a love note to ardmore


Ardmore in Lower Merion Township is a place that will always have a place in my heart, and many of my friends and I will always have a place in her history. We made up the then Save Ardmore Coalition and we helped save historic downtown Ardmore from eminent domain for private gain, which is part of Ardmore’s history, uncomfortable or not. It’s probably inconvenient to mention it during the year which represents Ardmore’s Sesquicentennial (1873 – 2023), but it needs to be remembered in the ghosts of recent past. And the recent past photos? Mine. Including the opening photo which made the cover of Main Line Today magazine once upon a time.

I have said before that I wonder sometimes what we have saved Ardmore from, and that Ardmore’s biggest problem has always been Lower Merion Township is headquartered in it, and I remain unapologetic for that. I don’t get back to Ardmore as often as I should, but a lot of us don’t. Our lives are different, in different stages. But she will always be part of our hearts. Even if the parking is worse than ever, Lower Merion Township….

From the Lower Merion Historical Society:

Ardmore began on 410 acres of land bought by Richard Davis in 1686 from five Welshmen for 32 pounds, 16 shillings. One of the few local towns without a Welsh name, the village’s original name was Athensville, a nod to the fascination with the Greek revival style movement of the time (1811). William J. Buck reported in his 1884 history, “Athensville is situated on the Lancaster turnpike, seven miles from Philadelphia, and is the largest village in the township. It contains [at the center] 8 houses, three stores and one hotel.”

The first roads were but trails, and only horse and foot transportation were available. Conditions were impossible: dusty in hot summer, muddy after rains. The settlement of Lancaster led to a demand for an adequate highway that led there from Philadelphia. In 1796, the Lancaster Turnpike (first one constructed in America) allowed ponderous Conestoga wagons to carry merchandise and interior bound settlers…..The original settlers of the area were Welshmen who came to work in the neighboring farms and the thriving mill industry along Mill Creek. Then followed a wave of Germans who contributed their industrial skills. Next the Irish added their abilities and found work in the hotels and staffed the lavish estates built in the mid 1800s.

About the same time, the establishment of railroad systems added to Ardmore’s expansion and prosperity. The first Board of Commissioners met in 1900 (at the General Wayne) to establish a local government. The same year, The Autocar Works relocated from Pittsburgh, attracted by good roads, a high grade of labor supply, the closeness to Philadelphia and a location on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ardmore is a popular residential area with a lively business center…..Ardmore has retained a number of examples of the wooden houses of “The Gingerbread Age.” From the mid 1800s through the end of the century, as the suburbs were burgeoning, there was a need for tastefully designed, practical housing at moderate cost. Because Victorians admired the English and American Queen Anne styles of domestic architecture, there was a growing housing market. For those who could not afford an architect (too expensive, too difficult, too time consuming) one could buy plans books, choose a style and have a local builder put up the house. There were hundreds of designs available; some books also featured designs for gates, posts, inside doors, hardware and bookcases for the average woodworker to follow. A medium quality home could be built, complete, for $2,000 to $5,000. There are no building records, though, for these….Along a short commercial stretch of “The Pike” in Ardmore, businesses are shown in approximately their original locations, keyed to a 1926 map. A few of the establishments are in business today.

From Wikipedia:

Originally named “Athensville” in 1853, the community and its railroad station were renamed Ardmore in 1873 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, on whose Main Line, west out of Philadelphia, Ardmore sits at Milepost 8.5.[5] The Autocar Company moved its headquarters to Ardmore in 1899 and constructed a factory on the edge of the downtown area. The factory closed in 1954; during demolition in 1956, a major fire broke out that threatened the downtown area before it was extinguished. Today, Ardmore consistently ranks among the most desirable suburbs of Philadelphia…In 2004–2006, Ardmore’s business district was the subject of a hotly contested eminent domain battle. A grassroots organization, the Save Ardmore Coalition, along with local businesses and other civic groups,[23] opposed an eminent domain/redevelopment program that would have involved the demolition of historic buildings, in favor of preserving those buildings for other commercial use. In March 2006 the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disavowing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private redevelopment projects. The Ardmore battle was also instrumental in prompting the Pennsylvania General Assembly to enact legislation in 2006 restricting the use of eminent domain for private projects.[24]

Now my friends and I were the original Save Ardmore Coalition. Not the thing it eventually became years later. We did the eminent domain heavy lifting. We all went on to remain involved and working on things like First Friday Main Line which was started by Sherry Tillman who owns Past*Present*Future still to this day in Ardmore. First Friday Main Line made art accessible to everyone. Art in unexpected places. Lots of music. Fun events. Artists exhibiting monthly. I did the PR and photography for Sherry for First Friday Main Line. Things we did within First Friday Main Line included initiatives like Operation Angel Wings. We worked to help the innocent children of Afghanistan in 2009 by collecting items that United States soldiers could carry and distribute while out on patrol in war torn Afghanistan at that time. In 2010, we received a US Congressional Commendation.

So now onto the Ardmore Sesquicentennial. I had to add some of the history back that I feel would be left out for well….political reasons. And that’s fine. That is what a blogger is for: to remember the other parts of the history, even if inconvenient for some.

I like to think what we did in the early 2000s caused today to be possible, right or wrong. Other things we did was Scribe Precious Places Video. That was an amazing, unforgettable experience. We captured our Ardmore 2005 -2006. Our video has been shown again this year again in Ardmore as a matter of fact.

All of 2023 has had Ardmore Sesquicentennial events. Among my favorite things is this amazing project from the creative genius of a man I do not know named Jeff Mellin (See WEBSITE HERE) and a lady now at the Ardmore Initiative named Jane Murray (who should be the next Executive Director of the Ardmore Initiative)…along with Lower Merion Conservancy’s Director of Historic Preservation Kathleen Abplanalp (with intellectual contributions of Greg Prichard, Historic Preservation Planner for Township Of Lower Merion).

This is one cool project. https://www.jeffmellin.com/ardmoresesquicentennial :

Windows Into History: Explore Historic Ardmore is a “pop-up museum” collaboration between the Ardmore Initiative, the Lower Merion Historical Society, Lower Merion Conservancy, and The Township of Lower Merion.

The Ardmore Initiative Streetscape Committee wanted to create a more inviting downtown shopping, dining, and pedestrian experience, in a way that could speak to the whole community, and would go beyond mere, uh, window dressing. We decided to convert vacant storefront windows into a cohesive, informative, and (I hope) aesthetically pleasing celebration of Downtown Ardmore’s history.

So now, after months of research, through binders and binders of archival photos and documents, we’re installing our multi-panel posters showcasing a treasure trove of historic photos and stories, some site-specific, some general, depending on location. Passers-by can read about Ardmore’s 150-year history, and view these amazing archival photos at (or near) their historic locations.

It’s been a ton of work, but absolutely worthwhile. I’ve learned so much about my adopted town and got the chance to meet and work closely with people both knowledgeable and passionate about the community. If you’re in Downtown Ardmore, take a look around.


Seriously? How great is this project. And another slice of genius: the stories of Ardmore’s past can be found in her storefront windows. (We used to do that with art for First Friday Main Line too!)

So it’s been a year, Ardmore. I am sorry it took until Halloween night to write you a little love note for the year of your big anniversary. Ardmore is proof that Main Street oriented communities can survive in spite of hideous development.

Happy 150th Ardmore!

murder in ardmore

I woke up this morning to the news that somebody was stabbed to death within the shadow of the Lower Merion Township Building and Police Department early Saturday morning after some sort of bar fight on Cricket Avenue.

Philadelphia Inquirer: A man was killed in a Main Line stabbing authorities are calling a homicide

by Diane Mastrull
Published Jun 10, 2023

Michael Thomas Sides, 31, of Ardmore, was stabbed after an earlier “altercation” at a bar and pronounced dead at Lankenau Medical Center at 2:28 a.m. Saturday.

A 31-year-old Ardmore man was stabbed to death early Saturday morning in Lower Merion Township in what law enforcement officials are calling an apparent homicide….Indications are that the stabbing followed an earlier “altercation” in a nearby bar, authorities said. An investigation by county detectives and Lower Merion police continues, although the suspect appears to have been identified by them.

Authorities would not say whether that person was in custody. But a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said in an email: “We are not looking for the suspect. But still looking for witnesses.”

It’s also pretty close to a cute little street where friends live and have for decades. Fox29 News remarked that there are lots of shops and apartments, but also right there are plenty of single family homes.

Bar fight leads to fatal stabbing of 31-year-old man in Montgomery County, officials say

By FOX 29 Staff and Cheyenne Corin

LOWER MERION TWP., Pa. – A deadly stabbing outside a Lower Merion bar has stunned the quiet town on the Main Line. Police say they do know who they are looking for.

Officers responded to the intersection of Cricket Avenue and Cricket Terrace in Lower Merion to find a 31-year-old man suffering from stab wounds around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

The victim, identified as Michael Thomas Sides, was pronounced shortly after at a local hospital….The owner of Jack McShea’s told FOX 29 Sides was one of his employees. He was too upset to go on camera, but says Sides was like family and a beautiful person who worked there for years.

I was amused by someone interviewed by Fox29 who proclaimed it was the Main Line and these things don’t happen there. I am paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

Murder happens everywhere, and it happens in Ardmore although not often thank goodness . In 2021 there was the botched ghost gun murder. 2002 was a horrible murder suicide, in Ardmore. In 2019 the man who murdered a woman in her Ardmore apartment was sentenced. Again it doesn’t happen a great deal, but murder does happen in the magic kingdom of Lower Merion.

The murder happened where there are so many windows of so many apartments in that hideous apartment building that used to be a parking lot that backed up to what used to be the movie theater. It looks like it started in that John Henry’s Pub that used to be Annie’s years ago? My educated guess there comes from the fact that FOX 29 featured that bar it in a shot of their news report.

My sources around town were told that it must have started as a beef over at that bar and perhaps whomever did it went looking for the murder victim where he worked and then they met up at that intersection, is this true? Someone else said, both the victim and the alleged perpetrator live in Ardmore? (And so LMPD doesn’t get their parties in a bunch, I don’t have any inside information, but one thing about downtown Ardmore is it is a community and people talk, and people are talking about this.)

The psychology of committing a murder is something that you can’t help but just wonder about. And why do I say that? Simple. We all get mad at people, but what is it that causes someone to take another person’s life? What disconnect is in their brain? I certainly don’t know Michael Thomas Sides, but he had friends and one presumes relatives and was 31 years old. He had a lot of life left to live.

I’ve been looking at the media reports on this and the media reports state the police know whom they are looking for so why don’t they name a suspect or show video footage because there have to be security cameras around there one would think?

And what caused the altercation in the first place? I mean bar fights and beefs start over all sorts of stuff, right? Dumb things like a barstool, or owing somebody money, or a perceived slight when someone else is wasted or hitting on someone’s girl, right? So what was it?

My age must be showing but it used to be when there was a bar fight in Ardmore, it wasn’t settled with weapons. You might see some barstools fly around. You would hear glass get broken. You might even see somebody get punched or tossed out of a bar by a bouncer, but not hear they were murdered later.

But this whole thing being reported of a beef in a bar and then these guys meet up on the street later sounds like somebody was looking for somebody else begs the question of was this premeditated?

And I guess the police can say that there’s no potential threat to the public, but how do you know these days? If the police are implying they know who it is, then why aren’t they releasing more information?

Anyway I hope this is resolved soon. Ardmore will always be a special place to me. Prayers to the families of those involved because their lives are all changed forever now.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Lower Merion Township Police Superintendent Michael J. McGrath announce the investigation of a homicide that occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 10, 2023.

On Saturday, at 1:33 a.m., Lower Merion Police responded to a reported stabbing at the intersection of Cricket Avenue and Cricket Terrace in the Ardmore section of Lower Merion. Upon arrival, they located a male suffering from stab wounds. The victim, later identified as Michael Thomas Sides, was transported to Lankenau Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:28 a.m. An autopsy is scheduled for today at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Montgomery County Detectives and Lower Merion Police launched a joint investigation into this apparent homicide. Early indications are the stabbing occurred following an earlier altercation in a nearby bar. There is no threat to the public at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Lower Merion Township Police at 610-649-1000 or Montgomery County Detectives at 610-278-3368. Anonymous text tips can be submitted using MontcoCrimeTips on the STOPit! app.

~ Main Line Media News reporting a press release issued

file under “progress” kills tradition in ardmore, pa or something else? is viking pastries closed for good?


My friend Michelle found this sign waiting for her today when she stopped in Ardmore to #shoplocal at Viking Pastries

So has progress in Lower Merion Township’s downtown Ardmore put yet another tradition, another long-standing business out of business? Or is it something else? Or something related? Or just simple economics?

Viking Pastries appears to be done as in dead as per this hand lettered sign.

62 years…*POOF* ??

How many of us who grew up on the Main Line had memories of Viking Pastries and Walter’s Swiss Pastry which was located in Bryn Mawr and closed years and years ago? (Can’t remember exactly when.)

Those were the bakeries of many of our childhoods – Viking Pastries and Walter’s Swiss Pastries.  My mother always bought our annual Christmas Bûche de Noël complete with it’s chocolate bark and meringue “mushrooms” from Walter’s.  She also bought  things from Viking too.

Both bakeries had fierce loyal and devoted followings once upon a time.  Now they are but memories of a Main Line that used to be.

In 2013 Viking Pastries was part of a bakery makeover show called Save My Bakery. Save My Bakery was a show in the Nancy Glass Glass Productions Stable and appeared on Food Network and/or DIY Network.  (Click here and see some of the original makeover.)

This was covered extensively at the time by local media.  It was wonderful.

But maybe this wasn’t enough to save Viking long term? Don’t forget the bakery’s family has seen horrible tragedy in the form of the still unsolved disappearance of Richard Petrone.  Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo vanished without a trace leaving a Philadelphia bar in 2005.

This family and bakery were always part of local events.  When I was on the Main Line, if there was a local fundraiser or get together, you could always count on the generosity of Viking Pastries.  I worked on many events where they donated boxes and boxes of their delicious cookies.

When Viking got their fancy T.V. makeover, we all had high hopes. But still there were kerfuffles. Like the August 2017 temporary Department of Health closure as reported by Main Line Times. Here is an excerpt:

“It was a plumbing issue caused by the construction across the street,” said Viking Pastries owner Marge Petrone of One Ardmore Place being built on the former Cricket Avenue Parking lot. “That [project] has been a nightmare.”

According to Petrone, water from the construction site flowed into a hole left in front of the store and straight into the bakery’s basement. “We had an inch or two of mud there. There was low water pressure – we couldn’t flush the toilet.”

Petrone paid for a Port-a-Potty to be placed outside the back of the shop, but ultimately, she aid, “if you can’t use the bathroom, the county is a stickler about that” and will shut you down.

Except my opinion, personally? I also have to wonder about the Ardmore Tartification Effect on old school businesses like this?  As Lower Merion Township has strived for decades at this point to make Ardmore what they envision, the old time businesses have fallen off one by one, haven’t they? Some say, when the movie theater closed and they didn’t get a new theater chain in that THAT was the beginning?

Ardmore has had peaks and valleys.  I had high hopes when parts of the Main Street business community were saved from eminent domain for private gain, but now? Sadly, today, I barely visit a place I used to be in practically every other day for years and years.  I live just far enough away that getting there is a hassle with regard to never much parking and crazy traffic.  That and the site of towering apartments rising up on Cricket Avenue behind what was the movie theater to overshadow everything and everyone like Godzilla.

Who owns Viking’s building?


Who is 35-39 Cricket LLC?


Who has owned the building over the years and years?

who owns what

These are all public records off Montgomery County and PA’s corporation database. County court dockets sadly show open items so is this closure in part financial? Sadly I did  also find  landlord tenant and other things going back  a few years, so is the economy as much to blame?  Also as the property changed hands did the rent just keep going up?

Whatever has happened, it’s a crying shame.  It represents the death of another small business with a long history in a Main Line Community.

RIP Viking Pastries. Thank you for all the wonderful years you gave your customers.

(the photo array is assembled from a couple of my photos and ones I found on Google)

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hooters return to their ardmore roots

DSC_0207This is not a Chester County specific post.  So if that is what you are seeking, turn away from your computer now…I saw the Hooters in Ardmore once again last night. (Photos found HERE)

As I said to Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen last evening when he was talking to my friend Eric before the show, the last time I saw the Hooters live I think I was about 23 years old. I am a little older now….

DSC_0063If you were a child of the 1980s and grew up in the greater Philadelphia region you remember the Hooters. They were part of that amazing music scene in Philadelphia of the 1980s which also included Robert Hazard (RIP – he passed away in 2008 – saw him the last time at MilkBoy in Ardmore in 2007), Beru Revu, Tommy Conwell , Dennis Selfridge and more.

The music in Philadelphia at that time was amazing.  Original song writing, not cover bands.  A lot of the music had a ska and reggae influence, not just rock and roll or folk.  You can hear that in the Hooters.  I loved ska and still listen to English Beat and Madness on occasion although overall my music tastes have evolved somewhat to indie singer-songwriter people with a more lyrical and folk sound to them.

DSC_0240So “back in the day” we all heard bands like the Hooters at high schools all over the area (I remember seeing the Hooters in Harriton High School’s auditorium, for example), and then at the cabarets: Chestnut, Avalon, and Ardmore.

DSC_0252The Hooters were already popular on the Philadelphia music scene when they opened for Philadelphia’s portion of Live Aid in 1985. I am not going to restate their entire history, it exists online, but the Hooters are also known for Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman giving Cyndi Lauper one of her greatest hits, Time After Time.  Throughout the years, other artists like Joan Osborne for example, benefitted from the talent (remember her song “One of Us”?)

DSC_0061When you think of the Hooters as many of us do, you do think of them and the Ardmore Cabaret.  And last night was like old home night on the Main Line.  Including, amusingly enough, the groupies.  They were older and in some cases wider, but there they were pressed up against the stage….waiting.  Including the twins.

Now a brief homage to the venue.  It started out life as I knew it as the 23 East Cabaret. Then about 20 years ago my friend Joe Rufo purchased the building.  It morphed into Brownies 23 East and then 23 East.

I got to know Joe when Lower Merion Township tried to take a large chunk of the Main Street downtown business district via eminent domain for private gain.  Thankfully that ill-advised initiative failed miserably.

Joe is the guy who has opened his doors many, many times for fundraisers and is incredibly generous to the community…besides just being a nice guy.  Personal highlights for me include 2007 when he opened his doors to those of us having a fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day for a woman named Moira Shaughnessy who was part of our community and had been struck down by viral encephalitis after surviving non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  On that night, the community came together and everything from the use of the building to the food to the bands was donated. St. Patricks Day 2007 artists like Deb Callahan, Jeffrey Gaines, Amanda Kaletsky, and Dennis Selfridge all donated their time.  Another memory of the building is more recent.  Earlier this year we did a fundraiser for my friend, the late Jim McCaffrey who was not only a friend but an amazing reporter. (Have a minute? Listen to what he had to say on that evening.)  Joe also hosted countless other fundraisers over the years.

DSC_0011A few years ago when the guys from Point Entertainment had lost their music home in Ardmore and were looking for a new place I remember saying to both Rich Kardon and Joe Rufo at the time that they should combine talents and “bring the Hooters back to Ardmore.” We laughed about that last night before the show, because it is just funny how life works out.  What the heck did I know? I just thought it was a great idea and they were people I liked.

So when the news broke this summer about their new partnership, I was definitely psyched.  23 East was reborn as Ardmore Music Hall. After all, living in Chester County, it is definitely easier all the way around to get to Ardmore versus West Philadelphia for WXPN Live.

Ardmore Music Hall is the same building, slightly reconfigured.  And it is still an awesome place to hear a band.  And last night just exceeded all expectations.

DSC_0014We got there in time for the doors to open to the VIP ticket holders and people were lined up around the block waiting for general admission like the old days. Inside, the Hooters milled about with guests, graciously posing for photos,autographs and chatting.

You know what the best part of the Hooters was? They still have it and more.  They haven’t turned into aging rockers who should stay off the stage. Their sound has matured and evolved and they are as engaging and awesome as ever.  It is no wonder that European audiences love them – they have a huge following there. The Hooters are a band who just love what they do and it shows.  They are accomplished musicians and singer songwriters and the magic hasn’t waned.

The Hooters played many of their old favorites and newer music. They did this absolutely astoundingly beautiful cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”. That is one of my favorite songs, and I have to say I think I like their version I heard last night better than the original version.set list sept 21

All of the photos are mine except the photo of the play list.  That comes courtesy of the Point Entertainment folks.  I was upstairs seated overlooking the balcony.

DSC_0299The place was packed to the rafters for this concert which made me happy.  I wasn’t jazzed at times by some of the people behind us, especially Mr. Pin Stripe Shirt.  He was all so perfectly pressed and pushy.  He reminded me of people I saw when I saw when Robert Randolph and the Family Band were doing a then WXPN festival on Penn’s Landing.  And I did get a beer dumped down my back by a tipsy girl and a camera whack in the side of my head by a zealous woman who decided to just stick her camera into my face to try to get a shot.  But overall it was an amazing experience.  The Hooters always did attract a good crowd.

DSC_0098Also as musicians and human beings, this band is as gracious as ever with their fans.  I always remembered that about them: very genuine bunch of guys who took time for everyone. If you are jaded you could have said last night they are just past masters at working a crowd now, but it wasn’t that, it was different.  They stop and spoke to people, looked at old photos of concert events passed.  It was a nice thing to see.

I hope the Hooters return again to Ardmore.  It was such a pleasure to hear them live again sounding better than ever.  And yes, Pierre Robert introduced them.  I have some concert snippets posted up on Chester County Rambling’s Facebook Page.

Check out Ardmore Music Hall for other upcoming shows including Soul Asylum, Fountains of Wayne, Marc Broussard, Uncle Kracker, and Michael Allman Band. Go early, Lower Merion Township doesn’t offer much parking in downtown Ardmore.