Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 11
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: October 1961 Volume 11 Number 4, Pages 88–93
The history of Malvern
The borough of Malvern is located within the boundaries of Willistown Township in the center of the six townships which comprise the Paoli School System. Its elevation is 600 feet above sea level, making it the highest point on the Pennsylvania Railroad from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. West Chester, the county seat, is nine miles southwest and Philadelphia is thirty miles east of Malvern. It is situated on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad about a mile west of Paoli, between Routes #202 and #30.
In respect to area Malvern is no larger than it was 72 years ago. But great changes in population, which are characteristic of this area, have affected its growth. As of May, 1961, eight denominations had established churches in the borough. Included also ere two private schools and one public grade school, a national bank, a first-class post office, Federal Savings and Loan, public library, and numerous stores. Two tennis courts, two baseball fields, a play area and scout cabin are located at the Paoli Monument grounds, which are located within the borough.
There are various estimates as to when Malvern was first started. The earliest date which I have found is 1852. In an interview printed in the Daily Local News, February 29, 1884, Malachi Harris claims to be the oldest resident of Malvern, It states that when he first pitched his tent 32 years previously (1852) there were five houses at the site which was later to become Malvern.
The story begins in 1866 when ground on which the borough is located was a large farm owned by Isaac Ruth, grandfather of Isaac Kurtz, Dr. Clarence Kurtz, and Harry Kurtz. In 1873 it was purchased by David Evans, who is credited with its establishment. David Evans sold the ground from Ruthland Avenue east to the line where Clemson's house now stands on Arlington Avenue in Duffryn Mawr to his nephew William Penn Evans. He kept the balance of the land from Ruthland Avenue west as far as his farmland or the present site of Malvern.
David Evans and his nephew, William Penn Evans built a large steam flour mill and did a thriving business. It was the first mill to adopt the new process or patent system of making flour which revolutionized milling. This was located at or near what is now Fisher's Feed Supply on East King Street.
Malvern was referred to as West Chester Intersection or "Intersection" before the P.R.R, straightened its tracks in 1874. It got its name due to the fact that a branch of the railroad was sent from West Chester and joined the main line of P.R.R. where it passes through Malvern. The name was officially changed on February 21, 1873, when a new station was built. David Evans gave it the name of Malvern which was also the name of a tiny town in the Welsh highlands. This new station was located at or near what is now Roland Ewing's News Agency.
David Evans built a large frame three-story house on the west side of Channing Avenue on the corner of Roberts Lane, while W. P. Evans built a stone three-story house on the east side of Channing Avenue across Channing from his uncle. Both are still standing and are being used, David Evans' as rectory and W.P. Evans' as part of the school for St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church.
In a narrative article written by a person named "William A." there is a list of people who lived in Malvern around 1860. Barney Oldfield was baker at the Helm. Albert Johnson kept a store, and Benny Roberts had a feed warehouse. Albert Johnson had his store on Hollow Road along with Finch's shoemaker shop. It also mentions the Old Warren shops which are located on the corner of the Old Lancaster Turnpike and Old Hollow Road just opposite the General Warren Tavern. This leads me to believe that at this early date most of the so-called town was located north of what is now Malvern, and had the Warren Tavern as its center. There is also reference to a Mrs. Harris who lived at the Harris farm at the "Lime Warf" with Bobby McCarroll and the Baptist parsonage as neighbors.
The first waterworks from natural springs on the Ruth farm was constructed by David Evans in 1871. This was followed by various others constructed throughout the years.
In the "Local" for August 7, 1874, an epidemic of dysentery was reported in the Malvern area. Over one-fourth of the people were affected by it.
For two years the town continued to grow and prosper.* On December 8, 1876, in an article in the "Local" it was announced that the Post Office was moved to Reeve's general store on King Street. At this time William P. Evans' flour mill was prospering and Albert Foreman was manager at his mill.
About June 24, 1879, Lik Reeves decided to erect a hall on the lot opposite Malvern store; this is now the Odd Fellows Hall. Charles Entriken as the contractor built the hall which consists of two floors and cellar. The first floor was to be used for auctions and contained a stage. The second floor was made to seat 350 people. This hall was used frequently for lectures and social affairs. Throughout my research I have found numerous clippings advertising speeches, lectures and dances at the hall. In the same article there was a reference to the Boy's Friend's School at Malvern.∗
∗ Thought to be where Dr. Sherson's Apartment and office are on Channing Avenue. A man named Doran had a school at this location about the same time as said school.
In 1880 a band was organized which continued to prosper for about ten years, when it was discontinued. In one of the social columns it was stated that Evans Griffith, who built his home in Malvern, was an active member of the Charlestown Band in which he played a horn. But there is no indication that he was a member of the newer band. The band played at various social functions and at several meetings.
Among the older families of this time were the MacPhersons who lived on the corner of Morehall Road and Route #30 where the Stewarts now live. The MacCouches lived at the corner of the Old Lancaster Turnpike and Hollow Road where the pike went under the P.R.R. at Warren Tavern.
Malachi Harris who claimed to be the oldest resident of Malvern must have been well known throughout the area; his name is mentioned in several social columns. For instance, in one article in 1882 it was stated that he was having a well built at his home on King Road just opposite the Priest homestead.
On October 2, 1882, Malvern adopted its new seal. It was described as the "state coat of arms ornamented with a spread eagle." This and the fact that the motto "Excelsior" was adopted by the town seven years previously showed that the town was more than a mass of buildings.
From October, 1883, till the end of 1889 a building boom seemed to hit Malvern. During January of 1885 there were fifteen buildings being built at the same time. About 1883 Jared Farra opened an eating house and restaurant on what is now East King Street. Thomas and Haines opened a feed and grain store which was located on East King Street where Fisher's feed is now. Edward Viler opened a green grocery and meat
market where Baranzanna has his junk shop on the corner of Church and King Streets. Also in 1883 John Detwiler built a home at or on the property next to the Malvern Inn or Charles Boehmlerfs home on West King Street. Bowell Baily also built a new home.
In September of 1889 the population had risen to about 200 people, David Evans opened a livery stable on King Street opposite Channing Avenue where the Malvern Federal Savings and Loan is now located. George R. Walton, the druggist at this time, had a shop on King Street where George Boehlmer has his apartments. Preston W. Lewis bought three building lots on which he built a paint and paperhanging shop and a millinery and notion store. These are now the site of Vendetti's store on East King Street just west of Church Street.
On February 2, 1884, the town was first lighted with gas. In the same year a new livery stable was to be erected and a meat and provision store was opened. Robert Everett, editor of the "Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch" had a home built in Malvern at the same time.
The exact date of the Malvern Hotel is not available, however in the "Local", July 30, 1885, there was a short story entitled "Hotel Needed", which tells of a traveler who arrived in Malvern late at night and was unable to find a hotel, so he had to walk some distance to a friend's home for shelter for the night. The next date referring to the hotel was February 3, 1886, when a stranger came to town and started selling land in the area. The people later found out about his shady business but when they went to the hotel he was gone. He had slipped out a window and left, having left his clothes in the outhouse behind the hotel. This hotel must have been built between July, 1885, and February, 1886. It was a Temperance hotel and was located in the building on the corner of Channing and King Street which is now the home of Chester Biddison.
In May of 1886 a building constructed by Powell Baily was finished. In one part of it was a post office, the other a store. By November, 1886,there were at least 125 buildings in Malvern. The bank then stood on the corner of Chester Springs Road∗ and Main Street. J. B. Roberts had two brick houses built at the same time which were located on what is now High Street.
∗ Believed to be section of North Warren Avenue which is now between King Street (Main Street) and # 202.
Mahlon Hoffecker had a double house built on the corner of Warren Avenue and Monument Avenue in 1887; George Weaver now lives on one side and the other is made into apartments. The following year, 1888, the Malvern Fire Company was formed. It is considered the oldest in the county today.
On March 16, 1889, a group of men met at the home of James Doran to talk over a charter of incorporation. In May of 1889 the Grand Jury in West Chester passed the charter and Malvern became a borough, which included 800 acres of land. In October of 1889 the borough officially adopted the seal which was suggested earlier.
A dysentery epidemic again struck Malvern and the nearby areas of Duffryn Mawr and Sugartown. At this time about 350 to 400 people were affected by it. Dr. Rickenbaugh, the oldest doctor in the community, led the small team in trying to control the disease. In the same year in the month of August a brick building was constructed near the Friends' Meeting House (33 X 29 feet). This was to be used as the Friends', school and was constructed by G.P Fall. The public high school at this time was located on Broad Street, third house on the right from Bridge Street, while the grade school was on the corner of High Street and Broad Street where George Raysor now lives.
August, 1889, was an important time for the new borough of Malvern. This was the time when they decided who they wanted to run their town. There were about 600 residents of which 160 were voters. Out of these 130 were Republicans and 30 Democrats. The favorites of the Republican ticket consisted of the following:
Burgess - Henry Tagg, real estate agent.
In 1890 the town had the following: 4 general stores, a stationery and paper store, 2 wheelwright and blacksmith shops, harness factory, 2 shoemakers, 2 barbers, 2 tin and stove stores, 2 hardware stores, a lumber and coal yard, 2 plumbers, a machinist, nursery, bakery and confectionery, 2 real estate agents, an insurance agency, post office, railroad station, 4 churches, public school, 2 private schools, 3 sabbath schools, a large public hall, national bank, weekly newspaper, platinum works, carriage works, restaurant, 2 painters, meat and provision store, grist mill, planing mill, 2 drug stores, fire company, building and loan society.
By 1893 the town had a well-established weekly newspaper with Wessly Graham as editor. It was called the "Malvern Item." In February, 1892, a new hall was built near the bank by Charles Entricken. It was a large brick building and now houses the Library and Municipal Building.
From 1900 on there was another building boom. The Hires Rootbeer and Condensed Milk plant moved in where Plastimatics is now located. In 1902 two halls were built, King's Hall and Craft's Hall on King Street.
By 1920 the population had grown to 1026 and increased 525 in the next ten years to make a total of 1,551 in 1930. By 1930 it was quite evident that Malvern had grown from the tiny village which sat on a hill and was expected by many to grow into a resort for people from Philadelphia and surrounding large cities. There was only one thing that it did not become, and that was a resort, but it did grow into a quiet residential area.
Malvern was established by steady old Quakers and other stock who stuck to the ship, and as a result it grew into a thriving borough increasing in population and industrial interests. New blood was infused with ancestral blood and the results were very satisfactory.
"The record of Malvern's growth has not been what might be called an exciting story, but it has represented a slow and steady expansion which is, after all, the surest promise of stability and prominence in the future. There have been no great building booms and few industrial developments to attract many settlers from other localities, but the history of Malvern has nevertheless been one of continual progress." Sam Willey, writing of the borough in 1893, promised even that it would "grow into a place of prominence in the future."Top
1. "Cyclopedia of Biographies."
2. Fiftieth Anniversary Booklet (1889-1939)
3. Dr. Heathcote, Professor at West Chester State College. "History of Chester County", National Historical Association, Harrisburg, 1932.
4. Pinkowski, Edward. "Chester County Place Names."
5. Clippings from Chester County Historical Society files, History of Malvern, Business establishments of Malvern and Post Office of Malvern. The Daily Local News, especially the article "Malvern Has Steady Growth" by J. Foreman Cox, 1948.
6. Interview with Mrs. Mary West, Woodland Avenue, Malvern May 17, 1961.
7. Interview with Miss Margaret Kurtz, Channing Avenue, Malvern April 11, 1961.
8. Pennsylvania Railroad map 1881.
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