The Freedom Valley Chronicles: The World Changed 65 Years Ago This Week

On December 8, 1952, the future became reality in West Conshohocken.

It was on that date that the Schuylkill Expressway opened to traffic between West Conshohocken and Gulph Mills. Communities stretching from western Pennsylvania and Harrisburg to Valley Forge and King of Prussia now had direct access to West Conshohocken by means of a modern highway.

For some time, the Schuylkill Expressway ended in West Conshohocken. All traffic exited and entered on Moorehead Avenue.

The next section of the Schuylkill Expressway opened from West Conshohocken to Gladwyne and City Avenue (City Line). It would be a few more years before you could get to Center City Philadelphia via the Schuylkill Expressway from West Conshohocken.

Dozens of houses in both Upper Merion Township and West Conshohocken Borough were demolished by the Commonwealth to create this new four-lane expressway.

There’s no indication of when the first rush hour traffic jam occurred on the Schuylkill Expressway in West Conshohocken, but it wasn’t on that first day. The highway opened sharply at 8:55 AM, according to a news story in The Conshohocken Recorder. Mrs. Isabel Carr Tyson, the Borough Secretary, cut the ribbon to open the highway, the newspaper reported.

Mrs. Isabel Carr Tyson was the Borough Secretary of West Conshohocken for more than 23 years. It was Mrs. Tyson who officiated at the ribbon cutting that opened the Schuylkill Expressway in 1952. According to the West Conshohocken Centennial Celebration Program Booklet, Mrs. Tyson was active in the community and was honored by the federal government during World War II for providing the most volunteer hours to the Bryn Mawr Ration Board. (Photo is from the West Conshohocken Centennial Celebration Program Booklet, 1974)

While life in West Conshohocken changed that day, life in the town’s sister borough, Conshohocken, also was affected in substantial ways.

The Conshohocken Recorder editorialized on December 8, 1952, that it was time for Conshohocken Borough to put up traffic lights at Fayette and Hector Streets: “Fayette Street is never going to be the Road to Mandalay, but it is, starting today, the gateway to the Schuylkill Expressway connecting with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And the traffic, like thunder, will be pounding up and down Fayette Street all hours of the day and night.”

At the end of its editorial, the newspaper printed a sentence that is likely one of the most understated comments that you will likely ever read:

“…It is quite possible that the problem [the newspaper was referring to the problem of traffic in the area] will not be relieved much with the completion of the Expressway spur into Philadelphia.”

I think The Conshohocken Recorder was right on the mark with its editorial 65 years ago.

How has your life been affected by the Schuylkill Expressway? Let us know. Your comments may be used in a future news article.

Do you have questions about local history? A street name? A building? Your questions may be used in a future news article.

Contact Richard McDonough at

Top Photo – Traffic is seen here on the Schuylkill Expressway heading from Gulph Mills towards the hills of West Conshohocken.  It was during December of 1952 – 65 years ago this week – that this section of the Schuylkill Expressway opened to traffic.  West Conshohocken and Conshohocken would never be the same.  (Photo is courtesy of Google, 2016) 

© 2017 Richard McDonough