Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

News » Author Archives: Mikaela Maria

Theresa M. Altieri

Theresa M. Altieri earned an M.A. in history from Villanova University and is a Certified Archivist, currently working as the Archivist at The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of The Union League of Philadelphia.

Military Bases

For centuries, the American military valued Philadelphia because of its size, manufacturing capability, and location. Bases and other military facilities in the region contributed to the United States’ national defense while also serving as economic engines for surrounding areas, creating jobs not just on the installations but also in surrounding communities. Closures, conversely, led to job losses, unless redevelopment filled the void.

American military facilities in the region date to the era of the Revolution. Despite Pennsylvania’s origins as a Quaker colony, defenses became necessary as confrontation with the British became increasingly likely. Products of this effort included Fort Mifflin on Mud Island near the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and Fort Mercer, New Jersey, on the eastern bank of the Delaware River across from Fort Mifflin. Unlike more-modern military bases in the continental U.S., built primarily for staging or training of troops, research and development, or other maintenance, readiness and support functions, the government constructed Forts Mifflin and Mercer to physically impede enemy advancements.

[caption id="attachment_22556" align="alignright" width="300"]Photograph of a young African American woman inspecting artillery shells, in the background other young women can be seen doing the same task. In the 1940s, Bertha Stallworth and many other young women took jobs in factories and arsenals while men their age fought overseas. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

After the Revolution, the new nation sought to establish itself as a military force. Toward that end, the government began construction of the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia in 1800, assumed control of a shipyard in the Southwark district south of the city proper in 1801 (the first Philadelphia Navy Yard), and established the Frankford Arsenal in northeast Philadelphia in 1816. These facilities proved critical to national defense and the local economy. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact number of employees at a military facility at any given time, during the Civil War, the Naval shipyard employed at least three thousand men whose work included producing eleven warships. The Frankford Arsenal employed about one thousand and churned out munitions, while the Schuylkill Arsenal, as the Union Army’s primary depot for clothing, put thousands of seamstresses to work making uniforms. Philadelphia also hosted two of the largest military hospitals in the United States in the Civil War era: Satterlee Hospital in West Philadelphia and Mower Hospital in Chestnut Hill. These institutions closed with the war’s end, but the arsenals and the shipyard survived (if with reduced workloads). In 1867, Congress passed legislation to enlarge and relocate the shipyard to the southern tip of Philadelphia, surrounded on three sides by the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. It ultimately encompassed approximately twelve hundred acres. During World War I, employment at the shipyard soared to around twelve thousand.  The Schuylkill Arsenal employed close to ten thousand civilians at the peak of its operations in 1918, while the Frankford Arsenal employed just over six thousand that same year. Women comprised a significant portion of these employees, as they did in factories across the country during this conflict and WWII.

Camp Dix

WWI also led the military to establish Camp Dix near Wrightstown, New Jersey, a site that offered proximity to major ports of embarkation (including Philadelphia, thirty-two miles away) and supply routes, including the Pennsylvania railroad. Opened in June 1917, the camp was named for Major General John Adams Dix (1798-1879), a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Civil War who also served as a U.S. senator, secretary of treasury, and governor of New York. During the war, Camp Dix trained and staged the 78th, 87th, and 34th Divisions, and following the armistice, it became a demobilization center.

The interwar period saw employment at sites like the arsenals and the shipyard fall off dramatically. The Schuylkill Arsenal survived, though it was renamed the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot and moved from its original site at Grays Ferry Avenue and Washington Avenue to West Oregon Avenue and Twenty-Second Street. Growth also occurred, however, as Congress in 1931 authorized construction of the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, a project completed in part with funds from the Public Works Administration. The hospital complex, on a twenty-two-acre tract north of League Island Park and the Philadelphia Navy Yard, included an impressive Art Deco main hospital building for 650 patients and associated facilities such as a nurses’ home, corpsmen’s quarters, four officers’ quarters, a garage, a film-storage building, and a greenhouse.

[caption id="attachment_23062" align="alignright" width="300"]color photo of troops during training at  Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.,  before deploying to Afghanistan in 2011. U.S. Army troops train for deployment in Afghanistan at a mock village in the Pine Barrens at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (Department of Defense)[/caption]

During the World War II era, new military installations opened and existing sites expanded, easing the deprivations of the Great Depression for the population of Philadelphia and the surrounding region. The workforce of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, for example, climbed to forty-seven thousand, by one count. Coastal defense fortification Fort Miles, with its sixteen-inch guns and 90mm anti-aircraft batteries, began operations in 1941 in Delaware to protect Philadelphia and its environs. That same year, the military opened Fort Dix Army Air Force Base in New Jersey and took over the Municipal Airport in Dover, Delaware, converting it to a U.S. Army Air Corps airfield. In 1942, the United States Navy purchased land in Horsham, Pennsylvania (north of Philadelphia in Montgomery County), for the U.S. Naval Air Station Willow Grove. These acquisitions indicated the increased importance of aerial warfare during the period.  

Ebb and Flow of Bases and Employment

[caption id="attachment_22554" align="alignright" width="300"]Black and white photograph of the Naval Hospital main building, a multi-story building with an ornate art deco design. perspective is from the street, about 50 feet away from the entrance Authorized by Congress in 1931, the Philadelphia Naval Hospital was the first high-rise hospital building created by the United States Navy. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

When the American military demobilized following World War II, the numbers employed by military bases in the Philadelphia region decreased correspondingly, as they had following WWI. A few bases closed, while others gained new purposes for the emerging Cold War era. Fort Miles, for example, closed as advancements in aerial warfare rendered its coastal artillery obsolete. On the other hand, the Fort Dix Army Air Force Base, though mothballed briefly, reopened in 1948 as McGuire Air Force Base. The name memorialized Medal of Honor Recipient Major Thomas B. McGuire Jr. (1920-45), who died in action during World War II. Naval Air Station Willow Grove became a Naval Air Reserve Training Station, and in 1957 the Department of Defense purchased additional land, bringing the air station to a total of 1,100 acres. The Philadelphia Naval Hospital saw growth in the decades following WWII as well. By the Vietnam War era, it could accommodate up to 1,100 patients. In later years, the hospital became a renowned training and research facility.

During the United States’ protracted involvement in Southeast Asia, Philadelphia and its environs did not see the level of wartime mobilization that had produced benefits during earlier conflicts. The shipyard, for example, gradually outsourced new construction and focused on repairs and maintenance. The last ship it constructed was the USS Blue Ridge, commissioned in 1970. This privatization of much of the shipyard’s mission reflected the changing nature of war. The Vietnam War was not a war on the scale of a total war in the way that World War I and World War II were, nor was it comparable in the numbers of troops mustered (and needing to be trained, outfitted, and resupplied). As the Vietnam War wound down, the American military continued to curb spending and divest itself of property and missions that could be streamlined or outsourced to private industry (rather than just reducing the numbers employed at existing sites). This mindset contributed to the 1976 decision to close the Frankford Arsenal, which had opened in 1816 and still employed about two thousand people at the time of its closing in 1977.  

As the Cold War diminished, additional Philadelphia area facilities severely curtailed operations or closed following recommendations by the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, a board of civilian appointees created by Congress in 1988 to excess military property, subject to approval by Congress and the president. The BRAC Commission was intended to ensure, among other things, that bases were not shuttered for purely political reasons (although congressional districts impacted by base closures still often cried foul).  

In 1988, the BRAC Commission deemed the Philadelphia Naval Hospital “unsafe and inadequate to support modern health care” and recommended closure. The hospital employed about eight hundred personnel at that time and provided medical care for about 130,000 active-duty Navy personnel, retirees, and dependents in Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. By 1993, the government had vacated the property. The main hospital building was demolished in 2001; some of the other buildings were repurposed as housing and office space.

Closing the Naval Shipyard

At a time when the region also was losing large numbers of industrial jobs due to ongoing shifts in the American economy, in 1991 the BRAC Commission also recommended closing the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard because of a reduced need for ship repairs. A 1993 Coopers & Lybrand study for the Pennsylvania Economy League found that in addition to its seven thousand employees, the shipyard was directly and indirectly responsible for 36,400 regional jobs, $326.2 million in direct income, and $113 million in annual state and local tax revenues. Closing the naval installation provoked an outcry from the local community and politicians, culminating in Dalton v. Specter, 511 U.S. 462 (1994). This Supreme Court case ultimately decreed that an Executive Order to shut down the Philadelphia Naval Base could not be overturned because the decision was outside the purview of the Court (a decision some legal scholars called “puzzling.”)

In 1993 the government closed the Quartermaster’s textile factory (with its roots in the Schuylkill Arsenal) and moved the remaining part of the South Philadelphia operation to the Naval Support Station in Northeast Philadelphia, a facility later renamed the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia in 1998 and the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in 2010.

In 2005, BRAC Commission recommendations led to merging the contiguous McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix, and the Lakehurst Naval Air Station (in Ocean County, New Jersey) into Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and shifting about one hundred personnel from Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington to Dover Air Force Base. The commission’s recommendations also closed the WWII-era Willow Grove Naval Air Station in 2011, with a loss of three thousand jobs.

Attempts to recoup economic losses from base closures had varying degrees of success. The closure of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, for example, might have created a huge hole in the local economy, but in 2000 the government transferred one thousand acres to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development for redevelopment as “The Navy Yard.” This mixed-use industrial, office, and research and development center appeared to be thriving as of 2016, when it was home to more than 11,500 employees and 145 companies occupying seven million square feet of real estate. In contrast, redevelopment at the Frankford Arsenal site stalled and the nearby community suffered because environmental problems impeded reuse for decades.  As of 1993, only about six hundred were employed at the site. In 2014, however, delicatessen manufacturer Dietz & Watson broke ground on the still-underutilized site with plans to build a $50 million distribution center. The 200,000-square-foot building was expected to bring more than 150 new jobs to the region (in addition to the seven hundred employees expected to relocate from the company’s New Jersey facility). This still represented significantly fewer people employed at the former arsenal site than the World War II peak of about twenty-two thousand.

[caption id="attachment_23067" align="alignright" width="300"]color photo of a casket being removed from a transport plane at Dover Air Force Base, Dover, Delaware. A coffin bearing the body of a member of the U.S. military is removed from a transport plane at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, in July 2009. (Department of Defense)[/caption]

Despite the loss of thousands of government jobs in the region as a result of government consolidations and attempts at cost-saving, the military maintained an active (if reduced) presence in the Philadelphia region into the twenty-first century. Active military installations within approximately fifty miles of Philadelphia as of 2016 included the Naval Support Activity-Philadelphia (at 700 Robbins Avenue, Philadelphia, with its Philadelphia Naval Yard Annex at 5001 S. Broad Street). A portion of the former site of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove remained in use as the Horsham Air Guard Station. The 111th Attack Wing (ATKW), one of three air wings of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, in 2013 opened a control center for the MQ-9 remotely-piloted aircraft (or drones) there. The new command center brought about two hundred new military and civilian jobs to the base. In Delaware, the Dover Air Force Base in 2016 was home to the Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing, known as the “Eagle Wing” and the Air Force Reserve’s 512th Airlift Wing, known as the “Liberty Wing.” The base had become perhaps best known, however, as the site for the return of soldiers killed in action overseas. The base continued to employ more than 1,000 civilians, 350 officers, and 2,800 enlisted personnel. In New Jersey, the massive Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst had more than forty-four thousand civilian employees, active duty personnel, and their family members living and working on and around the base and contributing to its economic impact on the region.  

From the Revolutionary War to the global war on terror and beyond, military bases and other facilities in Greater Philadelphia protected the homeland and trained, equipped, and otherwise served military personnel. Despite the loss of thousands of government jobs in Philadelphia and the surrounding region in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the military maintained an active presence that supported overseas contingency operations and contributed to local economies.

Melissa Ziobro served as a command historian for the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey,  from 2004 until the base’s 2011 closure following recommendations by the BRAC Commission. She is the Specialist Professor of Public History at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

Melissa Ziobro

Melissa Ziobro served as a command historian for the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, from 2004 until the base’s 2011 closure following recommendations by the BRAC Commission. She is the Specialist Professor of Public History at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park was developed in the nineteenth century in an effort to protect Philadelphia’s public water supply and to preserve extensive green spaces within a rapidly industrializing cityscape. It became one of the largest urban riparian parks in the United States and comprises the largest contiguous components of Philadelphia's public park system as administered by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department (PPR): East and West Parks on the Schuylkill and the surface of the Schuylkill River within those parks. From 1867 to 2010, when park management was overseen by the Fairmount Park Commission, the Wissahickon Valley Park (2,042 acres) was also considered part of Fairmount Park. 

[caption id="attachment_19286" align="alignright" width="300"]Color photograph taken in Fairmount Park. On the left side of the frame is a road, on either side it is lined with cherry blossom trees in full bloom of pink flowers Fairmount Park, one of the largest public green spaces in an urban setting, includes historic homes, buildings, sculptures, and institutions, including hundreds of cherry trees, some dating to a gift from the Japanese government in 1926. These trees, near the Mann Music Center, are a popular spring destination. (Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

Among noteworthy cultural institutions within Fairmount Park are the Philadelphia Zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Please Touch Museum, the Horticulture Center, and the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden as well as historic houses and industrial sites such as Mount Pleasant, Woodford, and Strawberry Mansion, and the Fairmount Waterworks. Boathouse Row, on the east bank of the Schuylkill, is an international center for competitive rowing.

Origins

“Fairmount” is the prominent hill located on the east bank of the Schuylkill River just north of the original boundary of Philadelphia. It was named by William Penn (1644-1718) when he claimed it as part of his Springettsbury manor. During the eighteenth century, the Schuylkill district was celebrated for the rural estates and elegant villas that lined the river banks west of the evolving city. In 1812, Philadelphia City Council’s watering committee purchased Fairmount for a new waterworks facility. Development of the park began in the 1820s, when gardens and walkways were laid out around the waterworks. The park was expanded in 1844, when the city purchased the nearby Lemon Hill estate. The 1854 Consolidation Act directed the development of public parks, and in 1855 Lemon Hill was dedicated as "Fairmount Park." In 1857, the city acquired the adjoining Sedgeley tract. A year later, James C. Sidney (ca. 1819-81) and Andrew Adams (ca. 1800-60) were hired to relandscape the conjoined estates. Some new roads and plantings were completed, but the project was suspended in the mid-1860s, when park advocates successfully lobbied the state to authorize the development of a much larger park on both sides of the river.

Acts of Assembly in 1867 and 1868 created the Fairmount Park Commission (FPC) with authority to expropriate properties along the Schuylkill and the Wissahickon for recreation and to protect the city's water supply. Although commission members consulted landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824-95) about viable strategies for reconfiguring the park landscapes, the FPC decided to make minimal changes so as to protect the “scenic contours” of the historic river estates. This plan was also cheaper. The FPC relied on appropriations from the city, and while funds were made available to compensate landowners whose properties were expropriated, the city resisted financing comprehensive landscape improvements.

Expansion

The rapid acquisition of properties enabled Philadelphia to host the 1876 Centennial Exhibition on a four-hundred-acre exhibition site in West Park. Funding from city, state, and federal governments as well as private sources enabled the FPC to open roads and build drainage systems within the park as well as to build two new cultural facilities: the Horticulture Hall conservatory and Memorial Hall, which subsequently housed the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.

[caption id="attachment_19284" align="alignright" width="300"]woodcut engraving of memorial hall in 1876. The building has a domed center and arched door ways leading to the center entrace. a large crowd is gathered around the grounds looking to the stairs of the building In this 1876 wood engraving, a crowd watches as President Ulysses S. Grant cuts the ribbon to open Memorial Hall, launching the Centennial Exhibition that marked the anniversary of U.S. independence. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

By 1900, the Schuylkill and Wissahickon park areas encompassed some three thousand acres, and Philadelphians boasted of having created the country’s largest urban park. During the twentieth century, more land was added to East and West Parks and the Wissahickon until the three areas comprised roughly 4,500 acres. By acquiring so much acreage so quickly, the FPC assembled disparate landscape spaces that ranged from well-tended gardens to broad greenswards and forests. Some cohesion was provided by the Schuylkill and Wissahickon waterways that bisected these spaces, but the lack of a comprehensive plan for landscaping improvements or management produced some unique features. For example, preexisting railroads and major streets were allowed to remain within the park; at a later date parkways and streetcar lines were added to improve access. Fairmount Park’s boundaries varied from the hard edges of city streets to permeable dells along the Wissahickon. The presence of railroads and other thoroughfares left the park areas vulnerable to additional intrusions, most notably I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, which was cut through the West Park in the 1950s.

Recreation

The creation of Fairmount Park did not introduce recreational areas into Philadelphia’s urban landscape because both the Schuylkill and the Wissahickon had been popular recreational destinations since the eighteenth century. Many property owners at the Schuylkill and Wissahickon permitted public access to their lands: in the early nineteenth century Henry Pratt admitted the public to his extensive gardens at Lemon Hill. In the late 1850s, newspapers reported hundreds of residents, “white, yellow, brown and black,” assembled for civic festivals in the newly dedicated Fairmount Park. After 1867, both organized sports and more informal forms of recreation continued throughout park areas.  Spectators flocked to the Schuylkill to watch competitive rowing races until baseball supplanted this as a spectator sport. Cyclists first entered the park in the 1880s. Equitation was always popular. During the twentieth century, the FPC added more formal recreational facilities such as ball fields and basketball and tennis courts, as well as entertainment venues, including the Lemon Hill band shell, the Robin Hood Dell, and the Mann Music Center.

By the mid-twentieth century, when city government and the FPC had established numerous parks in other areas of the city, the Schuylkill and Wissahickon parks were considered the nucleus of what became known as the “Fairmount Park System,” encompassing some ten thousand acres citywide. Following the disestablishment of the FPC in 2010, the term “Fairmount Park system” was retired, the Wissahickon was designated as an independent entity, and “Fairmount Park” was redefined to describe only East and West Parks along the Schuylkill.

Elizabeth Milroy is Professor and Department Head of Art & Art History at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University. She is the author of The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682-1876 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016).

Saint Patrick’s Day

In March, Philadelphians of many backgrounds join together to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, the city’s Irish citizens, and their heritage. Celebrated in Philadelphia since 1771, the holiday began as a Catholic holy day and evolved into a rambunctious affair marked throughout the region by parades, music, dancing, drinking, and wearing kelly-green clothing to symbolize the Irish flag. Over time, Saint Patrick’s Day reflected political, religious, military, and secular themes as Philadelphia became a hub for Irish immigrants and generations of Irish-American families.

[caption id="attachment_20137" align="alignright" width="300"]Color photograph of the Irish Memorial statue. The statue is about thirty feet wide and has many figures carved in to its bronze surface. An older couple, a man and woman, are looking at the statue with their backs to the camera. Ireland’s Great Hunger of the 1840s, also known as the potato famine, potato blight, or Great Famine, drove thousands of Irish to Philadelphia in search of economic prosperity and political freedom. The Irish Memorial at Penn's Landing commemorates the migration. (Photograph by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

The holiday is named for Saint Patrick, born around 387 CE in Roman-controlled Britain, who is credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland in the early fifth century. As a bishop, Patrick traveled the island for decades to convert former pagans and druids to Catholicism and create churches. After his death in 461 CE, Patrick was canonized and Catholics observed his death day, March 17, as his feast day, or day dedicated to his memory. As time passed, Patrick became known as the patron saint of Ireland, believed to take special care of the Irish from his place in heaven. His feast day became a holy day of obligation (to attend Mass) for Catholics in Ireland. By the seventeenth century, as Protestant settlers from Britain continued to gain control in Ireland, Saint Patrick and his feast day were bound to Irish-Catholic identity and pride. Emigrants from Ireland carried these traditions with them to the New World.

The Irish were among the earliest immigrants to Philadelphia. Although the highest numbers of Irish arrived during the years of the potato famine (1845-52), Irish Philadelphians contributed to social and cultural life in the city before and during the American Revolution. On March 17, 1771, a group of Irishmen founded the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland, a civic organization dedicated to helping Irish immigrants and celebrating their patron saint by hosting a dinner each March 17. Members of the society included Commodore John Barry (1745-1803) and General John Cadwalader (1742-86). President George Washington (1732-99) was made an honorary member in 1782, in recognition of his decree on March 16, 1779, that his troops, many of them Irish, were to take Saint Patrick’s Day off to celebrate and rest after a long, harsh winter at war.

Political Overtones

In the early nineteenth century, the Friendly Sons’ annual dinner gained popularity as the Irish immigrant population grew. The event also gained political overtones amid anger over English oppression of the Irish back home and fierce pride in a new, free American identity. By the 1830s, March 17 celebrations included rallies against English rule of the motherland and appeals to attendees to use their American liberty to secure rights for others. In 1837, from the steps of the Franklin Institute on Seventh Street just below Market Street, Joseph Doran urged his fellow Irishmen to “... call forth then your powers and assist your fellow citizens in preserving those liberties which you are permitted to enjoy.”

[caption id="attachment_20134" align="alignright" width="199"]Scan of a ballad sheet titled "The Wearing of the Green". Lyrics are typed in the middle of the page. A longstanding Irish tradition, “The Wearing of the Green” originally referred to wearing a shamrock in one’s hat on or a jacket lapel and has roots in the seventeenth century, when wearing symbols of Catholicism or support for the Irish Republic was forbidden in Ireland. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

When the Great Famine, also known as the potato famine, hit Ireland in 1845 thousands of peasant farmers left for the United States. By 1850, 72,000 people of Irish descent lived in Philadelphia and the influx of often poor, Catholic immigrants met with backlash from “native” Philadelphians, who sought to protect their own social status by excluding the Irish from economic, social, and civic opportunity. By 1859, however, Irish Philadelphians began forming organizations similar to the Friendly Sons to carve places for themselves within the city. As an expression of their loyalty and respectability, many groups formed military units, a right unknown in Ireland and a symbol of their new freedom. March 17 soon became associated with military infantry and formations, as many groups wore full regalia to celebrate their heritage.

Following the Civil War, Irish Americans cited their service to the United States to prove their worth to their fellow countrymen, and anti-Irish rhetoric quieted down substantially. Parades, a popular form of entertainment in this era, became fixtures of the annual celebration. Parades drew large crowds, and the Irish took advantage of the attention to spread messages of importance to their communities and beyond. For example, the 1870 parade included temperance organizations spreading the message of abstinence from alcohol—a cause embraced by many Irish women because of alcohol-related problems within their families.

After several cancellations during the Great Depression and World War II, the Philadelphia Saint Patrick’s Day parade revived in the 1950s with greater focus on the holiday’s religious origins. Philadelphia’s Irish population had been decreasing, with fewer citizens participating in Irish-Catholic political or spiritual life, since the creation of the Republic of Ireland in 1922 and the National Origins Act of 1924. In 1952, the Saint Patrick’s Day Observance Association, organized in cooperation with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Archbishop John F. O’Hara (1888-1960), the Catholic schools network, and other fraternal societies, began planning the first “official” Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Conceived as a religious event, by 1954 parade rules stated first and foremost that “any group participating in the Parade must be of Catholic character.” The parade’s executive committee included political leaders, police officers, firefighters, and independent business owners, who raised funds for the event through the sale of flags and badges to participants, vendor fees, and donations from Catholic parishes. The 1953 parade, the first planned by official committee, attracted a reported 65,000 individual participants and 100,000 spectators along the parade route, which began on South Broad Street near Washington Avenue and ended on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Parade Popularity Grows, as Do Costs

As the parade became increasingly popular, the need for increased funding conflicted with the religious roots of the celebration. Parade costs more than doubled, reaching a price tag of $7,000 by 1965. Fund-raising luncheons helped, but without business investments and city money the budget was still tight. Organizers disagreed about whether to allow businesses to advertise on floats or whether non-Irish and non-Catholic groups should participate, although diversity could draw bigger crowds. By 1978 the city’s Recreation Department made a donation and some non-Irish groups joined the parade.

[caption id="attachment_20138" align="alignright" width="225"]Color photograph of a group of men playing bagpipes. They are wearing kilts and other traditional Irish clothing. Behind them city hall and a large crowd of spectators is visible. For decades, Philadelphia’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade has celebrated Irish heritage through song, dance, costume, and general revelry. (Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

By the end of the twentieth century, the parade, still run by the nonprofit Saint Patrick’s Day Observance Association, represented Philadelphia’s variety of experience with Saint Patrick’s Day. Annual luncheons, dinners, and speaking engagements drew upper-class crowds, and early-morning church services drew practicing Catholics, but the parade, beginning near City Hall, drew Philadelphians of all backgrounds to the Parkway. Live musicians and dancers, colorful floats, candy, and rows of vendors added to the revelry, and the party atmosphere tended to obscure the religious roots of the holiday. Unlike the temperance marchers of 1888, many attendees viewed alcohol consumption to be a crucial component of the day, making bar crawls or house parties popular destinations after the parade. This aspect of the holiday could be contentious, leading some to criticize the parade as a source of public drunkenness, vandalism, and underage drinking.

Philadelphia claimed the largest parade in the Greater Philadelphia area, but in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries many smaller cities and towns also celebrated their Irish heritage in mid-March. Springfield, in Delaware County, hosted an annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade, as did Levittown in Bucks County. Bucks County also became home to the six-day Newtown Irish Festival while West Chester, in Chester County, hosted a Celtic pub-crawl and businesses across the area offered specials on traditional Irish-American cuisine such as corned beef, cabbage, and potato dishes. In southern New Jersey, shore towns Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, and Wildwood hosted parades and in Burlington County, Mount Holly appointed one young women “Miss Saint Patrick” and provided her a scholarship and a prominent place in its parade.

Whether drawn by religious affiliation, Irish heritage, or the prospect of a good party, in the early decades of the twenty-first century Saint Patrick’s Day celebrators found a sense of camaraderie and shared experience among the crowds. The popular narrative of Irish perseverance in the face of adversity and the proud celebration of a resilient culture resonated with many Philadelphians, even those who did not share the same ethnicity or faith. Once a religious holiday and a political parade, Saint Patrick’s Day transformed over two centuries into a largely secular celebration reflecting the changing culture of Philadelphia’s Irish population and of the city at large.

Mikaela Maria is an editorial, research, and digital publishing assistant for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. She received her M.A. from Rutgers University and works as a public historian and museum professional in Philadelphia.

Public Parks (Philadelphia)

Philadelphia boasts the oldest and one of the largest urban park systems in the United States, comprising more than one hundred parks encompassing some ten thousand acres. With origins in William Penn’s innovative city plan, Philadelphia’s public green spaces range in size and type from small neighborhood squares to extensive watershed and estuary parks along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and their tributaries.  Central to the evolution of the city proper, these spaces have served over time as an indispensable resource to the Greater Philadelphia region.

Penn’s Squares

In their 1682 “Portraiture” of Philadelphia, William Penn (1644-1718) and Surveyor-General Thomas Holme (1624-95) laid out a two-square-mile street grid in quadrants, with a ten-acre center square reserved for public buildings and four surrounding eight-acre public squares, modeled after the popular London park called Moorfields. Penn intended that Philadelphia’s city government would landscape and administer the squares, but because he neglected to transfer title to the city no efforts were made to develop them. As a result, the squares lay vacant or were used for pasture, trash dumps, and potter’s fields for more than a century.

[caption id="attachment_19255" align="alignright" width="300"]A color drawing of the Center Square, which at this time was only a white water pump building with steam coming out of the chimney. The rest of the square is lined with green trees. The image also shows a horse and carriage on a trail, and some white fence posts.  This square at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets was one of the five public squares that William Penn designated in his original layout of the city. City Hall was eventually constructed here. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Philadelphia’s first true public park was created on the grounds of the State House, when Samuel Vaughan (1720-1802), a merchant and member of the American Philosophical Society, laid out walkways lined with elm saplings in double rows there in 1784. After the state and federal governments departed in 1799 and 1800 respectively, municipal offices moved into the State House and, after resisting efforts by the state to open streets through the grounds, the city purchased the site in 1816 and renovated the gardens.

Because the 1779 Divesting Act had transferred proprietary properties to the state, including Penn’s squares, Philadelphians feared that the legislature might cut streets through these spaces. Efforts to improve public health proved effective in the city’s efforts to gain control of the squares, however. In 1799, in response to devastating yellow fever epidemics, city councils established a municipally-run water distribution system, managed by an appointed watering committee charged with overseeing the delivery of water pumped from the Schuylkill River to homes and businesses. Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820) designed the main pumping station that was erected at the center square. When lawns and Lombardy poplars were planted in the square and a fountain installed, this became a popular gathering place and residents petitioned for upgrades to the other squares so they could be used as recreational spaces. Believing that tree plantings would also purify the atmosphere, the city undertook landscaping in the eastern squares by the 1820s, and in 1825 city councils formally renamed the five original squares—Penn (center), Washington (southeast), Franklin (northeast), Rittenhouse (southwest) and Logan (northwest). The city block containing the State House and its adjacent garden were renamed Independence Square. Improvements at the western squares were underway by the 1840s, as residential development proceeded to the Schuylkill and beyond.

Fairmount and the Schuylkill Park

Larger parks also evolved from the city’s innovative municipal water distribution system. When Latrobe’s Centre Square pumphouse proved inadequate, the Watering Committee built a larger and more efficient pumping facility at the base of a reservoir excavated atop the hill called Fairmount just north of the center city limits. The waterworks began operating in 1815. In scale and style, the elegant neoclassical waterworks, designed by Frederick Graff (1775-1847), echoed the private villas lining the nearby river built by wealthy Philadelphians in the previous century. Tourists flocked to Fairmount to stroll through gardens and walkways laid out around the water works and to admire the view from the reservoir of the picturesque Schuylkill district.

[caption id="attachment_19294" align="alignright" width="213"]A black and white map of Fairmount park. The map shows the trails and roads through Fairmount park, and has small images of plants scattered around the map. The map is black and white, and it shows both sections of Fairmount park on both the East and West of the Delaware River. During the early 1800s, the City of Philadelphia began to purchase land along the Schuylkill River to protect the city's water supply, land that eventually became Fairmount Park. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

But the innovative water delivery system also fueled a burgeoning industrial economy. Mills and factories were built along the Schuylkill River and the Wissahickon Creek from Manayunk and Roxborough northward. Industrial wastes were dumped into waterways, as well as sewage produced in the growing communities. But a semi-rural zone separated the center city from these industrializing riverside towns because many of the eighteenth-century Schuylkill estates remained in private hands. By the 1840s, Philadelphians had begun to lobby the city to acquire these properties for use as public parks so as to create a buffer to protect the water supply. Advocates reasoned that because the city had purchased property at Fairmount (outside the city limits) for the municipal waterworks, the city should be able to purchase additional properties thereabouts. When the Lemon Hill estate was put up for sale, Quaker merchant and Watering Committee member Thomas Cope (1768-1854) led a campaign to secure its purchase, which was finalized in 1844.

Faced with the onward march of development in the center city and the surrounding county, Philadelphia’s social reformers envisioned public parks as the “lungs” of the city, believing that they refreshed the health of city dwellers by providing opportunities to commune with nature. Parks could improve the mind as well as the body, an 1851 editorial in the North American declared, by providing “an uncorrupted atmosphere” and places “where we can sometimes turn the sickened eye from the red glare of man’s habitations to the softened hues of bountiful nature.”

City-County Consolidation, 1854

By the mid-nineteenth century, Penn’s public squares were too small to accomplish these ends. Consolidation of the city with the county in 1854 aimed to solve that problem by directing city government to create more public parks, but it did not specify where those spaces should be located or how they would be funded or administered. Some residents advocated a network of small neighborhood parks, following the model of Penn’s squares. Others lobbied for larger properties, as in 1856 when a group of investors led by John Jay Smith (1798-1881) purchased a forty-five-acre tract in the north of the city, renamed it Hunting Park, and hired landscape gardeners to develop the site as a public park.

The enlargement of parks along the Schuylkill, both for recreation and to protect the river, accelerated with consolidation, and in 1855 the city dedicated Lemon Hill as “Fairmount Park.” Two years later, the city acquired the adjoining Sedgeley estate and commissioned James C. Sidney (c. 1819-1881) and Andrew Adams (c. 1800-1860) to relandscape the conjoined properties, although work on this project was suspended in the mid-1860s in response to calls to create a much larger park along both sides of the Schuylkill. Park advocates emphasized the economic and cultural benefits of a large “central” park. It could provide some sense of spatial unity within the sprawling metropolis, similar to New York’s Central Park, and, as in New York, they argued, the park would raise real estate values in surrounding neighborhoods. After the state expanded the city’s power of eminent domain, park supporters in the business community pushed ahead to add hundreds of acres along both banks of the Schuylkill by donating properties and by lobbying for further state legislation in support of expropriating more properties along the Schuylkill to extend the park.

That legislation was enacted in 1867, when the Pennsylvania legislature passed an Act of Assembly creating the sixteen-member Fairmount Park Commission (FPC) with authority to acquire land along the east and west banks of the Schuylkill, “for the health and enjoyment of the people of said city, and the preservation of the purity of the water supply.” In 1868, a second act doubled the East and West Schuylkill parks north to East Falls and added a new park in the Wissahickon Valley. The Wissahickon Creek was a popular recreational destination celebrated for its picturesque scenery by such writers as Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and George Lippard (1822-1854). But like the Schuylkill, it was also a major industrial waterway. By expropriating land along the creek and closing down the mills, the FPC hoped to expand the pollution buffer and diversify the park landscapes by adding the Wissahickon’s steep bluffs and forests to compleiment the dells and rolling meadows of the Schuylkill properties.

Fairmount Park’s Incremental Development

In contrast to New York’s Central Park or Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where designers were hired to prepare comprehensive plans to reconfigure topography and plantings within a defined precinct, the FPC developed Fairmount Park incrementally and opportunistically. This history of land acquisition set the pattern for growth within Philadelphia’s evolving park system. Although the FPC consulted landscape architects about reconfiguring park properties, it ultimately decided to make minimal changes, both to save expense and to protect the “scenic contours” of the historic river estates as well as to preserve the eighteenth-century houses so as to enshrine the memory of Philadelphia’s colonial grandeur. While the FPC drew on appropriations from the city to compensate landowners whose properties were expropriated, the city was unwilling to finance comprehensive landscape improvements.

Subscribing to Andrew Jackson Downing’s (1815-52) vision of public parks as appropriate sites for cultural institutions, the FPC facilitated the establishment of major civic institutions and organizations. To that end, the Fairmount Park Art Association was formed in 1871 to commission works of public sculpture throughout the city; the first of these commissions were erected in Fairmount Park. Three years later, the Philadelphia Zoo opened on the grounds of The Solitude, formerly the estate of John Penn (1760-1834), one of William Penn’s grandsons. Funding for the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, held on a four-hundred-acre site in West Park, enabled the FPC to make much-needed infrastructure improvements. Memorial Hall, one of two permanent buildings erected for the Centennial, became the home of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art that opened in 1877. A second permanent building was Horticulture Hall, operated by the FPC as a public conservatory.

[caption id="attachment_19273" align="alignright" width="300"]Color photograph taken in Fairmount Park. On the left side of the frame is a road, on either side it is lined with cherry blossom trees in full bloom of pink flowers One of the largest public green spaces in an urban setting, Fairmount Park houses several historic homes, buildings, sculptures, and institutions, and has hosted events large and small since its creation.[/caption]

The FPC’s willingness to accommodate the Centennial Exhibition reveals how Fairmount Park differed significantly from contemporary parks created in other American cities by landscape architects. These places were methodically laid out and planted so as to create a choreographed landscape experience. As integrated designs, these parks could not accommodate significant intrusions such as new roadways or buildings. Frederick Law Olmsted, for example, discouraged museums and zoos in his parks. The FPC pursued a more laissez-faire policy. The absence of a comprehensive design meant that roads or buildings could be added as needed. This approach also extended to recreation. Olmsted required that recreation be permitted only in designated areas because his parks were newly invented works of art. Fairmount Park was not a new creation nor did it introduce new recreational areas. On the contrary, the city and then the FPC simply assumed control of spaces that had been used informally for recreation for many decades.

Neighborhood Parks and Watersheds 

Despite limited appropriations, the FPC continued to acquire acreage, and by 1900 Fairmount Park (the East and West Parks and the Wissahickon) encompassed just under three thousand acres. Tens of thousands of residents visited the park areas annually for boating and team sports, to hike or ride along the Wissahickon paths,  or to visit the zoo, the Pennsylvania Museum, or Horticultural Hall. Yet many members of city government questioned whether the park was too large and too expensive to maintain. Residents of the city’s eastern, northeastern, and southern neighborhoods also complained that the parks were "as inaccessible as the forests of the Alleghenies,” prompting the FPC to partner with transit companies to lay out streetcar lines to and within East and West parks.

Concerns about access revived the campaign for smaller neighborhood parks dispersed throughout the city. Beginning in the 1880s, city councils partnered with the newly-created City Parks Association (CPA), a voluntary organization, to acquire properties that would be administered by the Department of Public Works independently of the FPC. These included League Island, Bartram's Garden, and Stenton (the house and adjoining property), as well as new playgrounds. Additional acreage, such as the Burholme estate in the northeast section of Philadelphia, came through private donations. Inspired by urban planning approaches promoted during the City Beautiful era, the CPA and city government envisioned an integrated network of parks, encompassing the Cobb's Creek, Pennypack Creek, and Tacony Creek watersheds that would be linked by parkways. Unlike the opportunistically assembled and managed Fairmount Park, landscape designers were involved in reconfiguring and improving many of these areas, as in 1912, when the Olmsted Brothers firm was commissioned to design League Island Park in south Philadelphia. Portions of this park were later used for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition, and the park was later renamed for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

By the 1920s, the administration of Philadelphia’s public parks had split between two separate entities. The Bureau of Recreation, a city agency, administered many of the small parks and playgrounds developed with the CPA. The semiautonomous FPC had enlarged its purview by gaining control of the watershed parks, as well as many smaller parks, notably Penn’s original squares. It was the FPC that implemented many of the projected parkways, such as cutting a diagonal avenue through the center city street grid from Penn Square to Fairmount to link the Schuylkill parks to the center city. When completed in 1918, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway also opened access to the city’s northwest districts from Center City. The FPC also continued the development of watershed parks along Cobb's Creek, Pennypack Creek, Tacony Creek as well as Poquessing Creek, and opened new parkways to those areas. Roosevelt Boulevard, also completed in 1918, opened up the greater northeast to residential development by linking Hunting Park to the Tacony and Pennypack. Because of the FPC’s leadership, Philadelphia’s park system as a whole came to be referred to as the “Fairmount Park system.”

A Complicated Park System

Philadelphia’s parks may have been among the nation’s most extensive in the early twentieth century, but the opportunistic approach to park building produced an ad hoc system that left many Philadelphians farther than a ten-minute walk from any public green space. As industry in the region declined and Philadelphia’s tax base shrank, park appropriations—never generous—decreased. Divided administration between the Recreation Department and the FPC—which survived the 1951 implementation of the Home Rule Charter—also complicated matters. Under new rules, city politicians were more likely to seek funding for a recreation center or playground in their respective districts than to finance the improvement or maintenance of parks or historic houses administered by the court-appointed FPC, many of whose members were drawn from the ranks of the social and business elite. In 1960, appropriations for parks made up 2.26 percent of the general operating budget. By 1980, appropriations had declined to 0.71 percent, forcing the park commissioners to make deep cuts in staffing and operations. By 2009, appropriations amounted to only 0.32 percent of the municipal operating budget.

After World War II, the FPC had a mixed record of protecting parks and watersheds from development. The commissioners failed to prevent construction of the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) through the West Park, though this project was facilitated by the fact that railroads already traversed many sections of the park and an alternate route farther to the west would have been more expansive and controversial because it entailed demolishing residential neighborhoods. A notable success was the defeat of attempts to build the Pulaski Expressway (Pa. Route A 90) through the Tacony and Pennypack watersheds.

During the postwar period, the federal government became involved in Philadelphia’s public parks after Congress authorized the creation of Independence National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service. As formally established in 1956, the park encompassed more than forty acres around Independence Hall and included such landmarks as Carpenters’ Hall, the American Philosophical Society, First Bank of the United States, Second Bank of the United States, Mikveh Israel Cemetery, and Independence Mall.

First Comprehensive Master Plan

In the 1970s and 1980s, the FPC spearheaded a number of conservation and preservation initiatives. In 1983, it initiated the first comprehensive master plan to define strategies for conservation as well as policies and guidelines for land acquisition, finance, and administration in the park system through the year 2000. This plan in turn informed the grant-funded Natural Lands Restoration and Environmental Education Program, begun in 1996 to restore the natural areas in seven watershed and estuary parks throughout the city (FDR Park, Cobbs Creek, Fairmount [East and West Parks], Tacony Creek, Pennypack, Poquessing Creek, and the Wissahickon Valley), and build a constituency for the park’s protection through environmental education and public stewardship.

[caption id="attachment_19256" align="alignright" width="300"]color photograph of the wissahickon valley creek. a waterfall cuts across the frame and a young man in swim trunks walks across the creek Wissahickon Creek enters Philadelphia from Montgomery County and joins Fairmount Park in the northern part of the city, forming the spine of Wissahickon Valley Park. (Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

By the late 1990s, the FPC’s effectiveness was in rapid decline. Perceived redundancies with the Department of Recreation, which managed recreational facilities and historic houses as well as parks, prompted cuts in municipal funding. It did not help the FPC that it had been criticized for many years for a lack of transparency and accountability in policy-making decisions and for insufficient park management expertise. A city proposal to generate revenue by leasing parklands to private entities further stymied the commission as its members divided over the advisability (and legality) of the proposal. In a 2008 referendum, Philadelphians voted to abolish the FPC. The Home Rule Charter was duly amended to create a new combined Parks & Recreation Department (PPR), led by a commissioner appointed by the mayor, who would work with an advisory Commission on Parks and Recreation, appointed by City Council, to draft and implement policies and standards governing the use of Philadelphia's parks and recreational facilities.

PPR subsequently undertook management of the city’s parks system within a comprehensive and holistic model for urban sustainability throughout all park areas. The Philadelphia Trail Master Plan, completed in 2011, was developed in cooperation with the City Planning Commission. As part of GreenWorks Philadelphia, launched in 2009, PPR expanded green space acquisitions and upgraded points of access. PPR also partnered with the Philadelphia Water Department, the Philadelphia School District, and the Trust for Public Lands to upgrade infrastructure maintenance, in particular by improving storm water and forest management.

Importance of Public-Private Partnerships

Even before the demise of the FPC, Philadelphia’s parks relied heavily on public-private partnerships to fund capital projects, park stewardship, and programming. Volunteer groups, such as the Friends of the Wissahickon, long played an important role in caring for individual parks, though the financial and logistical resources available to these groups varied widely. The Philadelphia Parks Alliance, an independent advocacy group, formed in 1985 to monitor public policies as well as best practices in parks management and to generate public support for parks and recreation in Philadelphia. The Fairmount Park Conservancy, founded in 2001, took a leading role in several projects such as the revitalization of Hunting Park and Penn Treaty Park and participated in master planning for the East and West Parks. PPR also worked with both the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and the Delaware River City Corporation to revitalize the banks of Philadelphia’s major rivers, most notably with the Schuylkill River Trail, a system of multiuse boardwalks, bike paths, and trails along the length of the Schuylkill, and the establishment of Lardner’s Point Park that link the city and its parks with the surrounding region.

Evolving from William Penn’s innovative vision, Philadelphia’s parks grew first as the result of community activism and then expanded through well-intentioned paternalism. The fate of the city’s parks lies with public-private partnerships that bring elected politicians, municipal managers, and community groups together as equals to identify shared goals, identify viable funding sources, and thereby to plan strategically for the future.

Elizabeth Milroy is Professor and Department Head of Art & Art History at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University. She is the author of The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682-1876 (2016).

Co-Working Spaces

[caption id="attachment_19420" align="alignright" width="575"]color photograph of large space at Indy Hall co-working with about three dozen people gathered in informal meeting. Indy Hall, established in 2007 and located on North Third Street in Old City, was the first of the area's co-working spaces. (Photograph by CJ Dawson Photography for Indy Hall)[/caption]

In the 2000s and 2010s, nearly thirty co-working spaces opened in the Philadelphia area. Co-working offered flexible, shared office facilities to freelancers, technology start-ups, entrepreneurs, and nascent businesses that did not require or could not afford private workplaces. These spaces were designed to foster a collaborative atmosphere, where clients could share innovations and resources. A related type of facility—so called “maker spaces”—offered artisans and small-scale manufacturers communal access to industrial equipment at a low cost. By 2015, co-working spaces occupied 190,000 square feet of office space in Center City. Several spaces were located in outlying neighborhoods like Fishtown and Kensington, and still others operated in Philadelphia’s suburbs.

[caption id="attachment_19431" align="alignright" width="300"]Map produced by the Center City District and Central PhiladelphiaDevelopment Corporation in 2015 shows some co-working locations in and around Center City. Map produced by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation in 2015 shows some co-working locations in and around Center City. (Center City District)[/caption]

Co-working was part of Greater Philadelphia’s broader transformation from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. In the late 1970s, the number of jobs in management, service, and technology-based sectors surpassed manufacturing for the first time. The co-working model was created to accommodate this new breed of post-industrial worker. Mostly well-educated, the majority worked in new media, technology, or creative fields. While some were recent college graduates, many were middle-aged: In 2015, the median age for Philadelphia's 30,000 to 35,000 freelancers and self-employed workers was 47. An increasing reliance on technology freed these workers from traditional office arrangements. Entrepreneurs and freelancers needed little more than a laptop and an Internet connection for their jobs. Others were part of the growing ranks of Americans working from home, a figure that increased 37 percent from 1997 to 2010. Even if they were freed from commuting to offices, some sought part-time conference space for client meetings. And many yearned for the sense of community and collaboration that conventional offices had offered.

In 2007, Philadelphia’s first co-working space, Old City’s Indy Hall, opened to meet the demands of this growing sector of post-industrial workers. Like many co-working spaces, Indy Hall moved into a renovated loft building—a repurposed industrial-age relic with a flexible open-plan interior. Co-founders Geoff Di Masi (b. 1970) and Alex Hillman (b. 1983) designed Indy Hall to offer a sense of community for Philadelphia’s freelancers and tech-industry workers. Hillman believed that workers would flock to Indy Hall “because they [were] lonely and unproductive in isolation." In order to encourage cooperation, Indy Hall hosted after-hours parties and art shows.

Encouraged by the success of Indy Hall and buoyed by the growth in creative and tech-based fields, other co-working spaces soon opened in Philadelphia. Their business models diversified to appeal to different types of workers. Some, like the South Philly Co-Op Workspace, filled storefront spaces with neighborhood freelancers and small-business owners. Benjamin’s Desk, near Rittenhouse Square, pursued a more traditional corporate market, attracting architects, digital advertisers, and web designers. In Old City, The Hive (later closed) was the first co-working space exclusively for women entrepreneurs. Tribe Commons in Midtown Village promised co-working “rooted in Jewish cultural values.” Culture Works Greater Philadelphia offered a hybrid model, with rentable office space, mentoring, and philanthropic support for emerging arts and culture organizations.

[caption id="attachment_19458" align="alignright" width="300"]color photo shows three people in welding helmets looking on as two others in welding gear lean into a welding project atop at welding table at NextFab co-working space. Welding equipment is one of the many resources available at the co-working space known as NextFab, which in 2016 had two locations, including this one on Washington Avenue. (NextFab)[/caption]

Some co-working spaces provided more than desks and an Internet connection. So-called “makers’ spaces” offered artists, fabricators, and manufacturing startups shared access to expensive equipment. Makers’ spaces occupied formerly abandoned industrial buildings, capitalizing on Philadelphia’s rich history of manufacturing. Dr. Evan Malone founded NextFab, the first of these spaces, in the University City Science Center in 2009 as a “gym for innovators.” Malone hoped that his design and fabrication space would “help counteract the extensive offshore outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing and decline of manufacturing education and knowledge-base.” In 2012, NextFab moved into a renovated industrial space on Washington Avenue, where it offered its members access to welding, 3-D printing, wood milling, and computer-controlled machining equipment. Similar makers’ spaces followed. A 250,000-square-foot space, the Loom at Richmond Mills, opened in a converted textile mill at Frankford and Allegheny Avenues. The Sculpture Gym in Kensington, started with a $20,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Arts Challenge, provided shop facilities and training for artists working with wood, metals, and ceramics.

In the 2010s, co-working spread to Philadelphia’s suburbs. HeadRoom ran a 3,000-square-foot office space in Media in Delaware County. Kings Hall converted three adjacent historic buildings into a co-working space in downtown Haddonfield, New Jersey. Other suburban co-working spaces, however, struggled to attract enough workers. In November 2012, Business Casual Coworking opened in Bristol, Pennsylvania—but it quickly shuttered. Phoenixville’s Skylight Coworking opened in 2012; one year later, it moved and rebranded as the Dream Factory. Ultimately, it was unclear if suburban towns had the density of independent workers and start-ups to support the co-working model.

Closures were not limited to the suburbs. Several co-working spaces in Philadelphia folded in the 2010s. The Transfer Station, which opened in 2013 in a former retail space on Main Street in Mannayunk, quickly closed; its plans to reopen in a second location also fizzled. The space known as 3rd Ward, which had operated a successful co-working space in Brooklyn, New York, opened a 27,000-square-foot co-working and events space in Olde Kensington in 2013. But it unexpectedly ceased operations later that year, citing high operating costs. (Its original Brooklyn site also folded.) Other co-working ventures remained open but were forced to change their business models when faced with funding shortfalls. CityCoHo, at Twenty-Fourth and Walnut Streets, shifted from a communal space for individual workers towards private offices for more established companies. When it opened in 2015, Industrious followed CityCoHo’s model, devoting most of its 21,000 square feet at South Broad and Chestnut Streets to private offices.

In spite of these closures and worries about oversupply, co-working spaces continued to open in the 2010s, offering low-cost office space to a growing number of start-ups and technology-focused companies. By 2015, there were twenty-five spaces within Philadelphia alone. While the Philadelphia area’s transition to a post-industrial economy was by no means complete, co-working spaces intimated what that future might look like: decentralized, tech-driven, flexible, and helmed by well-educated workers.

Dylan Gottlieb is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University where he works on recent American urban history.

Fairmount Park Commission

[caption id="attachment_23155" align="alignright" width="300"]Photograph of historic Rittenhouse bake house. The building is one story, with a stone facade and the doors and windows have been painted a bright yellow. Friends of Historic RittenhouseTown was formed “to preserve, restore and historically interpret Historic RittenhouseTown.” Here, the bake house stands restored to a colonial aesthetic and serves as the site of historic papermaking displays and workshops. (Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

The Fairmount Park Commission (FPC), constituted by the Pennsylvania state legislature in the Park Acts of 1867 and 1868, administered the city’s public park system from 1867 to 2010. Consisting of six municipal officials or their delegates and ten private citizens appointed by the courts to five-year terms, the FPC had authority to expropriate land throughout the city for recreational use and to protect the municipal watersheds. The commission was semi-autonomous, with its own territories, budget, and (until 1972) police force. The commissioners hired park staff, wrote and enforced regulations, and supervised park improvements and maintenance including the opening of roads, trails and streetcar lines, and the licensing of public transit through park areas.

Appointing commissions to implement public works projects was a longstanding practice in England that William Penn and his associates brought to the colony of Pennsylvania by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Other commissions created in Philadelphia opened streets, managed markets and wharves, ran the gas works, and supervised the construction of city hall. Over the course of its existence, the FPC developed a citywide system of parks and recreation sites, including a network of parks along sections of the Schuylkill and Delaware River watersheds. It also built major roads and parkways, including the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Roosevelt Boulevard, and Cobb’s Creek Parkway and took an active role in administering historic sites and cultural institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the Fairmount Waterworks. At the time of its disestablishment, the FPC managed more than sixty-three parks covering ten percent of Philadelphia’s area or roughly 10,000 acres.

As a result of the FPC’s considerable, albeit ostensibly nonpartisan, authority, appointment to the commission was highly desirable. Although officially appointed to five-year terms, many of commissioners actually served for life. Influential civic and business leaders who served on the FPC included publisher Morton McMichael (1807-79), military commander George Gordon Meade (1815-72), attorney John G. Johnson (1841-1917), investment banker Edward Stotesbury (1849-1938), radio personality Mary Mason, and attorney Robert N. C. Nix III. Multiple generations of the Price and Widener families served on the FPC, including Eli Kirk Price (1797-1884), a founding commissioner, and his grandson Eli Kirk Price Jr. (1860-1933). Industrialist P.A.B. Widener (1834 -1915) served on the commission from 1889 to his death; his great-grandson Fitz Eugene Dixon (1923-2006) was president of the commission from 1983 to 2002.

The FPC’s financial history is complex. It had executive power but no authority to collect taxes; most revenue from park operations went to the city’s general fund. On the one hand, the FPC was able to obtain loans as well as gifts of land to pursue an expansionist strategy of park development, adding hundreds of acres to create the citywide system by the mid-twentieth century in an effort to realize William Penn’s vision of a “green country town” and to protect watersheds. On the other hand, unlike many American cities where a percentage of tax income is earmarked for park development and maintenance, the FPC had to request maintenance appropriations annually from city administrations that typically resisted providing more funds to improve or upgrade park landscapes and facilities. In contrast to park administrations in other American cities that operated more transparently as municipal departments, the FPC’s operations became increasingly opaque. Between 1876 and 1899, for example, the FPC issued only one annual report.

[caption id="attachment_19300" align="alignright" width="300"]color drawing of the fairmount waterworks. the schuylkill river runs through the center of the frame and a staricase on the left bank leads up to a gazebo, on the right side of the frame is a row of buildings with people walking along the promenade Fairmount Park grew from the city's efforts to ensure a safe and reliable water supply. After a failed attempt by Benjamin Henry Latrobe to create a water system, his apprentice Frederick Gaff and John Davis designed what would come to be known as the Fairmount Waterworks, seen here in an 1833 lithograph. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

Growing concerns among city and state legislators about the FPC’s finances led to a 1937 legislative report that recommended the FPC be abolished. Investigators noted that none of the commissioners were trained in parks management and that important decisions often were made without a quorum because many commissioners failed to attend meetings. As a result, the FPC frequently overpaid for unnecessary land purchases and questionable policy decisions. The report also criticized the FPC for focusing too much on land acquisition and for failing to establish recreational facilities on a par with other American cities. In response, the FPC created a committee on recreation and began to add more recreational facilities, though the outbreak of World War II delayed extensive upgrades.

The FPC affirmed its resiliency when it emerged without change under the new Home Rule Charter enacted in 1951. Although nominally assigned to the reorganized Department of Recreation, the commission continued to operate independently, though its effectiveness had started to weaken. Among notable setbacks was the FPC’s failure to prevent construction of the Schuylkill Expressway through West Fairmount Park. Railroads already traversed many sections of the city’s parklands, and an alternate route farther to the west would have been more expansive and politically difficult because it entailed demolishing residential homes. However, there were some notable successes. During the 1960s, the FPC effectively defeated attempts to build an industrial facility in Fernhill Park and a plan to convert East River (now Kelly) Drive to a limited-access highway. In the 1970s, the FPC secured the cancellation of the Pulaski Expressway (PA 90) project that threatened the Tacony and Pennypack Creek watersheds. During the 1980s, it commissioned comprehensive master plans for the conservation of natural systems in the park system, funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

[caption id="attachment_20411" align="alignright" width="300"]color photograph of "The Rower," a sculpture of John B. Kelly Sr., with Schuylkill River in background. John B. Kelly Sr., Olympic champion rower in the 1920s, was a member and later chairman of the Fairmount Park Commission. (Photograph by R. Tarver for Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

Further efforts by such commissioners as John B. Kelly (1889-1960) and Fredric R. Mann (1904-87) to improve maintenance and recreational programming, and Ernesta Drinker Ballard (1920-2005) who championed natural lands conservation and historic preservation, extended the commission’s legacy. Throughout the FPC’s existence, most commissioners endeavored to fulfill the founding mandate to provide adequate green space and to protect Philadelphia's water supply. But because the criteria for appointment to the FPC and the actual workings of the commission were unclear, many residents assumed that the city's parks were adequately managed by well-intentioned stewards who nonetheless were unaccountable to voters. As the city’s tax base diminished with the decline of industry, park appropriations dwindled.

The diminishing effectiveness of the commission was most clearly demonstrated in 2007 when City Council attempted to grant the Fox Chase Cancer Center a long-term lease on a section of Burholme Park in northeast Philadelphia donated to the city in 1896 by Robert Ryerss (1831-95). The majority of commissioners supported the lease because it promised much-needed funding, but this was later nullified when the courts determined that any lease of parkland to a private, commercial entity for nonrecreational use abrogated the public trust doctrine. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court upheld this decision, reiterating that the municipal government has a duty to hold the property "in trust for its originally intended use as parkland." The decision cost the FPC what remained of its credibility, and in a 2008 referendum Philadelphians voted to disestablish the commission and the Home Rule Charter was duly amended. In the commission’s place, city parks fell under the administration of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR), led by a commissioner appointed by the mayor, charged with working with an advisory Commission on Parks and Recreation, appointed by City Council to draft and implement policies and standards governing the use of Philadelphia's parks and recreational facilities.

Elizabeth Milroy is Professor and Department Head of Art & Art History at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University. She is the author of The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682-1876 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016).

Elizabeth Milroy

Elizabeth Milroy is Professor and Department Head of Art & Art History at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University. She is the author of The Grid and the River: Philadelphia’s Green Places, 1682-1876 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016).

Native American-Pennsylvania Relations 1681-1753

Indian-brokered alliances more than Quaker pacifism anchored the “long peace” in the decades that followed Pennsylvania’s founding in 1681. The Iroquois Covenant Chain and the Lenapes’ treaties with William Penn (1644-1718) established the diplomatic parameters that made the long peace possible and allowed Pennsylvania to avoid the kind of destructive frontier warfare that engulfed the Chesapeake and New England during Bacon’s Rebellion and King Philip’s War (1675-76). By the third decade of the eighteenth century, however, the delicate balance between Indians and colonists unraveled as Pennsylvania officials, with Iroquois permission, expropriated native lands in order to accommodate the westward migration of English, German, and Scots-Irish colonists. Few colonists appreciated in 1753 how their dispossession of Indian communities motivated the Lenape and other Indian groups to attack Pennsylvania’s frontier towns during the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763).

[caption id="attachment_29780" align="alignright" width="300"]photograph of a woven wampum belt. the belt itself is a tan color with darker diagonal lines a a depiction of two human silhouettes holding hands This wampum belt, on exhibit at the Philadelphia History Museum, was said to be given to William Penn by the Lenapes at the time of the 1682 treaty. (Philadelphia History Museum)[/caption]

In the mid-1600s, upheavals among Indians in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions helped clear the way for the European settlement of the Delaware Valley. The Iroquois, equipped with Dutch (and later English) firearms, struck out against the Huron and other native groups to secure fur trading routes and take captives to replenish their numbers, which had been decimated by European diseases. By the time Charles II (1630-85) granted Penn his colonial charter, Iroquois raids had largely depopulated the Susquehanna Valley of its native inhabitants.

The Lenapes, or Delawares, who lived on both sides of the Delaware River, had been dealing with Dutch and Swedish colonists for decades and in 1675-77 sold lands in what became West New Jersey to English Quakers. Beginning in 1682, the Lenapes ceded lands on the west bank of the Delaware to Penn in exchange for cloth, guns, powder, alcohol, and other trade goods. Lenape chiefs such as Tamanend (Tammany) did not “sell” land as much as grant shared usage rights in the hopes of establishing a relationship with a potentially powerful European ally.

Mutual Benefits

With the Susquehanna Valley open for hunting beaver and other pelts that Europeans prized for Atlantic markets, the Lenapes were disposed to negotiate with Penn, a man they called Miquon (meaning “feather,” or quill pen, a Delaware pun on his last name). Penn, in return, promised he would deal with Indians honestly and fairly. These early treaties cemented Pennsylvania’s reputation as a peaceable colony where love and friendship prevailed between Indians and colonists, as famously portrayed later by the paintings of Benjamin West (1738-1820) and Edward Hicks (1780-1849).

William Penn, the Quaker founder and proprietor, desperately needed Indian partners. New York and Connecticut each claimed territory south of where Pennsylvania fixed its northern border, while Maryland’s Charles Calvert (1637-1715), Lord Baltimore, hotly disputed the location of Pennsylvania’s southern boundary. One reading of Maryland’s charter, in fact, placed that colony’s upper border north of Philadelphia. Penn used Indian titles to legitimate his land claims and ward off rivals. He also coveted Indian lands in the Susquehanna Valley, west of Philadelphia. By the early 1690s, Indians, fleeing warfare and colonization elsewhere, began settling the Susquehanna, including Lenape communities relocating to escape the growing colonial population in the Delaware Valley. They were joined by returning Susquehannocks (the original inhabitants of the region, now known as “Conestogas”), Shawnees, Mahicans, Senecas, Cayugas, Nanticokes, and Conoys, among others. These native settlers formed polyglot, multiethnic communities in Indian towns like Conestoga, Pequea, and, a little later, Shamokin.

Even before Penn consulted with Indian leaders in those communities, he sold colonists subscriptions to lands in the Susquehanna. Penn viewed the lower Susquehanna, with its access to the Chesapeake, as strategically vital to Pennsylvania’s commercial success. By attracting colonists there, he also hoped to redirect the lucrative Indian fur trade away from Albany, New York.

[caption id="attachment_18732" align="alignright" width="300"]color photo of Lenape chieftan's face with right arm raised to shade eyes while scouting the distance. topmost part of statue in Wissahickon Valley Park. A member of the Delaware, or Lenape, tribe, Teedyuscung grew up near what is now Trenton, New Jersey, and came in close contact with European settlers. Later in his life, he proclaimed himself “King of the Delawares” and through negotiations with the colonial government in Philadelphia, attempted to secure a permanent Lenape settlement in the Wyoming Valley. (Photograph by Donald D. Groff for the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)[/caption]

Fortunately for Penn, Indians in the Susquehanna had good reasons to accommodate colonists. The Iroquois claimed the region by right of conquest (owing to their mid-seventeenth-century raids), and through their Covenant Chain alliance with New York, they also claimed to speak on behalf of all Indian groups living there. After Governor Thomas Dongan (1634-1715) of New York sold Penn his claim to the Susquehanna for a meager £100, Shawnee, Conoy, and Conestoga leaders seized the opportunity to recognize Pennsylvania’s authority in 1701. In doing so, they sought political legitimacy (at the expense of the Iroquois) as well as a valuable trading partner. As he did almost two decades earlier, Penn promised his Indian allies that his government would protect them from unruly colonists and dishonest traders.

Peace Preserved by "Go-betweens"

The 1701 treaty ensured Pennsylvania’s “long peace” would continue, although uneasily. It was held together by diplomatic “go-betweens,” Indian and colonial, who smoothed over the inevitable conflicts that arose in a frontier zone of multiple and overlapping native jurisdictions and where Pennsylvania held little authority. In one notable instance, in 1722, the murder of an Indian named Sawantaeny (d. 1722) by an English trader, John Cartlidge (1684-1722), during a drunken brawl touched off a diplomatic crisis that sent Pennsylvania officials to the Susquehanna Indian town of Conestoga (and the governor to Albany because Sawantaeny was a Seneca Iroquois). The willingness of the Iroquois, provincial government, and Susquehanna Indians to overlook the murder and forgive Cartlidge (who eventually was freed after the Iroquois received restitution) demonstrated the value of maintaining good relations on the frontier, where political stability was necessary for peaceful coexistence and the continued profitability of the fur trade. It also demonstrated that the Pennsylvania government understood the importance of observing Indian diplomatic protocols, especially during a political crisis.

The provincial official who led Pennsylvania’s investigation of Sawantaeny’s murder, James Logan (1674-1751), had an interest in maintaining order in the Susquehanna. The son of Scottish Quaker converts, Logan came to Pennsylvania in 1699 to serve as Penn’s provincial secretary. Shortly before leaving the colony in 1701, Penn entrusted Logan to look after his proprietary interests and manage his estate at Pennsbury. Logan remained in Pennsylvania for the rest of his life. During that time, he became a major political figure, serving, among other positions, as provincial councilor, land commissioner, and Pennsylvania’s chief Indian diplomat. He ran a successful merchant business in Philadelphia that supplied Indian customers using a cartel of traders who hauled his dry goods and rum into the Susquehanna on “Conestoga” wagons. By 1720, Logan had monopolized the fur trade and became one of the wealthiest colonists in Philadelphia.

Logan also engineered the “Walking Purchase,” one of the most infamous chapters in the history of Native American-Pennsylvania relations. In 1737, Logan and Thomas Penn (1702-75), then acting as Pennsylvania’s governor, claimed to possess a 1686 deed from the Lenape chief Mechkilikishi granting William Penn all the Indian lands that could be acquired within a day-and-a-half’s walk from Wrightstown in Bucks County. Although the deed was probably forged, the Iroquois sanctioned the “walk,” which took place in September with three of the colony’s fastest runners covering more than sixty miles. Logan used the “running walk,” as the Lenape termed it, to claim over a thousand square miles of Indian territory in the Delaware Forks (or in Lenape, Lechauwitank), where the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers converge (and where Allentown and Bethlehem are now located). Under pressure from the Iroquois, the Lenape in the region, along with their leader, Nutimus, were forced to relocate to the Wyoming Valley (near present-day Wilkes-Barre) and Shamokin.

The Walking Purchase and the colonization of the Susquehanna Valley left a bitter legacy in Pennsylvania-Native American relations. The Lenape chief Teedyuscung (c. 1700-63), who was among those displaced from the Delaware Forks, reemerged in the Wyoming Valley as a warrior who conducted periodic raids on Euroamerican settlements in eastern Pennsylvania during the Seven Years’ War. In a strange twist, he took part in the Treaty of Easton in 1758 as an ally of the Quakers and helped to broker a peace between the Pennsylvania government and Ohio Valley Indians, primarily Lenapes and Shawnees who had been displaced earlier from the Susquehanna. Murdered in 1763 by arsonists who burned his cabin under mysterious circumstances (likely colonists from Connecticut’s Susquehanna Company), Teedyuscung did not live to see many of his people forced to relocate again, under British imperial and Iroquois pressure, west of the Appalachians. His life and death, however, symbolized the entangled and intimate relations of Pennsylvanians and Native Americans through the first half of the eighteenth century.

Michael Goode is an Assistant Professor of Early American History at Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah.

Share This Page: