Profiles on some of the more compelling players in the ongoing battle to keep history alive on the Main Line.
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Right on Track
A crew of supporters makes a new path for Cynwyd Train Station.
If there’s a Main Line restoration project that proves the restorative power of partnerships, it’s Cynwyd Train Station and the kindred Heritage Trail. SEPTA, Montgomery County and Lower Merion Township each provided $225,000 toward the restoration of the 19th-century gem on Conshohocken State Road and Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd. Other collaborators include the Lower Merion Historical Society, Stumpo Construction, Broadlands Financial Group, the Neighborhood Club of Bala Cynwyd and more. The plan is for a rededication celebration this spring, marking its official rebirth as an active multipurpose facility and trailhead.
“It was during the era of railroad development that Lower Merion transitioned into a premier suburban community,” says LMHS president Jerry Francis.
Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1886, when George Brooke Roberts was president of its Schuylkill Valley Division, the station is a prime example of a standard brick-and-frame depot design, along a rail line that connected Philadelphia to Reading and Pottsville. The Cynwyd Heritage Trail will provide a 2-mile, paved path extending from the station to the Manayunk viaduct along unused SEPTA R6 track. It will lead through a 350-acre, linear park, linking public, private and institutional lands in the township.
Montgomery County’s open-space funds will cover 80 percent of the $1.3 million trail project, with Ardmore’s Studio Gaea among the contracted trail design firms. “We’re reclaiming an abandoned, compromised industrial landscape, and creating a spectacular park and recreational space,” says Nancy Winkler, president of Friends of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. “Uniquely, it will link us to the City of Philadelphia and the regional trail system, helping to connect Lower Merion’s recreational spaces with the city’s.”
Plans to refurbish the station began in November 2007, when the lease agreement with SEPTA granted lessee responsibilities to the township. A month later, Lower Merion subleased the station for the next 30 years to LMHS, which then began a three-year, three-phase revitalization plan. Stabilization was first. Water intrusion, fire damage and termite infestation required the removal and replacement of rafters, joist beams, flooring, windows, doors and the roof. Rotted pillars on the trackside were replaced with salvage or in-kind, full-cut lumber.
This year, leasehold improvements are expected from the first-floor tenant and the caretaker in the second-floor apartment. The third phase will reintroduce external ornamentation features—roof cresting, gaslights and benches.
This marks the second time LMHS has been involved in historic restoration in Bala Cynwyd. It played an identical role in the renovation of Lower Merion Academy, an 1812 building the society leases from the school district for its headquarters.
To learn more, visit cynwydtrail.org.