Penn Valley, Pennsylvania

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Penn Valley
Unincorporated community
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Montgomery
Township Lower Merion
Elevation 295 ft (89.9 m)
Coordinates 40°01′20″N 75°16′10″W / 40.02222°N 75.26944°W / 40.02222; -75.26944Coordinates: 40°01′20″N 75°16′10″W / 40.02222°N 75.26944°W / 40.02222; -75.26944
Population Under 4,000
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Zip Code 19072
Area code 610 and 484
Location of Penn Valley in Pennsylvania
Map of USA PA.svg
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

Penn Valley is an unincorporated community located within Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania. Penn Valley residents share a zip code with Merion, Narberth, or Wynnewood because the town does not have its own post office. However, Penn Valley is a distinct community with a civic association that helps local residents and visitors demarcate the town's boundaries with an iconic sign (featuring William Penn before a farmhouse and smokestack in blue or red on white) that dates from the town's incorporation in 1930.[1]

History[edit]

Lower Merion was settled in 1682 by Welsh Quakers and in 1713 became a township with about fifty residents. In 1930 the areas known as "Fairview," "Crow's Hill," and "Bowler's Woods" were incorporated to become Penn Valley.

Penn Valley was formerly a farming community. It became more residential in 1939 when the 539-acre farm and mansion known as Penshurst Farm was demolished. Other farms in Penn Valley included "Crow's Hill", which was sold in 1921; "The Grove of the Red Partridges" on Old Gulph Road; and Charles W. Latch's 41-acre family farm. Today, silos can still be found in Penn Valley on Fairview Road.

A silo on Fairview Road

Penhurst Farm[edit]

Penhurst Farm was a 539-acre farm and mansion built and owned by Percival Roberts, scion of the family that founded Lower Merion in 1682. It that was located on both sides of Hagy's Ford Road, Conshohocken State Road, and the Schuylkill River. The mansion was built in 1903 and was made up of 75 rooms, multiple English gardens, and a rock garden with ornamental fountains, a fish pond, and a terraced stairway, elements of which still stand as components of the residence that was subsequently built upon the property. The original mansion also had a private electrical unit and a water-piping system.

The farm on the Penhurst property was one of the most productive in all of Pennsylvania. It had exquisite animals including a pack of award-winning Ayrshire cattle, which were known for eating alfalfa. The farm also had top-notch Berkshire hogs, chickens, and sheep. It has been reported that the farm may have had peacocks because they were seen in Penn Valley during the late 1980s. The farm also had large dairy machines and barns. Their milk was popular because it was not pasteurized, which went against government recommendations.

In 1939 the mansion was demolished and the items were sold at an auction. In 1943 most of the land was sold to Home Life Insurance Company, subdivided, and built upon. The farm's water storage tower persisted into the 1980s on a terrace above the ball fields of Welsh Valley Middle School and gave its name to Tower Lane. It, too, was ultimately demolished when state authorities deemed it a safety hazard.

Today, the only remaining signs of the mansion are its former gates that can be seen off of Conshohocken State Road.[2]

A picture of the Penhurst Mansion and reflecting pool

Penn Valley Women's Club[edit]

Penn Valley houses the Penn Valley Women's Club, which was built in 1826–1828 by farmers where it served as a one-room weekday school and a place for Sunday religious gatherings. The original club was replaced with a new building, in 1876. However, that building was torn down, around 1926, but its remains can be seen today. Until World War 2 the Women's Club was used to hold religious services. The original Penn Valley Women's Club was repaired in 1951 and now houses The Penn Valley Civic Association. In 1978 the Women's Club was designated a historic site by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It was given repairs in 2016.[3]

200 Fairview Road[edit]

Another historic building was located at the corner of Fairview Road and Summit Avenue as a small frame house with a Queen Porch built for the Centennial. Even though the house had Class 2 Historical status the township's Historical Committee reached a compromise allowing the house to be demolished after realizing fire damage from a basement fire would cost an extensive amount to fix. The original house was demolished in August 2013 and a new house was completed in late 2014. [4]

William Penn Milestones[edit]

In 1793 the Mutual Assurance Fire Company of Philadelphia erected milestones to honor William Penn's family for a land donation. Milestones 9–13 were put in Penn Valley. The milestones have a number on the front and three raised cannonballs on a bar within William Penn's family's coat-of-arms.[5]

William Penn Milestone located on 901 Montgomery Avenue

Mill Creek Valley Region[edit]

Part of Mill Creek goes through Penn Valley. In the past, 24 mills were located on Mill Creek, which used its water to power their wool, paper, and powder mills until early in the twentieth century. One miller, John Frederick Bicking, owned a paper mill along Mill Creek and ten acres where Summit Road meets Fairview Road. The Bickings family cemetery can still be found on Fairview Road.[6]

Demographics[edit]

The 2010 Census found that Penn Valley has less than 4,000 residents. Racially, 88% of Penn Valley's residents are Caucasian, 4% are Asian, 2.4% are Hispanic, 1.8% are black and the rest are two or more races, Pacific Islander, American Indian or other race. Of Penn Valley’s Caucasian residents, 14.7% have Russian ancestry and 4.0% have eastern European ancestry.

Penn Valley’s median income is more than $100,000 per family—a higher median income than 99.7% of the country. None of the children in the town live beneath the poverty level.[7]

Geography[edit]

Penn Valley is located in the heart of The Main Line, a part of suburban Philadelphia named after the Pennsylvania Railroad's original rail line to the West. The railroad runs from 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia due west through the communities of Overbrook, Merion, Narberth/Penn Valley, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Wayne, Strafford, Saint Davids, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli.

Most of Penn Valley is residential, except for parts of Montgomery Avenue, which touches the western part of Penn Valley.[8]

Penn Valley is not actually a valley, but Hollow Road does lead into an old ravine that goes towards the river. The elevation from there to Hagys Ford Road is 300 to 380 feet.

Infrastructure[edit]

Lower Merion Township maintains its recycling and refuse burning center at the foot of Woodbine Avenue just beyond the limits of Belmont Hills, the easternmost section of the township that slopes down to the Schuylkill River with the city's Fairmount Park on either bank.

Police and public works are managed in the Lower Merion Township Office Building at 75 East Montgomery Avenue in Ardmore.

Penn Valley is served admirably by the Lower Merion School District, located at the bend of Montgomery Avenue at Church Road in Ardmore across from Lower Merion High School's Hap Arnold Field.

Train stations[edit]

Narberth train station is located a scant mile from the "business district" of Penn Valley on Montgomery Avenue; Merion and Ardmore stations are roughly three miles to the east and west of the district, respectively. All three have heated, enclosed waiting areas, public restrooms, and pay phones. Taxi service can be summoned by telephone. Just under 10% of Penn Valley’s residents take the train to work.

Buses[edit]

SEPTA’s 121 line runs through Penn Valley between Center City and Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, on weekdays.

Hospitals[edit]

Both Bryn Mawr and Lankenau Hospital are located with 5 miles of Penn Valley.[9]

Libraries[edit]

Penn Valley is well serviced by the large and well-endowed Lower Merion Library System, part of the Montgomery County Library System and an affiliate of the numerous excellent academic and professional libraries in Philadelphia and its suburbs. The Lower Merion Library System just renovated (2012) its Narberth Free Library, bordering Narberth Field on Essex Avenue; its Ardmore Free Library on Ardmore Avenue just south of the US Post Office (2013); and the system's central Ludington Memorial Library of Bryn Mawr at the corner of Bryn Mawr Avenue and Lancaster Avenue (Route 30) (2014). Other libraries in the system a short drive from Penn Valley include the Gladwyne Free Library, the Bala-Cynwyd Library, and the Penn Wynne Library. Residents of Lower Merion have free access to all of the libraries in the system. All the libraries have a large variety of books, audio-visual materials, and electronic resources.[10]

Penn Valley has its own Little Free Library, which is a wooden box located on Hagys Ford Road between Margo Lane and Righters Mill Road. The process is that you take a book and in return give a book.[11]

Fire stations[edit]

The two closest Fire Departments are The Gladwyne Fire Station and The Narberth Fire Station. The Gladwyne Fire Station is known for having a dalmatian, Rowdy.

Gladwyne firefighters with Rowdy

Wildlife[edit]

Before Welsh development, Penn Valley's forest was home to bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes, otters, beavers, weasels, turkeys, grouses, woodland bison, trout, and bald eagles. However, after forest destruction by the Welsh and eventual home building after World War 2 many of the rare animals left.[12]

Today, the area is filled with red foxes, white-footed mice, horned owls, red-tailed hawks, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, pheasants, crayfish, songbirds, butterflies, and white-tailed deer. The white-tailed deer pose an occasional problem in Penn Valley because they can halt traffic, destroy the forest underbrush, devour expensive ornamental flowers, and spread Lyme disease. When last counted, Penn Valley contained 44 deer per square mile, 34 more deer per square mile than the recommended average.

In 2017, a coyote was spotted right outside of Penn Valley.

Language[edit]

Penn Valley’s residents primarily speak English. However, 3.5% of the residents primarily speak French.[13]

Education[edit]

Schools[edit]

Nearly all of Penn Valley's public school children attended Penn Valley Elementary School and Welsh Valley Middle School, which are part of Lower Merion School District.[14] Children and their parents may choose between attending Lower Merion High School or Harriton High School. Nearby private schools include Narberth's Catholic St. Margaret School; the all-male Haverford School; the all-female Baldwin School and Agnes Irwin School; and the co-educational Shipley School.

Colleges[edit]

While no colleges are located directly in Penn Valley, many campuses are in the area. Saint Joseph's University[15] is a little more than ten minutes away, with parts of its campus located in Merion and Bala Cynwyd, and Villanova University,[16] with its main campus along Lancaster Avenue. Other nearby colleges include Rosemont College;[17] Haverford College;[18] and the internationally renowned Bryn Mawr College[19] In the state legislature, Penn Valley is in the 148th District and currently represented by Mary Jo Daley; Daylin Leach is its Pennsylvania Senator. In the U.S. Congress, Penn Valley is represented by Dwight Evans. In the 2016 Election, Lower Merion went for Hillary Clinton with a 75% majority.

Penn Valley does not have a mayor or city council. However, it is represented in the Lower Merion Ward of Commissioners by either Daniel Bernheim or Joshua Grimes.[20]

Presidential Election Results
Year Democratic Republican
2016 75.45% 21.20%

Press[edit]

Local events are covered by The Main Line Times, Main Line Life, The Philadelphia Inquirer, KYW Newsradio, KYW-TV (CBS 3), WCAU (Channel 10), WPVI-TV (6 ABC), WPHL-TV (PHL17) and WTXF-TV (FOX 29)

Weather[edit]

Penn Valley tends to have hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The precipitation rate in Penn Valley tends to be higher than the national average.[21]

Natural disasters[edit]

No recorded major natural disaster has ever taken place in Penn Valley. However, major natural disasters have taken place close to the town. In 1994 a 4.6 mb earthquake took place 46 miles from Penn Valley, with a maximum Mercalli intensity of V (Moderate), causing some damage in the Reading area.[22]

In both 1994 and 1995 tornadoes took place within 20 miles of Penn Valley. Combined, the tornadoes resulted in 4 deaths and millions of dollars in damage.[23]

Notable residents[edit]

  • Hans Jacob Hagy, American paper manufacturer, supplied Benjamin Franklin paper for publishing Poor Richard's Almanac and other tracts and the US Constitutional Convention (1787) for publication of the Bill of Rights from his mill on Mill Creek, built in 1769
  • George Brooke Roberts, American industrialist, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and owner of Pencoyd Farm in Penn Valley
  • Percival Roberts, Jr., American industrialist and farmer, president of Pencoyd Iron Works, later part of US Steel, expanded family's Pencoyd Farm to include 571 acres and built "Penshurst" estate on Conshohocken State Road in 1903
  • Walter Deane Fuller, American publisher, president and board chairman, the Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia, built his estate, a working farm well into the twentieth century, on lower Righter's Mill Road, which still stands and is adjacent to Eco Valley Park, extending to Bryn Mawr Avenue
  • Vincent Kling, American architect, pioneer of modernism, was long a resident of lower Righter's Mill Road
  • O. Spurgeon English, MD, pioneer of mind-body medicine and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine, lived on Righter's Mill Road
  • Joseph Ritter, MD, American pediatrician, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and chief of medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, lived in a house on the cliff overlooking Bryn Mawr Avenue above Gully Run Creek
  • Ben Hibbs, American journalist, longtime editor of Country Gentleman and editor-in-chief of the Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest, lived in Penn Valley
  • Elias Burstein, American physicist, theorist of solid-state optical telecommunications and professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania, lived in Penn Valley
  • Aaron T. Beck, MD, American psychiatrist, creator of cognitive therapy and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, lives in the Wynnewood section of Penn Valley with his wife,
  • Hon. Judge Phyllis W. Beck, American jurist, the first woman member of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Superior Court and professor of law at Temple University
  • Mel Richman, American advertising executive, longtime president of Philadelphia's Poor Richard's Club, built the polychromatic modernist ranch house on the southeast corner of Righter's Mill and Woodbine Avenue
  • D. Dudley Bloom, American naval officer and businessman, the US Navy's youngest ship commander during World War II and later the inventor of rolling travel luggage, lived on Lemar Circle
  • Josh Kopelman, an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and philanthropist, lives in Penn Valley.
  • Bobby Rydell, American rock and roll singer, famous for "Wild One", lives in Penn Valley
  • M. Night Shyamalan, American writer and director of Hollywood films, grew up in Penn Valley
  • Garry Maddox, American Major League Baseball player with the Philadelphia Phillies and television commentator, lives in Penn Valley
  • Aaron McKie, American National Basketball Association star with the Philadelphia 76ers and current assistant coach for the Temple Owls college basketball team, lives in Penn Valley
  • David Crane (producer), American television producer of the popular sitcom, Friends, grew up on Conshohocken State Road
  • Lawrence H. Summers, American economist, former US Secretary of the Treasury, former president of Harvard University, former chief economic adviser to President Barack Obama, and current Charles W. Eliot Professor at Harvard University, grew up on Revere Road
  • Richard L. Fox, American lawyer and writer, lives in Penn Valley.
  • Joe Banner, American television executive with the Philadelphia Eagles and sports analyst with ESPN, lives in Penn Valley
  • David Shulkin, American civil servant, former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Donald Trump, lived in Penn Valley
  • Richard J. Fox, American real estate executive and philanthropist, lives in Penn Valley.

References[edit]