A History of Narberth
Originally named “Elm”, present day Narberth is situated on a tract of land originally deeded to Edward Rees (which later became “Prees” and finally “Price”) who arrived here from Wales in 1682. A portion of this original parcel became the 100-acre farm of Edward R. Price, who in 1881 founded Elm as a “Quaker-friendly” town and invited an experienced town-builder Samuel Richards to settle there and oversee its development. By 1895 the town had grown to encompass the neighboring village of Libertyville, an earlier settlement founded by Swedes as a place to trade with the Susquehannock Indians. This “Libertyville” section of Narberth borders Montgomery Avenue to the north of the present downtown district and holds the oldest building in Narberth; an actual log cabin! The cabin walls have since been plastered over and an addition added to the home, which is still a residence.
With the expansion of the railroad westward to Lancaster, a neighboring farmer, William Thomas allowed for the construction of the Elm railroad station on his property, greatly expediting the development of Elm. The largest planned development in the vicinity of Elm Station was called “Narberth Park” named after the recently established Narberth Avenue. It quickly developed into a housing and commercial district and shifted the downtown area from the old Libertyville district to its present location. The Narberth Park Association was established in 1889, and in an effort to get their own Post Office residents elected to drop “Park” from the name. With the addition of a Post Office, it seemed a natural step for the local citizens of the town to organize their own government to replace the broad-based township government of Lower Merion. In 1893 the name change from Elm to Narberth was officially adapted and in 1895 a borough charter was granted and a local government was established, allowing for Narberth to officially secede from Lower Merion Township.
Completely surrounded on all sides by Lower Merion Township, this “hole in the donut” is only one of the many features that make Narberth unique among other neighboring communities. It’s very much a walking town, and one the few Main Line communities with its town center along the same main street on which its rail station is directly located. It has its own Police and Fire Company, as well as a Mayor, a Borough Council, and a Manager, providing for a level of attention not common in larger municipalities.
Narbrook Park is a unique area in Narberth; a model community designed by R. Anderson Pope and built by a group of citizens through the Narberth Civic Association working with urban planners from New York City and Philadelphia. The project began in 1914 with ground breaking in 1915 and would be considered a very “green” undertaking today. Years ahead of its time, the Narbrook Park Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and plans are already underway for its Centennial observance that will take place in 2014 to 2015.
Narberth also has an unusually high number of community organizations and a very active Athletic Association that manages soccer, baseball, and summer basketball leagues. It is not unusual to find local college coaches in the bleachers here in search of scholarship-level talent!
Local events for the family include our annual 5K Run, The Memorial Day Parade, 4th of July Fireworks, Spring and Fall Sidewalk Sales, The Great Narberth Leprechaun Hunt, Music Festivals, a Halloween Witch Hunt, and the December Narberth Dickens Festival!
Discover Narberth! The Heart of the Main Line!