A True Suburb Evolves

As the dependence upon the mills dwindled and the growth of the Township continued to grow, the areas, largely wooded, that were around the creek slowly disappeared. These woods were replaced with housing. “As technology advanced in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s power sources changed to steam, gasoline, oil and eventually electricity, all providing more reliable energy than the water-wheels.”

The evolution of the post office in what is now Cheltenham Village began on June 4, 1857. This was followed soon after by post offices in late 1857, 1887, and 1888. It was on May 18, 1888 that the community of La Mott, known as Camptown after the Civil War opened its post office. At the end of World War I the La Mott post office was taken over by the Oaklane post office in Philadelphia. This post office subsequently re-named the Logan Post Office continued to serve the community until July 2000 when a new facility was built at Penrose Avenue and Ashbourne Road which serves La Mott and several surrounding communities.

“During the half-century in which the township evolved from an industrial community to a residential area and emerged as Philadelphia’s first suburb, many wealthy and prominent Philadelphians came to live in Cheltenham. Two, whose activities have given them a place in the annals of the Civil war, were Lucretia Mott and Jay Cooke.”It is Lucretia Mott for whom La Mott is named.

In 1865, Cooke purchased 200 acres of land from the Chelten Hills Land Company. The boundaries of this tract were enclosed by what are now Ashbourne Road, Washington Lane and Church Road. In addition to the historic importance of this property because it housed a famous million-dollar baroque Victorian mansion, it was also where the barracks of Camp William Penn where for a few months before they were moved to more level ground on Keenan Street in La Mott.

“Two other prominent residents who were attracted to the township at the end of the nineteenth century and helped it to develop into Philadelphia’s first suburb were Peter Arrel Brown Widener and William Lukens Elkins.” By 1900 they owned more than five hundred miles of rail tracks in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. “Their Philadelphia Transportation Company, originally The Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company and the forerunner of the present SEPTA, controlled all the trolley lines in the Philadelphia area and they were responsible for having them routed to Cheltenham.”

“During the Civil War years, some Cheltenham residents were not afraid to take a stand and to participate actively for the very basic principals of democracy.” History’s annals are filled with a list of nationally known figures who once lived in this Philadelphia suburb and over a period of fifty years provided this currently peaceful and serene suburban community with an eventful and glamorous era.

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