Naming Lansdowne

Nancy Musser lent me a 1968 booklet commemorating Lansdowne’s 75th anniversary. Not only does it discuss the history of Lansdowne, but the booklet itself is historic. The advertisement for Harrison Clothing lists their phone number as Madison 3-7648, back when phone numbers started with an exchange name.

One of the articles tells how Lansdowne got its name, and how it was almost named “Scottland.” (Imagine explaining Scottland-Alden High School all your life.)

To give you a little background, Wycombe Avenue in the early days was known as Kenny’s Lane and Lansdowne Avenue was the Darby and Radnor Road. (Looking on a map, sure enough, Lansdowne Avenue does run from Darby to Radnor. It was soon shortened to just “Darby Road,” and even today it is still called Darby Road once it crosses West Chester Pike. This may be well known to you, but it’s all new to me.) The whole Lansdowne area was simply called “Darby Road Station” because the only distinguishing feature was the train station, familiar to us today on Lansdowne Avenue which was called at that time “Darby Road.” Got it? Phew!

In 1875, Richard Griffith built a home east of Kenny’s Lane, but when he had his furniture shipped from Philadelphia, it went to Darby instead of Darby Road Station, a mistake easy enough to understand.

Not a man to tolerate a constant source of confusion, Griffith soon marched over to Providence Road to meet with the Pennsylvania Railroad president, Colonel Scott, who had a summer home near the current intersection with Hilldale Road in Clifton Heights. Showing political savvy, Griffith first suggested naming the station “Scottland,” with two t’s, just like the Colonel. The Colonel, thankfully a modest and practical man, demurred, so Griffith suggested “Lansdowne,” his first choice all along.

Lansdowne” seemed fine to the Colonel if it was okay with his Railroad Superintendent, one Mr. Smith, but when approached with the suggestion, Smith, as most bureaucrats, did not take kindly to change and squelched the idea (he thought).

He had not reckoned with Griffith’s tenacity. Griffith ordered a suitable sign with “Lansdowne” spelled out in gilt letters on a black background, and, on one dark night, he and a hired man erected it at the tran station. Smith was furious and accused Griffith of false assumption of authority, but the Colonel, who couldn’t care less one way or another, let it stay.

A map from 1911 in the booklet shows Scottdale Road as Scott Dale Avenue, I assume the only remaining memorial to the Colonel. Richard Griffith’s memorial is the name “Lansdowne” itself.

Roger Walck

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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One Response to Naming Lansdowne

  1. Pingback: Woodlands Cemetery, No Noxious Effluvia | Lansdowne-Aldan High School — Class of 1954

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