Media History

Here are a few notable facts about Media history. For more information, please contact the Media Historic Archives Commission.

Media’s Underground Railroad Connection

In the 1850’s & 1860’s, the famous Abolitionist and Underground Railroad Conductor Thomas Garrett resided in Wilmington, Delaware some 15 miles southwest of Media. The legendary Harriet Tubman was known to be very close associate of Garrett’s. While leading scores of escaped slaves north from tidewater Maryland and Virginia, Tubman often rested at Garrett’s home before taking her charges across the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania and eventual freedom.

Once inside the Pennsylvania state line, “The Woman Called Moses” would direct these ex-slaves along three basic routes: West toward Kennett Square and Coatesville, North to West Chester, or East across Delaware County into Philadelphia. These pathways were chosen for their relative safety due to the strong visible presence of supportive Society of Friends (Quaker) Meetings and congregations located along the way.

Providence Friends Meeting on Providence Road in Media dates back to the late 17th century and the days of William Penn; the present main building was built in 1814. A socially active congregation and community have worshipped there ever since – they were unquestionably active in the Underground Railroad.

Historians have clearly established that many escaped slaves were assisted by local Quakers and were harbored by members of the existing African American community and Honeycomb UAME Church (founded 1852), just three miles west of Media along Barren Road in Lima, Middletown Township. Some of these new citizens ended there journey there, put down roots and raised families. Many of these African-American families eventually moved into Media and would become some of the founding families of this town.

Did Harriett Tubman ever travel through Media? Although no primary historical sources have yet been located to unequivocally prove so, the best conclusion is that in all likelihood she probably did.

Media: A Town By Design

From its beginning, Media was different than most towns. It was formed in 1848 on 48 acres purchased from Sarah Briggs to provide a more centralized location for the Court of Justice for Delaware County. The Borough profits from a carefully planned preliminary design that best utilizes its confined dimensions, business districts, shopping areas and residential neighborhoods that coexist naturally with a busy Court House schedule.

A Famous 19th Century Summer Resort?

During the latter half of the 19th Century, Media became a very popular summer resort for well-to-do Philadelphians. Several large vacation hotels were built including the Idlewild Hotel (1871) on Lincoln Street at Gayley Terrace, Chestnut Grove House or “The Colonial” (1860) on Orange Street, and Brooke Hall on Lemon Street and Washington Ave. (now Baltimore Ave.). The Chestnut Grove was once used for a year as Swarthmore College due to a fire on their campus. Media was connected to Philadelphia by rail in 1854 as a part of the Philadelphia Baltimore Washington Railroad, with as many as 50 trains a day passing through Media. Trolley transportation lines spread to and through Media in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.

Many Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne and Vernacular buildings enhance Media’s Landscape. Buildings designed by noted architects as James McArthur, Samuel Sloan, Addison Hutton, Frank Furness, and William S. Price are all found here in Media. Here are a few:

  • Media Presbyterian Church @ Baltimore Ave. & Church Street. Constructed in 1855, it was designed by John McArthur, architect of Philadelphia City Hall. This church is well known as one of the final great expressions in America of Classic Greek Revival in Doric style.
  • Delaware County Court House on Front Street. The original section was completed in 1851 with one courtroom. The structure was later expanded and altered in 1871, 1913 and 1929. Generally regarded as one of the handsomest courthouses in America. Notable persons from President Ronald Reagan to William Jennings Bryan have orated from its front steps.
  • Delaware County Institute of Science on Veterans’ Square, a three story temple-like Greek Revival brick structure was built in 1867. The Institute was established in adjacent Upper Providence Township in 1833 “to promote for the people of Delaware County, the study and diffusion of general knowledge.” A one-of-its-kind surviving national treasure, it houses a time-capsule museum of natural and area history.
  • Cooper House on State Street. Built prior to 1870 and first home in Media of Thomas V. Cooper, state Legislature and President of the Pennsylvania Senate, No 330A was later used as a office by Dr. Philip Jaison, famous Korean Patriot and founding father of Korean Independence from Japan. He settled in Media after service as a Medical Officer in three wars and was commended by Congress in 1946.
  • Media Armory on State Street, a raised two-story Tudor Revival with flying Buttresses was built to house the Cooper Rifles, organized in 1877; it now houses the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Museum and Trader Joe’s. It was designed by renowned architect William S. Price and M H. McClanahan and constructed in 1907. Price is recognized as one of the fathers of “The Modern School” of American Architecture.
  • Hillhurst on Orange Street was built in 1890 by John Biddle as a Queen Anne summer “cottage” on the western crest of Media Hill. It was designed by Addison Hutton and was once part of the John Hill Farm, one of the original properties composing Media.
  • Provident National Bank on State Street at Veterans’ Square was designed by Albert Dilks and constructed in 1900. It is a landmark example of the rare Chateauesque style, with numerous stylistic references to French Renaissance and Richardson Romanesque detail and form.
  • Media School at State and Monroe Streets was constructed of local granite schist stone in Tudor Revival with strong medieval details in 1915. Now used exclusively as K-5 School, it was K-12 until 1966.
  • Media Theatre on State Street. Built in 1927, it was designed by Louis Magziner as a Beaux-arts structure with Art Deco design elements. It is a more conservative remnant of the elegant movie palaces constructed during the early days of Hollywood – “The Jazz Age.” It now is home to the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts. 

Is Media, PA the Birthplace of Rock & Roll?

No, but almost. We have our connection. In March of 1951, record producer Dave Miller of Media, PA persuaded Bill Haley (of nearby Boothwyn, PA) to add drums to his group, The Saddlemen, and record the Ike Turner / Jackie Brenston R&B hit “Rocket 88.” The release on Miller’s Holiday Label was Haley’s first Rock & Roll recording. It is considered by some musical historians to be the first ever Rock & Roll record.