Vereeville/Fox Chase


Historical Northeast Philadelphia

Stories and Memories ~1994

This project was sponsored by the Friends of the Holmesburg Branch Free Library of Philadelphia.
The history was written by Eleanor P. Birkmann.

Holmesburg Quarry on Solly Avenue, produced the finest granite building stone in the state of Pennsylvania and its unusual dimensions made it the largest quarry in the state.  At its peak i, in 1896-1925, it employed 200 workers.  The recreation field on Solly Avenue occupies the site now.   Photo courtesy of Jack Williams


Memorial Day 1920.  Parade with G.A.R Vetran Michel G. Ayers, in the saddle, ready to step off in a style befitting the occasion from the library at Hartel Street enroute to Emmanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery for graveside services.  Photo courtesy of the late Mr. & Mrs. Roy H. Lintz


This circa 1915 picture of the store owned and operated by Fred Berrien, Grocer and Butcher, gives an idea of the flourishing business he enjoyed at the northwest corner of Frankford Avenue and Rhawn Street in a building erected by Mrs. Joseph Brown a half -century earlier.  The last years of the business were under the ownership of genial Mr. Frank Sutphin, Mr. Berrien's "right-hand" man for many years.


Holmesburg Seminary for Young Ladies, a highly regarded boarding and day school conducted by Miss Matilda Chapman and her two sisters from 1831 to 1881 in this handsome property on the Bristol Pike (now Frankford Avenue) across from Emmanuel Episcopal Church.  Photo courtesy of Rev. Herman Doh slide show collection.


Stonyhurst - Built in 1880 for the Hon. George Castor as a family residence, this 18-bedroom mansion crowned his 75 acre tract on Solly Avenue overlooking the Pennypack.  Today, the Roman Catholic Order of Trinitarians maintains it as a retirement home for the Order.   Photo courtesy of Jack Williams


Doorway of the Griffith-Peale House, 8100 Frankford Avenue.  Note: Speaking tube right panel, the visible part of an amplifying system for the convenience of Dr. James Burd Peale's patients before the telephone was invented.  Photo courtesy of Robert P. Storks


Frankford Avenue, west side between Rhawn Street and Welsh Road looking north toward Welsh Road, circa 1906.   Photo courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Roy H. Lintz


The Old House on Walker Street, so referred to the past hundred years.  Though exact date is unknown, its construction and location suggest late 18th century.  Members of John Holme's family resided there for many years.  Identified at this time as 8047 Walker Street, it is privately owned.  Photo courtesy of the late Mr. & Mrs. Roy H. Lintz.


Athenaeum built in 1850 to satisfy a growing need for a cultural and social center for Holmesburg.  In its span of years, it has served a variety of purposes - community and private.  Note: The street lamp, first one installed by the city, 1867; the iron watering fountain, a 20th century comfort for man and beast.  Photo courtesy of the Mystic Lodge 100F, 100th Anniversary Program.


In large part, the early history of Holmesburg can be traced by the commercial ventures of its townspeople. Three store advertisements in 1868 bear testimony that the early Holmesburg settlement was near the Pennypack Creek. Major Alfred Bartolett’s General and Grocery Store was on Main Street close to the Race where the J. Spencer Morrison Feed Store and Grain Elevator were located in later years. Across Main Street from Maj. Bartolett’s, Charles Kreis had a dry goods store “with a stock of ladies skirts” according to his advertisement also in the Holmesburg Gazette, 1868. (Both buildings have since been replaced by an apartment building and a shopping center.) Up the hill where Marzulli Plumbing stands in 1993, there stood a store, Eisenlrey and Bunker, which in 1868 the Holmesburg Gazette described as “dealing in groceries, boots, and shoes, and Queenswear.” This last item, a type of china, is a collector’s item today.

      Closer to Welsh Road, Robert Pattison opened a Dry Goods and Grocery store in the mid 1800s that continued in business until about 1920, carried on by his son who ran the store with Mr. Fred Kramer. The Pattison Store was considered one of the finest general stores of the region, enjoying a wide patronage. After the store went out of business, the building became the Holmesburg Post Office, followed by Morry’s Dinette which has enjoyed a twenty-seven year occupancy to this date.

      The 1876 planning map of Holmesburg showing a slaughterhouse and dwelling with an attached store on Frankford Avenue between Welsh Road and Rhawn Street. The slaughtering business, first operated by Charles Snyder and later by his two sons, Rudolph and Charles. The modernized dwelling and the store still standing can be identified by the driveway that once led to the slaughter house located at the rear of the property. Drovers walked the cattle or sheep from the outlying farms, dropping them off at various slaughterhouses. (There was another one on Hickory Street (present day Stanwood) east of Frankford Avenue.) The Snyder Brothers had regular wagon routes, too, for the convenience of their customers well into 1900.

      Mrs. Sarah Brown had erected a fine large brick building designed for a store at the northwest corner of Frankford Avenue and Rhawn Street. In the 1900s, Mr. Fred Berrien, Grocer and Butcher, operated a store there for many years followed by the congenial Mr. Frank Sutphin. A clerk made rounds on foot in the morning to regular customers to “take orders” which were delivered that afternoon by horse and wagon until it was replaced by a Model A truck.

      Mr. Frank Formica chose the Erdrick and Rhawn Street location stocking a full grocery line, fresh produce and the best of fresh meats (produced locally) cut to order. After William Taylor opened his ice cream and confectionery store at Frankford Avenue and Welsh Road about 1910, no home party was complete without Taylor’s Ice Cream.

      Hardier fare also was available, such as deviled crabs baked in the natural crab shells. An oyster “saloon” in the basement, reached by separate steps from the outside, was a popular rendezvous for men, especially sports enthusiasts. At age 87, Irv Morrison, grandson of the first tinsmith in Holmesburg, declared that the best oyster stews barring none were made at Lawler’s Oyster Bar in Taylor’s basement.

      Two bakeries were in business at the same time as Taylor’s. Schnepp’s was close enough to the J. H. Brown School so that the teachers could enjoy a five - or ten - cent box of ice cream at lunch. Schnepp’s is no more, but the Holmesburg Bakery is still in the same location on Frankford Avenue near Rhawn enjoying a brisk business.

      Photographs of Main Street, Holmesburg, in early 1900 show a mix of mansions, modest residences, and businesses all “rubbing elbows.” Buildings occupied the entire width of the lots with few exceptions, stores were not designed for “window shopping”, frequently being part of the dwelling. So when you went “up to the Burg” (for those living east of Frankford Avenue) or “out to the Avenue” (for those west of Frankford Avenue) or “to the village” (for those north of the creek) you went for a specific purpose.

      Stores being owner-occupied with living quarters on the premises, there was no locking of doors at five o’clock and “going home.” Stores were open in the evening, Saturday included.

      Covering a span of years in the 1930s, Holmesburg had its first leisurely soup-to-dessert establishment operated by the granddaughter of Holmesburg’s first tinsmith, John W. Morrison, and trading under the name of Peggy’s Sweet Shop at 8027 Frankford Avenue. Edna Morrison McClure, endowed with a culinary talent produced an exceptional quality of fare. This fine business was terminated by World War II when rationing removed or curtailed the use of butter and sugar. Mrs. McClure would not substitute ingredients.

      Mill Commons. The 1697 grist mill built on the Pennypack was central to Holmesburg’s development. The Welsh journeyed from Gwnyned on horseback over the winding Welsh Road with their grain harvest to be ground; the farmers came from New Jersey by boat, rowing up the creek to the mill door to unload their grain, and returning home with flour or meal. Some of the ground grain found its way to Philadelphia via the Delaware. With this impetus for commerce, Robert Lewis, as owner of the mill after Peter Dale and John Holme, added a cooperage to the mill, where barrels and hogsheads were made for shipping the flour and meal to the West Indies or even to England directly from the grist mill, thereby saving a re-loading operation. The Delaware tide on the creek was sufficient to float the shallow bottomed sea going vessels of that period. This exporting was possible because the fertile ground produced grain abundantly — corn, rye and wheat. As the making of barrels led to an increased use of wood, a saw mill also was added to the Mill Commons.

      A poem written by Judge John Holme in 1696 sang the praise of Pennsylvania’s profuse vegetation, providing so much fruit that cider was everywhere. This gives credence to the possibility that a cider mill was a fourth addition to the mill complex. Soon David Lewis, nephew of Robert Lewis, built a textile mill slightly further upstream. This was burned during the War of 1812 but rebuilt, again burned and again rebuilt in the 1880s by a new owner, Dr. Bray, a wealthy chemist who gave up weaving to concentrate on dyeing and finishing. Bray’s mill was a steam - operated plant, and each morning at 7 o’clock steam was let off with a shrill whistle by which residents over a wide radius could set their clocks. The mill, operating in its last years under the name of Summerdale, finally ceased operation after World War II.

      The King’s Highway. The King’s Road, the link between the English seat of government at Upland (now Chester, PA) and its counterpart in New York, was not a public road but, as the name indicates, was for the King’s business. It grew out of a Lenin- Lenape trail used by the Indians in going to their northern hunting grounds. Paralleling the Delaware River, the trail avoided the tidal waters of the creeks that broke the road and marked the spot where they could more easily wade across. Originally only wide enough for foot or hoof, the path was inadequate for use by carts or “chairs.” William Penn begged the court at Upland to widen the road “for easier passage of carts and  68 a Historical Northeast Philadelphia: Stories and Memories carriages from the Schuylkill to Neshaminy.” With this improvement, it became the King’s Highway, still for official business and still a rough road.

      The first stagecoach service for public use was established in 1756 between Philadelphia and New York, the trip taking three days each way. This service, requiring rest stops for passengers and horses, eventually gave rise to taverns at convenient distances which, in turn, led to the development of settlements around them. The

        Washington House, 1796, and the Green Tree, 1799, in Holmesburg are examples.

      The King’s Highway was traveled by the New England Delegates to the Continental Congresses in Philadelphia before the American Revolution. Following the defeat of the English, the road was renamed the Bristol Turnpike and with patriotic fervor the settlement spawned by the Pennypack became Washingtonville in honor of George Washington. In 1802, the Bristol Turnpike became a toll road, the toll being used for road maintenance, instead of taxing the landowners on the route for that purpose. To collect the toll, a toll house for the toll keeper to live in and a toll gate were placed near the bridge over the Pennypack and designated as Gate #3. This arrangement was to last for almost a hundred years.

      As more people were discovering the area through stagecoach travel, large tracts of land were being bought for developing and divided into smaller parcels. This marked the first real estate boom since Penn’s arrival. At this time, John and George Holme, descendants of Justice of the Peace, John Holme, were the “movers and shakers” in the area.

      Public transportation over the Bristol Turnpike continued by stagecoach. In 1895, the electric trolley appeared, the “brainchild” of the newly organized Holmesburg, Tacony and Frankford Company. The Turnpike and the bridge over the Pennypack were widened to accommodate the trolley tracks and the road was macadamized. No longer a toll road, the toll house and gate were removed. The road was renamed Frankford Avenue.

      The First Three Arch Stone Bridge in America. The Pennypack Creek, so vital to the early settlers for energy, for contact, for transportation, and even survival, was an impediment to land travel by the King’s Highway. The Lenni-Lenape’s, as they visited their northern hunting grounds, had discovered the best place for wading the stream but William Penn found forging the Pennypack both wasteful of time and hazardous; horses slipped and fell, coaches became mired and passengers and riders were soaked. In one of his first official acts in 1683, Penn appealed to the English court at Upland asking that “an order be given for building a bridge over the Pennypack where the King’s Highway crossed it.” The order was given and the now famous bridge was completed in 1697. Native stone, hand hewn, was used in the construction. Local male residents under the leadership of Edward Duffield and Joseph Ashton supplied the labor. Each male resident was taxed paying either in money or its equivalent in labor. They did their work well, for the 265 year old three arch stone bridge, the first of its kind in America, still carries the daily traffic of a busy highway now called Frankford Avenue.

      In 1970, the bridge earned an award by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Philadelphia Section, as an outstanding engineering achievement. With fitting ceremony, a bronze plaque was placed in the western parapet of the bridge.

      Lower Dublin Academy. Despite the simplicity of the building as built in 1723, Lower Dublin Academy fulfilled its role independently for the next seventy years. In 1794 the school was incorporated by the Pennsylvania State Legislature which provided for a twelve-member Board of Trustees to oversee its management. At this time, plans were set in motion for a new building, which was completed in 1808. The trustees, mostly men from Holmesburg, showed amazing educational insight as revealed in the minutes covering 100 years of Board meetings. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia city government was expanding in 1828 to include a Controller of Public Schools, the first being Benjamin F. Crispin.

      When the Controller of Public Schools approached the Trustees in 1846 about relinquishing control of the Academy, the Trustees saw it as a means of improving the quality of education. The Controller assumed control of the educational aspects while the Trustees kept the building in repair and continued to manage the accumulated funds. With consolidation of the city and county in 1854, the building, too, was turned over to the Controller of Public Schools. Changing the name of the school quite fittingly to the Thomas Holme Public School, the Trustees continued as a corporate body, managing the money accumulated with great skill.

      In 1867, the Trustees were in a financial position to sponsor a Library Association for Holmesburg, feeling that this was an appropriate way to carry out Thomas Holme’s desire to appropriate a sum of money for the educational good of the community. A room in the Athenaeum was fitted out as a Library and Reading Room, a librarian was appointed, and a building sign informed the public of this added function of the Athenaeum, as did a series of advertisements in the Holmesburg Gazette in 1868. The first librarian, J. Edgar Morrison, son of the first tinsmith in Holmesburg, received $12.50 a month for his services, the same amount paid to the janitor. The next cultural boost came when the Trustees saw increased advantage in becoming part of the newly formed Free Library of Philadelphia. The sign on the Athenaeum soon was changed to read “The Thomas Holme Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia”.

      At this time, industrialist Andrew Carnegie began to promote free libraries in Pennsylvania. To take advantage of this philanthropy, a community would have to provide the ground and Carnegie would put up the building. Lower Dublin Academy Trustees, through their prudence, were able to buy the necessary ground. And so the Holmesburg landscape in 1906 was enhanced by a handsome building at Hartel and Frankford Avenue to be known as the Thomas Holme Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. And the Lower Dublin Trustees, faithful to their trust, made a further investment by purchasing an adjoining piece of ground that further enhanced the building. The Trustees’ involvement, however, was not complete. The group, the oldest corporate body in America (established in 1794) continued to use income generated by Thomas Holme’s 1694 will for the “educational benefit of the community” by annually giving money for the purchase of books to the Thomas Holme Branch Library, now known as the Holmesburg Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

      Edwin Forrest Home. The grounds of the old 1697 Grist Mill on the Pennypack passed through several hands on the mid 19th century. Edwin Forrest, America’s greatest Shakespearean actor of the 1800s, purchased the property intending to use it as a free cultural center for the residents of the community. He wanted to offer drama and art classes, develop the land as a community park and most importantly, provide a free residence for retired actors and actresses. Edwin Forrest died before he could fully develop his plans, but his executors diligently fulfilled his wishes for the home.

      The first resident moved in in 1874 and from then until 1927, the residents were part of the Holmesburg community. With good reason, the trustees decided to sell to a developer in what became the Northeast Building Boom. The residents were amply provided for in suitable surroundings. Several schools, streets, houses, banks and stores, not to mention the Mayfair Diner, now stand on the former grounds of the Forrest Home.   



   The interviews were conducted by Mrs. Anna Marie Bucci’s Mentally Gifted Third Grade class at the Joseph H. Brown School.  


Interview with Mrs. (Yoho) Gross

by Abigail Rreikow and Kristi Strawbridge

       Editor’s Note: Mrs. Gross is now living in Ocean City, New Jersey, and could not come to Philadelphia for an interview. However, rather than miss her valuable contribution, the interview was done by mail.

       The Edwin Forrest Home was a home for retired Shakespearean actors and actresses. I was not a resident of the home, I was the daughter of the superintendent of the grounds and many other things. We had a separate residence on the grounds. I went there with my parents when I was one year old. These are the memories of a seven year old girl who lived there from 1916 to 1923.

      The Forrest Home grounds began near Cottman Street — went all the way along Frankford Avenue, almost to present day Sheffield Avenue. Then back to Torresdale Avenue. The front of the home faced the Delaware River, which you could see from an upstairs veranda.

      The grounds were beautiful — fruit trees, little streams about, with watercress growing. Formal paths all led into a huge circle. Roses, raspberries, gooseberries, and almost any flower you could name, bloomed there. Also a vegetable garden and grape arbors with huge bunches of grapes was located in the rear, near Frankford Avenue.

      I had this wondrous place to wander in whenever and wherever I pleased. Each day I made new discoveries.

      All the actors and actresses were my friends. I walked with them and talked with them and shared the beauties of the home.

      I was allowed to go into the home anytime I wished. I especially enjoyed the library, and, of course the kitchen, where Emma the cook ruled.

      Daddy! Daddy! It’s time to go and see if the purple crocuses are out yet. They are nestled in the leaves, under the window of the library; where the knight in armor stands on guard over the books.

      The bronze busts and marble statues are of Shakespearean characters, artists of days gone by.

      In the next room, I can see the beautiful dining room where all the residents eat their meals: the ladies in silks and laces; the gentlemen in dark impressive suits with stiff collars and flowing ties. The furniture is impressive, too. Mahogany sideboards with large fruits carved by the hand of a craftsman and serving tables and tea carts with silver pots and sparkling cut glass.

      I can see Emma in the kitchen busy as ever. (She always made me think of the picture on Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Flour.) Later, I will go around to the kitchen door, give a little tap, and Emma will say, “Come in little girl.”

      Delicious smells are the fascination of this kitchen. Many a corn muffin and large round cookies with icing on top I have had there. Then a tall glass of lemonade. With a pat Emma would send me on my way, down the tan gravel path where Daddy was working under the Ginko tree. I always loved this tree. The leaves were like little fans. We go down the path to the carriage house.

      Daddy goes on, and I enter the dark building. The Black shiny carriage awaits its trip on Sunday, when it takes some of the actors and actresses to St. Dominic’s Church on Frankford Avenue. Emmet, my Dad’s helper, will don his high black hat and black coat for the trip.

      Then he will get Ned the horse into his harness, drive around to the back entrance of the home and pick up his passengers in all their Sunday finery. I stay awhile to climb up into the carriage. Dreams of a trip to Fairyland come to my head.

      Then my thoughts fly back to the time Houdini visited the home. I was so excited to see his entourage enter the driveway between the huge brownstone pillars. The iron gates were already open for him. Houdini had a car not a carriage. He was all dressed in black-black cape and hat with a wide brim. I will always remember that day.

      Each year on Edwin Forrest’s birthday, there was a huge party. Guests and sponsors all came in carriages and chauffeur-driven cars. The party was held on the front lawn of the home facing the Delaware River. They had all sorts of entertainment. I was happy and delighted to be part of it.

      My very best friends of the home were there: Amy Lee, Percy Plunket and Mrs. Stone, and they cheered me on. They were my dearest friends at the home.

      Amy Lee gave me lovely things. She had trunks of old stage costumes in the storeroom. She gave me purple shoes and purple silk stockings, old purses and costume jewelry, trinkets and pink net skirts.

      Mrs. Stone was blind and a sweet, dear lady. I always took her to the garden to smell the sweet briar roses. Mrs. Stone’s room smelled of camphor balls. She would open her drawer and give me little bits of candy. I used to tell her I liked them, but then I’d slip them into my pocket.

      I did do naughty things once in a while. The roses would just be showing a little color, and I would peel the green part off so it would be all pink. I forgot to tell you Amy Lee used to eat the gooseberries in the garden, and horror of all horrors expectorate the skins on Dad’s perfect paths. It was a beautiful formal garden, and everything had to be perfect. When I rode my tricycle, I would not dare to go on the perfect edges.

      Percy Plunket used to sit on one of the benches at the lower gate where I would visit him. He always was dressed formally. He looked like he was going to a party — striped trousers, black coat, flowing tie. His snow white hair was flowing and he looked truly like the Shakespearean actor that he was. In the woods beyond the front of the home white violets grew.

      A little back in the woods was a grave where one of the actors was buried. It was his wish that he be buried there. Each spring I would gather a bunch of the white violets and some May apple blossoms and place them on his grave. No one ever seemed to bother, and I thought he might like that. Later on I was told, or heard, he had been on stage when Abraham Lincoln was shot.

      I have been here too long and I must go see what Daddy is doing. I pass my favorite Trumpet Vine. It will soon show its lovely long red flowers with their frilly tops — one for each finger and then behold you turn into a little imp.

      Dad is upstairs in the barn laying bundles of hay into piles. Then they will be tied with string and made into mats to cover the hot beds in the winter.

       All the lovely plants are kept there, Callo lilies, ferns and violets. Geranium slips are put in and by spring are a mass of red and pink.

      The hot bed is a long one. It starts at knee height and increases at the end to over your head. It smells delicious, earthy and filled with the fragrance of the flowers.

      It’s getting late and time to go to our home, located on the grounds of the home. It’s a lovely house, with cozy rooms and windows with diamond shaped panes. The big black stove in the kitchen welcomes us. It is large, shiny, and polished everyday.

      At night we sit around the table. I with my homework and my dad with his seed catalog. We see by a large oil lamp. No electricity yet, that will come later.

      My mother is not there; she died a little while ago. We miss her so. She was only thirty-six years old. Also, my little brother went away a little before she did. He had Spinal Meningitis. My older sister is away at night school. She is nine years older than Jam.

      My dad and I talk a little. We reminisce about the time the Gypsies came down Frankford Avenue and into our orchard and thought they’d found a lovely place for their wagons. Dad of course went immediately and told them they could not stay. He did allow them to stay overnight and also gather some fruit.

      They were fascinating with their bright and colorful clothes and their long and dangling earrings. They looked like bright gold to me, but they probably weren’t.

      When I was seven years old, we left the Forrest Home. The residents were moved to a new location. The home and the grounds had been sold to a builder for construction of new homes. All that beauty lost and forsaken. Where the Forrest Home once stood are hundreds of houses and dozens of streets and stores.

      The residents went to an old mansion on Solly Avenue. Then later on they moved to West Philadelphia.

      Well, soon time to say good night and go to bed. I’ll dream of gypsies and this wondrous place, the Edwin Forrest Home.


                                                                     Grace Gross   

Interview with Mrs. Lillian Holmes.

by Franceen Wishnow

      We interviewed Mrs. Lillian Holmes. She grew up in Holmesburg, so did her mother. Mrs. Holmes attended Brown School. Since then, school has changed especially about punishment. The teacher used to make the troublesome children stand in the cloak closet, now troublesome pupils are given detentions or suspensions. When Lillian was my age, her favorite activity was to play jacks and jump rope. She was expected to clean her room, care for her brothers and wash dishes as chores for her family. Lillian told us that people in Holmesburg used to hang their clothes on a yard line to dry. There used to be fire alarm boxes on street corners. She told us that Holmesburg used to be part of the country side. She also told us that Holmesburg used to have street cleaners who would clean sidewalks on the Main Street.

      Lillian retired from her job at the Navy Depot in 1981. She is still busy, however, helping care for her 93-year-old mother and visiting other relatives who live in nursing homes. Lillian likes to help people. Lillian’s grandfather, Mr. Howard Smith, also liked to help others. He had friends all over Holmesburg because of his fine spirit. He was a valued neighbor of Mrs. Maclntyre’s father, Mr. George Morrison. The Morrison property is where Mt. Zion Baptist Church stands today. It was large enough for a big vegetable garden. Mr. Smith used Mr. Morrison’s ground and both families shared the vegetables produced. Mr. Smith is no longer living but old time Holmesburg residents remember him. It was people like Lillian’s grandfather that made Holmesburg a nice place to live.  


Interview with Mrs. Dorothy Morrison Maclntyre

by John J. Clancy III, Joel Marks, Zachary Craig, Meagan Voss, Laura Burlingame, and Jason Emberger

      We were happy to interview Mrs. Maclntyre. Not only was she brought up in Holmesburg, but her father was born there as well. Her grandfather, Mr. John W. Morrison, had the first tinsmithing business in Holmesburg. His residence and shop were on Frankford Avenue next to the mansion of community leader Mr. Joseph H. Brown.

      As a young child, Mrs. Maclntyre lived in a large house where Mt. Zion Baptist Church stands today. Mrs. Maclntyre attended the old J. H. Brown School. It was

interesting to learn that students used to dance during recess, but now students do other activities.

      When Mrs. Maclntyre was our age, her favorite game was Red Light, Green Light. She also enjoyed picking flowers near her home. Mrs. Maclntyre played with wooden dolls that her dad made. She was expected to dust as a chore for her family. Mrs. Maclntyre told us that when she was a youngster, the movies (silent, black and white) only cost 10 cents. It was interesting to learn about “cliff hangers” and how exciting it must have been. They were shown in an outdoor movie on Frankford Avenue near Rhawn Street. The movies were on Saturday night only. If it had rained during the day, local boys were “hired” to wipe water from the benches before the movie began. For their pay, they saw the movie for free.  


Interview with Miss Anna Hall and Miss Eleanor Hall

by Zachary Craig, Jason Ernberger, Matthew Jurldewicz, Richard Anderson, Stephen Bates, Najah Mumin and Meagan Voss

      We had a rare treat on May 25, 1993 when Miss Anna Hall and her sister, Miss Eleanor Hall, visited our MG3 class for an interview. They brought a collection of snapshots taken in Pennypack Park in the 1920s. The pictures showed one of the past times enjoyed in Holmesburg - boating on Pennypack Creek. There was plenty of water in the creek at that time. A few residents had boat houses for storing the boats and gear.

      The Hall sisters live in the house they have lived in all of their lives and where other members of their family lived before them. The house is on one of the most famous streets in Holmesburg, Crispin Street named for descendants of Thomas Holme, William Penn’s Surveyor-General. Crispin Street kept its rural quality for many years. Until recently there were no sidewalks and across from the Hall house there was a working farm from Rhawn to Welsh Road and from Crispin to Craig Street now there are rows of houses.

      The Hall sisters attended the old J. H. Brown School that did not have the conveniences of the present building. They mentioned that the bath rooms were in a separate building. The school was built of Holmesburg granite but the inside was not fire proof. The wooden stairs creaked when walked upon.

       Girls wore dresses to school and there were made at home by an aunt of the Hall girls. “Designer” clothes were not known then.

      Both sisters are retired now and enjoy taking care of their property, which includes some gardening. Any digging they do is done with a spade manufactured at the famous Rowland Shovel and Spade Works on Pennypack Creek. They’re lucky to have one of those shovels.

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