Pennsylvania Main Line

Pennsylvania Main Line

The Main Line is a collection of affluent towns in the western suburbs of Philadelphia named after the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (currently Amtrak's Keystone Corridor and SEPTA's R5 line).


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.Fact|date=March 2008 This accounts for the predominance of Welsh place names in the area.

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.

The railroad placed stops approximately two minutes apart starting with Overbrook. The surrounding communities became known for the railroad station names which started at Suburban Station in downtown Philadelphia and went on to 30th 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, finally ending at Paoli. The railroad line now extends to Malvern, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale. [ [ SEPTA ] ] 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

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 approximately Malvern, Pennsylvania [ [ Philly NRHS - PRR History ] ] 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 was also the setting for the classic Hepburn/Grant/Stewart motion picture "The Philadelphia Story". The principal municipalities comprising the Main Line are (from east to west) Lower Merion Township, Narberth Borough, Haverford Township, Radnor Township, Tredyffrin Township, Easttown Township, Village of Paoli, Malvern, East Whiteland Township, and Charlestown Township] . Together, they have a population of just over 200,000 (2000 census).

With diverse topography, steep cliffs along the Schuylkill River, rolling hills, and open meadows, the Main Line 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. The Main Line is also home to some of the best public and private schools in the state, and many small private colleges. It boasts 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. The main line has a significant Jewish population.

Main Line in books, movies, music and television

*"Official Preppy Handbook", by Lisa Birnbach
*"The Philadelphia Story"
*"Gloria (Laura Branigan song)" – the Main Line is mentioned in this pop song.
*"Bobos in Paradise", by David Brooks
*"Trading Places"
*"Philadelphia" – Andrew Beckett visits his family during Thanksgiving in a suburb in the area.
*"My Super Sweet 16"
*"Wide Awake"
*"Kitty Foyle"
*"The It Girl", by Cecily von Ziegesar
*"Pretty Little Liars", by Sara Shepard
*"In Her Shoes" – Toni Collette's character attends a Main Line wedding and jokes about what she should wear.
*"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, PA.... The gang makes a detour to see his family home located on Bala Cynwyd's extremely wealthy Highland Ave (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.
*"The Art of War (film)"
*"The Man of My Dreams", by Curtis Sittenfeld
*"Stella Dallas" – Stella's ex-husband and family are wealthy Philadelphia suburbanites.
*"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.
*"Mad Men" The character of Betty Draper is from Lower Merion and went to Bryn Mawr College.

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, [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.] Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr, which inspired the mnemonic "Old Maids Never Wed And Have Babies". The other rail line communities extending past Bryn Mawr are Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli.

In recent years, the R5 train service has extended to the west of Paoli.

Other communities, most notably Bala Cynwyd and Gladwyne are included in what is commonly accepted as the Main Line, as they both are typical Main Line communities and are adjacent to Main Line towns.Fact|date=March 2008 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.

A list of communities on the Main Line follows:
*Bala Cynwyd
*Bryn Mawr
*St. Davids

School districts

*Lower Merion
*Great Valley

Colleges and universities

* Bryn Mawr College
* Cabrini College
* Eastern University
* Harcum College
* Haverford College
* Immaculata University
* Rosemont College
* Valley Forge Military Academy and College
* Villanova University
* Saint Joseph's University


External links

* [ MainLinePhilly]
* [ Guide to the Main Line]
* [ The Main Line Chamber of Commerce]
* [ Main Line Legislators (Federal & State)]
* [ Main Line Today]
* [ Main Line Times]
* [ Main Line Restaurant Guide]
* [ Best of Main Line]
* [ Historical Main Line Maps]
* [ Maps of the Pennsylvania Railroad]
* [ Around Main Line]

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