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How The Main Line Got Its Famous Moniker

WAYNE, Pa. (CBS) – A number of unique towns make up the area known as the Main Line. But just how did it get its famous moniker? With its bucolic streets and leafy trees, it's not hard to imagine that this area was once considered the country.

The Main Line of Public Works was a humble state-owned rail line that carried cargo west from Philadelphia to south of York, Pennsylvania.

In 1857, the state sold it – and the land around it – to the private Pennsylvania Rail Road, which built train stops and villages for Philadelphia's wealthy from Overbrook to Paoli.

"It turned into a lifestyle where you lived, you got away from the city," Lower Merion Historical Society president Gerald Francis said.

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Merion Station, one of the many built, has been standing since 1914.

"The railroad even renamed our towns here to make it more gentrified," Francis said.

The Main Line has inspired iconic films like "The Philadelphia Story," which was based on the socialite Helen Hope Montgomery Scott and the Ardrossan mansion in Radnor Township.

It's also home to several institutions of high learning, including Cabrini University, Haverford College and Villanova University.

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Lancaster Avenue links the towns of the Main Line. Many of them have preserved their historic business districts.

The old Bryn Mawr movie theater is now the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

"Historically, in sort of the late '20s, early '30s there were theaters every few blocks all along Lancaster Avenue so we're really lucky to have it," Bryn Mawr Film Institute director of Marketing Gina Izzo said.

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The old-fashioned Main Street feel is one reason Dr. Bernadette Wheeler was inspired to open a shop on Lancaster Avenue, named Something Different by Eric, which was named for her son who has Down syndrome.

Many of their items are made by people with disabilities.

"We wanted to actually have a place that was in the middle of the Main Line," Wheeler said. "We didn't want to hide it. We wanted it to be where people can see what we're doing and come in and celebrate people with disabilities."

The Main Line might no longer be the country, but it's still an escape in its own way.

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