Hey Radnor! How About A PA Historical Marker For Wayne Natatorium?

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carla's picture
Last seen: 3 years 10 weeks ago
Joined: 2008-01-03 :36

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I think it is really terrific that Radnor Township has agreed to recognize Mr. and Mrs. Ceasar Waters and their part in the history of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, founded by Richard Allen.

However, that is not the only important part of Radnor Township history that has gone too long without recognition.

In 2006, a writer from the Philadelphia Inquirer now retired wrote an article about The Wayne Natatorium:

Over the years, memories of the famous, but short-lived, Wayne Natatorium of the late
1800s have been stoked by nostalgic newspaper articles.

The largest pool in the United States! Maybe in the world!

Yet Wayne has little to show for those remembrances. And few people outside the historic preservation business know that although the pool - which was just north of the Main Line tracks near the heart of town - is long gone, concrete evidence of its existence survives: a residence at 228 Willow Ave. that was once its clubhouse.

Now there is a move afoot to let everyone in on the secret of what once was one of Wayne's biggest attractions, a 500-foot-long, 100-foot-wide inground outdoor pool that hosted swimming championships and drew athletes from as far away as California.

Earlier this month, Beverlee Barnes, chairwoman of the Radnor Township Historical and Architectural Review Board, was out walking along Willow Avenue, which in 1895 was likely the pool's spectator viewing platform.

As Barnes took notes, she imagined the reaction of someone learning that the modest detached and twin houses are sitting on a historic site: "Wow! A block-long swimming pool in what is now all-residential Wayne. Pretty fascinating."...The most likely actions, she said, are to add the two-story clubhouse, which housed the women's locker room and the office and apartment of the pool manager, to the township's 2003 Historical Resource Survey and to install a historical marker."

So how come that has NOT happened yet? This is a part of North Wayne currently under siege from unwelcome and unneeded development (like the proposed demolition/redevelopment that worries people across the Gulph creek at 236 North Aberdeen - the home prolific and historically important builder Jonathan Lengel built for his family), and wouldn't NOW be the time to remember this fantastic part of not just Radnor and Wayne history, but Pennsylvania history as well?

I have written about the Wayne Natatorium before in Main Line Life:

Take a walk through history along Main Line
By:Carla J. Zambelli 04/20/2007

I make no secret of my love for small neighborhoods or the great history we have here in our area - often in our own back-yards....This tour of North Wayne will have eight stops through my favorite part of Wayne. This part of Wayne not only has some terrific Victorians, but it is loaded with other quirky architecture and a fascinating history to boot.

For example, part of the tour will take us through the neighborhood that used to be the Wayne Natatorium. What is the Wayne Natatorium? In the latter part of the 19th century, the Wayne Natatorium was purported to be the largest outdoor pool in the United States. Founded in July 1895, the pool buildings were designed by Francis Albert Gugert. This pool was the entire length of what is now known as Willow Avenue. One building is all that remains of this fascinating piece of the history of North Wayne.

The Wayne Natatorium is worth commemorating. As is Jonathan Lengel. Just think when Mr. Lengel built his home it probably overlooked the Wayne Natatorium. The history is very real in this part of North Wayne, yet no one has remembered it yet.

So if a State Museum Commission Historical Marker is to be placed to commemorate something historically important in one small neighborhood in Radnor's section of Bryn Mawr (Brook Street), why not be fair and commemorate another important piece of history that people have been asking for years to be permanently recognized?

Did anyone ever think if more of what is REAL history was commemorated in our communities it might make developers think twice about reinventing at the expense of community? If we were more careful and respectful of our history I think it would be incredibly beneficial to our Main Line communities.

It's not all about fads and reinvention, it's about the people, places, structures, and events that made us who we are today...as Americans. Happy Thanksgiving...think about it and if you agree, send an e-mail to me care of the SAC site.


For more on the topic of The Wayne Natatorium, read this on PhillyFuture ,this here I found this morning,this listing to an article I would love to read titled Creutzburg, Carol. "A pool makes a splash in Wayne." The Suburban and Wayne Times 28 June 2001, page 7-A

For more on Jonathan Lengel see Wayne History post and this here, and here.

Thanks for your consideration....Consider writing the PA State Museum Commission:

Mailing Address:
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
State Museum Building
300 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone (717) 787-3362
Fax (717) 783-9924

Bureau for Historic Preservation
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Phone (717) 783-8946
Fax (717) 772-0920

Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone (717) 787-2723

Jean Cutler, Director:

Galle, Karen

PHMC Staff Directory

(If any of you take the time to write and ask for the Wayne Natatorium to be marked, thank you!!!)

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