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A Handshake and Power Passes

A simple handshake takes place and the power and authority of government pass from one freely elected leader to another.


"A handshake and power passes."

So wrote author Theodore H. White in his much acclamed history, The Making of the President 1960. What he was referring to was the handshake between outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower and incoming President John F. Kennedy, symbolizing the transfer of governmental power and authority from one to the other.

It is a tradition as old as our Republic, the peaceful transfer of power. This handshake now normaly takes place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, but started in Philadelpia's Congress Hall in 1797. Yet, on Tuesday all across the State of Pennsylvania, the same act will take place for thousands of elected local government officials in our boroughs and townships.

Interestingly, these local officals will prove on a daily basis to have more influence and effect on our daily lives than any President in Washington, D.C. And this is no more true than right here in Media Borough.

This transfer of authority on Tuesday will take place in the , where it has occured every two years since about 1992. Yet, just like the Federal government experience, it has not always taken place in the same location.

The first such example in Media history was at "a public house and inn" called The Anvil Inn, later the Providence Inn at what is now the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Providence Road. This happened in March 1850 after the first Borough election was held there. The swearing in of new officials and "the handshake" began here and lasted for five years. Today, the building is long gone and the site is a coffee shop.

The Council back then eventually decided to find a permanent location for their monthly meetings, and selected a spacious room in The Charter House Hotel, a large summer resort building located at the corner of State Street and the then South Avenue, now Veteran's Square. At the time, August 1855, the building sat back from State Street fronted by a broad lawn with large Elm trees on it. Hard to believe today! The Charter House was also the social center of Media and originated the present use of the Media Borough Hall complex at Third and Jackson streets with its community center rooms. The building still exists today, but without it's lovely lawn, as the Plymouth Hall Apartments.

In 1894, government requirements had grown, and a new Borough Hall and firehouse with a tall bell tower, was constructed at the intersection of State and Jackson streets. Here the bi-yearly handshakes took place in a much beloved landmark until 1969.

A Federal redevelopment program resulted in the loss of this fine structure unfortunately, and the Borough then acquired the old Media Post Office Building across Jackson Street and rehabilitated and restored it for municipal use. This elegant structure built in 1917 was to witness in January 1982, in its well appointed and decorated Council Chamber, the first handshakes to transfer power from one political party to another in the history of the Borough.

This building continued to provide a site for "the handshakes" until the early 1990s when the present Borough Hall, converted from its previous use as The Workman's Circle Jewish Home and estate home of William Miller, was acquired to provide additional space for an expanding Borough government. The lovely 1969 to a private owner as a for our residents and visitors.

But no matter the location in Media where government authority and power reside, we continue to witness every two years the precious and continuing legacy of our Founding Fathers as new leadership arises by the will of the people to continue to guide our governmental processes.

"A handshake, and power passes!" No matter if it is in Washington, D.C. or Media, Pa.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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