Station History

Saint Martins Station By 1884, Pennsylvania Railroad executive Henry Howard Houston had bought large tracts of land in the western part of Chestnut Hill to realize his vision of a planned community, called “Wissahickon Heights.” He convinced the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1879 to build a second line to Chestnut Hill. The Chestnut Hill Railroad had been opened on the east side of Chestnut Hill in 1854. With a donation of $500,000 worth of land for the right-of-way, Houston realized his plan. When completed in 1884, the Philadelphia, Germantown and Chestnut Hill Railroad, a spur of the Pennsylvania railroad, enabled his creation of a new residential neighborhood.

On June 11, 1884, Henry Houston left Broad Street Station for Chestnut Hill on the first train. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s first stop in Chestnut Hill was the Wissahickon Heights Station, now St. Martin’s Station, originally a one-story structure on West Willow Grove Avenue. William B. Powell was the architect for the station.

Saint Martins Station A second story was added to the station in 1889. The station agent who lived and worked here was an important and respected member of the community. He typically sold tickets, supervised freight, managed the property, and received telegraph messages before the days of radio communication. Freight trains used the sidings on the left to deliver and receive products such as blocks of ice before the days of refrigeration.

In 1906, Henry Houston’s daughter Gertrude and her husband, George Woodward, convinced the Pennsylvania Railroad to rename the station St. Martin’s, after their successful efforts to rename the Wissahickon Heights neighborhood as they developed new homes near those built by Houston. The Woodwards preferred to name the area after the St. Martin-in-the-Field Episcopal Church, financed by Gertrude’s father, and built on land donated by him in 1889. The station was just half a block from the church.

As service improved, Chestnut Hill became a year-round railroad suburb as Germantown had a generation before. The line was electrified in 1918, eliminating the need for steam engines. The station has been in continuous use since its opening in 1884.

- Liz Jarvis