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When Villanova College, now Villanova University, first opened its doors in 1843, it spurred the growth of a small town around it. Villanova, a lovely Main Line community and college town, sits along Route 30 and offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, entertain- ment and cultural facilities. The town provides residents with great transportation, such as a local commuter rail, a high speed trolley, a bus service, as well as convenient access to Routes 320 and 476, making it an easy commute to Philadelphia and other surrounding regions.
Villanova is a prime real estate area, with a beautiful setting for luxurious, large homes. It has a great business environment, a wonderful blend of people and schools, great health care facilities and government agencies.
Villanova is located at the southwestern corner of the Lower Merion Township, and gets its name from the university it surrounds. The university itself, the surrounding business community and the railroad station are all located in Delaware County. Old Gulf Road is one of the town’s most interesting heritages. Once used as an Indian Trail, the road bisects Villanova and Rosemont and is used for east-west traffic. Most importantly, however, its milestones, set in place by William Penn himself, bore the design of his coat of arms on their back.
Old Gulf Road was used by local farmers to convey their produce to Philadelphia. Its north-south counterpart, the Spring Mill Road, was constructed in 1771 and served as the route to the ferry across Schuylkill. The Green Tree Hotel is one of the town’s oldest standing buildings, and has been at the intersection of Spring Mill Road since the days of the revolution. Now a private dwelling, the inn is a symbol of the town’s history. Another famous Villanova structure is the late William Gordon’s 18-acre estate. Gordon was the head of a multimillion-dollar chain of movie companies. He was also a great philanthropist, who made many contributions to the betterment of children’s education in the town.
The “Parsons-Banks Arboretum” is one of the town’s main attractions. Moro Phillips, a wealthy chemical manufacturer and his sons first built the house, and the eight hundred acre estate included several farms and old farmhouses west of Spring Hill Road. In 1925, the house and its gardens were redesigned for modern living by architect Richard Brognard Okie. Bequeathed by Mrs. Louis H. Parsons to Lower Merion Township in 1973, the newly named “Parsons-Banks Arboretum” offers visitors the chance to see early valuable furnishings, greenhouses, and enjoy the ground’s beautiful landscaping. The Arboretum is also available for community meetings, receptions, and garden parties.
After the railroad improved in Villanova, many executives working in Philadelphia built large country retreats in the town for the summer months. Soon, permanent establishments replaced these houses as well as the farms they included. Builders and developers took advantage of this opportunity to divide these large holdings. Although some land was restricted for estates with several acres, other houses have three fourths of an acre per lot, as well as other limitations. Today, prospective home buyers can chose between smaller, more practical homes, or luxurious houses that possess swimming pools and tennis courts. Houses in that area were selling for between 100 to 300 thousand dollars. With its fine educational facilities and its grand estates, Villanova is one of the Main Line’s prime real-estate regions.