The Main Line is an unofficial historical region of suburban Philadelphia comprising a collection of affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The railroad runs northwest from downtown Philadelphia parallel to Lancaster Avenue (US Route 30), a road originally built in 1792 as part of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike and designated as a portion of the “Lincoln Highway” when that transcontinental highway system was established in 1913. The rail line, from which the area affectionately got its name, was central to creating the Main Line communities which in the 19th and 20th centuries became home to many sprawling country estates built by Philadelphia’s wealthiest families. As a result, the Main Line saw rapid investment, prosperity, and growth, becoming greater Philadelphia’s most affluent and fashionable region. The gracious estates with sweeping lawns and towering maples, the debutante balls and the Merion Cricket Club, which drew crowds of 25,000 spectators to its matches in the early 1900s, were the perfect setting for the classic 1940 Hepburn/Grant/Stewart motion picture The Philadelphia Story.
The Main Line is home to some of the wealthiest places in the United States, such as Gladwyne, which has the 14th highest per-capita income in the country with a population of 1,000 or more. The eastern section of Villanova was also ranked 39th in The Elite 100 Highest Income Neighborhoods in America with a median household income of $366,904. Many renowned colleges are located on the Main Line, including Cabrini College, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Immaculata University, Eastern University, Villanova University, and Saint Joseph’s University. In addition, the Main Line hosts some of the most famous and exclusive private schools in the United States.
The Main Line railroad stations include Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, St. Davids, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, and Paoli and now extends to Malvern, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, and Thorndale.