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Views of Narberth Past

Presbyterian church site after fire, 1896

Image source: Collection of the Lower Merion Historical Society

Addresses in view: 104 Grayling Ave., 108 Grayling Ave., 111 Grayling Ave., 112 Grayling Ave., 101 Grayling Ave., 102 Grayling Ave., 105 Grayling Ave., 109 Grayling Ave.

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint

The first Narberth Presbyterian church was dedicated November 24, 1891 but destroyed by fire in the pre-dawn hours of January 11, 1896, before the Ardmore-based Merion Fire Company could arrive. The loss of the church led to the formation of the Narberth Fire Company in 1897. An account of the fire and its consequences appeared in "The History of the Narberth Fire Department" in the November 12, 1914 edition of Our Town. Note that this article mistakenly refers to the fire's date as the fall of 1896.

A night scene illuminated by trees and structures aflame
The night fire setting neighbors' roofs ablaze. Lower Merion Historical Society

The wood frame structure on the left has its own interesting tale. Within days of the fire, it was erected by neighbor J. K. Ketcham to serve as a temporary chapel until a newly constructed church began holding services September 9, 1897. Afterwards the building was moved on rollers to the west side of Narberth Avenue by the bridge where it housed the fledgling Narberth Fire Company until Elm Hall was built in 1899. It stored building materials at the C. P. Cook coal yard until the 1920s when it was replaced by the brick building that in 2017 houses the Little Gym.

The photo is also fascinating for its view of the brand new 1890s housing development on Grayling between Windsor and Haverford Avenues. All of these houses still stand in 2017. From front to back on the left are #113, 111 109 and 105; on the right are #112, 108, 104 and 102. Numbers 102, 104 and 105 can be seen from Narberth Avenue in a view from a few years later.