03 March 2016

What Local History Has to Say About Ardsley vs North Hills

My house may have a slight bit of an identity crisis in terms of the neighborhood to which it belongs. It sits at the nexus of two communities within Greater Glenside-- Ardsley and North Hills. The larger subdivision containing my land, Reginald Ferguson's "North Glenside", eventually became known as "Ardsley". Today, Ardsley is largely considered to be bounded at its south end by the main thoroughfare of Jenkintown Road, stretching north to Susquehanna Ave between North Hills Ave and Hillside Cemetery). We, however, are located to the south of Jenkintown, part of a small 6-7 block portion of Ferguson's subdivisions, in what is now commonly known as North Hills. North Hills covers generally between Mount Carmel Ave to the south, North Hills Ave to the west (and extending even a few blocks further west into Upper Dublin Township), Jenkintown Road to the north, and Edge Hill Road to the east. By the literal definition of these boundaries, the house is located in North Hills; and, although the construction date of my home in the 1920's post-dates many earlier homes to the south more firmly in North Hills, it more closely aligns to the development of this neighborhood than Ardsley, where a majority of homes were built in the 1950's and 1960's.

Ardsley station (Wikimedia Commons)
North Hills, corner of Mount Carmel Ave & Limekiln Pike (Wikipedia)

Currently, I'm making my way through reading a comprehensive history written about Glenside, The Story of Greater Glenside by Robert S. Camburn (1977). There are several interesting nuggets of information in here on these two neighborhoods, and interestingly enough, the map included at the very end of the book allows the name of "Ardsley" to ever-so-slightly overlap Jenkintown Road at its east end:

Map of Glenside, as published in Robert S. Camburn's The Story of Greater Glenside (1977).
A few excerpts from Camburn's description of Ardsley-North Hills begins with this clarification, despite the label on the later map:

     "Because the names of Ardsley and North Glenside were used rather freely for development plans, we will state at the outset of our consideration of the North Hills area that it is regarded as lying between Jenkintown Road and Mount Carmel Avenue, while the Ardsley of today runs northward from Jenkintown Road."

In discussing North Hills further, Camburn describes various subdivision developments in the neighborhood across multiple historical maps, some of which I have seen (but some I haven't and can seek out!) spanning from before 1893 up to the late 1920's. My portion of Ferguson's subdivision is not mentioned here, but both the 1893 and 1909 atlas maps label the area directly south of my property. My house is at the absolute extreme southern boundary of Ferguson's later subdivision, and thus the area described here ends quite literally at my southern neighbor's property.

Portion of 1893 atlas map, highlighting the future location of my house, directly adjacent to the development of the Wm. Penn Real Estate Co. Map courtesy of Franklin Maps (note: map oriented with north to the right of the image)
Most of the Cape Cod-style houses on my block, however, were not actually built until the 1940's. Camburn's presentation of the several blocks directly to my south:

     "Plan maps which the author has seen for the earliest development of the North Hills community do not carry any dates. However, the 1893 local atlas map indicates a development here by the Wm. Penn Real Estate Company. (Somewhat later it has been called the Wm. Penn Realty Co.) The local atlas map of 1909 designates the same area as Remlu Heights (the developer, Ulmer, using the reverse spelling of his name). Parry says that this designation was attached only briefly to the locality."

Portion of 1927 atlas map, highlighting my house in Ferguson's North Glenside, with "Remlu Heights" directly to the south (left side of map). The name "Ardsley Estates" is also sprinkled throughout pockets of Remlu Heights. Map courtesy of Franklin Maps. (note: map oriented with north to the right of the image)
And later, more specifics of the location:
     "The earliest plan map mentioned above largely agrees with the 1893 local atlas map, boundaries being half-way above Spruce Avenue (to Jenkintown Road)... These maps all indicate Wm. Penn Real Estate Co. as owner."
     "On the 1909 local atlas index map, the area is designated Remlu Heights... but only to about halfway between Spruce Avenue and Jenkintown Road..."

This spot, halfway between Spruce Ave and Jenkintown Rd, is the location on the map where the northeast/southeast avenues take a slight curve, a product of Reginald Ferguson's layout being misaligned from the streets of Remlu Heights (now North Hills). This occurs directly in front of my house on Central Avenue, and also results in diagonal property lines at the front and back of my lot.

Camburn has another interesting footnote, speaking to his earlier allusion to the fast and loose use of the name "Ardsley" to different subdivisions:
     "An undated sales map, similar in coverage to the early maps showing the Remlu or Wm. Penn Real Estate Co. subdivision, bears the title of "Ardsley Estates." A separate plan map of 1923 shows Ardsley Estates owned by Edge Hill Realty Corp."

This name of Ardsley-- I had wondered about its origins since the early days of my research. However, rudimentary searches had only yielded the existence of another village called Ardsley, just outside of New York City which was supposedly named by a large landowner there after his ancestor's birthplace, the village of East Ardsley in England. Also, being an English placename, it supposedly means "home-lover's meadow."

Perhaps this is an image William T.B. Roberts (1850-1936) had in mind in 1905. Roberts, a business associate of the likes of Philadelphia magnates Peter Widener and William Elkins, came to rapidly develop several sizable developments in Glenside at the turn of the 20th century. According to Camburn:

     "Under plan dated March 10, 1905, Roberts prepared to develop what he called Ardsley. The area covered by this plan was within the limits of Jenkintown Road, Sylvania Avenue, Edgecomb Avenue and Tyson Avenue. Then, under plan designated Ardsley No. 2, dated June 1905, development north of Edgecomb Avenue to Bradfield Road was undertaken.
     Between these "Ardsley" areas and the area presently known as Ardsley from Jackson Avenue west, Roberts established Ardsley Burial Park in 1906 (which was bought out by Hillside Cemetery in 1953 and placed under the latter's management). The Roberts' family burial plot is located here."

This being the earliest chronological reference by Camburn of the use of the name Ardsley, it appears that the name was coined locally by Roberts, and referred to the neighborhood to the east of the current Ardsley, on the other side of the railroad tracks. This other area presently has an Ardsley Avenue where my wife and I made an offer on a house before finding the one we ultimately bought.

When Camburn finally comes to speak of the neighborhood currently known as Ardsley, we learn further of its origins, which consist primarily of the history I have learned through my independent research and presented on this blog:

     "...this area was called Tyson's Gap at the time of the Revolution and that this later became Tyson. Tyson was the name of Ardsley station on the rail line until about 1897. It is so named on the 1897 local atlas map.
     A development plan map of March 26, 1918, with later additions, is labeled "Ferguson Tract of North Glenside #1 - North Glenside Land Co.," and covers the area from Penn Avenue to Maple Avenue, north from above Spruce Avenue to Susquehanna Street. (The township line runs just west of Penn.)
     The Ferguson tract of North Glenside #2, as shown on plan map dated November 21, 1919, covers the area from Jackson Avenue to Maple, and from Jenkintown Road to Spear Avenue.
     Ardsley also includes the area west of Penn Avenue in Upper Dublin Township from Jenkintown Road to Fitzwatertown Road, north to Susquehanna Street."

Camburn was certainly right in claiming that the name Ardsley was used quite freely by developers. My own cobbling together of the timeline of the name's use locally, based on Camburn's history, is somewhat speculative in filling in the gaps as follows:

-1905: W.T.B. Roberts first uses the name Ardsley locally for his development east of the railroad tracks, north of Jenkintown Rd
-c. 1905-1909: The nearby Tyson train station adopts Ardsley as its new name.
-1918-1920: Reginald Ferguson lays out his North Glenside subdivision. I speculate that the name of the train station to its east, and the lack of common reference to the "original" Ardsley, causes residents and leaders to come to use this name for the burgeoning development close to the station in the 1920s. Thus, the name effectively jumps across the tracks.
-1923, 1927: Maps include "Ardsley Estates" amongst the area of North Hills to the south of Jenkintown Rd.
-1929: The Glenside Manor Civic Association of North Glenside, with its Civic Hall located on Hamel Avenue, changes its name to Ardsley Civic Association and Ladies Auxiliary, further cementing the name association with the neighborhood.

Current Google map aerial view, with boundary overlays indicating the migration of the name "Ardsley" from Roberts' subdivision east of the train station, to its present-day boundaries west of the station.
If it wasn't painfully clear by now, the message of this post is to SEEK OUT WRITTEN LOCAL HISTORIES. You are far from the first person to be interested in the origins of your micro-neighborhood and of your town or city at large. Even though my specific neighborhood is not the main focus of this written history by Robert Camburn, it was included by the author as a part of the larger history of Glenside as a whole.

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