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In the days when railroad was king, there was no nobler line than the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Main Line. Running from Center City to Paoli, today’s “Thorndale Line” encouraged the daily migration of railroad executives and other wealthy Philadelphians from the urban jungle to sophisticated suburban enclaves northwest of the city limits. Once known as the Welsh Tract, the area has a rich history as home to generations of the “landed gentry” who built expansive estates here.
Remember Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of socialite Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story?” That was the Main Line, c. 1940, and for many people, life on the Main Line is still quite charmed even as it has moved into the 21st century. The Main Line is known for a genteel lifestyle, and many of the Philadelphia region’s most discerning buyers choose coveted addresses like Wynnewood, Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Wayne – all stops along the train line – or surrounding communities including Bala Cynwyd, Gladwyne and Penn Valley. Exceptional architecture is abundant. Expect to find leafy suburban streets lined with gracefully appointed homes. There is a diversity of housing, too; Main Line real estate offerings range from modest twins and comfortable condominiums to over-the-top mansions set securely behind privacy walls and gated entryways as well as plenty of traditional-style homes in-between.
Many residents still commute to Center City Philadelphia from the Main Line, keeping demand for homes quite strong. This select part of eastern Pennsylvania spanning parts of Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties has more $1,000,000+ homes than any other part of the state. Don’t be surprised to find one or two Main Line zip codes (hello, Gladwyne and Villanova) listed among the wealthiest in the country.
Accordingly, there are a range of private clubs that serve as the gathering places for the area’s elite as they have for many decades. They include Merion Golf Club, noted for its challenging play; Merion Cricket Club, which includes lawn tennis and squash courts, softball and soccer teams and other sports; various tennis clubs; Overbrook Golf Club and Aronimink Golf Club to name just two golf options; Radnor Hunt Club for equestrian pursuits; and many more leagues for a range of sports.
The area has a high concentration of highly rated educational institutions, including colleges and universities such as Bryn Mawr College, Cabrini College, Haverford College, Eastern University, Rosemont College and Villanova University. There is also an array of private secondary schools (The Agnes Irwin School, Shipley School, The Baldwin School, Episcopal Academy, The Haverford School, to name a few) and highly acclaimed public schools.
Shopping and dining on the Main Line are predictably posh, and there is no shortage of entertainment. The King of Prussia Mall and Suburban Square are popular destinations, and quaint boutique shopping districts line the Lancaster Avenue corridor. For those who may miss the foodie renaissance of Philadelphia, it will come as a pleasant surprise that some of Center City’s most lauded restaurateurs have opened successful fine dining destinations along the Main Line. Movie buffs can take in independent, foreign and first-run fare at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and Clearview Anthony Wayne theater.