Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Early History of McPherson Square (Kensington)

     McPherson Square was the country estate of William MacPherson, an officer in the Continental Army. He often entertained George Washington there. In 1805 it passed into the hands of the Webster family where they operated a farm until 1891. The property was sold to the city of Philadelphia in 1893 for $74, 546. It was then developed into a public park named McPherson Square in 1895. As it was a predominately Irish Catholic neighborhood, they dropped the "a" from MacPherson's Scottish/Protestant last name. 

     The old mansion was opened as a library on July 1, 1898. On the first day more than 1000 children came to look at the 4000 books held there. The mansion was torn down in 1915 to make way for a new library that was donated by Andrew Carnegie and opened in 1917. On September 17, 1904 an organization of Civil War Veterans, The US Grant Circle #75 Brotherhood of the Union, held a parade and memorial flag raising at the Square. On August 4, 1917 the citizens of Kensington erected a statue of Charles Allen Smith in the Square. Smith lived at 2168 Sergeant Street and was the second American killed at Vera Cruz in 1914. The statue was rejected by The City of Philadelphia Art Jury on the grounds that it looked more mortuary than heroic but the defiant Kensingtonians erected the statue anyway. The Art Jury cried foul claiming that the Kensingtonians were "taking advantage of the patriotic emotion of the time" (we had just entered WWI). Ten thousand people filled the park to see the unveiling. Seaman Allen's mother broke down in tears and wailed all during the ceremony. The trees in the Square were planted in the Summer of 1919 as "Tribute Trees" in memory of fallen WW 1 soldiers. The city used to have an official municipal concert band who performed in the park every summer from 1897 until the 1930's. 

     In 1922 an "Underground Public Comfort Station" was built at McPherson Squares front entrance, where F st and E st meet ant Kensington Ave. It was filled in sometime after WWII but a cave-in during the late 70's allowed me a peek of this underground bathroom. I recall the walls were ceramic tile. It looked a lot like the old Broad Street subway stations. I wonder how many people know that there is an old bathroom under McPherson Square?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tony Maddonni

     Antonio Maddonni was born in San'Agapito, Italy in 1865. He married his wife Isabella in 1881 and they had their first child, Sabatino in January, 1882. In 1886 they immigrated to Philadelphia where they moved in with the family of Antonio's older brother, Agapito (named for their home town in Italy) who had come to Philadelphia in 1879. Antonio and Agapito worked together as ragmen. They lived 3394 Agate Street (near Tulip and Ontario Streets). Antonio and Isabella had 2 more children besides Sabatino. They were Mary (born Aug 18, 1889....married Alfredo Renzi in 1908) and Raffaello (born Nov, 1891). Agapito and his wife, Rose, had 17 children (only 10 would survive to adulthood). Agapito became a US citizen in 1892 and Antonio in 1896. 

     In 1900 Antonio moved his family to 4540 Ditman Street in Frankford and opened a junk business next door at 4542. In 1910, he opened a second location just around the corner at 2023 to 2027 Orthodox Street. In 1918 they called the Orthodox Street business "Northeastern Auto Parts". The phone number there was Frankford 1595. Antonio's son, Sabatino lived at the Orthodox location. Antonio's wife Isabella and his brother Agapito both died in 1919. Antonio died in 1925.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Death Of Annie Naylor

Annie Naylor: May 10, 1902 - November 10, 1912

     Annie's parents were Joseph and Anna Cahill Naylor of Runcorn, Chester, England. They married there in 1891 and came to Philadelphia to raise a family in 1892. They first lived at 3128 Rorer Street (currently Lewis Elkin Elementary School is on that site). Joseph worked as a foreman at the cotton mill at B and Tioga. They had 4 children: Andrew on April 10, 1893, Leo in 1894, Mary in 1896 and Annie on May 10, 1902. Mary died at age 3 on Christmas Day, 1899 of convulsions. Andrew died on May 24, 1911 at age 18 from Enteritis and gangerous colitis. 

     The family then moved to 3233 Rorer Street (between Allegheny and Westmoreland). Annie was a sickly 4th grader at Ascension on October 28, 1912. Nearby Sheridan Public School was off that day and some of the older students had built a bonfire in front of Ascension School. As the students were let out that afternoon, Annie's line passed by the bonfire. An ember blew onto her jumper and she went ablaze. The nuns and some of the students tried to put out the fire but it took a passing truck driver who heard Annie's screams to put the fire out with his coat. Some students ran to Annie's house at Rorer and Westmoreland to let her mother know what was going on. She ran to the school only to arrive just as the ambulence pulled away. She collapsed at the scene and was taken to the same hospital as Annie, Episcopal Hospital. 

     The October 29, 1912 Phila Inquirer reported the story and mentioned that little Annie was not expected to live......and she did not. After suffering for 13 days, Annie died on November 10, 1912. Her official cause of death was Toxemia and General Burns. Joseph and Anna's last remaining child, Leo, died in 1916. Joseph and Anna both died in the late 1930's, leaving no family to remember them or to pray for them. Please, if you have a moment remember the Naylor family with an Ave.

The Quigley Siblings of Draperstown, County Derry, Ireland.

      Frank and Anne Quigley of Draperstown, Derry, Ireland had 5 children between 1862 and 1870: James (March 1862), Mary (1865), Martha (Mar 1866), Annie (Sep 1867) and Rose (1870). 

     James came to Philadelphia on May 11, 1886 and found work as a cook. He married Annie Sullivan in 1889 and they moved to 605 Winton Street (6th and Snyder). Martha came to Philadelphia on Sep 13 1891. After their parents died, the other 3 girls, Mary, Annie and Rose came to Philadelphia on April 18, 1893. The 4 girls never married. Rose, age 23, died of TB just 4 months after arriving. Mary took a job working as a nurse for a rich family in Birdsboro, Berks County until 1904 when she too contracted TB. She moved in with Martha and Annie who owned a sewing notions shop (M & A Quigley) at 1601 S 21st Street (21st and Tasker) where she died at age 40 on Oct 14, 1905. Martha took a trip home in 1910. 

     James' wife died at age 39 of valvular heart disease on Mar 22, 1912 and James died at age 54 on Oct 24, 1916. They had no children. Martha and Annie continued to operate their store until 1920 when they retired to 1641 N 60th Street (60th and Lansdowne). Martha workd as a typist until May 20, 1921 when she died suddenly at the age of 55. This left Annie with no family and since she had just recently moved from South Philly to West Philly probably no friends. She died on Sep 20, 1934 at age 67 joining her brother and sisters at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon. They left no one behind to pray for them so if you can, please take a moment to remember them with a Hail Mary.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Four Views of the NE corner of Broad and Walnut Streets

 Top Left: 1819 when it was known as Vauxhall Gardens and Circus Ground. It opened in 1814 as one of Philadelphia's earliest Amusement Centers. Besides a garden, there was a stage for all sorts of performances. There was a huge banquet held here for Laffayette in 1824. 

Top Right: 1890 when it was the Dundas/Lippincott Mansion aka The Yellow Mansion.
It was built by Scottish Millionaire James Dundas in 1839. In 1860 it was left to the Lippincott Family. President McKinley reviewed the troops from a grandstand in the garden during the 1898 Peace Jubilee celebrating the end of the Spanish American War. The large tree to the right dated to the 1700's and was called "Home of the Sparrows".

Bottom Left:
1916. The mansion was torn down in 1905 and was replaced by small shops known as The Isman Stores. The tall building to the right is The Witherspoon building, early home to General Electric, built in 1898.

Bottom Right: 2012. The shops were torn down in the mid 1920's and replaced with the Fidelity Trust Company Building which still stands there today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

3330 G Street....The O'Rourke/Campbell/Guckin Mansion

     Michael O'Rourke was an Irish immigrant who built the grandest home in Kensington.

     He, along with his sons and nephews, worked as municipal contractors. Michael and his wife, Elizabeth, had 13 children but 9 of them died before the age of 19 (8 of them were under age 7 and 2 of them died 3 weeks apart in Aug 1875 from scarlet fever).

     In 1906, Michael bought land on G Street between Cornwall and Thayer Streets. He built houses for his sons along the east side of G Street: 3303 (Michael jr.), 3305 (John) and 3309 (James Patrick). In addition, he built 3311 as a Dentist Office for James Patrick and 3307 for his nephew (who was also named James Patrick). For himself, his wife and son Francis Xavier, he built the mansion at 3330 G Street. By 1910, their son James Patrick had also moved into the mansion. Michael died on March 1, 1910. In 1913, the family settled Michael's estate. They put the mansion up for sale and James Patrick, Francis and their mother, Elizabeth moved to 816 E Allegheny Ave (the 3 story house next to Beneficial Savings Bank). While their new house wasn't as grand as the mansion, I think the K and A location made more sense for James Patrick's business as an oral surgeon. 

     After about a year on the market, the mansion was sold on August 27, 1914 for $29,000. The new owner was Conrad Campbell. Conrad's father was William Campbell, a carpet weaver. The Campbells lived at 2949 D Street (D and Indiana) where they raised 3 sons, Conrad, James and Benjamin. All 3 sons studied music and became music teachers. Their first music shop was at 2905 Kensington Ave (D and Kensington) but after Benjamin left the business in 1911, Conrad and James formed C and J Music and moved to 501 E Allegheny Ave (D and Allegheny). Conrad also owned several rental properties in Kensington and by 1914, he was wealthy enough to buy the O' Rourke Mansion. Besides being the new home to C and J Music, Conrad rented out parts of the mansion as apartments to boarders. Conrad was a lifelong bachelor. Living in his apartment with him in 1920 was his mother and a Benjamin Rodgers who was listed as a fellow music teacher. The 1930 census shows Rodgers still living with Conrad, listed as "caretaker". 

     By the late 1920's, Conrad's brother James quit the music business and opened a Radio Store. By 1950, Conrad was no longer teaching music. The mansion is listed as C and J Furniture. I've heard from several sources that Conrad was a mean old man who always chased the neighborhood children off of his property. The house had gained a creepy reputation and it was said that "Old Man" Campbell ate children and kept jars of their teeth in the basement. It was a common dare to go run up onto the porch without being caught. Conrad Campbell died in the 1960's. I've heard some say that he committed suicide by hanging himself in the attic. His nephew had all of Conrad's furniture burned in a big bonfire. The mansion was donated to Ascension Church who then sold it to the Guckin Family and it became The Guckin Funeral Mansion. I attended Ascension School just across the street from the mansion during the 1970's. The mansion still had a creepy reputation. I remember @1973 attending a cub scout Halloween Haunted House party at the mansion that was a lot of fun. Just like Mr Campbell, Mr. Guckin used to chase away kids playing "Freedom" on the property but as an altar boy at Ascension, I  got to see Mr Guckin (Andrew) quite a bit and he seemed like a nice guy. I suppose just about everyone who grew up in Kensington knows somebody who was laid out at Guckins. My Grandmother's viewing was held there on October 24, 1997 and they did a fine job.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shackamaxon Street

     This is 1133 (left) and 1131 (right) Shackamaxon Street as they appeared on Monday, April 15, 1901. Between the years 1858 and 1940, 10 different families lived at 1133. Between the years 1867 and 1950, 8 different families lived at 1131. This is an account of the occupants.

Living at 1133 Shackamaxon:
      William and Lizzie Lowery moved to 1133 Shackamaxon Street in 1858. William was a 28 year old ship joiner and Lizzie was 20 years old. Shortly after moving in, Lizzie gave birth to their second child, Willie (their first child, Joseph Giles Lowery, died at 5 months old from inflammation of the brain on Dec 21, 1855). They had twin daughters, Fannie and Linda in December of 1859. Fannie died from scarlet fever on October 11, 1861. In 1859, the rear of the house was rented out to James McDevitt. James was 29 years old, single and worked as a drayman (he drove a horse and wagon). McDevitt only lived there for about 1 year. In 1860 he moved back home with his parents where he died from tuberculosis on March 21, 1861. 

     The rear was then rented to Isaac and Elizabeth Wilson. Isaac was a 37 year old ship carpenter and Elizabeth was 39. Isaac and Elizabeth had 2 children: Harry age 9 and Lydia age 4. Just a year after moving in, Isaac died on April 15, 1861 from an abscess in his lungs. His obituary said that he died "after a long and painful illness which he bore with fortitude and resignation". After Isaac's death, the rear of the house was no longer rented out. In 1864 the Lowery's moved to 1841 Frankford Ave (where they lived the next 40 years). 

     The next 2 occupants of 1133 Shackamaxon were short timers. Ed Shultz, a chair maker, lived there from 1864 to 1865 and Benjamin C Mickle, a hatter, lived there from 1866 to 1867 (Mickle died on Oct 7, 1869 at age 29. He had just embarked on a new career as a railroad conductor when he had an accident and injured his brain). In 1868, Theresa Rambo and her 4 sons, Lewis, Theodore, Peter and Oscar moved into the house. Theresa was the widow of Peter Rambo, the Post Master of Kensington. Lewis was a roofer and then later a machinist. Theodore and Peter were paint manufacturers and Oscar was a clerk. Theodore married a girl named Kate in 1874. They had 5 children while living at 1133 Shackamaxon but only 2 of them survived childhood: Eva (b Mar 1875 - d Dec 24, 1875 from a sinus infection), Gertrude (b 1877), Harold (b Mar 1880), Theodora Grace (b Mar 25, 1882 - d Jan 18, 1892 from scarlet fever) and Norman (b Jan 29, 1885 - d June 4, 1885 from pneumonia). The Rambo's belonged to Hancock ME Church. Theodora and Norman were baptized together there on May 29, 1885, just 6 days before Norman's death. The Rambo's moved out in 1886.    

     Next to move in were Jacob and Josephine McCleary and their son Charles. Jacob and Charles worked together as Boilermakers. The McCleary's moved out in 1891. Charles and Carolina File along with 5 of their children moved in to 1133 Shackamaxon in 1892. Charles sr was a sawyer, Charles jr was a knitter in a hosiery mill, George was a machinist, Henry was a millwright, William was a driver (but later became an electrician) and Clara was a student. The File's lived there until 1898. In 1899 the house was very briefly occupied by Maria Louisa Sturts who was the widow of Gustave. Late in 1899, she moved out to go live with her son, Gustave jr. 

     In 1900, the house was purchased by David Sibbit who had just received an inheritance from his father. The Sibbit's would live in the house for more than 40 years. It was the Sibbit family who was living at the house when the picture was taken on April 15, 1901. David's wife was named Annie and they had 2 children, Frank and Mary (Mary's nickname was May). David was an ice dealer until 1914 when he switched over to selling coal. On May 27, 1908 Frank suffered a heat stroke at the liquor store where he worked. He was taken to Womens Homeopathic Hospital where he recovered. The official high temperature that day was 88 but the humidity made it feel much hotter. Scores of horses were reported to have fallen exhausted by the heat. 

     May married Albert E Holloway in 1915. May and Albert had 7 children: Anna 1916, David 1920, Albert jr 1922, William 1924, Charles 1925, Viola 1928 and Frank 1930. Albert and May spent most of the the first 10 years of their marriage living with the family of Albert's youngest brother, Daniel. Albert and Daniel were very close. They liked to take fishing trips together. The May 22, 1896 edition of the Phila Inquirer reported that Albert and Daniel had a secret fishing pond where they had just caugt 18 pickerels, one of which weighed 32 1/4 pounds. Daniel was a lawyer and I suspect that he looked out for Albert who wandered through several blue collar jobs. 

     Daniel died suddenly in 1925. Without his brothers help, Albert had trouble supporting his family. In 1930, he was working as a bill poster. He abandoned May and the children in the early 30's. May sent two of their sons, 9 year old William and 8 year old Charles to be raised in a city orphanage. She took the rest of the children and moved back in with her parents at 1133 Shackamaxon. Annie Sibbit died in 1938 at age 82 and David Sibbit was about 90 when he died in the 1940's. May sold the house after David's death.

Living at 1131 Shackamaxon:

      In 1867, Ann Miller, the widow of Danish immigrant Francis Miller, moved into the house with her daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 22 years old and supported her 57 year old mother by working as a school teacher. Elizabeth never married. Ann died at age 74 from dysentery on March 3, 1884. Elizabeth moved after her mother's death. 

     The next occupant was John Moore, a blacksmith, who lived there until 1888. Charles E Semple moved in during 1889. Charles was single and worked as a plumber/gasfitter. On the evening of March 28, 1891, Charles was attending a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" at the Chestnut Street Theatre when he collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital but died from cerebral gummat (a form of of syphilis). Annie Seery, the widow of John Seery, lived at 1131 Shackamaxon until 1895. Joseph W MacGregor, a coal dealer, lived there from 1895 to 1896. He later died at age 34 on January 6, 1900 when a cable snapped on an elevator in which he was riding. 

     John and Bertha Kowski moved in during 1896. John and Bertha immigrated to Philadelphia from Germany during the early 1890's. They were married in 1895. John worked as a tailor. The Kowski's were the residents of 1131 Shackamaxon when the picture was taken on April 15, 1901. I am surprised to see the upstairs window open. It was a chilly morning, just 38 degrees at 6am and the high temperature at 12:10 pm was just 51. The Kowski's lived there until 1904 when Joseph Vanish moved in. Joseph was a 47 year old widower from Bohemia. Like John Kowski before him, Joseph Vanish was a tailor. When he first arrived in America in 1886, Joseph spelled his last name as Wanisch. Eventually he went with the phonetic spelling of Vanish. 

     Living with Joseph were his 4 youngest children: Emma 1886, Frank 1889, William 1892 and Viola 1894. Emma worked with her father as a tailoress until her death at age 19 on December 2, 1905 from a brain tumor. Vanish became a naturalized US Citizen on June 5, 1922. Joseph's son, Frank became a Philadelphia Police Officer and lived just down the street from his father at 1115 Shackamaxon. After Joseph died during the mid 1920's, the next occupant of 1131 Shackamaxon was Raymond Gimmi. Raymond was a technician at a dental lab. He and his wife, Mary, raised 3 children: Raymond jr 1927, Mary 1930 and David 1933. The Gimmi's still lived there as of 1950. Their phone number was RE9-0497.

      Today, 1133 Shackamaxon still stands, though it has been altered extensively. The original house at 1131 was torn down and replaced with a new building within the last couple of years.