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Views of Narberth Past

Snowy Narberth from the Water Tower, about 1899

Image source: Lower Merion Historical Society

Addresses in view: 122 Elmwood Ave., 198 Elmwood Ave., 102 S. Essex Ave., 101 Forrest Ave. (†1908), 207 Haverford Ave., 226 Haverford Ave., 246 Haverford Ave., 258 Haverford Ave., 100 N. Narberth Ave. (†1926), 103 S. Narberth Ave. (†1941), 200 S. Narberth Ave., 120 Woodside Ave., 200 Woodside Ave., 209 Woodside Ave., 204 Haverford Ave. (†1967)

This view is a composite of two images which appear to have been clipped from a magazine, but with no title or date indicated. They are accompanied by this caption: "These views of Narberth were taken shortly after the town was incorporated as a Borough in 1895. The photographer was John Ketchum, whose exposures were made on glass negatives, some of which are still preserved."

The two images, outlined to reveal about a 10% overlap in the middle
Unretouched scans of the two overlapping images.

How "shortly after the town was incorporated" do the images date? On Forrest near Haverford we see Elm Hall, the borough's fire station and government offices; it was built in 1899. Next door, right at the corner of Haverford, is a house, not the YMCA built in 1908. On the left, there is no development in the woods south of Woodside (is this how it got its name?), so it's probably closer to the start of this range.

No people appear on the streets. A long exposure would blur to invisibility everything in motion, people, horses, vehicles. Or it might be early morning on a holiday, before anybody was up and about. A romantic interpretation: Christmas 1899 or New Year's 1900, the dawn of a new century.

The scene was photographed from the southside water tower, which stood behind today's Woodside Apartments (103 S. Narberth) from about 1890 to 1915.

Who was the photographer?

We think it was John K. Ketcham of Narberth. There is no Ketchum in the 1900 census in Narberth, but there are two John Ketchams. John K. Ketcham, 45, builder (he built Elm Hall, mentioned above) and Borough Council member during 1896, lived on Haverford Avenue between Hampden and Iona; the house was razed in the early 1960s for the Hampden Manor apartments. Less likely seems his son, John S. Ketcham, in 1900 age 17, "at school". He followed his father into the building trades.

Most intriguing are the "glass negatives, some of which are still preserved." Was Ketcham also the photographer of Woodside Avenue about 1895, taken from the same vantage point? Let's hope that more of these fascinating photographs await re-discovery.