10 Architectural Wonders on the Main Line
27 Conshohocken State Road, Bala Cynwyd
As we begin our trek near City Line Avenue and head west on Conshohocken State Road, Cohen’s first recommended sight is St. Asaph’s. Here, the bounded churchyard frames a precinct, with church, rectory and cemetery. “St. Asaph’s presents itself like a transported vision of an imagined medieval Wales,” Cohen says. “I can’t help but see it through the architect’s compelling rendering, its rough stones composing a venerable outline, well anchored in the earth by the tower that seems to have reached down for bedrock to hold steady amid the tides of change.”
This was the church of the Roberts family, which owned one of the great early Main Line estates, extending almost to the Schuylkill. Their ancestral home stood northward for nearly three centuries, in a landscape that’s been totally recast since. There’s a gently contained spaciousness to the grounds of St. Asaph’s, designed by Theophilus Parsons Chandler. Chandler could brilliantly meld the evocative with the inventive and invest suburban rusticity with subtle branding of wealth and social position, distinguishing it from a more utilitarian rural vernacular.
“One feels an anticipation of things to come in the wonderfully intimate gateway, with its broad arch and crenellated crestings atop miniature defensive towers, presumably meant to protect tiny archers,” says Cohen. “The wide opening for vehicles contrasts with the one for people. This is the invitation to a route that circles back to the exit gate, with shorter, pointed elements marking another opening in the low wall.”