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Views of Narberth Past

The Arcade Building, about 1914

Image source: Postcard by Philip H. Moore, Photographer and Publisher, 6646 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, No.1116; collection of David M. Lockwood.

Addresses in view: 201 Haverford Ave. (†1940), 203 Haverford Ave. (†1940), 205 Haverford Ave., 207 Haverford Ave., 209 Haverford Ave., Former Narberth post office (†1953), 204 Haverford Ave. (†1967)

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
3 Jun 2017

The Arcade Building was built by J. B. Clothier before 1900 on the site of his real estate office. It was one of Narberth's earliest commercial constructions, combining shops on the ground floor and businesses and apartments above, and possibly the largest building in the borough at the time. In this image, it contains Ricklin's Hardware, Narberth's first theatre and a real estate office above the theatre. The structure on the right is probably the back of Narberth's post office at the time.

The postcard can't be earlier than Ricklin's 1914 occupancy, nor later than its November 1914 postmark.

The two remaining sections of the building. February 16, 2024

Two of the five sections of the original building are still standing in 2024. The other three were lost in a huge fire on the night of January 7, 1940.

Inside the Arcade

The Arcade building c. 1915 housed (L-R) H. Ricklin Hardware, Boyle's Market House, Miesen's Bakery, The Imperial Fancy Groceries, William T. Harris real estate and Narberth's first theatre. The building had another section (not visible) to the left. Victoria Donohoe collection

By 1914, William T. Harris was the building's owner. He replaced the bay windows shown in the postcard with plate glass, and established his construction and real estate office on its second floor.

This photo with patriotic bunting is no earlier than August 1918, when the Narberth Post Office moved into the section to the right of center ("PO" is visible over the transom). The bunting looks identical to the decoration on 246 Haverford Ave. from 1921 or later. The Merion Title and Trust Company occupied this section between 1915 and 1924 or 1925. The building directory to the right the door, partially obscured by bunting, calls it the Harris Building.

The entrance to the arcade which led to Narberth's first theatre
The center section of the building, early 1920s? Lower Merion Historical Society #BS1347
Inside the arcade; note the barber shop on the right; the advertising board at the rear looks like the same one inside the entrance on the full-width photo. Lower Merion Historical Society
The Arcade Theatre stage Lower Merion Historical Society

The Arcade Theatre: Now Playing

In the black and white photo of the building above, there's a poster on the building's exterior wall to the left of the arcade entrance. It advertises "A Drama in the Air", a 2½-minute French film released in 1904, the dawn of cinema, that depicts a balloon flight that ends in a crash.

Why is a 1904 short being advertised in 1915 when more current, longer features were available?

Watch A Drama in the Air on YouTube

Ardmore Chronicle, August 19, 1916, page 8. Digital Library@Villanova University

During the week of August 21, 1916, the town was celebrating Narberth's champion baseball team, anticipating the debut of electric train service and the reopening of Narberth Public School. At the theatre they enjoyed:

“Most Spectacular Blaze in Borough History”

January 7, 1940 Our Town, January 12, 1940

Ricklin’s Hardware 1913–2018

Twenty-year-old Hyman Ricklin emigrated from Poland to Philadelphia in 1895, the year of Narberth’s birth. In turn, he worked in a sweat shop, peddled dairy products from a horse-drawn wagon, opened a milk business at 625 S. 11th Street, and then a general store in Malvern.

After the Malvern store burned down, Ricklin moved to Narberth, where he gave hardware a try. He started out of a push cart in 1913 and the next year moved the business into the Arcade Building. After sixty percent (3 of 5 sections) of the building were lost to a huge fire in 1940, Ricklin rebuilt in the same location. After Hyman died at his home at 118 N. Essex in 1945, management of the store passed to his son and daughter. (Source: Our Town, Dec. 27, 1945)

Edward Riddell acquired Ricklin’s in 1960; he, then his son Jed, ran it until its closing April 28, 2018, 11 years longer than the Ricklins had.

At the time of its closing, Ricklin's 105 years made it the longest continuously operated business in the Borough.

5 guys hold up a circlular sign procalaiming Ricklin's 1913-2013
Ricklin's last day: the 100th anniversary sign was constructed of items from its inventory. L to R: Tad Riddell, Robert Davies, Richard Nicolai, Michael O'Donnell, Jed Riddell

Ricklin's Hardware in Narberth marks 100th year (Main Line Times, June 27, 2013)

H. Ricklin Dies at Narberth Home, Our Town, December 27, 1945