Merion is an unincorporated community in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States, and is one of the towns on the storied Philadelphia Main Line. It is contiguous to Philadelphia and is also bordered by Wynnewood, Narberth, and Bala Cynwyd. Merion Meeting House was built at the present intersection of Montgomery Avenue and Meetinghouse Lane in 1695 by Welsh settlers. The General Wayne Inn and Merion Friends Meeting House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Merion Friends Meeting House is also a National Historic Landmark.
Merion is often referred to as “Merion Station,” as this is the place name that the United States Postal Service recommends using in order to distinguish Merion from other areas in Pennsylvania with similar names. However, the historical name of the town, used by historical figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, is Merion.
Merion Civic Association
The Merion Civic Association was organized in 1913 by Edward W. Bok with the motto “To be Nation right and State right, we must first be Community right.” The Merion Civic Association made several important improvements to Merion such as paving, better lighting, cast-iron street signs, better fire and police protection, and planned tree-planting. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote an article in 1917 for Bok’s magazine entitled “Model Merion.”
After World War I, the Merion Civic Association sought to construct a community center in memorial to the 81 men from Merion who served in the armed forces during the conflict. Eldridge R. Johnson, the founder and president of the Victor Talking Machine Company, donated his house on Hazelhurst Avenue to this cause. The house was demolished and a new Merion Tribute House was built on its foundation. It was built with careful attention to detail, with Gothic patterns and local stone. The stone was shaped on site and window mullions all hand cut to match. The Tribute House is still used today for meetings of the Merion Civic Association and is supported by renting the space for parties or meetings. Merion also has its own public elementary school—Merion Elementary of the Lower Merion School District on South Bowman Avenue.
The institution for which Merion is singularly world-renowned is the Barnes Foundation, an important art collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings amassed by drug entrepreneur Albert C. Barnes that since the 1920s has been housed in a granite mansion with gardens on Latches Lane. The Barnes collection is currently awaiting its move to a newly-designed museum building on the Parkway in Center City Philadelphia that includes a replication of Barnes’s original gallery in Merion.
In addition to public Merion Elementary, Catholic, all-girls Merion Mercy Academy and its feeder school, Catholic, coeducational Waldron Mercy Academy, are found in Merion, as well as four Hebrew schools: the Solomon Schechter School, Chabad School, Congregation Adath Israel Religious School, and Lower Merion Synagogue Religious School. Merion Botanical Park is located between Merion Road and the railroad tracks. Before its campus change to Bryn Mawr, Akiba Hebrew Academy was located in Merion. That campus is now home to Kohelet Yeshiva High School, formerly Stern Hebrew High School.
Saint Joseph’s University straddles City Line Avenue and is presently remodeling the former Episcopal Academy campus on the Merion side of the Avenue to contain classroom and student activity buildings. The University also recently bought and renovated Merion Gardens Apartments, at the northwest corner of the East Wynnewood Road/City Avenue intersection, for student housing.
The Paoli/Thorndale Line, originally part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was built through Merion in the late 19th century. Most SEPTA trains heading east to Philadelphia or west to Thorndale stop at Merion Station, located in the center of Merion.
Other public transportation options in Merion include the SEPTA Route 44 buses that travels along Old Lancaster Road and Montgomery Avenue between Ardmore and Center City, some of which stop at the Narberth Station; the SEPTA Route 65 bus that traverses the length of City Line Avenue; the SEPTA Route 105 bus that runs the entire length of the Main Line along Lancaster Avenue (Route 30) and that stops at the Wynnewood Shopping Center. All are within walking distance of Merion.
Demographics and government
Merion is located in zipcode 19066. Lower Merion Township is responsible for all governance.
According to the United States Census, 2000 Merion has 5,951 residents, 93.6% of whom are White; 2.1% are Black or African American; 2.7% are Asian; and 1.3% are Hispanic or Latino. 95.1% have a high school diploma or higher and 76.7% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 9.4% were born in a foreign country. 12.3% speak a language other than English at home, and out of that percentage the number that speak Hebrew at home is 10.1%. The median household income in 1999 was $103,229, and 2.7% of individuals were below the poverty line.
Merion has a comparatively large Jewish population and serves as home to Adath Israel, a Conservative Jewish congregation. Its Orthodox Jewish population is served by Lower Merion Synagogue on Old Lancaster Road, Aish HaTorah on Montgomery Avenue and the Chabad Center of the Main Line, located in the historic former General Wayne Inn on Montgomery Avenue. Reform Jews in Merion are likely to travel a mile west up Montgomery Avenue to Main Line Reform Temple-Beth Elohim, to Gladwyne’s Beth David Congregation, or to Congregation Rodeph Shalom on North Broad Street in Center City.
The main commercial area of Merion is located along Montgomery Avenue east and west of its intersection with Old Lancaster Road and extends into neighboring Bala Cynwyd, officially known as the Merion-Cynwyd Commercial District. It includes restaurants, gift shops and other stores, and local landmarks more than a half century old whose reputations extend well beyond Merion’s limits, notably Hymie’s Merion Delicatessen, The Tavern Restaurant, Murray’s Delicatessen, Babis’s Pharmacy, Bob Wark’s Liberty Service Station, Bala Pizza, and the Township Cleaners. The below-mentioned Merion Park community borders
Montgomery Avenue, on which exists another shopping district, although only the first block is included in the Merion township.
Merion is served by one of the principal three teaching hospitals that serve Philadelphia’s Main Line. Along with the eponymous Bryn Mawr and Paoli Memorial hospitals, Lankenau Hospital, on Lancaster Avenue (U.S. Route 30) in nearby Wynnewood near the Overbrook border, has traditionally been affiliated with either Jefferson or Hahnemann (now Drexel) colleges of medicine and is always (with Bryn Mawr and Paoli) on the list of the nation’s top community hospitals. Saunders House, a rehabilitation facility, can be found on Lankenau’s premises, as is a large and busy medical office building that is home to many of the private practices of the hospital’s attending physicians.
The community north of Montgomery Avenue surrounding General Wayne Park is usually referred to as Merion Park and is in the same zipcode as Merion. It was built by developer Ralph Madway decades after the closing of the General Wayne Racetrack that once drew thousands of spectators to Merion for horse races on the green now the Park’s grounds and bounded by Maplewood and Revere Roads.