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The Bryn Mawr community, best known for its many excellent private schools and great colleges, straddles two counties and three townships. While more then half of Bryn Mawr lies in the Lower Merion Township, it also serves residents of the Radnor and Haverford townships. Nationally recognized as being the home of Bryn Mawr College and locally known as a very convenient place to live, Bryn Mawr has a population of over nine thousand residents.
The town of Bryn Mawr was born in 1704 when Rowland Ellis, a welsh tobacco plantation owner, built a large manor house on the current geographic location of the town, calling it Bryn Mawr, meaning high hill. Later named Humphreyville after the Thomas and Humphrey families it belonged to, this small rural community began to grow. In about 1869, the Pennsylvania Railroad established a new community, building a railway track, improving existing streets, opening new roads, planting trees, subdividing properties, and offering land for sale. Gradually, this new community, which once again adopted the name of Bryn Mawr, was transformed from a hamlet to an active, thriving town.
By 1881, three hundred new dwellings joined the original twenty-one houses of old Humphreyville. The local population continued to grow, increasing by approximately two thousand residents every summer. As services grew in the area, summer residences became permanent homes. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Bryn Mawr Citizens’ Association was created to provide police protection. The Home News and the News were responsible for keeping Bryn Mawr residents informed. While the Bryn Mawr Trust Company and the Bryn Mawr National Bank addressed the financial needs of the growing town, the Bryn Mawr Water Company, the Bryn Mawr Hospital, the Bryn Mawr Ice Company and the Bryn Mawr Fire Company took care of basic services.
As clubs, such as the Merion Cricket Club (1865), the Radnor Hunt Club (1887) and the Bryn Mawr Polo Club (1898) began to form; Bryn Mawr became more and more attractive to newcomers looking for good neighborhoods to settle in. Basic services led to lavish retail. Grocery stores, ice cream parlors, bakeries, millinery shops, shoe stores and lively stables provided residents with both necessities and luxuries. As beautiful and prestigious estates began to develop, as well as prominent educational facilities such as the Bryn Mawr Public School, the private Shipley and Baldwin School, and the nationally renowned Bryn Mawr College, the town of Bryn Mawr came to be known as a luxurious, exclusive community to live in.
Bryn Mawr College, first created by Dr. Joseph E. Taylor in 1880, has now become an important focus of the town, and currently owns eighty acres of the first railroad property. In all, nine tenths of Bryn Mawr’s acreage holds educational facilities, which preserve and uses grand residences designed for the wealthy by the leading architects of the last century. Currently, the town continues to grow as new school and college structures as well as condominium and apartment buildings join these pre-existing buildings.
As such, the Bryn Mawr community is changing its physical makeup while retaining the charm and heritage of its historical town. The square between the railroad station and Lancaster Avenue has been transformed from a park to a parking lot. New shops have taken over properties that are now adjacent to the railroad, offering a number of shopping opportunities around the Bryn Mawr area. In addition to a number of specialty shops, the Bryn Mawr town center boasts of a variety of restaurants, coffee bars, bookstores, retail and second-hand clothing shops, a movie theater as well as The Point, a haven for singer-songwriters that draws audiences from around the Philadelphia area. The town of Bryn Mawr has chains such as the Borders and Barnes as Nobles bookstores, Acme grocery stores, CVS and Eckerd drug stores, as well as Staples for school supplies. Other nationally known retail names such as Target, Best Buy, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Lowes, Circuit City, Home Depot and Ikea can be found in the nearby Norristown shopping complex. Furthermore, the largest mall of the east Coast, the King of Prussia Mall, is a mere twenty minute drive away.
With many specialty services, Bryn Mawr is an extremely convenient and desirable community to live in. The Bryn Mawr Hospital serves a wide area, and offers a special sports medicine clinic in addition to its other services. For recreations, Bryn Mawr offers the Bryn Mawr playground and the Bryn Mawr Community center, which offers special athletic programs for residents of all ages. Bryn Mawr’s proximity to Philadelphia, which is eleven miles away, allows residents a change of pace from the suburban lifestyle. New York and Washington D.C are also relatively close by: New York is 105 miles away while DC is 130 miles away. The nearby New Jersey shore and the Pocono Mountain present the possibility for outdoor adventure.