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A Brief History of Merion Park
Merion Park occupies historic ground. Nearby is the Merion Friends Meeting House, built in 1713, one of the oldest places of worship in Pennsylvania. Washington's Continental Army camped on the site of Merion Park, then called Price's Field, after fording the Schuylkill River on September 14, 1777. Rusty bayonets, musket balls and other relics have been found in the vicinity. It has been said that before the neighborhood was built up, outlines of temporary earthworks could be seen in back of what is now the corner of Maplewood Avenue and Meeting House Lane.
The General Wayne Inn played an important position in history. Built in the early 1700s, it was so named after General Wayne was received there. It served as the first post office in Lower Merion and was used as a voting place from 1806 to 1867.
In the early 1900s, Montgomery Avenue, from City Avenue to the area where Merion Cricket Club is now located, was a turnpike, with toll gates at 54th and City Line, Bala Avenue, Levering Mill Road, Meeting House Lane, and Church Road. Though all toll gates were regularly open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the toll gate at Meeting House Lane was occasionally open until 10 p.m. or later, if gala social events were held nearby.
In the early 1900s, the Merion Park area was the Belmont Park Race Track. The grandstand and the judges' stand were located at what is now Putnam Road near Meeting House Lane. The adjacent clubhouse was a three-story affair with verandas and a circular open-air tower. Horse racing fans will still remember the names of Nancy Hanks, Maud S. Smuggler and Jay-Eye-See. The name of Belmont Park still brings back wonderful memories of the thud of pounding hoofs, gallant thoroughbreds with tails laid over the driver's knee and noses reaching for the records. When the club began to lose money, it was sold in October 1924 to a builder.
Comprising 72 acres, the community later was called Merion Park and most of the streets were named for Revolutionary War generals. In the early 1920s, Lafayette Road was the main boulevard.
Edited by Cyril William Draffin
Past President of the Merion Park Civic Association
Picture: The Lower Merion Police Departiment 100 years ago
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF MERION PLEASE VISIT:
The Lower Merion Historical
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