The James family Mansion House of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania stood for nearly
300 years in the suburbs of Philadelphia prior to its destruction in the 1980’s.
Originally the elegant centerpiece of a 253-acre plus plantation nestled in the
heart of William Penn’s Welsh Tract, the mighty stone structure was raised to make
way for an apartment complex at the intersection of Montrose Avenue and Conestoga
Road in what is now Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
This was the home built by David James (c.1660-1739), the progenitor of the
James family who settled this portion of the Pennsylvania wilderness in 1682 and
was laid to rest in 1739. Raided by General Cornwallis to supply the British Army
during the Revolutionary War, this grand structure witnessed the birth of many members
of the James family who would not only fight the British, but go on to build a nation.
Although the structure no longer stands, the stones that once comprised its walls
are now scattered amongst the descendants of the Welshman from Glascwm thanks to
the preservation efforts of the parishioners at the Radnor United Methodist Church.
In her book, Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior, published in 1874, Mrs. Isabella
James wrote, “The immigrant David built a good stone house, one end of which are
the initials DM and the date; but these have now been plastered over, and his descendants
cannot remember the exact year, but know that it was early in 1700.” Here lived
five generations of James including David James (c.1660-1779), Evan James (1715-1794),
Griffith James (-1812), Isaac James (1770-1823) and Thomas Potts James (1803-1882).
In her essay, “Thomas Potts James” printed in the September 1903 edition of
The Bryologist, Mary Isabella James Gozzaldi reported, “My father, Thomas Potts James,
was born September 1, 1803, in the old James mansion house at Radnor, Pennsylvania,
standing back from the Lancaster Turnpike, a little way from Byrn Mawr College.”
Back in 1903 what is now Calestoga Road was then called the “Lancaster Turnpike.”
In his essay, “The Old Radnor Methodist Church, Part 2”, published November
24, 1950 in the Suburban and Wayne Times, Reverend A.L. Wilson reported, “According
to the most accurate information available to Mr. Wilson, the first Methodists to
visit Radnor were two local preachers named Adam Cloud and Matthew Greentree. This
was probably several years before 1780 since it was in that year that Radnor became
‘a regular preaching place’ which was supplied by the circuit preachers. The first
class was organized in the ‘Mansion House’ then occupied by the James family, early
forebears of a well-known citizen of the present time in Radnor township, Hon. Benjamin
F. James, and his brother, Evan L. James, of Wynnewood. As described in last week’s
column this old mansion house still stands at the corner of Montrose and Conestoga
roads, though the years have brought some enlargement to the original structure,
which is now one of the most beautiful among the really old homes in Radnor township.”
In Volume VII, 2005, No. 5 edition of “The Bulletin of the Radnor Historical
Society,” Juanita Mahoney reported that, “Methodists in America first met at Evan
James’ ‘Mansion House’ located at the corner of Montrose and Conestoga Road, which
hosted Methodist Prayer Meetings in Radnor early in 1778... During the Revolutionary
War, General George Washington’s army marched past the site on old Landcaster Road,
now Conestoga Road, following the Battle of Brandywine. The road was also the escape
route used by members of the Continental Congress as they journeyed from the Federal
Capital of Philadelphia to Lancaster. During the Revolutionary War, the British
Army, under General Cornwallis, used “Methodist Hill” for raids on Radnor, and on
11 December 1777, plundered the farm of Griffith James, son of Margaret and Evan
The James’ Family “Mansion House”
of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania
(circa 1700 - circa 1980)
Location of Historic Site: 1000 Conestoga Road in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010.
The historic site is currently home to the Radcliff House Apartment Complex.and is
located at the intersection of Conestoga Road and Montrose Avenue. From Philadelphia
take Route 76 West to Routh 476 South. Take Exit 13 for Saint David’s/Villanova College.
Make right turn onto Lancaster Avenue to Pennsylvania Route 30. Make right onto
County Line Road and then a quick right onto Montrose Avenue. The site is at the
end of Montrose Avenue, on the other side of Conestoga Road.
The above photo is undated and is the earliest known photograph of the James family
Mansion House known in existence. This photo is a reproduction of a black and white
photo that was originally printed in the Radnorshire Historical Society Journal.
The color photo below is the only other known color photo-graph in existence and
is believed to have been taken just before the structure was demolished in the early
1980’s. Note how the shrubbery in the front has overgrown and is unkept.