Historic Sites

England’s Green and Pleasant Land on the Banks of the Schuylkill: The Story of St. James-the-Less, Part Two

By advocating English Gothic as the only acceptable style for Anglican churches, the Philadelphia followers of the Cambridge Camden Society wanted to take a stand against trends they felt were very unattractive in the boisterous new nation: a dangerous secularism built upon the unfettered worship of commerce, technology and the power of reason. Even so, the young nation as described by observers like Alexis de Tocqueville was largely indifferent or even hostile to such diversions as liturgical ceremony, spiritual mysticism, and antiquarianism. Tocqueville noted the result of the lack of government-sanctioned aristocratic and clerical prerogatives on the American psyche: “When ranks are confused and privileges are destroyed, when patrimonies are divided and enlightenment and freedom are spread, the longing to acquire well-being presents itself to the imagination of the poor man, and the fear of losing it, to the mind of the rich. A multitude of mediocre fortunes is established … They therefore apply themselves constantly to pursuing or keeping these enjoyments that are so precious, so incomplete, and so fleeting.”1 Of course, Robert Ralston and his fellow Philadelphia sponsors of St. James-the-Less had fortunes largely based in banking and manufacturing, not in inherited rank and feudal landownership.

In keeping with the Cambridge Camden Society’s mission for authenticity, no architect per se was hired to design St. James-the-Less. John E. Carver, the general contractor, worked from measured drawings of St. Michael’s, Long Station in Cambridgeshire, which had been built c. 1230.2 The project’s sponsors saw this model as the purest example of a modestly-sized but exquisitely crafted British parish church, one that was designed and built by local craftsmen out of local materials. Rather than being delicate, lofty, and grandiose, St. James-the-Less is compact, rugged, and muscular. The nave windows are small, creating a very dark, mysterious nave compared to the open, light-filled ones of neoclassical Philadelphia churches.

The chancel, where the priest performs the sacrifice of the mass, is recessed and partially screened from the congregation, a liturgical statement meant to convey the mystery of the sacrament. The masonry walls are rough-hewn and composed of stones of irregular shapes. The gable peaks are capped by stone crosses, while the doors are painted a bright red and are ornamented with wrought iron hinges and handles. Unlike large Gothic cathedrals, which used flying buttresses to augment the load bearing capacity of their walls, St. James-the-Less relies only on its thick masonry piers and walls to support its roof.

The choice of setting for St. James-the-Less was as important to its architecture. Ralston and his colleagues wanted a site that would be appropriate to a country parish church. According to a 1983 history of the church, “The Ridge Road had long been a main avenue of travel, but many of the tracts that are now built up in rows of houses were then woodlands, or were occupied by country places of considerable size.”3 Since factories and dense residential development were slowly creeping northward, the vestry of St. James-the-Less hoped that their new church would be used not just by the wealthy, but also by the working class employed in the mills and factories. The church and its grounds would be a spiritual and physical oasis for families who lived in dense row house districts with little green space and few aesthetic charms. To borrow two images from William Blake’s famous poem “Jerusalem,” St. James-the-Less was to be nestled in a land of “pleasant pastures green,” a world away from the “dark, satanic mills” of the smoke-belching metropolis.

Construction on the church began in 1846, with an initial budget of $6,000. The Bishop Alonzo Potter dedicated the structure in 1850, but the total cost for the church had risen to over $30,000–approximately $700,000 in today’s money–largely because of the expensive decorations that the patrons insisted on adding to the interior.4

The impact of tiny St. James-the-Less on American architecture was immense. Parishioners were stunned at the proportions and craftsmanship of the building while visitors left the church determined to build their own country Gothic churches to the same exacting standards. Within the next few decades, English Gothic churches sprung up throughout the Philadelphia region and beyond. According to architectural historian Phoebe Stanton: “Many of the Protestant Episcopal churches that followed in the United States were informed with its [St. James-the-Less] feeling for materials and for simple but delicate articulation of ornament and scale … Whether or not one approves the appropriation of a medieval plan for nineteenth century use and the introduction of a deep chancel as a part of church plans and liturgical practice, one must be grateful for the accident which brought to America a building that demonstrated the aesthetic truths medieval buildings had to offer the nineteenth century architect and patron.”5 The most notable architectural descendents of St. James-the-Less include architect John Notman’s St. Mark’s Church at 16th and Locust and the Hewitt brothers’ St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Chestnut Hill, both of which use the English country church plan.

Aside from some minor interior cosmetic changes, St. James-the-Less remained largely unchanged during the 19th century, even as the mills, foundries, and crowded row house blocks crept up the Schuylkill banks and encroached on its formerly sylvan setting. The church served as a place of worship both for the working class of East Falls and the wealthy Center City Philadelphians, many of whom are buried in the cemetery, which by the early 20th century had completely filled the grounds.

Although the church itself remained unaltered, the physical plant of St. James-the-Less expanded to serve the needs of an increasingly urban and working class neighborhood. In 1916, a new rectory and a large parish house/school building were constructed across Clearfield Street from the church. Perhaps the most striking new addition to the St. James-the-Less compound was the Wannamaker Memorial Tower, built to serve both as the church’s carillon and the Wannamaker family tomb. Eschewing the rustic language of the original church, these buildings take their cues from the liturgical architecture of architects such as Ralph Adams Cram, with their use of intricate stone tracery, gargoyles and other decoration.

Today, St. James-the-Less – a seminal piece of American architectural heritage, a pastoral respite from the blighted neighborhoods of Hunting Park Avenue, and a National Historic Landmark – sits shuttered and dark. Still wholly intact inside and out, St. James the Less sits perched on its hill above the Schuylkill River waiting for a new life.


1 Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America. Edited and translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

2 Phoebe B. Stanton. The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1856. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. 94.

3 Paul W. Kayser. A Brief History and Guide to the Church of St. James the Less. Philadelphia: St. James the Less, 1983. 2.

4 Paul W. Kayser. A Brief History and Guide to the Church of St. James the Less. Philadelphia: St. James the Less, 1983. 4.

5 Phoebe B. Stanton. The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1856. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. 113.

Historic Sites

England’s Green and Pleasant Land on the Banks of the Schuylkill: The Story of St. James-the-Less, Part One


In 1846, several prominent members of the Philadelphia Episcopal Church met at the country estate of Robert Ralston in the village of Falls of Schuylkill. They were merchants, manufacturers, and other men of property, but they had not gathered to raise capital to build another factory or lay more miles of railroad track. Instead the meeting at “Mount Peace” produced the following goal: “To build a church which should be a country house of worship, as similar as possible to the best type of such a church that England could furnish, a veritable home of retirement and meditation, a quiet house of prayer.”1 All of the men were members of a small organization known as the Cambridge Camden Society, a tight-knit group of academics, architects and patrons of the arts who sought to radically transform British and American church design.

During the 1830s, the Cambridge Camden Society was formed in England to revive the authentic Gothic style in church architecture. Its corresponding spiritual equivalent, known Inflatable Caterpillar as the Oxford Movement, was led by a group of Oxford University professors, theologians and students. Anglican thinkers such as John Henry Newman, Edward Pusey, and John Keble felt that the Church of England had become liturgically lax and hoped to revive many of its traditional, Roman Catholic practices.2 The Oxford Movement and the Cambridge Camden Society wanted to reassert the centrality of the Mass over preaching in the Anglican service, as well as a reincorporation of pre-Reformation symbols and practices in the liturgy and design. St. James-the-Less was intended by its Philadelphia sponsors to be an authentic and perfect jewel of the emphatically medieval and British Gothic style.

As is common with cases of spiritual and aesthetic nostalgia, Ralston and his coterie planned St. James-the-Less in reaction to what was seen as a soulless, materialistic present. The Cambridge Camden Society became disenchanted with the classical revival that had been the dominant form of church architecture during the 18th century. Anglican churches built during the 18th and early 19th centuries in England and America based their floor plans and detailing on Greek and Roman models, most notably those adapted by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Examples of neoclassical Anglican churches in Philadelphia include Christ Church at 2nd and Market Street (1727) and St. Peter’s Church (1760). These churches are characterized by an open nave without side aisles, simple ornamentation, large windows letting in ample sunlight, and a lack of liturgical representative artwork. Firmly identifying with the Protestant rather than the Catholic traditions of the Church of England, these churches were meant to emphasize preaching and congregational hymn singing over communion and liturgical processions.


The Federal and Greek revival styles, steeped in the language of pagan classical antiquity, were wildly popular in Philadelphia during the first decades of the 19th century. To the sophisticated urban mercantile elite, the adaptation of the classical language for the young nation was a logical choice. The young republic, led by classically virtuous men such as George Washington, was the heir to Greek democracy and the Roman Republic. Nicholas Biddle, the erudite Philadelphia banker and man of letters, felt that the Greek revival style, with its associations with reason, restraint, and egalitarianism, should be the national style for the American Republic.3 The most perfect monument to Biddle’s idea is the Second Bank of the United States at 5th and Market Streets, designed by William Strickland and based on the Parthenon. As a practical matter, builders and architects could easily adapt the classical style to all manner of uses. By the 1830s, sober Greek porticos, entablatures and other decorative details adorned the row houses, banks, and schools throughout Philadelphia.

As the American Revolution and the hostility to all things British faded into distant memory, a number of prominent Philadelphians began to look to architects who were inspired by the English church’s medieval, pre-Reformation heritage. The Gothic style – almost exclusively used for church architecture since the Middle Ages – was not easy to adapt to a merchant’s row house block near Washington Square or a bank on Market Street. Gothic had inextricable associations with markedly “un-Republican” concepts, namely monarchy, feudal aristocracy, and clerical hierarchy. It also connoted mystery and complexity rather than reason and simplicity.


  • 1Paul W. Kayser, A Brief History and Guide to the Church of St. James the Less. Philadelphia: St. James the Less, 1983. 2.
  • 2 “What is the Oxford Movement?” Pusey House Chapel and Library, 2006.
  • 3 Joseph Downs. “The Greek Revival in America.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 2, No. 5 (Jan., 1944), 173.

Historic Sites

Bringing the World to Philadelphia

During its last decades, the Commercial Museum was a forlorn and forgotten anachronism – little more than a hazy memory for aging Philadelphians of a long-ago junior high school field trip. When it was demolished in 2005, few mourned its passing. But during its first decades, there was probably no Philadelphia institution more dynamic, useful or better-known around the globe. It was much more than a mere museum. It was the de facto U.S. Department of Commerce, before the federal government established that department.

The idea for the museum was born with a visit by University of Pennsylvania biology professor Dr. William P. Wilson to the great Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago. He convinced City Council and Mayor Edwin S. Stuart to purchase 24 railcars filled with materials from the fair when it closed. Wilson became director of the museum and added tons of new material from big fairs and exhibits around the world.

Six years after its founding in 1894, the museum consisted of five buildings along 34th Street near Spruce. Its large staff promoted world trade in a dozen ways including the collection of countless items of trade goods from every nation in the world. Collecting tons of foreign goods and raw materials was aimed at showing American businesses what other nations offered in the way of trade goods and what they might want to buy. The museum even compiled lists on which foreign firms to avoid.

The museum also spewed out an ocean of publications, reports and statistical data and did translations in two-dozen languages. It put together international buyers and sellers, boasted up-to-date scientific testing labs, and had a network of 20,000 overseas correspondents feeding statistics and facts on trade back to Philadelphia headquarters. It had a huge library of books and publications relating to world trade. Along with lectures for adults, it provided classes on trade and geography for school students and gave them a glimpse of exotic lands.

It was such a unique and useful concept that President William McKinley came to Philadelphia to speak at its birth – an address covered by the New York Times. The President also sent a message in 1899 for the dedication of the museum’s buildings and to welcome a Commercial Congress attended by trade officials from 60 nations.


While the City had provided the initial cash to launch the museum and start its collecting activities, the exposition and trade congress were authorized by both houses of Congress. The federal treasury gave $350,000, and money from Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia and private capital brought the total to $800,000. A major source of continued funding for the museum was membership fees of about $100 a year from businesses with an interest in export/import. Seventy percent of the member businesses were from outside the Philadelphia region.

When the U.S. Department of Commerce was born in 1914, the museum began to lose its unique position in the country. In 1930, the Philadelphia Convention Hall opened in the middle of the museum buildings. Buildings south of Convention Hall were replaced with modern exhibit space in the 1960s. Eventually, the complex became known as the Civic Center on Civic Center Boulevard although the ornate northern-most building retained its role as the Commercial Museum It enjoyed some brief glory in the early 1960s with gala trade fairs and fashion shows focused on Italy and France.

The complex became derelict in the late 1990s after the opening of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City. The University of Pennsylvania eventually purchased the complex to expand its medical research facilities. Although truckloads of museum material had been discarded over the decades, there were still about 27,000 items in storage including some rare and expensive craft and folk items from Africa and Asia. Curators at the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and other museums were delighted to share the hidden treasures.


  • Hunter, Ruth. The Trade and Convention Center of Philadelphia: Its Birth and Renascence. City of Philadelphia, 1962.
  • Philadelphia Daily News. “A Museum is Set to Pack It In,” June 13, 1994.
  • Philadelphia Daily News “Museum Exhibits Parceled Out,” June 19, 2001.

Historic Sites

Aquatic Freeway

During the heady years of the late 19th century, the Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers were as congested as the interstates that flank them today. Oil tankers, freighters, coal barges, and an occasional ocean liner clogged the Delaware River during the daylight hours. The Schuylkill River, although narrower and Inflatable Dome Tent shallower, was overrun with smaller vessels, such as the wooden sailing schooners showing in the above photographs. And as on the Schuylkill Expressway, accidents happened!

According to the photograph caption, the two ships collided during the “freshet” of May 1894. A freshet is a sudden spring thaw leading to flash floods. The freshet of 1894 killed 12 people throughout the state and, according to the New York Times, caused $3 million in damage in Williamsport alone, washing away buildings, bridges and railroads.1 These wrecked schooners, jammed against the South Street Bridge on the Schuylkill River, represented a small fraction of the damage.

During the Early Republic (1790 to 1850), the banks of the two rivers bristled with the masts and yards of sailing ships of all kinds: clippers heading to the Far East, navy frigates sailing up the River to the Federal Street Navy Yard for repairs, packets bound for England, and schooners headed for the fishing grounds of the Grand Banks and the Chesapeake Bay.

The sea-going paddlewheel steamer appeared in the 1830s. Although these new ships were no longer bound by the whims of tide and trade winds, they still carried full sets of sails in case of mechanical breakdown. Sailors and naval architects are generally a conservative set. The 10,000 ton luxury liners City of New York and City of Paris, built in 1889 for the Inman Line, had three masts that could be fully rigged for sails. Since they had two sets of propellers capable of moving the ship at over 20 knots, the sails were included more out of habit than out of necessity.2

The sailing ships involved in the collision were schooners. Schooners were the workhorses of the East Coast and the Great Lakes. They were used as “pleasure craft, cargo carriers, privateers, slavers, fishing boats and pilot boats.”3 Schooners were relatively small vessels – seldom longer than 125 feet – and usually had two masts. They were rigged with triangular rather than square sails. The tops of these sails were supported at the top of the masts by yards known as gaffs. Big triangular sails allowed schooners to sail close to the wind, and they required a relatively small crew to sail. Two schooners survive to this day at New York’s South Street Seaport. The first is the iron-hulled Pioneer, built in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania to haul sand up and down the Delaware River. 4 The second is the Lettie G. Howard, built in 1893 in Essex, Massachusetts as a fishing schooner.5

The rich cousins of the humble schooners were the great square riggers, boasting masts twelve stories high and up to three hundred feet long. In their day, they were the queens of the high seas, ferrying cargo and passengers across the oceans. Square riggers required large crews to hoist and trim sails, and best sailed when perpendicular to the wind. One of the few surviving tall ships is the Mosholu, constructed in the late 19th century, and is built of steel rather than wood.

Despite the ascendancy of the steam engine in the mid-19th century, sailing ships continued to play the Delaware River and eastern seaboard up until the 1910s. Schooners in particular were cheap to operate, and could easily haul cargo such as lumber, grain, and manufactured from a large port such as Philadelphia to smaller communities that lacked modern docking facilities. Or vise versa. By 1900, many sailing ships had auxiliary engines for river navigation, but they were still ungainly and hard-to-steer. Captains used to heeling hard-to-the-wind under sail now found themselves threading between bridge piers and dodging other ships the constricted shipping channels. In addition to navigating a constantly-shifting obstacle course, captains also had to fight treacherous currents and currents that swirled the muddy rivers.

After World War I, sailing ships quickly faded from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, replaced by efficient but ugly barges and coastal steamers. Most ended their days in scrap yards. A few have survived to this day. They serve as static attractions like the Mosholu, cadet training ships such as the Coast Guard’s Eagle, and floating ambassadors of goodwill such as Philadelphia’s barkentine Gazela. One tall ship, the Sea Cloud, now serves as a luxurious small cruise ship.



1 The New York Times, “Flood Swept Away Millions” May 23rd, 1894 9F01E6D71F39E033A25750C2A9639C94659ED7CF&oref=slogin&oref=slogin (Accessed October 8, 2007.).

2SS City of Paris, 1889, Glasgow City Archives. (Accessed October 4, 2007.). (Accessed October 4, 2007).

4South Street Seaport Museum, Pioneer. (Accessed October 4, 2007).

5South Street Seaport Museum, Pioneer. (Accessed October 4, 2007).

Historic Sites

The Department of Docks, Wharfs and Ferries: Making Philadelphia’s Modern Waterfront

Arguably Philadelphia’s most progressive mayor of the early 20th century, Rudolph Blankenburg (1912-1916) the “Old Dutch Cleanser” – sought to reform and modernize many of the city’s graft-ridden and inefficient departments. Blankenburg, realizing that Philadelphia was locked in competition with New York, Boston and Baltimore for international maritime trade, spurred the recently created Department of Docks, Wharves, and Ferries to better coordinate the city’s port facilities. As one port official put it in 1912, “New York is one of the best ports to enter, but one of the most expensive to get through.” If Philadelphia was to compete with a more advantageously situated New York, its port infrastructure had to allow quicker and easier movement of ships and cargo.

At the head of the Department, Blankenburg placed George W. Norris – a talented banker and lawyer who worked closely with the energetic reformer and technocrat Morris Cooke, the director of public works. In a move that pleased both the public and the city’s shipping and transportation interests, Cooke and Norris secured an agreement barring grade railroad crossings in South Philadelphia in 1913. From his office at the Bourse, Norris’ oversaw the collection of rents from pier tenants, regulated construction of piers and the movement of ships, and planned large-scale expansions to the city’s port. Norris’ most ambitious project, the creation of the Moyamensing and Southwark piers, would greatly expand the city’s ability to receive ships and their cargo. The “finger piers” were to extend down the Delaware waterfront to the Navy Yard like cilia, making Philadelphia the undisputed “Port of Pennsylvania.” Though the “Port of Pennsylvania” scheme was never fully realized, Philadelphia had four times the amount of municipal docks when Norris left office. The prolific engineer George S. Webster succeeded Norris as director of the Department and continued to build modern piers along the north Delaware waterfront.

The municipal piers constructed by the Department in the late 1910s-20s were sophisticated industrial machines designed to speed the movement of cargo from one mode of transportation to another. Railroad tracks ran laterally through the long buildings which also served as warehouses. Cranes and flat loading bays allowed easy movement of cargo onto waiting boxcars and all piers were connected to the Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad which ran down Delaware Ave. The piers’ reinforced concrete neoclassical facades suggested monumentality and authority while seeking to soften the gruffness of the rough commercial waterfront. The Department also built recreation piers such as municipal pier No. 57 at Penn Treaty Park in 1919.

Though finger piers became obsolete after World War II with the advent of larger ships and containerization, the presence of several municipal piers along the Delaware reminds us of the ambition and foresight of the Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries in the early 20th century.


  • Lloyd M. Abernathy “Progressivism, 1905-1919,” Philadelphia: A 300-Year History, Russell F. Weigley, ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), 546-554.
  • Frank H. Taylor and Wilfred H. Schoff, The Port and City of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia: International Congress of Navigation, 1912),M2 Accessed 7 September 2007.
  • Donald W. Disbrow “Reform in Philadelphia Under Mayor Blankenburg, 1912-1916,” Pennsylvania History 27 (October 1960), 379-396.

Historic Sites

Eastern State Penitentiary

In the early 19th century, a system of punishment was created that could be traced back to the Quakers. Called the Pennsylvania system because it was first used here, this method involved the use of solitary confinement to rehabilitate criminals sent to prison. The underlying belief of the Pennsylvania System was that solitary confinement would give prisoners time to reflect on their lives and change the wrongs within it. In other words, if prisoners were forced to think about their crimes, they would become penitent (this is also the origin of the word “penitentiary”).

By 1821, the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (founded in 1787 by Benjamin Rush) had successfully lobbied the state legislature for funding to build Eastern State Penitentiary, where this Pennsylvania System of treatment could be tried. Here mingling among prisoners was avoided, so much so that inmates were hooded when they went outside their cells. The Pennsylvania System as it was enacted had some opponents however, who believed this method of punishment caused mental illness among the prisoners. One such opponent, Charles Dickens, wrote: “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 to architect John Haviland’s design. As it was originally built, the prison would hold 250 inmates. Haviland chose a radial layout, finding inspiration in criminologist Jeremy Bentham’s 1791 circular prism plan. He included many details that made Eastern State one of the more secure prisons of its time. It was the first to use a central rotunda as the prison’s “communications hub and nerve center” (Haviland 8). By the time the prison closed in 1970, ESP had expanded to provide for as many as 900 prisoners.

Finally, on October 23 1829, prisoner number one was admitted. Charles Williams was sentenced to two years with labor for the crime of burglary. Several infamous criminals would follow him to becoming inmates at ESP, including Al Capone, bank robber Willie Sutton, and Pep “the Cat-Murdering Dog.” Pep was allegedly sentenced to life in prison in August of 1924 by then-governor Gifford Pinchot. The dog, inmate number C2559, was in for murdering Pinchot’s wife’s cat.

After its closure in 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary sat largely as a ruin. However, in 1988 efforts to preserve the site began. The site was also used as a set for movies such as “12 Monkeys.” Since 1996, efforts to stabilize the site have been made to preserve the site as a ruin and to ensure it may continue to be open for public tours.


Historic Sites

Corridor of Commerce


…”if Philadelphia is indebted to England for the name High Street, which undoubtedly is the case, nearly every American city or town founded since 1700 is, in turn, indebted to Philadelphia for its Market Street, which is particularly Philadelphian in nomenclature. This…was due to the plan of Penn, who, long before his city was laid out or settled, had provided a wide High street, where markets could be held on regular days of the week under certain restrictions and rules.”

-Joseph Jackson

Market Street, known as High Street until just before the consolidation of the city with its surrounding districts in 1854, has long been an important street in Philadelphia. For much of its existence, this street has been a corridor of both transportation and commerce. As was the case with most walking cities, in the beginning this street was an area that served functions of both residence and commerce. The famed John Wanamaker, for example, opened his first store here on the corner of 6th and Market Streets in 1861. Many more changes were to follow. The development of one section of the street, that which runs from 7th to 12thStreets, has been particularly notable in the past two centuries. Not only was this section of Market Street an important center for progressive era shoppers, but it has also been a site of simultaneous change and continuity since that time.


One of the early department stores in Philadelphia, Strawbridge and Clothier, was opened in 1868 at the corner of 8th and Market. This three-story brick building was soon replaced with a larger five-story structure. As a wholesaler, Strawbridge’s was particularly popular among shoppers for offering quality goods at low prices. They were also known for taking orders and making deliveries. It would eventually become one of the anchor stores of the Gallery at Market East, an urban shopping mall. In addition to Strawbridge’s, several other stores lined the street. These included Gimbel’s dry goods store, Sharpless Brothers, and Hood, Foullerod, and Company.

It was not until 1910, however, that rapid transit was added to the mix of services offered in the area. Philadelphia was the last of the major metropolitan areas on the east coast to offer such services. Bromley’s 1910 atlas of the city showed two subway stops here: one at 8th Street, the other at 11th. The lines of the Market Elevated, completed in 1907 by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, paralleled those of the older trolley lines. This original section of the elevated extended from 69th Street to 15th Street. By 1908, the Market Elevated system also included service to 2nd, Chestnut, and South Streets (the lines to Chestnut and South were discontinued in 1939).

Particularly important for the commercial activities of the section of Market Street discussed here were the special plans for the 8th Street Station of the Market Street Subway. In 1910, three of Philadelphia’s major department stores were found at the intersection of 8th and Market Streets. At this time, Strawbridge and Clothier was located on the northwest corner, Lit Brothers on the northeast, and Gimbel Brothers on the southwest. As a tactic for drawing in more shoppers, supposing that just as they preferred to avoid congestion in the street while driving or riding the trolley, people would prefer to avoid the traffic while shopping, the underground section at 8th and Market was created so that patrons could access all three department stores from underground. This way, shoppers never had to go outside onto the busy, polluted street if they did not desire to do so. The underground department store connection opened at last in August 1908. In 1915, work began on the Frankford Elevated line, which then went into service in 1922. Eventually the two rapid-transit lines were combined to create the Market-Frankford Elevated.


After a downswing in retail business due to suburbanization after World War II (people, it seemed, preferred to shop in branch stores in the suburbs where they could park their cars and shop in clean, relatively crime-free surroundings), the city engaged in a venture to attract shoppers to Center City Philadelphia once again. With funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority planned and implemented changes meant to revitalize the Market East area. One of the main developments of their renewal plan was the construction of the Gallery at Market East, a passenger railroad tunnel, and transportation concourse. The Gallery I (8th to 10th Streets) opened for business in 1977. Gallery II, which extended the mall west to 11th Street, was completed by 1984. The gallery had a successful first year, and since then has remained moderately successful. However, it was not as successful at attracting suburban shoppers as it had been hoped. Instead, the Gallery became a mall most often patronized by residents of the city itself.

Market Street, in the area from 7th to 12th Streets, has since the beginnings of the streetcar city been a center of commerce in the city of Philadelphia. If its past is to be trusted, it may be assumed that Market Street will still be lined with retail shops in the future. However, the character of the establishments that may be found there are susceptible to changes which reflect changes in society as a whole. Market Street went from being the site of multiple department stores known for the quality of their products and fairness of their prices to the site of an innovatively designed urban mall and other smaller retail establishments. In the time between the streetcar city and the present day, these changes can be attributed largely to the movement of people with disposable income out of the city and their propensity for automobile travel.


  • The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. 2007 (accessed 12 April 2007).
  • Bromley, George Washington. Atlas of the City of Philadelphia: Complete in One Volume from Official Surveys and Plans. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1895.
  • Bromley, George Washington.Atlas of the City of Philadelphia: Complete in One Volume from Official Surveys and Plans. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1910.
  • Ed Bacon Foundation.”Site Description and History.” Connecting Market East: A national student design competition. 2006. (accessed 13 April 2007).
  • Isenberg, Alison.Downtown America: A history of the place and the people who made it. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Jackson, Joseph.America’s Most Historic Highway: Market Street, Philadelphia. Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1926.
  • Leif, Alfred.Family Business: A Century in the Life and Times of Strawbridge and Clothier. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.
  • Philadelphia City Planning Commission.Philadelphia Shops: A Citywide Study of Retail Center Conditions, Issues, and Opportunities. 1989.
  • Philadelphia City Planning Commission.Philadelphia Shops: A Citywide Study of Retail Center Conditions, Issues, and Opportunities. 1996.
  • Schoenherr, Steven E.Evolution of the Department Store. 11 Feb 2006. (accessed 13 April 2007).
  • Sechler, Robert P.Speed Lines to City and Suburbs: A Summary of Mass Transit Development in Metropolitan Philadelphia From 1879 to 1974. Drexel Hill, PA: Robert P. Sechler, 1974.
  • SEPTA. ” The Market-Frankford Line Celebrates 100 Years. “SEPTA News.8 March 2007. Accessed online: (accessed 6 April 2007).

  • SEPTA. Market-Frankford Subway-Elevated Line. 2007. (accessed 12 April 2007).

Historic Sites

A Walk to Die For: Laurel Hill Cemetery


Remember me as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now you soon must be
Prepare for death and follow me.

–Jackson (56)

In the colonial period and for some time after that, the purpose of the cemetery for the living was to serve as a grim reminder of the fate that would one day befall every person. Traditionally, corpses were buried in churchyards. However, as the 18th century neared, beliefs about the nature of death began to change. This change was most evident on tombstones which began to reflect a more optimistic view of the afterlife than the one quoted above. Additionally, public health concerns surrounding cemeteries began to change. They were increasingly viewed as unsanitary and disease ridden. People were concerned about the unhealthy “miasmas” or fumes, which could emanate from the many bodies buried in these spots within the city. With the onset of the industrial revolution, the land housing the burial grounds were in demand. In the city “rapid industrialization and population growth commonly led to the disinterment of burial grounds to make way for roads and buildings” (“History” 1). These issues led to the rural cemetery movement in America.

The rural cemetery movement sought to ease the pain of death by providing a country landscape in which to experience an appreciation for history and a sense of community. At the same time, focusing the cemetery outside of the city would help, it was thought, to make life in the city healthier. A forerunner of urban parks such as New York City’s Central Park and Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, Laurel Hill cemetery was founded by John J. Smith and approved by an act of Pennsylvania legislature in 1836.

Laurel Hill cemetery was the second major rural cemetery to be built in the United States. (Wikipedia) John J. Smith decided to open it after a bad experience in trying to bury his young daughter in one of the city’s churchyards. The first interment, that of 67 year-old Mercy Carlisle, occurred soon later on October 19, 1836 (Guide 15). The cemetery quickly became a popular recreation destination for Philadelphia residents. The trip to the cemetery, which was outside of the city at the time, took one and a half to two hours to complete. Because of its length, visitors were encouraged to see the trip as a sort of pilgrimage.


At the time “many early visitors and funeral-goers traveled to Laurel Hill in a steamboat; once the vehicles started plying the Schuylkill River on a regular basis in the 1840s. Steam boats Washington, Mount Vernon, and Frederick Graff embarked hourly on a descent between Fairmount and the Falls of Schuylkill, emptying a stream of lot holders and sightseers at Laurel Hill” (“History” 1). Once there, they could stroll, keeping to the walkways; admiring the plant life, statues and other parts of the scenery.

Laurel Hill, since its opening, has been the final resting place for a number of notable individuals. The people buried here include Thomas McKean (signer of the Declaration of Independence), David Rittenhouse, and Henry Disston. In addition, six Titanic passengers are buried here. The cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998, one of the only cemeteries to be honored with the distinction. It continues to draw visitors today, for both the scenery and for the educational programs funded by the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, which was founded in 1978.


  • Guide to Laurel Hill Cemetery, Near Philadelphia, With Illustrations. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, Printer, 1847.
  • “History.” The Laurel Hill Cemetery. (accessed 2 May 2007).
  • Jackson, Charles O. Passing: The Vision of Death in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Mc Dannell, Colleen. Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • “Laurel Hill Cemetery.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 22 April 2007. (accessed 2 May 2007).
  • “Laurel Hill Cemetery at Risk. ” Places. 11 April 2000.(accessed 2 May 2007).
  • Sloane, David C. The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Historic Sites

A Man Full of Trouble: Philadelphia’s Last Surviving Colonial Tavern

In the years leading up to the American Revolution, Philadelphia was unquestionably a city of taverns. They were a one stop source of food, entertainment, and cheap drinks. Furthermore, they were the largest and most abundant (about one for every 25 men) public buildings available for community interaction. As a result, taverns, or “public houses,” became the center of social, business, and political activity in the city.

The colonial elite were inclined to patronize more fashionable “upscale” establishments. Perhaps most recognized of such venues in pre-revolutionary times was the City Tavern, whose patrons included Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and George Washington, amongst others. In fact, it is well known that this famous pub is where members of the First Continental Congress met unofficially in 1774 and where the country’s early leaders met to celebrate the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although the original structure was damaged in a fire and subsequently demolished in 1856, a replica was built at 2nd and Walnut Streets in 1976, and is open for business today.

There were, however, other less exclusive public houses that appealed to the humbler and perhaps less refined factions of society, including laborers, sailors, and other waterfront workers. One such establishment – A Man Full of Trouble Tavern is today the only surviving pre-revolutionary tavern in Philadelphia. Man Full still stands at its original building site at 127-129 Spruce Street in Philadelphia”s historic Old City.

Built in 1760 along the banks of Dock Creek, by Michael Sisk, the structure was first put into commercial service sometime in the decade following its manufacture, by its first unlicensed tavern keeper Joseph Beeks. Throughout its history, ownership of the tavern changed hands many times. Beeks’ successor, James Alexander obtained a license in 1773 and ran the pub through 1789 when Thomas Wilkins took it over for a short time. Perhaps the most noteworthy owner, widow Martha Smallwood acquired the property in 1796 and ran it for the next thirty years. Historical and archaeological data hint that Smallwood may have succeeded in bringing a small amount of gentility to a previously oafish establishment. Subsequent to widow Smallwood’s death in 1826, the establishment morphed into Stafford’s Tavern, Cove Cornice House, Naylor’s Hotel – a mid-nineteenth century hotel famous for its oysters – and, in the mid-twentieth century, a wholesale chicken market.

The building was finally, in the 1960s, restored and opened for historic tours by Councilwoman Virginia Knauer. In 1966, Knauer also invited a group of graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania to conduct an archaeological investigation of the site. Significantly, A Man Full of Trouble Tavern is the only public house site in Philadelphia to yield considerable archaeological findings that reveal important nuances of early American public life. Unfortunately, to the dismay of historical enthusiasts, and more specifically, the patrons of Philadelphia’s Tippler’s Tour*, the interior of Man Full, along with its archaeological relics, was closed to public speculation in 1994.


Historic Sites

The Divine Lorraine Hotel


Standing at the corner of Broad and Fairmount Streets in North Philadelphia is a building that is historically significant on a number of different levels. The Divine Lorraine Hotel, formerly known as both Lorraine Apartments and the Lorraine Hotel, was designed by architect Willis G. Hale and built between 1892 and 1894. The building originally functioned as apartments, housing some of Philadelphia’s wealthy residents.

Both the location of the building and the architecture itself reflect the changes that were occurring rapidly in the city of Philadelphia and in the country at the time. North Philadelphia of the 1880s attracted many of the city’s nouveau-riche, those individuals who became wealthy as a result of the industrial revolution. The Lorraine was a place of luxurious living, providing apartments with new amenities such as electricity. In addition, the building boasted its own staff, eliminating the need for residents to have private servants. There was also a central kitchen from which meals were delivered to residents.

The Lorraine Apartments were also an architectural feat. Prior to this period, the majority of Philadelphia’s buildings were low rise, generally being no more than three or four stories tall. Not only were construction materials and techniques not capable of supporting taller buildings, but also imagine the inconvenience of the many flights of stairs one would have to ascend in order to get to higher floors in the absence of an elevator. However, around the time of the industrial revolution, improvements in building materials made taller buildings possible. The Lorraine, at ten stories tall, was one of the first high rise apartment buildings in the city. An earlier high rise apartment building was also designed by Hale, which was built at 22nd and Chestnut Streets in 1889 and stood until demolished in 1945.


In 1948 the building was sold to Father Divine (aka George Baker or Reverend Major Jealous Divine). Father Divine was the leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. After purchasing the building, Father Divine renamed it the Divine Lorraine Hotel. His hotel was the first of its class in Philadelphia to be fully racially integrated. The Divine Lorraine was open to all who were willing to follow the rules of the movement. Among other things, these rules included no smoking, no drinking, no profanity, and no undue mixing of the sexes. Men and women therefore resided on different floors of the building. Also, guests and residents were expected to uphold a certain level of modesty, meaning that women were expected to wear long skirts – no pants. Believing that all people were equal in the sight of God, Father Divine was involved in many social welfare activities as well. For example, after purchasing the hotel, several parts of it were transformed for public use. The 10th floor auditorium was converted to a place of worship. The movement also opened the kitchen on the first floor as a public dining room where persons from the community were able to purchase and eat low cost meals for 25 cents each.

Divine’s followers ran the hotel after his death until its sale in 2000. The Universal Peace Mission Movement still exists in the form of a network of independent churches, businesses, and religious orders. Its followers also run another hotel, the Divine Tracy in West Philadelphia. The Divine Lorraine received a historical marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1994 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 as a site significant in terms of both architectural and civil rights history. After its most recent purchase in 2006, future plans for the hotel included converting it into condominiums.


  • ARCH: Pennsylvania’s Historic Architecture and Archaeology. (accessed 29 March 2007).
  • Hotes, Robert J., et al. “Divine Lorraine Hotel Honored with Landmark Building Award.” Preservation News. (accessed 26 March 2007).
  • Newall, Mike. “Left Behind: A rare look inside North Broad’s Divine Lorraine, a hotel with a heavenly past on the cusp of (commercial) resurrection.” Philadelphia City Paper. 13-19 January 2005. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • Rohrer, Willa. “Noble Savage: Selling the guts of a Philly landmark.” Philadelphia Weekly. 18 October 2006. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • “The Universal Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine.”16 June 1997. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • Wikipedia. “North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”,_Pennsylvania. (accessed 28 March 2007).