Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Gravers Lane Railroad Station, 1883
300 East Gravers Lane, Philadelphia PA 19118

Jane Mork Gibson, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

In 1831 the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad reached Germantown, and in 1854 a line was extended to Chestnut Hill, with the terminus at Bethlehem Pike, east of Germantown Avenue, instead of at Germantown Avenue near Cresheim Creek, the originally planned terminus. 1 The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad signed a 999 year lease in 1870 and took over control of the line. Between 1854 and 1870, in Chestnut Hill there had sprung up summer homes at first, and then year-round residences because of the easy access to the city provided by the suburban railroad. Originally steam locomotives provided the power, and it was not until the 1930s that the Reading electrified the Chestnut Hill Line.
 
Built in 1883, some thirty years after the inauguration of rail service to Chestnut Hill east of Germantown Avenue, the railroad station at Gravers Lane represents the efforts of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad's proposed line to the western part of Chestnut Hill to be opened in 1884. The architect of the Gravers Lane Station was Frank Furness who designed several of the railroad's suburban stations, and this station is considered by some to be "one of [his] finest, extravagantly displaying his love of abstracted and stylized High Victorian forms..."
2 The building consists of a one-story ticket office and passenger waiting room, and another section that is a two-story residence providing accommodations for the station master's family. It is a brick structure with timber sections, and has a hip roof, a port-cochere and a shed porch, as well as a semicircular tower that rises from the ticket office and is topped with gables, dormers, and a conical roof. The station has recently been restored through the efforts of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, but there is now no ticket selling or railroad activity except for the trains and the passengers boarding or arriving. In 1976 Conrail took over the rail lines of the bankrupt Reading Railroad, including the Chestnut Hill Line, and in 1983 ownership was transferred to the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the present operator. Following completion of the commuter tunnel in Philadelphia linking the former terminals of the Reading Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad, since 1984 it has been possible to travel on the suburban Chestnut Hill East Line (R-7) from Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill via downtown Philadelphia to Trenton, New Jersey, without changing trains.
 
In 1976 Conrail took over the rail lines of the bankrupt Reading Railroad, including the Chestnut Hill Line, and in 1983 ownership was transferred to the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the present operator. Following completion of the commuter tunnel in Philadelphia linking the former terminals of the Reading Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad, since 1984 it has been possible to travel on the suburban Chestnut Hill East Line (R-7) from Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill via downtown Philadelphia to Trenton, New Jersey, without changing trains.


1   Data from this section are from an interview with Frank Weer, as well as the "Historic Structures Report: Preliminary," (of Gravers Lane Station), on file at Philadelphia Historical Commission, and also J. M. Moak.
2   Edward Teitelman and Richard Longstreth, Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide, (Cambridge, 1974), p. 250.

Update May 2007 (by Jane Mork Gibson):
This station continues to operate on the Chestnut Hill East R-7 Line of SEPTA, with trains that run to Philadelphia and continue to Trenton. The station is unattended and the transit section is closed. There are benches outside the building, but there is no ticket booth or waiting room. The non-transit area of the station is leased as a residential dwelling. In 1981 a local group began restoration of the building, which continued for several years. In 1985 Chestnut Hill was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, including this station by Frank Furness.