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History Matters

Posted on: February 24, 2023

The Birthplace of Devon

Devon Inn

Google MapsThe neighborhood shown on this map - the parcel bounded by Berkley Road, Chester Road, S. Waterloo Road and Dorset Road - as an interesting history.  Today it is a pleasant suburban neighborhood occupied by modest pre-war houses, but for almost 50 years before 1929, it was occupied by the Devon Inn.

The Inn was one of the grand hotels of the Victorian period where the well-to-do could spend the summer away from the noise, heat, and smells of the city.  In 1881, Lemuel Coffinand Joseph Altemus, Philadelphia merchants, bought almost 500 acres along the railroad east of Berwyn and announced they would build a large hotel in a village to be developed and known as Devon.  The Devon Inn is why there is a Devon; it's why the railroad station is where it is and is as large as it is.  Early horse shows where on the lawn of the Inn.  This was the birthplace of Devon.

The Inn operated from 1883 to 1914.  For the next 15 years, unsuccessful attempts were made to bring it back as a hotel.  It also was home to a short-lived girls' school.  In 1928, the newly-formed Valley Forge Military academy moved in, but the building burned to the ground in early 1929.  The land stood vacant until 1939 plans were announced for a development of 52 colonial-style residences.  This development accounts for the majority of the houses there now.  Many appear little changed when viewed from the street.

Compare the 1940 real estate ad to the 2022 photograph of the mirror image home on Berkley Road.A larger model on Devon Boulevard, photographed in 2022, is also original in appearance, as can be seen from a 1940 photograph from the Inquirer
The house next door has been modified and expanded a little, as have others, but the character of the neighborhood has been maintained.
Historic Devon Inn Development
Devon House 2022
Devon House 2022 Modified
Current Historic Devon House
Devon House 1940


The full story of the Devon Inn can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Quarterly, published by the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.

Map from Google Maps, February 2023.
Postcard view of the Devon Inn courtesy of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.
Real estate advertisement:  Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1940.
News photo:  Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 15, 1940.
All color photographs courtesy of Larry DeYoung, 2022.

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