Places of interest
- West Laurel Hill Cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Merion Memorial Park is a historic cemetery where many prominent Black Philadelphians, among others, are buried. Its eight sections are named for notable figures in 19th-century abolitionism and civil rights: Banneker, Catto, Lincoln, Montgomery, Reynolds, Stevens, Sumner, and White.
- The Cynwyd Heritage Trail is a 2-mile (3.2 km) linear park and rail-to-trail that connects Lower Merion Township to Manayunk through the Manayunk Bridge over the Schuylkill River.
In popular culture
- Bala Cynwyd was hometown to the fictional character Vida Boheme, a drag queen played by Patrick Swayze in the 1995 movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. The respective scenes were filmed in Montclair, New Jersey.
- Bala Cynwyd was the location of a home invasion in the 2000 movie Unbreakable.
- Not *[ˈbala ˈkənwɨd] like its Welsh namesakes.
- Bean, Theodore W. (1884). Montgomery County: The First Two Hundred Years. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck.
- Jones, Dick (2001). The First Three Hundred: The Amazing and Rich History of Lower Merion. Ardmore: The Lower Merion Historical Society.
- "Chronology of Football 1941-1950". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- "Chronology of Football 1951-1960". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "School Boundary Maps". Lower Merion School District. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
- "Our Students Archived 2014-05-14 at the Wayback Machine." French International School of Philadelphia. Retrieved on May 14, 2014.
- Mother And Wife Sustain His `Odyssey' - philly-archives. Articles.philly.com (2011-10-09). Retrieved on 2016-08-15.
- Bob Garfield, "The Paleozoic Internet" Archived 2011-06-13 at the Wayback Machine, On the Media, June 10, 2011.
- Avery, Ron (21 September 1994). "A wealth of history is buried in Merion". Retrieved 17 April 2022.
- "History of Merion Cemetery". Merion Memorial Park.