View Larger Map

History of Wayne 

Wayne, PA – Philadelphia's Main Line


Once home to the Lenni Lenape Indians, the land here was first settled in the 1600's by a group of 40 Quakers from Radnorshire, Wales. Seeking religious freedom, the settlers emigrated to a 5,000 acre section purchased from William Penn, granted him by the crown. The township was officially founded in 1681 when Penn laid out the township in an elongated rectangle parallel to the Schuylkill River. The land then sold at a rate of one British pound per 50-acre parcel. Besides clearing and tilling fields for farmlands the Welsh established grist mills, sawmills and tanneries using the power of Ithan and Darby creeks. The influence of the Welsh, some of whom were forced by heavy taxation to sell their land, waned in the latter half of the 18th century.

Lancaster Pike – the first macadamized turnpike in the world and the first toll road in America opened in 1794. It spurred increased settlement and the long-distance road resulted in the need for Inns. However, the area remained mostly farmland until the mid 1800's when a stretch of the Columbia Railroad between Philadelphia and Harrisburg called "The Main Line of the Public Works of the State of Pennsylvania" was completed. Around that time, a banker named James Henry Askin purchased 300 acres of farmland on which he proposed to build a Victorian development to be named "Louella" after his daughters, Louisa and Ella. Askin was successful in creating his private estate at the heart of which was the magnificent mansard-roofed mansion. Apart from building the Wayne Presbyterian Church and a row of mansard-roofed villas on Bloomingdale Avenue, Askin was also responsible for one of the most important buildings in the town: The Wayne Lyceum Hall, later named Wayne Opera House (c. 1871). The Opera House had stores, a post office and a library reading room on the 1st floor, a 450 seat meeting room and stage on the 2nd floor and a meeting room for the Masonic Lodge. Later the building would be the first place in Wayne to see silent movies. Askin's plans to create and sustain a more elaborate development were derailed by the financial depression of 1873 and towards the end of the 19th century a number of things happened that would shape the Main Line.

In 1880 Askin sold his land to Anthony J. Drexel and George W. Childs who wanted to build an elaborate planned community. They established their office in the Opera House and their brochure described Wayne as "not an accidental aggregation of cottages; it is a town built by design, and provided at the start with all the conveniences to which residents of cities are accustomed". It was, in fact, one of the countries first planned suburbs and Louella was renamed Wayne by Drexel and Childs in honor of General Anthony Wayne.

Because of easy access to Philadelphia the area thrived, attracting summer visitors. The summer trade was capitalized on and The Bellevue Hotel was built in 1881. The Bellevue was destroyed by fire in 1900. When summer trade fell-off for want of a hotel, The Wesley Hotel was built followed in 1906 by The Waynewood Hotel – now The Wayne Hotel.

At the same time, the area became a favorite country getaway to people from the city and the railroad made it possible for wealthy businessmen to relocate their families to this rural community and commute to Philadelphia. Great estates were established that rivaled the summer cottages of Newport, RI. Two of Radnor Township's significant estates were Chanticleer and Ardrossan Farm. Ardrossan is the 750 acre estate of the Montgomery family. Hope Montgomery was considered to be one of the countries most eligible debutantes when she was presented at the Philadelphia Assemblies Ball where she received four proposals of marriage. Although she declined all four proposals she met her husband the following year and was married. After her marriage she lived on the estate and moved into the 45-room Georgian Mansion after her parents died. She was in all senses American Royalty and her life was so glamorous that she was the inspiration for Tracy Lord, heroine of The Philadelphia Story, played by Katharine Hepburn [link to article].

For more information on the history of the main line [ www.radnorhistory.org ]


The Opera House still has merchant and office tenants who continue Wayne's longest business legacy. The magnificent Anthony Wayne Theater (c. 1928) with its Art Deco architecture and grand marquee continues to operate as a movie theater. The Wayne Hotel served as a retirement home from the 50's to the 80's, then as a synagogue for 2 years and after laying vacant for 1 year was restored to its former elegance – re-opening as a hotel in 1985. Many of the Main Line's original estates remain private homes but several have been re-purposed. "Woodcrest", which comprised a mansion, a gate-house, extensive stables, a cow barn, springhouse, garage and a pavilion for a pool has become Cabrini College. "Walmarthon" featured a mansion, a large gate lodge, a log-house, a large green house, a seven-car garage, a stable and 3 lakes and is now Eastern University. However, since the death of Robert Montgomery Scott in 2005 the future of the Ardrossan Farm estate remains undecided.

Wayne is home to Valley Forge Military Academy & College and is in close proximity to many notable institutes of higher education including Bryn Mawr College, Villanova University, Haverford College and The University of Pennsylvania.

For over one hundred years, Wayne has been considered one of the best places in the Greater Philadelphia area to live and raise a family. The school system is recognized as one of the best in the country, the median income is very high and the crime rate very low. The fact that the fire company is entirely volunteer helps maintain a true sense of community. Wayne celebrates a variety of festivals and events throughout the year including the Radnor Fall Festival, The Main Line Jazz and Food Festival and The Wayne Holiday Celebration. The town features everything you could want for: schools, banks, hotels, restaurants, bars, boutique stores, specialty bakeries, spas and salons, coffee houses, parks, walking trails, a library, The Wayne Art Center and a movie theater. Wayne has a thriving business community served by the Wayne Business Association where you can buy anything from a great hot-dog to some of the finest real estate in the country.

*This information was provided by the Wayne Business Association*