The Main Street of the Main Line.
Located approximately eight miles West of Philadelphia, Ardmore was originally part of the “Welsh Tract,” a 40,000 acre parcel of land that William Penn granted to a group of Welsh Quakers in 1681 before he had seen his new American lands. The immigrants wished to create their own autonomous, self-sustaining community in the New World where they could practice their religion and maintain their culture free of the governmental pressure they had experienced in Wales after its incorporation into England in the early sixteenth century.
Ardmore officially began on 410 acres of land bought by Richard Davis in 1686 from five Welshmen for 32 pounds, 16 shillings. One of the few local towns without a Welsh name, the village’s original name was Athensville, a nod to the fascination with the Greek revival style movement of the time (1811). These original Welsh settlers came to work in the neighboring farms and the thriving mill industry along Mill Creek. Then followed a wave of Germans who contributed their industrial skills. Next the Irish added their abilities and found work in the hotels and staffed the lavish estates built in the mid 1800s.
The first roads were but trails, and only horse and foot transportation were available. Conditions were impossible: dusty in hot summer, muddy after rains. The settlement of Lancaster led to a demand for an adequate highway that led there from Philadelphia. In 1796, the Lancaster Turnpike (first one constructed in America) allowed ponderous Conestoga wagons to carry merchandise and interior bound settlers.
William J. Buck reported in his 1884 history, “Athensville is situated on the Lancaster turnpike, seven miles from Philadelphia, and is the largest village in the township. It contains [at the center] 8 houses, three stores and one hotel.” The town and train station were re-named Ardmore in 1873 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, as Ardmore sits at milepost 8.5 of PRRs "main line" West out of Philadelphia.
The establishment of railroad systems added to Ardmore’s expansion and prosperity. The first Board of Commissioners met in 1900 (at the General Wayne) to establish a local government. The same year, The Autocar Works relocated from Pittsburgh, attracted by good roads, a high grade of labor supply, the closeness to Philadelphia and a location on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.