Built in the 1920s, Gladstone Manor was designed to have the appearance of a small English village. The neighborhood, affectionately known at “The Manor” by its residents, is located at the western end of Lansdowne. Lansdowne is a borough in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, located 5 miles southwest of downtown Philadelphia. It was named for the Marquess of Lansdowne. The borough grew quickly in the early part of the twentieth century when a railroad stop was established near the intersection of Lansdowne Avenue and Baltimore Pike.
The development was originally located on the site of Gladstone Hall and its grounds. Gladstone Hall, no longer in existence, was one of the most impressive homes in the Philadelphia region in its time. It was built for Charles Kelly, owner of the Kellyville Mill located along the Darby Creek below the hill on which the house was constructed. After being used as a community gathering spot for a number of years, the house was demolished in 1935.
In Gladstone Manor the streets are laid out in a gentle, curving pattern and the homes are built using various design models. The English theme is evident in the use of slate roofs, gates, small gardens and stucco exterior walls with half-timbered detail. The neighborhood features specially designed streetlights, as well as a simple innovation that has the telephone and electric lines crossing the neighborhood in the rear of the properties rather than across front yards.
A Look Back at Lansdowne History
Philly History Photos has an excellent post on How Lansdowne, Delaware County got its name, along with photos of the Lansdowne train station and maps. A summary of the article is below:
As the story goes, it was a clandestine operation in the middle of the night that would change one Delaware County community’s name forever. And if the name hadn’t been changed, the borough that sits at the crossroads of Baltimore and Lansdowne avenues between Upper Darby and Yeadon could have been called the Borough of Darby Road Station. So this is how the story of how the Delaware County Borough of Lansdowne got its name. In the summer of 1875 Richard Griffith moved from Philadelphia to a property in what was then Upper Darby Township. The area was sparsely populated at the time. His property was near the rail line off of what was then Kenney’s Lane between Nyack Avenue and the railroad tracks. Today the station sits on Septa’s Media/Elwyn Regional Rail line and serves at the Lansdowne station. Today Kenney’s Lane has disappeared from the maps and the road that still exist is called Wycombe Avenue. Griffith’s property occupied the square east of Wycombe, north of Nyack Avenue and has homes sitting on it. Sayers Avenue cuts through what would have been the center of his property. Not long after moving to the area, Griffith began asking the Pennsylvania Railroad president to change the name. But why? Whenever his furniture or other items were being sent to his home, he was running into problems. His shipments were going to Darby. “In having furniture, etc., sent out to his new home, Mr. Griffith was very much annoyed by constant errors in the delivery of this goods to Darby station on the P.W.& B.R.R. due to the similarity of names of the two stations,” wrote George C. Johnson in a pamphlet on Lansdowne published in 1908. So Griffith sought to change the name of the station by getting other residents living in the growing section of Upper Darby to agree. So he went to Col. Thomas A. Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the time. Scott had a home not too far away on the other side of Darby Creek. Along with his annoyance over his lost shipments, There was another reason Griffith thought the name should be changed. Griffith knew often towns took their names from the railroad stations nearest them so he thought the area might not develop with a name like Darby Road Station. “Well what do you want to call it,” Scott was said to have responded to Griffith’s request. That was when Griffith submitted a list of names that included Scotland and Lansdowne. Scott rejected Scotland and showed a preference towards Lansdowne. “Well, if you like that, call it that,” Scott replied. Scott then told Griffith to see the railroad superintendent about the matter. The superintendent appears to have not liked the idea since he failed to act on it. So, Griffith took the matter into his own hands. He had his own sign made up that was described as having gilt script letters on a black background. Griffith and his servant (whose name isn’t given in any of the accounts I’ve seen) took the sign and a ladder to the station one night. With a hatchet and nails, he posted the Lansdowne sign on the old train station. When people woke up the next morning, they were greeted to a new sign. And the name stuck. “Mr. Griffith lived to see the early development of this beautiful village of homes that owes its name to his energy and perseverance,” Johnson wrote.
A Look Back at Gladstone Manor History
In 1992 the GGCA celebrated its 65th anniversary by compiling a history of the Manor. The following features highlights from the 1920s. Watch for the posting of subsequent decades.
- On November 21, forty-three residents held a meeting at the Mansion House and voted to form an organization called the “Gladstone Manor Civic Association.” Edward Stenz was appointed acting Chairman.
- The first Christmas party was held; Warren Fallows portrayed Santa Claus.
- The organization grew to 73 members, representing over 50% of residents.
- Mrs. E. G. Cheesman became the first woman member.
- The first motion regarded installing a fence along the railroad track.
- Soot nuisance was discussed.
- The builder of the neighborhood, W. Percival Johnson, constructed two tennis courts on the west side of the present Mansfield Road. A tennis club was organized.
- Increased police protection resulted in a policeman on duty twenty-four hours per day.
- The association requested the trolley company instruct its drivers to sound a whistle when coming up the hill to the Manor stop.
- The Ways and Means Committee arranged for ladies to hold a card party fundraiser.
- The first Christmas Eve carol singing took place.
- Prizes were awarded for the most artistic Christmas lighting of homes.