|LEISURE ACTIVITIES |
Outdoor activities in back yards and public parks increase year by year for growing numbers of people who play tennis, swim, jog, practice karate, or bicycle, in addition to participating in team sports, all without the need for membership in any organization. Private sports, unrecorded here, are of utmost importance to more Lower Merion residents each year.
Cricket was introduced at Haverford College in 1834. Between 1850 and 1920, 160 cricket clubs were active in the area, but these had dwindled to three by 1980: the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Merion cricket clubs. Fifteen young men met on December 16, 1865, at Glenays, home of Richard R. Montgomery in Bryn Mawr, where they elected Archibald R. Montgomery the first president of the Merion Cricket Club. Teams played matches at first on property of Colonel Owen Jones in Wynnewood, then on club property on Cricket Road in Ardmore. In 1891 club members bought land on Montgomery Avenue in Haverford and built a clubhouse in 1892. It burned down in 1895 and a second clubhouse burned in 1896. The present building was designed by Furness, Evans and Company in 1897. Christopher Morris, one of the greatest Merion cricketeers locally and nationally, is memorialized in the Christopher Morris Cricket Library and Collection of the Haverford College Library.
Soon after its founding the Merion Cricket Club provided facilities for lawn tennis and squash. The Pennsylvania State Tennis Championships were held on the grass courts at Merion from 1894 until 1974. The Women's Pennsylvania and Eastern States Tennis Championships began in 1901. The National Intercollegiate Championships for men were held there from 1900 until 1934, and in 1937 the Davis Cup challenge round was held there. More than a dozen men and women members have been national squash champions; among them Charles M. P. Brinton, G. Diehl Mateer, Jr., and Ann Page Homer.
The Belmont Driving Park Association opened a handsome clubhouse and a course for harness racing in 1876 on Meeting House Lane in Merion. When harness racing subsided in popularity, auto races were held on the track in 1923. A year later the park was sold to be divided into house lots.
The Philadelphia Country Club, located on Spring Mill Road in Gladwyne, was founded in 1890. Originally located at Ford and Monument roads on the Philadelphia side of City Line, it opened a new golf course in 1927, using an existing building on Lafayette Road for summer club and locker rooms. In 1957 a large clubhouse was built on Spring Mill Road in Gladwyne on the north side of the 294-acre site. Facilities include tennis, golf, swimming, bowling, shooting, squash, and platform tennis.
Merion Cricket Club laid out a nine-hole golf course, enlarging it to eighteen holes in 1900 when member Clement A. Griscom gave additional land. In 1910 the course was moved to Haverford, Delaware County. In 1942 the Merion Cricket Club members formed two clubs: the Merion Cricket Club and the Merion Golf Club, still separate entities in 1980.
An English woman, Constance M. K. Applebee, always known as "The Apple," introduced field hockey to her Bryn Mawr students about 1900. Its popularity spread rapidly through colleges and clubs. Anne B. Townsend of the Merion Cricket Club was selected for the U.S. Women's Field Hockey team sixteen times, frequently chosen captain, and was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1964.
The Main Line Baseball League, founded February 1, 1904, by Albert Beyler and friends, is one of the oldest semipro leagues in the country. By 1910 the league reorganized and adopted a constitution to ensure that "baseball of a purely amateur sort" would be played. From the league came such baseball notables as Herb Pennock, Eddie Collins, Amos Shrunk, and Jimmy Dykes.
The Cynwyd Club on Trevor Lane built a clubhouse and tennis courts in 1913, later adding squash courts, bowling alleys, and a dining room.
In the mid-1920s an empty lot in Rudolph's Row, near the west end of the Belmont Avenue bridge, was used as an outdoor boxing arena. Some who started boxing careers there, or appeared on a card during the pre-Depression years, were Benny Leonard, Lew Tendler, Benny Bass, Battling Levinsky, and Jack Sharkey. The most famous fighter was Tommy Loughran of Belmont Hills, who won a place in Pennsylvania's "Boxing Hall of Fame" in 1960. He was a Lower Merion policeman from 1922 to 1952.
The Main Line Basketball League was organized in October, 1932 by Herb Good, sports editor of the Main Line Daily Times. Original franchises were granted to eight teams. During the war years, 1942-45, the league suspended its schedule, and it finally disbanded in 1953.
The Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, founded in 1849 "for the instruction and improvement in the art of skating, the cultivation of a friendly feeling in all who participate in the amusement, and the efficient use of proper apparatus for the rescue of persons breaking through the ice," moved to Ardmore in 1938 at Holland Avenue and County Line Road.
Lower Merion has three arboretums and bird sanctuaries--Kenealy, Appleford Estate, and Catherine H. Dixon Sharpe--boat launching and ramp docks, bicycle paths, bridle trails, campgrounds, and twelve playgrounds. Three historic sites, six meeting places, seven picnic areas, and three senior citizens' buildings provide additional facilities. In 1981 the Parks and Recreation Department listed adult tennis clinics, women's softball leagues, men's soccer, slimnastics, yoga, and two swimming pools. Supervised summer programs for children are available at a dozen playgrounds; and for handicapped children, a recreational day camp.
Service, Civic, and Business Organizations
In 1981 township residents participated in seventeen civic associations, a federation comprising all the civic associations, nine business associations, and at least thirty-two service organizations, which include branches of larger or national groups, varying from the Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs to the Red Cross, NAACP, political committees, the League of Women Voters, and the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP).