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To know the history of this c. 1853 Italianate residence at 503 Bryn Mawr Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, one needs to start with what was known as Lower Merion Benevolent School (later the Lower Merion Academy) in Bala Cynwyd, a substantial building dating to 1812 that still stands today. Originally funded by Quaker brother and sister Jacob Jones and Elizabeth George, the school’s mission was to offer an education to all of the children of the area regardless of their financial or familial status. The school was a centerpiece of the neighborhood, once called “Academyville,” with the area now part of the Bala Cynwyd Junior High School campus in the Lower Merion School District.
Located across from the Academy building, “Levering House” at 503 Bryn Mawr Avenue was built for Clifford Levering, one of the school’s headmasters. The house remained in the Levering family until the turn of the 1900s when the current owners purchased it in 194 by the family’s great grandfather. Its architectural style was very much “of the moment” in the mid-1800s, when Italianate design, with its symmetry, smooth stucco exterior, fancy trim and substantial cornice details, was first becoming popular among American home builders.
The Levering family was prominent with deep roots in the Philadelphia area, beginning in Roxborough (which used to be called “Leverington”) where the William E. Levering School was built in the mid-1800s. It is now a charter school. Levering Street is a main thoroughfare in nearby Manayunk, and the Leverington Cemetery still exists in Roxborough. The family owned mills and other property, and John Levering (1789-1878) was known as a well-educated, mathematical man who eventually took to surveying and map-making, especially of the Manayunk and Lower Merion areas. John Levering was also the co-founder of the Lower Merion Library Company, the first public library in the township started in 1842. The Levering family was prominent enough in the history of Lower Merion Township that the local historical society includes in its collection the family bible, some furniture made from its sawmills and other items.
The Levering House is now on the market – surely so much history within its walls. The buyer will be only the third family to ever own this property. For more information or to arrange a tour, please contact listing agent Carol Ogelsby: 610.213.2000 or Ali Ogelsby Farrell: 610246.5970.