Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Yarnall-Waring Company Machine Works,  c.1854-1855,  c.1918
102 East Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia PA 19118

Jane Mork Gibson, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

A dwelling known as "Mermaid Hall" was constructed on the site c.1854 for Dr. Theodore S. Williams. This was about the time of the opening of the Germantown and Chestnut Hill Railroad (later the Reading Railroad's Chestnut Hill Branch), which adjoined the property. The building became a summer hotel in the late nineteenth century, partly due to this proximity to the railroad, the farmlands near-by, and the natural beauty of the Cresheim Valley. Adelaide Meale owned the house when it was purchased by the Yarnall-Waring Company for offices in 1918. In converting the site to manufacturing and testing use, a complex of buildings surrounding the original mansion was constructed. In 1967 Yarnall-Waring moved to Blue Bell, and Spring Garden College occupied the buildings from 1967 to 1985. At that time the United Cerebral Palsy Association established a center at the location and is the present owner and occupant.
The Yarnall-Waring Company was established by three men in 1908 to design and produce valves, controls, and steam traps for the growing steam-power industry. Its founders were Robert Yarnall, Mechanical Engineer, Bernard Waring and a silent partner, Stokes of Stokes and Smith Company, a manufacturer of paper box machinery. Moving from 1109-1111 Locust Street in Philadelphia, the active principals became vice presidents and assumed the management of the Nelson Valve Company on Mermaid Lane in Wyndmoor in 1913, but they also retained the identity of Yarnall-Waring as a separate entity. In 1918, Yarnall-Waring moved to its own quarters at 102 East Mermaid Lane where manufacturing operations continued for forty-nine years. Buildings were erected for a machine shop, and for an erection shop and testing facilities. Son Robert Yarnall became president in 1962. The need for further expansion caused the firm to relocate in 1967 to Blue Bell, and the company was re-named "Yarway." In 1986 Yarway was sold to Keystone International.
Over the course of time both the interiors and exteriors of the buildings in the complex have been altered so that little if anything remains to indicate their earlier use as a manufacturing complex. The original building is a 2-1/2 story stone Italianate dwelling converted to offices.  The other buildings are one- and two-story brick buildings. The Chestnut Hill Meeting of the Society of Friends occupies a one-story building on the site. The Yarnalls were instrumental in founding the Meeting which consists of two formerly hostile groups.

1   Harold E. Spaulding telephone interview with Robert Yarnall, August 23, 1988.

Update May 2007 (by Jane Mork Gibson):
The former industrial buildings have been converted to classrooms and for other activities of the United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, a nonprofit organization that provides services for children and adults with physical and similar disabilities. This former manufacturing plant, later used as a school, is particularly appropriate for the current use and provides appropriate space for a variety of activities that require classrooms, workshops and offices. The new impressive Daniel M. Tabas Entrance Pavilion is the general access to the building, with a separate entrance for adult drop-off from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m.

Activities include a UCP Best Friends Early Childhood Program—from birth to 5 years old—that includes both those with disabilities and those without. There is sheltered employment for adults with disabilities that utilizes former industrial space, operating with a contract shop doing piecework and bulk mailings. The UCP operates thirty houses throughout Philadelphia, and offices are maintained in the building for community social services, with social workers, therapists, and teachers who go out in the field. The following is a listing of departments: Adult Services, Children Services, Development Services, Residential Services, Recreation Services, Facilities and Transportation Services, Social Services.