Waverly, Pennsylvania

Waverly, Pennsylvania

Waverly is a small rural town in Lackawanna County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It was founded in the late 1700s by settlers from Connecticut, along "The Warriors' Path".

Waverly was originally called Abington Center. In 1853, it was established as a borough within Pennsylvania; since there was an Abington Borough located near Philadelphia, the town was renamed Waverly after Sir Walter Scott's Waverly Novels, popular at that time. The town, located within Lackawanna County, gave up its charter in 1920, because of the high cost to upgrade its main street to a state highway, and is now a part of Abington Township.

The earliest settlers built cabins in Waverly around 1800. The Philadelphia and Great Bend Turnpike was chartered in 1919 by the Pennsylvania Legislature along The Warriors' Path. Started in 1820, this turnpike was completed in 1824. During this time, the first three houses which were not cabins were built. In 1828, The Wayside Inn was built, and the first doctor, Dr. Andrew Bedford, set up practice, and built a house which stands today on Main Street. The first general store was built in 1830, followed by a second Inn and tavern in 1832. A building boom ensued during the years 1847 through 1890, during which time Waverly was a profitable small scale industrial center. 1850 through 1880 was the heyday of Waverly's industrial era. Farmers and dairymen shipped their goods to New York City; iron foundries flourished, and numerous retail establishments, including greengrocers, bakers, a drugstore, dime store, hardware store, lumberyard, and harness shops, thrived. In 1880, the railroad was laid five miles from Waverly, and the prosperity of the town faded.

During the mid-1800s, Waverly was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Escaped slaves and freedmen found a sympathetic population in Waverly, and some settled in small houses built by a local farmer and sold to them. The freedmen also built the AME Church, which is in use today as a private residence. It is one of five churches in existence in 1872, 3 of which still stand and are still active congregations.

Education was always important in Waverly. The first school was started in his log cabin in 1804 by Elder Miller, the first settler in the town. The first dedicated school was built in 1830 on the Philadelphia and Great Bend Turnpike (now Main Street). After it ceased being used as a school, it became a private residence for many years; the Waverly Historic Society is currently planning for its renovation and use as their headquarters. In 1844, a group of investors started the Madison Academy, named for then-President Madison. This was a private school which enjoyed high regard and taught a rigorous curriculum to boys and girls. Students came from all over Pennsylvania to attend the Madison Academy; some of its graduates became judges, attorneys and an author. The tuition ranged from $2.00 to $10.00 per quarter, depending upon the grade, and the boarding house next door charged $1.25 to $1.50 per week. Following the closing of the private school in 1878, the building was used as a public school through 1925, at which time it was razed. The Belin family donated a new school building to the town, and that school, which originally served all grades, is still in use for students in Kindergarten through fourth grade. This school today is part of the Abington Heights School District, which has been the victim of several drawn-out, contentious teachers' strikes during the 1990s. The bell from the Madison Academy hangs in front of the Waverly School, a testament to the long tradition of academic excellence in Waverly. Although the academy was razed, the house across the street from it has a bell in its attic, and is sometimes mistaken for the original Madison Academy. Built by the Belin family in 1923, and renovated to its current stature in 1928, the house is the largest in Lackawanna County. During one of the teachers' strikes, the family which lives therein had the most students from one family enrolled in the Abington Heights School District.

In the Spring of 1916, a fire devastated the four downtown blocks of Waverly; only 11 businesses remained thereafter. Of those, two buildings have operating businesses in them today: The Waverly Deli and The Waverly General Store. The front two blocks were an eyesore, although summer visitors continued to come from Scranton to Waverly. The Belin Family bought the front two blocks and began design and construction of The Waverly Community House. The building was completed in 1920, and expanded to the back two blocks of the original downtown; all streets through those blocks had been removed, and the transformation of downtown to picturesque center was complete.

Many cultural events for the community take place at The Waverly Community House, known as "The Comm." Among these are the annual Home and Garden Show, the annual Antique Fair, and concerts on the lawn. Margaretta E. Belin had The Waverly Community House built as a memorial to her husband, Henry Belin, Jr., after his death in 1917. On June 4, 1920, the building and a portion of the land were deeded to Abington Township for the benefit of “any and all residents of the Township”. The wealthy summer visitors from Scranton migrated to Waverly on a permanent basis, and the town's reputation as an upscale bedroom community was cemented.

External links

[http://waverlycomm.org The Waverly Community House]


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