La Mott Historic District

This historic district is located in the south central portion of the Township. It is bounded by Penrose Avenue, Graham Lane, Dennis Street, and Cheltenham Avenue. Lucretia Mott lived here from the 1850s to her death in 1880. She was well known as a committed abolitionist, advocate for women’s rights, and Quaker minister. Her Quaker views led her to become strongly involved with the abolitionist movement and her home, Roadside, was used as a stop along the Underground Railroad. In 1911, the home was demolished and an important historical landmark was lost. The exclusive Latham Park residential community is now located on the site and a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker has been placed at its entrance as a memorial to Lucretia Mott’s contributions to the community.

 

The residential development of La Mott can largely be attributed to Mott’s son-in-law, Edward M. Davis. Davis was involved in speculative land development activities not only in La Mott, but throughout the Township. Davis’ land company owned large tracts of land in the Township and sold them to wealthy Philadelphians such as John Wanamaker and Jay Cooke. During the Civil War, Davis donated a tract of land to be used to train African-American troops for the Union forces. Camp William Penn, as it was called, operated between 1863 and 1865, and was the first such facility in the country constructed to solely train African-American recruits.

 

After the War, Davis returned to land speculation and sold off many of the parcels to working class families. At the same time, Thomas Keenan, another local real estate speculator, built houses from timbers salvaged from the Camp William Penn barracks. The neighborhood became known as Camptown, in honor of the camp that was once located there. Initially, white working class families, most of them Irish immigrants, inhabited the area. Gradually, working class African-Americans began to purchase lots. William A. Ritchie was an influential force in the integrated development of this community. He founded the La Mott Building and Loan Association and was instrumental in helping other African-American home and business owners settle in La Mott, thereby, establishing La Mott as one of the first racially integrated suburban communities. The community continued to prosper and gain population and the original schoolhouse that had been built by Edward M. Davis was replaced in 1878. This building now serves as the La Mott Community Center. Davis also donated the land for the original La Mott African Methodist Episcopal church that was constructed in 1888 and rebuilt in 1911. La Mott was chosen as the official name of the community when a post office was established in 1885.


The name Camptown was already in use by another Pennsylvania community and a new name had to be chosen for the post office. Residents decided on La Mott as a tribute to the woman who had been instrumental in the community’s development.

       
       
       
       
      Cheltenham Township   ~   8230 Old York Road   ~   Elkins Park, PA 19027
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