The first inhabitants of Lower Merion Township (population 58,740) were members of the Lenni Lenape tribe. Welsh Quakers granted land by William Penn settled in the area in 1682.
In 1712, Lower Merion was established as an independent township with about 52 landholders and tenants who primarily practiced agriculture. Later, waterpower captured from local streams and tributaries of the Schuylkill River enabled manufacturing in the community. The creation of the Pennsylvania Railroad line west of Philadelphia during the 19th century brought new, prosperous residents to Lower Merion, and the town became known as part of the “Main Line,” a network of affluent Philadelphia suburbs along the railroad line.
Today, many groups work to maintain the historic charm of Lower Merion. The township has a historic commission and a Historical Architectural Review Board, which were created in 2000 with the adoption of a Historic Districts and Resources ordinance. Currently, Lower Merion Township has six local historic districts, including Ardmore, which also participates in the National Main Street Program. In addition, Lower Merion has been a Certified Local Government since 1992.
The Lower Merion Township Historical Society has worked since 1949 to carry out its mission of “Preserving our past for the future.” The historical society has a large collection of materials relating to the town, and published a 284-page book on the township in 2000. The historical society also gives lectures, leads driving and walking tours, and hosts local school children on bus tours of historic sites. Internship opportunities for high school and college students are also available.
The recent rescue and rehabilitation of the Seville Theater (aka Bryn Mawr Theater) brought many residents together in a highly visible historic preservation project. The theater, built in 1926, had suffered from neglect and was slated to have its interior drastically and permanently altered. The Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI), a non-profit organization formed in 2002, purchased the theater in 2005. The theater was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, and restoration through private donations as well as state grants and loans is ongoing. The theater shows independent and classic films and works to educate the public about filmmaking. The BMFI has been successful in its work, attracting more than 5,700 contributing members.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2007.