DEVON, Pa. (CBS)— Devon, Pennsylvania may not be a big place but its history goes back to the 1890s when the railroad was king and equestrian traditions in the suburbs of Philadelphia began.
“In the very beginning, the railroad was everything…immediately the thought was to get people out into the country from the city,” said J. Michael Morrison, with the King of Prussia Historical Society.
Business people from the city boarded trains destined for Devon, packing up their families and paving the way for summertime tradition.
“You had carriage rides, you had horseback riding, you had lawn tennis. Later you had golf,” Morrison said.
They were hobbies for those staying at magnificent inns strategically placed along the main line.
“The Devon Inn was probably the largest and most opulent of all the inns along the railroad,” said Morrison. “People brought their horses and their carriages with them when they came to recreate, so a marvelous stable was built.”
Stables that could house enough horses for some friendly competition.
“In 1896, the first show was very, very successful and then it went on and evolved to what it is today with the different categories. Not just showing horses for breeders, but more of a competitive nature,” said Morrison.
It wasn’t long before visitors began to stay, and the land began to develop.
A Sunday school called the “Devon Chapel” put up walls and put down roots.
“That was certainly a significant development, in that it showed the community was starting to acquire substance on its own… not just as a resort destination but as a place where people lived fulltime,” said John O. Senior, president of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.
Today you can still find a congregation of Presbyterians worshiping there, lending their parking lot to the people on horseback still competing at the Devon Horse Show just down the road.
At Devon, hats aren’t the only tradition that celebrates the elegance of women. The pomp and circumstance of the side saddle rider is also one that’s stayed.
“This class at Devon is a traditional class from the Victorian days and that’s what makes it so elegant and beautiful,” said Karen Hudome.
A woman’s legs draped over the side of her horse dates back to ancient times, as a way for her to dress in the finest clothing while riding in fashion. A class at Devon judged from stitch to saddle.
“Sidesaddle is the only appointments class where you’re being judged against a historical standard– is you clothing appropriate to what a lady would have worn,” said Veronica Finkelstein.
A lady would have worn a top hat, veil, and of course her apron, while contemporary hunter riders need not worry about their skirts or sandwiches?
That’s right, a sandwich case! Like ladies would carry if they need a nibble, but what kind of sandwich is best?
“If you’re out hunting in the fields and it’s hot, you don’t want to eat an egg salad sandwich. And you would never want to have a roast beef because it might throw off the hounds while you’re fox hunting,” laughed Finkelstein.