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R5 train entering the Paoli station.
The Main Line is an unofficial region of suburban Philadelphiamarker comprising a collection of affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (currently Amtrak's Keystone Corridor and SEPTA's R5 line) which runs northwest from Center Citymarker Philadelphia. The rail line, from which the area affectionately got its name, was central to creating the Main Line communities which in the 19th century became home to many sprawling country estates built by Philadelphia's wealthiest families.


The Main Line around 1895.
The old clubhouse of the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford (1892).
The area comprising the Main Line was once home to the Lenni Lenape Indians. The Main Line was settled by Europeans in the 1600s, when William Penn sold a tract of land (the Welsh Tract) to a group of Welsh Quakers for ten cents an acre. This accounts for the many Welsh place names in the area, though not all date to the 1600s. For example Bryn Mawrmarker was thus named only in 1869, previously being named Humphreysville.

The Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was constructed during the early nineteenth century as part of the Main Line of Public Worksmarker that spanned Pennsylvania. Later in the century, the railroad, which owned much of the land surrounding the tracks, encouraged the development of this picturesque environment by building way stations along the portion of its track closest to Philadelphia. The construction of sprawling estates attracted Philadelphia elite, many of whom had one house in the city and another larger "country home" on the Main Line. In the 20th century, many of these families relocated to the Main Line suburbs, part of the national trend of white flight and suburbanizaton. As a result, the Main Line saw rapid investment, prosperity, and growth into greater Philadelphia's most affluent and fashionable region.

The railroad placed stops approximately two minutes apart, starting with Overbrook. The surrounding communities became known by the railroad station names which started at Broad Street Stationmarker in downtown Philadelphia and went on to 32nd St. Station, and then the stops were named Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewoodmarker, Ardmore, Haverfordmarker, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, Paoli, finally ending at Malvern. At least five of these station buildings, along with the first Bryn Mawr Hotel, were designed by Wilson Brothers & Company. The railroad line now extends to Malvern, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale. The train that served these stations was known as the "Paoli Local", and that name became a near-synonym for the Main Line itself.

The actual railroad line then continued on to Chicagomarker, with major stations at Lancastermarker, Harrisburgmarker and Pittsburghmarker. The railroad, since taken over by Amtrak, is still in service, although its route is slightly different from the original. It also serves the R5 line of the SEPTA Regional Rail system.

The Main Line today

Today the Main Line is another name for the western suburbs of Philadelphia along Lancaster Avenue and the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, extending from the city limits to traditionally Bryn Mawr and ultimately Paoli, Pennsylvaniamarker comprising an area of approximately 200 square miles. The upper/upper middle class enclave outside of Philadelphia has historically been one of the bastions of "old money" in the Northeast along with places such as Westchester Countymarker, New Yorkmarker and Greenwich, Connecticutmarker. It is home to some of the wealthiest places in the United States, such as Gladwyne, Pennsylvaniamarker which has the 14th highest per-capita income in the country with a population of 1,000 or more, as well as Lower Merion Townshipmarker which has the 5th highest per-capita income in the country with 50,000 or more.

The Main Line was also the setting for the classic Hepburn/Grant/Stewart motion picture The Philadelphia Story. With diverse topography, steep cliffs along the Schuylkill River, rolling hills, and open meadows, the region has benefited from the early planning of William Penn. The Main Line is known for its multimillion-dollar stone Colonial homes, exclusivity, and upscale shopping at celebrated destinations like Suburban Square in Ardmoremarker and the King of Prussia Mallmarker, one of the largest in the country. There is some disparity on the Main Line, with smaller homes and walkable village life in Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, and Narberth contrasting with the more established suburban landscape. The Main Line is home to some of the best colleges in the country, including Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and Villanova University, as well as some of the most famous and exclusive private schools in the United States. The Haverford School for Boys, The Agnes Irwin School, Friends' Central School, Baldwin, The Shipley School, and The Episcopal Academy are six especially prestigious institutions.

Communities on the Main Line

The Main Line proper is a line of communities extending northwest from the City of Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, the stations on what is now referred to as the R5 train line are: Overbrookmarker, Merionmarker, Narberthmarker, Wynnewoodmarker, Ardmoremarker, Haverfordmarker and Bryn Mawrmarker, which inspired the mnemonic "Old Maids Never Wed And Have Babies". The other rail line communities are outside the traditional Main Line and sometimes considered the Upper Main Line: Rosemontmarker, Villanovamarker, Radnor, St. Davidsmarker, Waynemarker, Straffordmarker, Devonmarker, Berwynmarker, Daylesfordmarker, and Paoli. In recent years, the R5 train service has extended to the west of Paoli. Some communities, most notably Gladwynemarker, Bala Cynwydmarker, and Penn Valley, are included in what is commonly accepted as the Main Line, as they are typical Main Line communities, are adjacent to Main Line towns. Neither, however, is located on the rail line for which the area is named and therefore they may be considered culturally rather than geographically on the Main Line.

The Main Line by community:

The Main Line by municipality:


There are no collective data for the Main Line so all data are by ZIP code. In comparison, the median family income and home price for the state of Pennsylvania are $68,646 and $155,000, respectively. The following ZIP codes are those within the previously mentioned municipalities that make up the Main Line. All data, with the exception of average home price, are as of the 2000 census.

ZIP code Towns/Aliases Population Median family income* Average home price
19003 Ardmoremarker 12,902 $72,990 $299,746
19004 Bala Cynwydmarker, Belmont Hills 9,299 $98,183 $511,381
19010 Bryn Mawrmarker, Rosemontmarker, Garrett Hillmarker 21,485 $110,956 $866,346
19035 Gladwynemarker 4,050 $200,000+ $1,372,038
19041 Haverfordmarker 6,652 $121,046 $1,168,496
19066 Merionmarker 5,951 $118,083 $635,481
19072 Narberthmarker, Penn Valley 9,824 $106,057 $718,746
19085 Villanovamarker, Ithan 9,189 $174,511 $1,435,844
19087 Waynemarker, Radnormarker, St. Davidsmarker, Straffordmarker, Chesterbrookmarker 30,892 $105,680 $737,025
19096 Wynnewoodmarker, Penn Wynnemarker 13,299 $111,683 $500,719
19301 Paolimarker 6,804 $87,946 $526,731
19312 Berwynmarker 10,911 $110,083 $741,338
19333 Devonmarker 7,408 $101,279 $1,355,923
19355 Malvernmarker, Frazer 22,605 $90,606 $850,250

For comparison, the median family income of Beverly Hills, Californiamarker is $110,040.

Recreation and attractions

Rider jumping in a sidesaddle class at the Devon Horse Show.
  • The Devon Horse Show: The oldest and largest multi-breed horse show in the U.S.
  • Valley Forge National Historic Parkmarker: The site where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777–1778 during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Barnes Foundationmarker: An educational art institute located in Lower Merion. The Foundation possesses more than 2500 objects, including 800 paintings by artist such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso.
  • Chanticleer Garden: located in Wayne
  • King of Prussia Mallmarker: An upscale shopping mall which is arguably America's largest shopping complex at one location.
  • Harriton House: Located in Bryn Mawrmarker, it was built in 1704 by a Welsh Quaker named Rowland Ellis. He named the estate "Bryn Mawr", meaning "high hill" in Welsh, which is where the community gained its name. The house's best known occupant was Charles Thompson, the first and only secretary of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
  • Bryn Mawr Film Institute: A non-profit community theater founded in 2002 in the old Bryn Mawr theater building, built in 1926, which it is in the process of significantly restoring and renovating. The institute offers showings of classic movies of the 20th century, opera, film education courses, and film discussions.
  • The Appleford Estate: A 300-year-old 24 acre estate located in Villanova. Today it is carefully maintained as an arboretum and a bird sanctuary. Its gardens were designed by renowned landscape architect Thomas Sears and include woods, meadows, formal gardens, brick walkways, rhododendron tracts, a stream, pond, and waterfall. Visitors are welcome to visit free of charge and the house is available as a rental for special events.
  • Merion Golf Clubmarker: Ranked America's 7th best golf course in 2008 and will host the U.S. Open in 2013.
  • Philadelphia Country Club: One of the first 100 golf courses established in the USA. Hosted the 1939 U.S. Open.
  • Radnor Hunt Club: A club for country horse riding and for a yearly spring fox hunt in Malvern, Pennsylvaniamarker.

Sporting and social clubs

Looking down the first fairway at Merion Golf Club.
Private Clubs played an important role in the development of the Main Line, offering social gathering places, facilities for sports such as cricket, golf, tennis, squash, and horseback riding, for the families relocating from Philadelphia to the suburban region. Many of the clubs are known for their award winning golf courses, grass tennis courts, exclusivity, and social functions. Some of these clubs include:


One of the best assets of the Main Line is its numerous nationally ranked public and private schools. The school districts that serve the Main Line are Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County, Radnor Township School District and School District of Haverford Township in Delaware County, and Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and Great Valley School Districtmarker in Chester County. In addition to the Main Line's nationally ranked public schools, the region is also home to some of the best and most exclusive private schools in the country.

Public High Schools

Private Schools

Catholic Schools

Higher Education

Corr Hall at Villanova University


The Main Line is served by numerous different modes of transportation, and benefits from an ideal position within the Philadelphia region. U.S. Route 30 (Lancaster Avenue) is the main thoroughfare through the Main Line; running east to west, it is the backbone of the region and runs through the large majority of its towns and municipalities. The Main Line benefits from numerous highways, including the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) which connects it to Center City Philadelphia, I-476 which runs north to south connecting the region with the Northeast Extension and the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the north, and to Philadelphia International Airport and I-95 to the south. The Main Line is served by three train lines operated by SEPTA, the R5 and the R6 which connect the region with Center City Philadelphia, and the Route 100 Highspeed Line which runs between 69th terminal in Upper Darbymarker to Norristownmarker. Amtrak also serves the region at certain stations along the Keystone Corridor.

Main Line in books, movies, music and television

Cover of The Philadelphia Story

Notable Main Liners, Past and Present

Grace Kelly, former Princess of Monaco


External links

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