Header:Philadelphia History

Old Conestoga Road

The Old Lancaster Road was the original stage coach road from Philadelphia to Lancaster. It branched off from Market Street as far as Hestonville, and then turning to the right at Fifty-second Street, and then again turned somewhat to the left.

Running up a long hill it passed on the left the Longstreth property, where Horace J. Smith and his wife, who was a Miss Longstreth, lived for many years. This property has been destroyed the railroad company's excavations on the southerly side and rows of houses on the side next to the road, having changed the fine old farm into a mass of hideousness.

The next point of interest was where the old road crossed City Line, and entered Lower Merion township. At the corner stood a somewhat notorious hostelry, called the Black Horse Tavern.

Then the road continued in a northwesterly direction, passing on the left, the properties of William Simpson and his son-in-law, Lincoln Godfrey, while on the right was the old homestead of the Latch family, whose name is given to one of the neighboring branch roads known as Latch's Lane.

The next point of interest was the village of Merionville. When the broad highway called Montgomery Avenue was laid out it joined the Old Lancaster Road at this point, and the two roads were identical up to the vicinity of Haverford.

The country between Merionville and Cynwyd, which began its existence as an unimportant station on the Schuylkill Valley Railroad, has been so covered with houses of recent years that the two places have become one, and now are generally known as Cynwyd.

In the early days near Merionville, the first road reached after passing Merion Avenue, which runs off to the left, and reaches city Avenue at Overbrook. Between Merionville, and Merion Avenue on the footpath of the old road there were to be seem marks of the old Columbia Railroad, which preceded the Pennsylvania Railroad, These marks were the stones to which the rails were fastened before the days or worsen ties. They have all disappeared from this place, but are still to be seen in Wister's woods, about a mile further west.

About 1874, a new road was opened east of Merion Avenue, and called Bowman's Avenue, General W. P. Bowman's Avenue, General W. P. Bowman's family home lying on the corner, where this road starts from the old road. Next to this is the home of Nicholas Thouron. The house was built by one of the George family, probably about the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was one of several built by different members of the same family between Hestonville and Merion, all of then in the same style of architecture. It passes through a marriage to Dr. John W. Lodge, who was for many years the well-known family physician of the neighborhood. After his death and its purchase by Mr. Thouron, it was altered into its present shape.

The next objects of interest are the General Wayne Tavern and immediately above, the Merion Friends' Meeting House, where William Penn is said to have worshipped. It is also noteworthy as departing from the usual Friendly simplicity of architecture, the present building being in the form of the Greek cross.

About a quarter of a mile above, the old Gulph Road starts off to the right. The spelling of this name is now said to be derived from a Welsh work, Gulph, meaning a gorge; so that the change to "Gulf," which is frequently made, is improper.

After passing through the village of Libertyville, now a part of Wynnewood, and the picturesque old Jones cottage where Penn is said to have stayed on his visits to Merion Meeting, the road turns sharply to the right at Wister's Corners as it was called by the old timers. Here a branch road runs to the left over to the Lancaster turnpike. It used to be called the Church Road, as it led to the Lutheran Church on the "pike".

The "Old Road" then continues along what is now called Montgomery Avenue to a point a short distance above Haverford Station, where it turns to the left, crosses under the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and immediately turning sharply to the right reaches the Turnpike. This is its first contact with the Turnpike since the two roads separated at Hestonville. It continues with the Turnpike for a few hundred feet and then leaves it, bearing to the left.

After leaving the Turnpike, the road curves again tithe right, and reaches "Henderson's Store," south of Rosemont, where it is joined by Haverford Road, about the point where the Robert's Road and the road marking the old tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad crossing. It passes under the tracks of the Philadelphia and Western Railroad, and them climbs "Methodist hill," as it used to be called, from the church of that denomination which stand s at the top of the hill. The Sorrel Horse Inn was on the right, as the road reaches the village of Ithan, and the Radnor friends' Meeting House. It continues on to a point nearly south of Strafford Station, where it again joins the Turnpike, which it follows for a short distance, again leaving it in the right, and passing the Eagle Tavern runs north of Berwyn to the corner where now stands the large Easttown and Tredyffrin High School building.

At the High School corner there is a road which looks like a continuance of the Old Road, and which soon merges with the Turnpike, and does not separate from it until Warren Tavern, north of Malvern, is reached, where the two roads again follow different paths.

At the High School corner, above mentioned, Cassatt Avenue, running from the Turnpike down into the Chester Valley, crosses the road, and at a short distance from the crossing, forks the avenue bearing to the right, and the other fork to the left. This is now known as the Howellville Road. It passes through the village of that name, and then connects with the Swedesford Road ran from it eastwardly to reach the river at the well-known point called Swedes Ford; the Old Race proceeding towards the west on its way to Lancaster. After the building of the Turnpike, the Old Road lost its usefulness in this part of its course, except as a local road, an in many places became entirely disused.

With regard to the name, the writer has within the past few years, in driving up the valley, seen a road marked Conestoga Road, running out of the Swedesford Road, or the Chester Springs Road, and I believe this name, as applied to the Old Lancaster Road, is a very modern use. Signboards with the latter name are still to be seen where the road passes north of Wayne.