Behind the Scenes Featured on NBC Philadelphia!

Last week, we had the chance to give NBC Philadelphia a tour of the photo collection at the City Archives and a peek into the research we completed this past spring on augmented reality. Check out the embedded video below to learn more or watch the segment over on the NBC10 site!

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New Features

PhillyHistory Now on Twitter!

We’re excited to announce that the PhillyHistory team is now on Twitter! A microblogging site, Twitter lets users post messages that are 140 characters or less. Many libraries, archives, and museums have Twitter accounts and use them as a way to share information about their institutions and respond to questions from the public.

Follow the PhillyHistory Team on Twitter at @phillyhistory

We’re hoping to use our Twitter account as a way to give you a glimpse of the behind the scenes work of the PhillyHistory team. We’ll be posting news about PhillyHistory projects as well as letting you know about interesting history related events, news, and exhibitions happening in the area. Around lunchtime each day, we will also be posting our PhillyHistory Photo of the Day” – an image that caught our eyes or that we thought deserved a little bit more attention.

If you are a Twitter user, you can follow or message us at @phillyhistory. Not on Twitter? You can still read our posts at!/phillyhistory

New Features Uncategorized

Selecting Images for Augmented Reality

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Work continues on the augmented reality project, and we’re having fun testing and tweaking the project to make it as useful and enjoyable as possible. While the software developers write code and discuss spatial issues (including geometry and the calculation of angles at one point), we’re busy with our own projects over at the City Archives.

As Hillary mentioned in her last blog post, the augmented reality application will provide access to almost every image in that is connected to a location – a total of nearly 90,000 images. From those 90,000 images, we’ve selected 500 photos to receive a bit of special attention. Each image has been “pinned” in 3D space so that it’s easier to see how the angle and view shown in the photo match the current landscape. The result will be a group of images that are oriented properly, meaning that the building in the photo lines up with the same building seen through your smartphone. Hopefully, this should prevent you from having to dramatically maneuver the phone to align the images. Selecting the photos was both overwhelming and gratifying as we got to spend some time exploring the huge collection of images. For more information on the image selection process, read “Something New in Your Neighborhood: Augmented Reality.”

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Choosing 500 photos wasn’t the last curatorial decision we had to make though. We also needed to select twenty images for which we would provide historical information about the places and activities shown in the photos as well as links to additional resources. To select those images, we teamed up with Dr. Charlene Mires and Dr. Howard Gillette, two of the editors of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, and Dr. Amy Hillier, the project director for Mapping the DuBois Philadelphia Negro. Together with researcher and writer, Doreen Skala, and the rest of the team, this advisory group selected images that touched on a few of the memorable historic locations, people, and events in Philadelphia history. The selected photos cover a variety of topics and locations. An image of the Italian Market in 1954 and another of Gimbels Department Store in 1966 connect to upcoming Encyclopedia essays on the history of the Italian Market or Center City department stores. A photo of Engine House #11 relates to events in African-American history, and an image of high school students visiting a pretzel vendor gives insight into the history of formal schooling in Philadelphia.

While these twenty selected images certainly do not cover the entirety of Philadelphia’s rich history, we hope they will provide more details about a few events and locations. Due to the small screen size available on a mobile phone, we had to limit the text to only a short paragraph. With each image, however, we also included a list of sources and links to possible sites for more information. We hope you enjoy the chance to learn more about these amazing photographs!

New Features

Augmented Reality Coming Soon to

North Broad Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in 1916 and 2010.

Have you ever wanted to time travel? Discover what Philadelphia looked like in the past and compare it to the present landscape? At, we’re working on a way to do just that. In 2010, the Department of Records received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities to investigate the possibility of developing a prototype augmented reality application for Augmented reality refers to the ability to view digital data on a view of the current world. Utilizing a combination of the GPS and camera technologies available on contemporary smart phones, this mobile phone application will enable users to view historic photographs from as overlays on the current urban landscape.

The above photo is a mock-up of how those overlays might work. We’re still in the development stage so the final results may differ dramatically, but we wanted to give you a sneak peek of what’s in the works. For more information on the project, read our announcement at

You don’t need to wait months though for mobile access to The images are always available on your smartphone at

New Features

Planes, Parades, and Presidents! New Photos from the Office of the City Representative!

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The team is excited to announce the addition of historic photographs from the collection of the City of Philadelphia Office of the City Representative! Featuring images of everything from planes (a Spirit of St. Louis reproduction arriving at Northeast airport) to parades (Mummers marching near City Hall) to presidents (President John F. Kennedy speaking in front of Independence Hall), these stunning images capture historic events in our city and country’s history.

For decades, the City of Philadelphia Office of the City Representative has developed and promoted events throughout the city. Over the course of their history, they have taken thousands of photographs documenting events ranging from parades and festivities to visits by political dignitaries and celebrities to activities at local recreation centers. Unseen for years, these images will be made available to the general public on where they can be purchased, shared with friends, downloaded to Google Earth, and accessed via mobile technology.

While the full collection of images numbers in the tens of thousands, over 800 images are already available on Over the next few months, the interns will be hard at work cataloging, numbering, and scanning hundreds of additional images. Check back often to see new photographs from the amazing collection of the Office of the City Representative!

New Features

Historic Images from the Free Library of Philadelphia Now Available on!

Purchase Photo   View Nearby Photos is excited to announce the addition of over 1,600 historic photographs from the collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Stunning images from the Historical Images of Philadelphia Collection and the Centennial Exhibition Collection are now available to search, view, and purchase on

Between nine and ten million people traveled to Philadelphia in 1876 to visit the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park. From a crowd of tens of thousands gathered for the exhibition opening to the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch, the amazing images in the Centennial Exhibition Collection depict the artwork, buildings, exhibits, and innovations that captivated visitors from around the world. These images can now be searched by location, providing remarkable insight into the plan of the Exhibition and the development of Fairmount Park. The Centennial images are complemented by photographs from the Historical Images of Philadelphia Collection. Depicting street scenes, homes, and events, these images show the bustling, diverse communities of Philadelphia in the late 1800s.

Together, these two collections provide an amazing visual history of the City of Philadelphia. For the first time ever, these images can now be purchased as prints or a variety of photo gifts. Visit and begin your trip to the past today! The addition of the Free Library of Philadelphia images to is funded by the Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership grant program.


The Callowhill Neighborhood

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Located north of Center City, the Callowhill neighborhood is bordered roughly by the Vine Street Expressway to the south, Spring Garden Street to the north, 8th Street to the east, and Broad Street to the west. The neighborhood takes its name from Callowhill Street, which runs east-west through the center of the neighborhood. Originally designated by William Penn as New Street, Callowhill was later renamed to honor Hannah Callowhill, Penn’s second wife.

Much of Callowhill was farmland until the 1840s. When the gigantic Baldwin Locomotive Company built its plant near Buttonwood Street west of Broad Street in the 1830s, men and families seeking employment began to settle in the neighborhood. Boarding houses and restaurants provided rooms and meals for single men who sought work in the coal yards, factories, and Locomotive Company, and families found housing in the many row houses. Additional factories, workshops, and machine shops moved to the area, and by the late 1800s, Callowhill served as both a residential and industrial neighborhood where workers could live near their workplaces. The 1895 Atlas of Philadelphia created by George and Walter Bromley shows small homes and residences as well as a number of businesses including the Hoopes & Townsend Nut and Bolt Works, the Knickerbocker Ice Company, a creamery, a brewery, a carriage factory, and an iron foundry.

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In 1897, the landscape of the Callowhill neighborhood changed dramatically with construction along the City Branch line of the Reading Railroad. With the creation of a new passenger station at 12th and Market, Reading Railroad was required to remove its tracks from street level. The railroad decided to place the tracks, which ran just north of Callowhill Street from 20th Street to 13th Street, below street grade level in an open subway. Lowering the tracks required the excavation of tons of earth, the construction of temporary bridges, and the rerouting of sewer lines. Despite the immensity of the project, work was completed by 1900 and the new railroad lines provided manufacturers and businesses in Callowhill with improved access to transportation routes. The Reading Railroad also contributed another major feature to Callowhill in the form of the Reading Viaduct, a rail line that ran from Reading Terminal at 12th and Market all the way to Reading, Pennsylvania and was in use until 1984. Although portions of the line were destroyed for the construction of Septa lines and the Vine Street Expressway, two branches of the Viaduct still run through Callowhill and neighboring Chinatown.

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Both the 1942 and 1962 Philadelphia Land Use Maps depict the same mixture of residential and industrial space. In 1942, buildings and yards belonging to the Reading Company dominated the space along Callowhill Road while the blocks between Noble and Spring Garden Streets contained more homes and small businesses. Twenty years later, the 1962 map shows that some older businesses have disappeared while newer companies have moved to the neighborhood. A few buildings remain the same. In both 1895 and 1962, Esslinger’s Brewery sits at the northeast intersection of 10th and Callowhill Streets and the United States Armory remains at the southeast intersection of Broad and Callowhill.

Beginning in the 1960s, the population of Callowhill declined as residents and businesses moved to the suburbs or other parts of Philadelphia. In the 1980s, the construction of the Vine Street Expressway and the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the Chinatown neighborhood just south of Callowhill caused further changes as homes and businesses that were previously cited in Chinatown became part of the Callowhill neighborhood. For this reason, Callowhill is sometimes also referred to as Chinatown North. The connection between the two neighborhoods has led to much discussion over the past decades as various individuals and organizations attempt to encourage urban growth and renewal while still meeting the needs of members of several communities.

Construction in the neighborhood began to increase again in the late 1990s and 2000s as developers renovated former factories and warehouses into new loft-style housing. In 2000, the Callowhill Neighborhood Association formed to assist with neighborhood development through community watches, clean-ups, and other activities.


[1] Alotta, Robert I. Mermaids, Monasteries, Cherokees and Custer: The Stories Behind Philadelphia Street Names. Chicago: Bonus Books Inc., 1990.

[2] Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, 1895. George W. & Walter S. Bromley, Civil Engineers.

[3] Callowhill Neighborhood Association.

[4] Hoess, Ron. “The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig, Part One.” Blog. May 7, 2009.

[5] Hoess, Ron. “The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig, Part Two.” Blog. June 10, 2009.

[6] Miller, Fredric M., Morris J. Vogel, Allen F. Davis. Still Philadelphia: A Photographic History, 1890-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.

[7] Philadelphia Land Use Map, 1942. Plans & Registry Division, Bureau of Engineering Surveys & Zoning, Department of Public Works, Federal Works Progress Administration for Pennsylvania.

[8] Philadelphia Land Use Map, 1962. Plans & Registry Division, Bureau of Engineering Surveys & Zoning, Department of Public Works, Federal Works Progress Administration for Pennsylvania.

[9] Sloe, Phoebee. “Lemon Ridge: A Tree Story.” Callowhill News Fall/Winter 2006, Vol. 2, Quarter 4.


The Art Club of Philadelphia

Incorporated on January 18, 1887, the Art Club of Philadelphia was formed “to advance the knowledge and love of the Fine Arts, through the exhibition of works of Art, the acquisition of books and papers for the purpose of forming an Art Library, lectures upon subjects pertaining to Art, receptions given to men or women distinguished in Art, Literature, Science or Politics, and by other kindred means, and to promote social intercourse among its members.”1

Created as both a social club and an organization for the support of the arts, the Art Club needed a club house that would help meet the objectives laid out in its charter. Members of the club selected a location on Broad Street near the intersection of Broad and Chancellor Streets. The building at that location had previously served as a boarding house before being purchased by J.B. Lippincott and then by the Art Club for $100,000. Architect Frank Miles Day was selected to design the building, his first major commission as an architect. He would continue to work in Philadelphia and serve as president of the American Institute of Architects in 1906 and 1907.2 He also lectured on architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University before his death in 1918.3

The building required extensive renovations to meet the needs of the Art Club, including tearing down the back building to expand the space. The building and renovations were completed in 1889 and the Art Club held its first meeting in the new clubhouse on December 7, 1889. The building featured galleries for public exhibitions, parlors, a library, and a gentleman’s café and billiard room as well as private club spaces including a members’ dining room and bedrooms and bathrooms reserved for the use of club members. Servants’ quarters were located on the fifth floor. An article in the New York Times on December 8, 1889 noted that the entire building was “wired for electric lighting and also arranged for gas service.” The article also notes the beautiful furnishings and design of the building and describes it as “one of the most beautiful and artistic clubhouses to be found in the country.”4

The Art Club’s former building on Broad Street was demolished in 1976-1976.5


[1] Art Club of Philadelphia, “Charter, constitution and by-laws of the Art Club of Philadelphia with house rules, report of the Board of Directors and list of members.” Philadelphia: Patterson & White Co., 1917, p. 15.

[2] The New York Times. “Frank Miles Day Dead.” June 18, 1918.

[3] Frank Miles Day Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

[4] The New York Times. “Philadelphia’s Art Club – First Meeting in its New Quarters.” December 8, 1889.

[5] “Philadelphia Art Club 220 S. Broad Street.” Historic American Building Survey HABS No. PA-1529.

New Features

Visit on your iPhone!

The PhillyHistory team is excited to announce that is now accessible via iPhone at! While has been available on mobile phones for awhile, we had not yet developed a web application that allowed the website to be easily accessed and searched using an iPhone. To solve this problem, we created an iPhone specific web application that makes easily accessible to iPhone users.

Since the display screen of an iPhone is obviously smaller than the screen on a computer, we chose to emphasize specific search criteria and photo display options to make the application as easy to use as possible. iPhone users have the option of searching for photographs by neighborhood or location or by navigating through a map of the city. The location of a photo is identified on the map by a red flag, and clicking on a flag displays the photograph and more information.

With full maps and geographic search capabilities, on iPhone provides another great way to access historic photographs of the city. So if you’re walking around Philadelphia and want to know what an intersection looked like 60 years ago, pull out your iPhone or cell phone and check out!

New Features Photos Now Available on Flickr!

We are excited to announce that a select number of images from are now available on Flickr!

Flickr, a popular online photo sharing website, allows users to upload images and share those images with the public. With millions of users from around the world, placing photos on Flickr provides an opportunity to introduce many new people to the fantastic collection of images in the database. Sixty-six photos, including some of the oldest and most popular images from the City Archives, were hand-picked for inclusion on Flickr. The images are organized into four thematic sets that provide a visual history of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, schools, construction and transportation projects, and public services and celebrations. Each photo is accompanied by information about the image, the address where it was taken (if available), and a link to the photograph on

One of the most exciting features on the new Flickr photostream is the public commenting and tagging function. Since the PhillyHistory project began, we’ve received some wonderful stories and comments about the photographs from people around the world. Whenever possible, we try to share such feedback through our newsletter and other reports. The new Flickr photostream, however, gives you a chance to immediately comment on the photos, add notes directly to the images, tag the photos with keywords, and respond to comments left by other users. We’re hoping this feature will let the whole community hear many more wonderful stories and remarks about the photos and what they mean to you.

The photos on Flickr are available at We encourage people to visit the photostream and add their comments, notes, and tags to the photos. Let us know what you think about the images!