At the heart of the Main Line, Bryn Mawr is synonymous with education, culture and first-rate medical care.
Bryn Mawr College, one of the Seven Sister colleges, has been educating women in liberal arts programs on its beautiful campus off Lancaster Avenue since 1885. Among its graduates is actress Katharine Hepburn, who showed the same rebellious streak on campus that she later immortalized on film. Within shouting distance of the college are the fine private schools Baldwin, Shipley, and Agnes Irwin.
The Main Point, which hosted musical superstars, is gone, but MilkBoy Café maintains the beat. Bryn Mawr Film Institute offers a rich array of movies new and old, plus courses and discussions focusing on cinema (and in-person appearances by actors and filmmakers). Art galleries just down the block stimulate the eye and, behind the theater, comprehensive Bryn Mawr Hospital is a reassuring presence for the rest of the body.
It all started in 1683, when Quaker Rowland Ellis emigrated here from the town of Dolgellau in northwest Wales, bought some land from a fellow named Penn, and built a two-story stone mansion that survives. Some of his countrymen followed, and his uncle, John Humphrey, bought a tract on today’s Bryn Mawr College footprint and apparently stole the limelightthe local area soon bore the less exotic name of Humphreyville. It wasn’t until 1869 that the name changed, when the new kid in town, the Pennsylvania Railroad, bought up all the trackside land and renamed the area after the long-gone Ellis’ Welsh and local farms: Bryn Mawr, meaning “big hill.”
As prominent Philadelphians turned their Bryn Mawr summer profiles into permanent residency in the late 19th and early-20th centuries, the community’s focus on education and healthcare sharpened. That emphasis remains central, while local leaders seek a public-private partnership to both preserve and stimulate the business district that rims the train station and lines Lancaster Avenue.