Preserve America Community: Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, (population 11,044) was incorporated as a borough in 1893, but its history goes back much further. The Lenni-Lenape of the Delaware Tribe were the inhabitants of what is now Delaware County when Europeans first arrived in the 17th century. In 1682, William Penn opened the area, just six miles west of Philadelphia, to European settlement. Lansdowne became a quiet, agricultural community, which it would remain until the 19th century.
In the 1850s, the Philadelphia and West Chester Railroad laid a single track through the area, opening new economic possibilities. When the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the line and added a second track to facilitate passenger travel in 1881, Lansdowne experienced a period of major growth. Victorian homes of middle-class Philadelphians began to line Lansdowne’s streets. At the same time, the railroad encouraged the development of industry and associated housing for workers. Businesses grew around the train station and created a downtown, serving the needs of what was becoming a diverse and vibrant early suburb of Philadelphia.
Today Lansdowne remains a walkable, tight-knit community with a rich architectural heritage. Residents recognize that preserving the borough’s historic character is an essential part of shaping Lansdowne’s future. From nominations of key resources to the National Register of Historic Places to participation in the Main Street program, the local government, the Greater Lansdowne Civic Association, and other partners work together to protect and promote Lansdowne’s rich history.
Lansdowne has two National Register Historic Districts–the Lansdowne Park District and the Henry Albertson Subdivision–and two individually listed buildings–the 1927 Lansdowne Theater and the Twentieth Century Club. The theater is being rehabilitated for use as a performing arts center, and already houses two new, locally owned businesses in its storefronts, a good example of how historic preservation encourages reinvestment in a community. The Twentieth Century Club was built in 1911 by and for a small group of women whose objective was “to create an organized center of thought and action among women, for the protection of their interests and for the promotion of science, literature, and art.” In its heyday the club had 500 members. The clubhouse was deeded to the borough in 1979 and now serves as a community center and rental venue.
The current Borough Hall is an adaptive reuse of the borough’s 1903 firehouse, used through 1984. The first floor houses a model of the borough circa 1910. The Lansdowne Railroad Station (1902), designed by renowned Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, was restored after a 1992 fire and is used daily by regional rail commuters.
Lansdowne participates in a regional program called Classic Towns of Greater Philadelphia, an initiative of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission designed to foster the growth of the region’s older communities by promoting what makes each community a special place to live, work, and play.
For more information
Borough of Lansdowne descriptive map of historic resource: www.lansdowneborough.com/site/pages/tourism.php
Lansdowne Theater: http://www.lansdownetheater.org/
Classic Towns – Lansdowne: http://www.classictowns.org/lansdowne
Updated October 28, 2009