Monday, November 23, 2009

Then and Now: West Lancaster Avenue viewed from Wyoming Avenue, Ardmore

early 1950s-2009Italic
The original photo shows the north side of Lancaster Avenue viewed from Ardmore's western border in its early days as a suburban strip, almost completely unrecognizable today.

Though not usually considered as such, early 20th century suburban developers were pioneers in adaptive reuse. With a few interior modifications, the the ample setbacks and lawns of former suburban residences were easily paved over to accomodate automobile-oriented commercial uses. Two such houses can be seen in the original view, converted into Tydol and Gulf Oil service stations.

Automobile-related businesses dominated western Lancaster Avenue from the very beginning of the 20th century. The Autocar Company set up shop in 1900 and remained Ardmore's largest employer through the early 1950s. Its factory buildings, destroyed by fire in 1956, are visible in the original photo. Though the Ardmore West strip mall replaced most of the Autocar site, the south side of the avenue remains crowded with car dealerships. Fascinatingly, the especially resilient Sunoco gas station at the corner of Lancaster and Woodside Avenues has been operating there since as early as 1926.

1. "The First 300: The Amazing and Rich History of Lower Merion." 21 Nov. 2009.
2. Bromley, George W. and Walter S. Bromley. Atlas of Properties on Main Line Pennsylvania Railroad from Overbrook to Paoli. Atlas. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley & Co, 1926.

Original image: "W Lancaster Avenue." 2008. Lower Merion/Narberth Buildings. Lower Merion Historical Society. 15 Nov. 2009.

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