As it passes through Bryn Mawr, Lancaster Avenue contains surprisingly modest shops and restaurants while the surrounding neighborhoods are among the wealthiest in the state. The town's central role was planned in the early 1870s by the leaders of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who commissioned their most elaborate commuter station and a large resort hotel as its center (both by Wilson Brothers, demolished). It was hoped that these would attract visitors who then would purchase residential sites near the station. Following the model of contemporary resorts such as Cape May, New Jersey, the railroad also donated properties for churches in the commuter village. The churches were soon followed by educational institutions. The Baldwin School found a home in the Bryn Mawr Hotel ( MO8) and was soon joined by the neighboring Shipley, Haverford, and Agnes Irwin schools. Bryn Mawr College ( MO9) was formed on another piece of the railroad lands. As a result the village has something of the feel of a New England college town that establishes its core image as an elite neighborhood centered on education. Along Montgomery Avenue between Ardmore and Bryn Mawr are a remarkable group of institutional buildings.
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