Historic Sketch[ ‡]
At one time Andalusia covered all the area from the Poquessing Creek to the corner of Bristol Pike and Hulmeville Road. The creek was the boundary between Philadelphia and Bucks counties, making Andalusia an ideal stopping place for many of the famous names in history. The Red Lion Inn, located just over the county line on the King's Highway (now Bristol Pike), provided food and lodging for travelers enroute to New York.
Andalusia's first post office was established before 1830. The next post office came into being on February 14, 1871, with William Pickering as postmaster.
The town took its name from the country estate of the Biddle family on the Delaware River. It was given the name Andalusia by John Craig, who built the mansion in 1794. Craig's daughter Jane married Nicholas Biddle in 1811 and the property has been in the Biddle family since that time.
About 1820 a man named Stephen Sicard, who owned land adjoining the Fox Chase Inn, attempted to lay out a town which he proposed to name "Sicardville." The project was unsuccessful and the land remained in Andalusia.
In the nineteenth century a number of wealthy families decided the banks of the Delaware were desirable as home sites. They purchased land and built beautiful large homes and mansions.
Starting at the Foerderer estate, now Glen Foerd, at the point of the Poquessing Creek and Delaware River, traveling north, Red Gables would come into view. It was named for its architectural structure, featuring a red roof and high gables. It was still in service as Red Cables Marina as late as 1965.
The next estate was Windemere, built by Thomas S. Harrison, a manufacturing chemist. He loved his estate and lived here the year round, commuting to Philadelphia daily by steamer. The home was low and rambling, known for its very large fireplaces and a beautiful English box garden. The house was destroyed by fire years ago and the property was purchased by the Edgecomb Steel Company.
Farther along the river was an estate called Edgewood Tigers. It was first known as "Edgewood," and owned by Edward Duffield. Later the estate was purchased by Edward S. Whelen. Sometime in its earlier years a tiger escaped from a traveling circus and was killed in the woods in the vicinity of Edgewood. This is how the word "Tiger" was added to the name.
Early in the twentieth century a real estate plot was laid out on the Whelen tract. It was a village of three streets from the river to the railroad. The streets were named Walnut, Edgewood, and Locust avenues. Four streets crossing them were named Railroad Avenue, State Road, Midvale Avenue, and River Road. At River Road there is a fine view of the river and Mud Island, a fifteen-acre site once known as Fairview Island.
By 1922 there were a number of house and lot owners in this area and it was decided to name the area Torresdale Manor, taking the name from a section of Philadelphia.
At that time the Torresdale Manor Improvement Association was formed to represent the owners. The association was later incorporated and now pays real estate taxes on an acquired six hundred feet of property on the river front. On this ground the association built a permanent concrete bridge in 1927, extending to a peninsula in the river. Out there a permanent concrete block bulkhead was constructed, with a beach for bathing in the river and benches for the comfort of association members. There is also a pier extending into the river for boats, with a lookout platform and benches at the end. A War Veteran Memorial was erected in 1944 on River Road at the end of Walnut Avenue. Also in this area is a large pine tree, which serves as the community Christmas tree, and a park with benches from which to enjoy the river view.
The Torresdale Manor Improvement Association is the oldest civic association in Bensalem Township. A certificate of recognition was awarded to the association in October 1982 by the Bensalem Township Board of Supervisors, in honor of sixty years of active civic participation. A Women's Auxiliary was organized in 1948. There were sixty-seven houses in the village of Torresdale Manor in 1984.
The Dell, built by Adolph and Charles Borie, also has a good view of Mud Island. Adolph Borie was secretary of the Navy under President Ulysses Grant and accompanied the President on a world tour. Before he became President, General Grant visited the Bories at the Dell and built a log cabin, still on the property. The estate was sold to Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Fox, who later sold it to Mr. and Mrs. A. Mercer Biddle. Mrs. Biddle was the owner in 1964.
Dr. Fox's father, Dr. George Fox, owned the two adjoining properties. He built Chestnut Wood in 1857 and Traviskan in 1858. A near tragedy happened at Chestnut Wood some years ago, while George Fox Jr. and his family lived there. The Fox's baby daughter Emily was in her coach on the lawn and her six-year-old sister Sarah was playing nearby. A huge bird, supposedly an eagle, swooped down toward the baby's coach. Sarah screamed and her father rushed to the front porch, his gun in hand, just in time to shoot the bird.
Joseph Growden once owned the tract of land on which the next two estates were located. Chelwood had several owners before Mrs. Maria Gapper built a large stone house there in 1813. Upon her death in 1823 Nicholas Biddle bought Chelwood for his son Edward. Dr. Charles King, a New York physician, purchased the property in 1848. When he moved to Devon, next to Chelwood, in 1972 he left Chelwood to his daughter Mrs. Frederick Lennig.
Dr. and Mrs. King bought Devon from Mrs. Alexander Campbell, daughter of Alexander J. Dallas, in 1853. Five Years later the original buildings at Devon went up in flames. The Kings built a handsome Victorian-style home there the same year. In 1937 Devon became the home of the State in Schuylkill, commonly known as the "Fish House." The story of State in Schuylkill is in another chapter of this book.
North of Chelwood are Andalusia, home of the Biddle family, and Pen Ryn, once known as the "Old Bickley Place." The Pen Ryn School, sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church in Eddington, now occupies the property bearing that name. Both of these beautiful and interesting estates are covered in another chapter.
In the 1940's and 1950's a very unique restaurant called "The Penguin Flyer" was located across from the Red Lion Inn on the Bristol Pike. The restaurant was designed as a train emerging from a tunnel and was owned by Standish Forde Hansell. When the restaurant was torn down about 1957 it was replaced by the Frankford Trust Company.
Traveling north on the King's Highway we come to the Church of the Redeemer, a protestant episcopal church founded in 1861 through the efforts of Mrs. Jane S. Biddle and her two sisters. A parish schoolhouse was built there in 1867. Connected with the chapel is the King Library, a gift of Dr. King to the community.
The addition at the rear of the library, now used for auctions, at one time served as a meeting place for the youth of the area. It housed the "Youth Center," and on Wednesday evenings in the late 1940's you would find most of the younger generation dancing to recordings.
In front of the library is a memorial marker to men who served in World War I.
In the early 1950's a would-be nightclub for teens, the Lido Venus, was opened across from the King Library. The idea did not work and the nightclub closed.
Over the years many things have changed in Andalusia. Woodhaven Mall was built in 1972 by M. A. Kravitz on Bristol Pike at the intersection of 1-95. The complex, which includes forty-six stores, is owned and managed by Kravco. Other additions are the Andalusia Drive-in and hundreds of homes and apartments. But among the new additions are the old farmhouses, some of the mansions, and of course the old time family names still in the telephone directory. Ask some of the old timers about the "Cabbage Patch" if you want to really hear about the area as it once was.
Modern history will mention the storm of July 1982 when the Poquessing Creek overflowed its banks, flooding the Duplex Apartments behind the Red Lion Inn. A violent thunderstorm, accompanied by winds of hurricane force, resulted in death for two persons and the evacuation of more than 250 residents. Damage exceeded twelve million dollars.
‡ Source: Traveling Through Bensalem: 1692-1984, Historical Society of Bensalem Township, 1984
Ann Street • Baxter Avenue • Belfast Avenue • Biddle Lane • Black Lake Run • Blackburn Avenue • Bristol Pike • Buttonwood Avenue • Camac Street • Cedar Avenue • Clinton Avenue • Colonial Avenue • Dana Avenue • Edgewood Avenue • Elwood Avenue • Emerson Lane • Evelyn Avenue • Highland Avenue • Kings Lane • Locust Avenue • Lowell Avenue • Mildred Avenue • Mitchell Avenue • Orchid Avenue • Penn Court • Poquessing Avenue • Richardson Avenue • Route 13 • Tennis Avenue • Walnut Avenue • Whittier Avenue