The Freedom Valley Chronicles:
The World Changed 65 Years Ago This Week
December 5, 2017
Traffic is seen here on the Schuylkill Expressway heading from Gulph Mills towards the hills of West Conshohocken.
It was during December of 1952 – 65 years ago this week – that this section of the Schuylkill Expressway opened to traffic.
West Conshohocken and Conshohocken would never be the same.
On December 8, 1952, the future became reality in West Conshohocken.
It was on that date that the Schuylkill Expressway opened to traffic between West Conshohocken and Gulph Mills. Communities stretching from western Pennsylvania and Harrisburg to Valley Forge and King of Prussia now had direct access to West Conshohocken by means of a modern highway.
For some time, the Schuylkill Expressway ended in West Conshohocken. All traffic exited and entered on Moorehead Avenue.
The next section of the Schuylkill Expressway opened from West Conshohocken to Gladwyne and City Avenue (City Line). It would be a few more years before you could get to Center City Philadelphia via the Schuylkill Expressway from West Conshohocken.
Dozens of houses in both Upper Merion Township and West Conshohocken Borough were demolished by the Commonwealth to create this new four-lane expressway.
There’s no indication of when the first rush hour traffic jam occurred on the Schuylkill Expressway in West Conshohocken, but it wasn’t on that first day. The highway opened sharply at 8:55 AM, according to a news story in The Conshohocken Recorder. Mrs. Isabel Carr Tyson, the Borough Secretary, cut the ribbon to open the highway, the newspaper reported.
Mrs. Isabel Carr Tyson was the Borough Secretary of West Conshohocken for
more than 23 years. It was Mrs. Tyson who officiated at the ribbon cutting
that opened the Schuylkill Expressway in 1952. According to the West Conshohocken
Centennial Celebration Program Booklet, Mrs. Tyson was active in the community and
was honored by the federal government during World War II for providing
the most volunteer hours to the Bryn Mawr Ration Board.
While life in West Conshohocken changed that day, life in the town’s sister borough, Conshohocken, also was affected in substantial ways.
The Conshohocken Recorder editorialized on December 8, 1952, that it was time for Conshohocken Borough to put up traffic lights at Fayette and Hector Streets: “Fayette Street is never going to be the Road to Mandalay, but it is, starting today, the gateway to the Schuylkill Expressway connecting with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And the traffic, like thunder, will be pounding up and down Fayette Street all hours of the day and night.”
At the end of its editorial, the newspaper printed a sentence that is likely one of the most understated comments that you will likely ever read:
“…It is quite possible that the problem [the newspaper was referring to the problem of traffic
in the area] will not be relieved much with the completion of the Expressway spur into Philadelphia.”
I think The Conshohocken Recorder was right on the mark with its editorial 65 years ago.
The top photo is courtesy of Google, 2016.
Photo of Ms. Tyson is courtesy of the West Conshohocken Centennial Celebration Program Booklet, 1974
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Contact Richard McDonough at email@example.com.
© 2017 Richard McDonough