28 October 2015

A Walk Through the Ardsley Neighborhood (Ferguson's North Glenside)

Examining the history, growth, and architecture of your home's neighborhood can tell you quite a bit about its own history by providing context, both physical and temporal. We've now been through two posts regarding the subdivision in which my house was built, Ferguson's North Glenside. The first post explained the process of discovering the subdivision's name through historical map exploration. The second post gave a brief history of Reginald T. Ferguson's creation of the subdivision by splitting two larger tracts of land, including that of Emma Spear. Here, we venture off into the residential neighborhood, which gained its name Ardsley in its early days. I'll examine briefly the variety of residential architecture, spanning from the 1920's through present-day. I'll also point out the neighborhood landmarks which provide amenities to residents.

View down the 600 block of Central Ave, with varying home styles. From Left to Right: 1920's Bungalow, 1960's Garrison Colonial, 1920's Bungalow, 1920's Bungalow, 1950's brick Cape Cod variant.

Ardsley vs North Hills

While this greater area of Glenside, including land south and west of that divided by Ferguson, at one point fell under the category of "North Glenside", that name no longer exists today. Ardsley I've already described historically, and lies largely east of Jenkintown Road and even extends slightly into Upper Dublin Township. Present-day North Hills, which includes areas which used to be known as Edge Hill and Remlu, respectively, comprises the western half of the area, roughly along Limekiln Pike, and again extending into Upper Dublin. It was subdivided earlier than Ardsley, and thus its concentration of homes is on the whole a few decades older, with many homes from 1900-1930. Although my house is technically within the subdivision which became Ardsley, you can see that it is right at the western edge of the former Emma Spear land, and with its 1920's construction and location west of Jenkintown Road, my property more associates with North Hills in today's geography.

You've seen this clip from a 1916 map in previous posts, showing location of my house at the western edge of the Emma A. Spear tract. Base map courtesy of Franklin Maps.
Ardsley and North Hills could be considered sister communities, as they blend seamlessly into one another and even share a youth sports organization called Ardsley-North Hills Athletic Association. Although the Upper Dublin portion of North Hills is more lower-middle class these days, Ardsley-North Hills as a whole is solidly middle class, with lot sizes of roughly one acre and modest single-family homes efficiently filling the streetscape.

Residential Architecture of Ardsley

As described previously, Ferguson did not act as a builder or developer with his subdivision, but rather as a land speculator profiting off the sale of individual lots. Thus, individuals built up the neighborhood over time, resulting in an eclectic mix of 20th century home styles. This differs from the classic portrayal of the American suburban subdivision, where developers built homes all in one fell swoop prior to selling the homes to individuals (typical of many post-WW2 developments).

Take a look at these photos from my neighborhood walk and you'll see a wide range of residential architecture: split-level, Craftsman bungalow, Cape Cod, ranch, Dutch Colonial, and other Colonial Revival subtypes. Today, nearly 1,200 houses exist in the various Ferguson North Glenside subdivisions, almost all of which are single-family homes. A few twin homes are sprinkled in, with no 3+ family buildings. The pattern of development here mirrors closely that of American suburban development as a phenomenon, with a larger-scale demand for new housing after WWII.

With the subdivisions established around 1920, roughly 120 or so houses were quickly constructed by various owners, filling in roughly 10-12% of the vacant lots. These houses were to a large extent built close to the main arterial of Jenkintown Road. During this time period, we see the architecture of the time in bungalows, Craftsmans, and Colonial Revivals.

This c. 1923 Craftsman Bungalow on Meyer Ave is one of few in the neighborhood with wood shingle siding appropriate for the time period. It looks great!

This c. 1920 Craftsman Bungalow on Tennis Ave recently replaced the inappropriate vinyl siding. Although I would have liked to see wood or fiber cement siding as well as the brick kept exposed on the chimney, I have to admit the stucco job on this house was pretty well done.

Circa 1930 Dutch Colonial at the corner of Jenkintown Rd and Jackson Ave.

On Maple Ave, a c. 1923 Colonial Revival with Dutch gambrel roof on left, next to a c. 1930 Bungalow on the right.
The Great Depression did slow development in the burgeoning suburb in the 1930's, but still about 60-70 homes were built in Ardsley, typically of the similar style varieties seen in the 1920's. The 1940's saw a similar rate of development as the 1920's, starting to mix in the popular Cape Cod style.

Circa 1948 Cape Cod home on Spear Ave.

A Cape Cod variant with front cross gable from circa 1945, at the corner of Maple Ave and Woodrow Ave.
Then, the real boom came. Although the gradual filling in of all these lots resulted in an eclectic mix of houses, roughly 55% of the current housing stock in the Ferguson subdivisions was built in the 1950's. Thus, there exists today a large number of split-levels, ranchers, and Cape Cod homes which were popular after the second World War. More than 90% of the residential lots were occupied by homes by the end of the 1960's.

On the 900 block of Cricket Ave, from Left to Right: c. 1955 Split-Level, c. 1958 Split-Level, c. 1955 Ranch. These split levels, with the distinctive roof eave projecting out at an angle, popped up all over the subdivision in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It is possible that the same builder spent several years building the same style house here.

Looking east down Meyer Ave towards Maple Ave, from Left to Right: one-half visible of a c. 1955 brick Ranch, c. 1956 Cape Cod, c. 1955 Ranch, and two c. 1961 Split-Levels before the intersection. Even though Meyer Ave deviates from the standard grid of the remainder of Ardsley (due to Sandy Run Creek), the houses are still oriented in the same direction as the other houses in the area, creating a diagonal arrangement with the street line.

C. 1955 Cape Cod on Spear Ave, directly across the street from the Community Center.
A few buildable lots do remain, with many of them incorporated into neighboring lots as side or backyards. Ryan Circle was created as a brand new cul de sac off of Meyer Ave in 1997, with 8 new two-story Colonial Revival houses. There also have been about a dozen new homes built since 2000.

Neighborhood Amenities

Not all of Ardsley is residential lots. For reasons not clear at this time, Reginald Ferguson did not continue Central Ave or Cricket Ave all the way to present-day Meyer Ave as he did with Tennis, Garfield, and Penn. Perhaps there had already been discussions of turning this area into a park or some other use. However this did not actually come to fruition officially until Abington Township purchased the land in 1935, nearly 15 years after the Spear tract was split. Ardsley Park came to be and remains today as an amenity with basketball and tennis courts, playing fields, and a playground.

The entrance to Ardsley Park, from the corner of Maple Ave and Jefferson Ave.
Across Maple Avenue rom the park, the entrance to the Ardsley Wildlife Sanctuary sits as undeveloped land essentially contiguous with neighboring Hillside Cemetery.

Entrance to Ardsley Wildlife Sanctuary, at corner of Maple Ave and Jefferson Ave.
What is today the community hub of the Ardsley Community Center, was originally the Ardsley Elementary School at about the midpoint of the former Spear land, on Spear Ave. It switched over to a community center in 1978 and today houses a daycare facility, acts as a meeting place for community and youth groups, and conducts educational programs. The fields out back also are the location for a number of community events.

Ardsley Community Center, formerly the Ardsley Elementary School, on Spear Ave.
And lastly, a significant stretch of Jenkintown Road, extending from Maple Avenue down to Tyson Avenue past the train station, exists as a commercial corridor. A number of staple businesses, including Joe's Meat Market and Little Rizzo's Pizza, are run along this stretch and several are even in structures originally built as single-family homes.

Joe's Meat and Grocery Market on Jenkintown Road.

Van's Lock Shop, Ardsley Cleaners, and Little Rizzo's Pizza on Jenkintown Road.

Ardsley Bible Chapel at the corner of Harrison Ave and Jenkintown Road.

Relating Neighborhood History to House History

Putting this in the context of my own home's construction at the western edge of the subdivision in the mid-1920's, there were only a few houses surrounding it for a few decades. As I've described previously, my neighbor relayed a story of long-time owner of my house Mrs Catherine Cantlin having been able to see the Ardsley train station 1/2 mile down Jenkintown Road. Although streets were laid out by Reginald Ferguson's subdivisions, roads were not immediately paved until the critical mass of home justified the expense by the township. The municipal sewer system was not constructed until the 1940's. All of these set a picture of the house in these early decades, one quite different than the dense, fully developed surroundings it enjoys today.

1 comment:

  1. There are some Sears and Roebuck house on the 600 block of Tennis.