Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

IMG_2954Philadelphia Hiking Meetup Group sponsored a tour of West Philadelphia that focused on African-American historic sites. The organizer, Jed McKee, plans hikes that are transit friendly and is one of the reasons I selected this walk. The tour began at 30th Street Station, which is a hub of the rail lines, including Amtrak and Septa, that go in and out of Philadelphia.

Our group met under the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 39-foot monument commemorating the Pennsylvania Railroad employees who died in World War II. The bronze sculpture, Angel of the Resurrection, represents Michael the Archangel raising up a dead soldier out of the “flames of war.” Assistant Organizer, Scott Maits, our guide and local historian, began his commentary with a history of the station and of early Philadelphia.

As Scott led us west along Market Street, crossing under the freight train tracks, he told us the story of Frances Harper, who protested segregation on the trolleys in 1858.  Frances refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car. Frances, an abolitionist, was also a writer and poet, author of the poem, “Bury Me In A Free Land,”

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

We crossed through the campus of Drexel University into the area known as Black Bottom, a predominantly African-American community that was almost completely destroyed in the 1960s for “urban renewal.” Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, and Presbyterian Hospital worked together to acquire properties for eventual demolition.

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Scott gave us an opportunity to view the facilities of the Community Education Center, that once housed the Quaker Friends School and Meetinghouse, rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. Local community members founded the CEC “to promote shared experiences and nurture fellowship among its varied neighborhoods across cultural and economic differences.”  The Center supports local community art programs, especially dance and performance.

IMG_2970

The neighborhood varied from grand mansions to row homes.

Dupree Studios just won their long battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA); the agency has ended condemnation proceedings to acquire the property by eminent domain.

IMG_2975

We walked along Lancaster Avenue, originally called the Lincoln Highway, finding these wonderful moments along the way.

Hall Rennovation

Lovely old building needing funding to restore to former glory,

IMG_2983

Inspection Station with mural and mosaics.

Included this photograph of CBM Tires because I like old gas stations!

IMG_2992

Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Shop with clever display of wheels and gears. Can’t find anything like this at the mall.

Belmont Mural

Welcome to Belmont Mural

Lava Space Mural

Murals on Lancaster Avenue/Lava Zone Mural

Martin Luther King Mural

40th Street and Lancaster Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. mural. Mural recreates “Freedom Now” Rally held on August 3, 1965, during the Civil Rights movement.

Our last stop was at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue, 42nd Street, and Brown Street, near the New Africa Center Muslim-American Museum, before heading back to 30th Street via Number 10 trolley.

IMG_2982The contrasts on Lancaster Avenue are striking: blighted stretches of store fronts and sidewalks in desperate need of cleaning juxtapose with the creative art displays, both public and private. Derelict buildings stand next to colorful sidewalk mosaics. After years of economic decline, revitalizing the neighborhood is a challenging task: to create a prosperous commercial corridor while preserving and encouraging a mixed-income community.

Extended thanks to Jed McKee and Scott Maits for giving our Meet Up group an opportunity to visit and to learn about the history of this important Philadelphia neighborhood.

Photo Walk through Port Richmond, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Photo League sponsored a photo walk, “Meandering with Mike, Port Richmond Edition”; a quote describing the stroll enticed me to sign up:

To Meander : following a winding course: a meandering lane. Proceeding in a convoluted or undirected fashion

“Proceeding in a convoluted fashion,” what an exciting way to learn about that section of the city! Port Richmond lies about a mile north of center city Philadelphia between the neighborhoods of Fishtown and Bridesboro. Along with Kensington and Olde Richmond, these towns are collectively known as the River Wards as the Delaware River flows along their eastern borders.

IMG_2616

Philadelphia from the Delaware River, across from River Wards

As we strolled through the neighborhoods, we came across this mural, which embodies iconic Americana images: flag, dog walking, baseball, church, children on bicycles, scenes we viewed as we wandered through the lanes of the city. My eye was drawn to the image of a clipper ship in the left corner because of my fondness for sailing vessels.

IMG_1239

I checked The Port and City of Philadelphia, published 1912,  and found the following photograph:

Star Clipper Newsletter

Just south of Lehigh Avenue, Cramps & Sons opened a shipbuilding business in 1830 and was still operating 70 years later. In the 1850s the shipyard built clipper ships and later transitioned to steam-driven ships of the 1870s.

Trains and Tracks Define a Neighborhood

In May of 2015 Port Richmond made international news for the fatal derailment of an Amtrak train. In 1942 another train derailment on the curved section of tracks killed 79 and injured 117. In April of 2014 a minor train derailment of cars carrying acetone caused a major traffic jam. On the following day, protesters marched outside of Philadelphia Energy Systems demanding safety checks that would protect the community. For residents, stories of train derailment and leaky tank cars tell an important part of the history of the area.

Train tracks cut right through the center of this neighborhood. Huge embankments support the tracks. Tunnels that connect the two sides of the town are longer than several football fields. We entered one of the dark underpasses, which felt like a “no man’s land” of steel and concrete. Trash littered the sidewalk and street. The remains of a television set were scattered over the curb, as if someone had tossed it from a vehicle. Most of us took pictures of the shattered TV, but I’m not sure why. On the other side of the underpass, I climbed up one of the embankments for a picture of the black tank cars coupled together.

Photographers Invade the Port

I was lucky to hitch a ride to our destination with fellow photographer Annette. From Route 95, we got off at Exit 23 after City Hall. We drove down the main thoroughfare, Lehigh Avenue, only to be perplexed by the parking situation. On the right side of the road, the parking slots were angled in the opposite direction! We had to circle around a second time before we noticed the sign that read: Back into the parking spots.

We found our leader, Mike Klusek, and fellow photographers at the Green Rock Tavern, a small neighborhood corner pub that has retained the original bar counter and tin ceiling. Bottles of spirits were shelved in mirrored cabinets. A chalkboard listed the menu items for the day, and regulars sat on the stools, conversing with the bartender.

Cameras ready, we strolled down the wide sidewalk to the PortSide Art Center, decorated in a brightly-colored underwater sea motif with fish and other creatures created from glass. We walked under the Lehigh Viaduct and along the working class neighborhoods of neatly kept row houses, some with marble steps. Each home reflected their owner’s preferences for patriotic fervor, political statements or just flower boxes. Flowers and hedges filled the back yard landscapes. Irish and Polish taverns and eateries stood on corner locations, and grand churches occupied center blocks.

Folks were friendly toward our band of photographers, sometimes approaching us with questions or comments, and were agreeable to being snapped in a photograph.

IMG_1224

A History of Immigration: Polish and Lithuanian Heritage

When immigration was at its peak in Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century, Polish people settled in Port Richmond. They built Saint Adalbert Church that reflects the Polish Cathedral architecture, heavy in ornamentation from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Immigrants from Poland continue to make this neighborhood their home.

We stopped in a Polish grocery store, and I bought Chruschiki, traditional, fried cookies. A number of restaurants and stores in the area of Allegheny Avenue cater to the Polish-American community. The Krakus Market on Richmond Street offers a large choice of Polish foods, including a variety of kielbasy, Polish newspapers and pastries. I bought several bottles of mustard made in Poland.

Lithuanians, who have historically been linked with the Polish nation, hold their festivals and dances as well as catered affairs for the community, at the Lithuanian Dance Hall, now the home of the Theatre Company of Port Richmond, a community theater company.

Two More Stops

An ornate wrought iron archway decorated the entrance to Campbell’s Square, a shady park where children played ball and folks walked their dogs. Special community events take place in the plaza, and Polish American String Band, award-winner in the annual Mummers Day Parade, holds regular concerts for the residents. The community is proud of their park and have created a Facebook page, announcing how volunteers can participate in cleanups and garden work, a true measure of the commitment to their neighborhood.

IMG_1246

We stopped in Port Richmond Books, which houses a 200,000 collection of books, newspapers, magazines and records. The store occupies a century-old former movie theater. They have renovated the façade but it is still possible to see the original footprint of the theater.

After our walk, we returned to the Green Rock Tavern for dinner: home-made potato and cheese pierogi with a side of sauerkraut, delicious especially after a long walk!

I hope to visit to Port Richmond again, to sample more of the home-cooked Polish food and to explore along the Delaware river, especially the Port Richmond trail.

600_437818518

Skyline of Philadelphia peeks over Port Richmond. Photo credit: Annette Newman, a.new.photos.

Many thanks to Mike for his informative history of the area and photographic suggestions.

Links

Port Richmond: A Taste of Poland
Town by Town: Port Richmond is Getting Younger
Port Richmond’s Sidewalks May Be Clean, But The Air Is Dirty

Image

Broken beyond Repair?

A good novel captures the imagination, and I attempted create a scene from a book into a sculpture project.

Working with porcelain, I carved the clay into the shape of a book and then created a scene from Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece, Moby Dick. As the piece air-dried, I had to fix and fix again the clay cracking along the sides but finally stabilized the splitting. Unfortunately, when it came out of the kiln, the book had nearly broken in two with a quarter-inch gap across the front. A corner had fallen off, and the sides had split and warped in several sections. Still, I set to work to see if I could make repairs. With glue, paint and glaze I began the patching process thinking that, in the end, this is not going to work.

Cracks on the Underside

Cracks on the Underside of Moby Dick

Perseverance prevailed and the porcelain representation returned, however imperfect, to one piece.

Moby Dick4

Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Beyond Redemption?

A good novel so captures the imagination that I attempted to put that idea into a sculpture project.

Working with porcelain, I carved the clay into a book and then created a scene from Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece, Moby Dick. As the piece air-dried, I had to fix and fix again the clay cracking along the sides but finally stabilized the splitting. Unfortunately, when it came out of the kiln, the book had nearly broken in two with a quarter-inch gap across the front. A corner had fallen off, and sides had split and warped in several sections. Still, I set to work to see if I could make repairs. With glue, paint and glaze I began the patching process thinking that, in the end, this is not going to work.

Cracks on the Underside

Cracks on the Underside

Well, I’ll leave the question about redemption with you, in either case, the whale and Captain Ahab–or the sculpture.

 

Moby Dick4

Video

Old City Seaport Festival and Pirate Battle on the Delaware

Harking Back

IMG_4130The last time my sister, Jean, and I met pirates, we had just happened upon the Beaufort Pirate Invasion, taking place as we stepped into the battle scene a summer ago in the seaside village in North Carolina. We promised we would not let too much time go by before finding another similar event. The opportunity came along when the Independence Seaport Museum hosted its 2nd Annual Old City Seaport Festival, in a weekend-long celebration with music, crafts and Tall Ships, with a smattering of pirates. On the first evening, the festival began with the Parade of Boats as they came to port just below the Ben Franklin Bridge.

On the next evening, the AJ MeerwaldGazela Primiero Pride of Baltimore IIMystic Whaler Kalmar NyckelVirginia and Hindu were destined to clash in a pirate battle. We signed up to be aboard the Kalmar Nyckel. Built by the Dutch, the original ship dated back to around 1625. This flagship of Governor Minuit brought settlers to the New World, establishing the colony of New Sweden on the banks of the Christina River in 1638. An informative and lovely guidebook on the ship’s history is available on the web. The ship was rebuilt in Wilmington, Delaware, and commissioned in 1998. The Kalmar Nyckel is an example of a full-rigged type of pinnance, which is a kind of boat, generally modest in size, that was used either as a merchant vessel or small warship. Pirates prized these ships because they had maneuverability through rugged coastlines and good speed to outrun any vessel that might be in pursuit.

200px-Treasure_Island-Scribner's-1911

Cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth from 1911, Wikipedia

There is a degree of authenticity to a pirate battle. Mostly what we learn about pirates is from movies and television, while authentic history has been sorely neglected. My first introduction to pirates came through Treasure Island, a novel by Robert Lewis Stevenson, which popularized many of the associations with pirates, such as treasure maps, parrots, and the familiar ballad,

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest— Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest— Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

A quick search into a few authoritative sources reveals the extent that colonial villages were affected by the onslaught and fear of attack from both foreign pirates, truly a multi-national representation including the French, Spanish, Dutch and English, as well as the local variety, with the first raid recorded in Lewes, Delaware, back in 1672. Seems that Blackbeard also frequented the Delaware, as he supposedly stopped into the many taverns along the waterway.

Wench Wear?

Jean had this idea that since we were going to be onboard during a pirate battle, we should dress the part. We cobbled together costumes from outfits in our closets (wardrobes should always include a few whimsical pieces when transformations are called for), and we were ll set to go with Jean’s orange and black-stripped socks and my hat, replete with feathers. Did we look like real pirates? . . . oh, not a chance, but maybe we could have fit in with Pirates of the Caribbean crew.

We took the train into center city and headed down toward Penn’s Landing. We shook our heads as we passed the closed and shuttered Constitution Center, thanks to those idiots in Congress, the scourges of the seven seas, who shut down the government. By chance, we happened to run into my son, John, who was participating in a demonstration against Monsanto, taking place just across from the Constitution Center. Activists had designated October 12 as International Day of Protest against the company because of questions around food safety. Fellow WordPress blogger, Jeff Nguyen, has written an excellent post on Agent Orange and Monsanto.

IMG_4780

After bidding John adieu, we continued walking to the Seaport Museum. The wind whipped around the buildings as we approached the Delaware River, were we could see white caps on the churning waters. I thought back to a sail on the Amistad, which had to be postponed because of high winds and wondered if the battle would take place. We walked along the pier where vendors were selling everything from jewelry to “wench wear.” Several organizations had also set up information booths, and we spoke with members of the Steamship Historical Society of America.

IMG_4842

Shiver Me Timbers! Striped Socks Spikes a Spirited Sentiment!

A green tug boat had been tied to the pier, and visitors were encouraged to tour the tug. Once powered by steam, the boat now runs on diesel fuel. We checked out the kitchen, boiler room, living quarters and bridge, and rang the brass bell. We were welcomed us onboard, with one of the crew distracted by Jean’s footwear, declaring, “I’m turned on by those socks!  I’m old, I’m not dead!”

High Winds Scuttle the Voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel

The tall ships lined against the pier, but we were most excited to see the colorful Kalmar Nyckel. Parts of the boat had just been freshly painted, and we admired the detail work.

Kalmar Nickel

On either side of the ship, a carving of a dog rested on the railing, one eye open to the sea and closed to the inside.

Dog Kalmar Nickel

The winds were blowing wildly by this time, so we were not surprised when the crew told us there was little chance the ship would be part of the pirate battle as they could not negotiate the vessel away from the dock. Our plans were not cancelled, however, as the smaller boats were still scheduled to sail. The crew reassigned us to the Mystic Whaler, a late 19th century coastal cargo schooner, for our pirate adventure.

IMG_4850

A Bit of Shantying

Geoff Kaufman welcomed us onboard with songs of the sea. Accompanied by his concertina, an instrument made in England in the 1920s, Geoff offered a song for every activity on the schooner. He played songs that encouraged the crew to work in rhythm, and sang ballads for returning to port after the voyage. Geoff also sang old favorites, like “What to do with a Drunken Sailor,” with passengers joining in the song fest. Geoff’s music added to the rollicking motion of the ship. I wish I could have captured more music, but even my wind filter on the camera could not remove the sound the pounding gusts.

Ahoy, Me Hearties–the Battle Begins!

We buttoned our coats and secured our scarves as the schooner weighed anchor, sailing from the dock to face our opponents in battle. With the thunderous blasts of the cannon, the engagement was underway. The smaller schooners whipped through the water, cutting in front and back of the larger vessels. With Jolly Rogers fluttering, insults were hurled across the water. “You scurvy scallyways! Arrgh! We’ll have ye walking the plank! Someone on the A. J. Meerwald had the audacity to call us, “Dirty dogs!” Passengers joined the crew in hoisting the sails with a heave ho to Geoff’s rhythmic sea shanty. The battleship New Jersey and the Olympia, war ships from other eras, contributed their big guns to the melee.

Windblown, but throughly enraptured by the experience, we disembarked from the Mystic Whaler to the strains of “Leave Her.” We returned to our landlubber status, looking for a tavern to splice the main brace.

Ship and Sky

 

Links of Interest

Gentlemen of Fortune
The Tall Ships 
Tall Ships and Pirates (On Pinterest)
No Quarter Given
Ron Ossian’s Pirate Cove!
Schooner Wolf

Steam Train Journeys into History: Civil War Skirmish at Red Clay Creek

tower

A beautiful Fall day provided the backdrop for a journey into history on the Wilmington  & Western Line, which runs through the Red Clay Valley, a watershed area that includes just over fifty square miles from New Castle County, Delaware, to Chester County, Pennsylvania.  “Candy cane” lamps lined up along the platform of the historic Greenbank Station, painted in traditional cream and burgundy colors. A museum near the water tower displayed a model of an amusement park that brought visitors to the area back at the turn of the 20th Century and featured a collection of antique photographs and books of the railroad’s history.

Climbing the steps to board steam train, felt like stepping back in time. The wooden cars, painted royal blue with gold trim, each has its own unique history.  We sat on the benches of the converted open air coach, built in 1912 in Altoona and once part of the Pennsylvania commuter rail network. The train hissed and creaked as the locomotive chugged out of the station, the plaintive whistle sounding at the first crossing. The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia built the steam engine Number 58 in 1907 and in 1998 the engine was restored. The original route through the valley was laid out in the 1870s. We passed rolling hills, farms and woodlands, following the Red Clay Creek. We arrived at a waterfall and picnic grove where the Union solders and their families, dressed in period dress, strolled along the water’s edge.

Railroads played a significant role during the Civil War. The Jones-Imboden Raid against the B&O Railroad represented one of the largest movements of soldiers to a battlefront by way of the railroad. In June of 1861, Union Forces advanced by train from Falls Church, Virginia; Confederates fired artillery at the train near Vienna, making this the first time a train was engaged in warfare in American history.

The drama at Red Clay Creek unfolded as the Rebels, hiding in the woodlands, attacked the train with cannon and rifle fire. The Union forces poured out of the train, holding positions near the tracks.  At the outset the action seemed almost in slow motion because reloading rifles required that they insert each bullet one at time. While the Union held their line for a short time, Confederate reinforcements emerged from the forest, decimating the Union troops attempting to save the train. Passengers, becoming part of the play, fell under the command of the Confederates who boarded the train and occupied the coaches.

 

In Appreciation:
Confederate 
9th Virginia Cavalry, Company B
37th Regiment, North Carolina Troops, Company A
1st Regiment, North Carolina Artillery, Battery C

Union
2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry, Company G
71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company K

Special thanks to John Houck.

A Corner in West Mount Airy, Philadelphia

IMG_2295

Greene Street and Carpenter Lane

Taking a writing course offered at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore led me into a community in West Mount Airy at the corners of Greene and Carpenter Lane. Despite the bleak winter afternoon, the community offered a warm atmosphere as the little shops that lined the streets invited me to stop in to visit. In addition to taking a writing course, I had also enrolled in a photography class at an art center in my community, so I had brought my camera along, as our assignment was to look for new shapes and textures as subjects.

IMG_2275With a fondness for restoration, I couldn’t believe my luck stumbling onto the Philadelphia Salvage Company. Suitcases and trunks piled on what looked like an old railroad cart, and metal cans spilled into the sidewalk. But I didn’t linger too long in cold. Upon entering the building, I noticed  a cast iron stove, pumping warm air through the building, as a tea kettle spewed steam from its spout. I warmed my hands and looked around, mesmerized by the array of architectural salvage, from stained glass, plumbing and electrical fixtures, antique doors and windows. In a second life, I could be a picker, as I love all the old stuff in need of a fix-up.

The Salvage Company celebrates a doggie visitor as their “mascot of the day,”  and I understand that a sleepy cat sometimes occupies the front bench.

Tea Pot Frame

I found lots of subjects for my photography assignment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One subject seemed to deserve special attention: a shelf of different sized gears.  The photograph of those gears inspired this blog post, and three months later the photo won first place at the Community Arts Center!

Across the street from the Salvage Company, dogs waited patiently for their owners grabbing a bite to eat at the High Point Cafe. Chilled by the damp air, I stopped in for a cup of coffee. I was not disappointed as the coffee was excellent, in addition to their selection of pastries. The Cafe refers to their corner as a village and “are proud to be part of one.”

IMG_2289

One store down from the Cafe, the Nesting House specializes in selling new and used baby items “with an aim to uphold a mission of social and environmental stewardship.” They sell cloth diapers and used clothing. I found a little pair of shiny dress shoes for my great-niece.

IMG_1943

Crossing over to the corner, I opened the door to the Weavers Way Co-Op, and met with crowds waiting in line to make their purchases. Deli aroma filled the air, and signs advertised hot soup for sale by the cup. According to co-ops website, they sell products that are “local, sustainable, organic, fairly traded and healthful.” It’s a small, two-story compact space, and yet they had annual sales up to $14 million.

IMG_1945

A Huge Assortment of Bulk Items

I picked up some fresh vegetables and loaf of bread and headed to my destination, Big Blue Marble Bookstore. This store reminded me of the book shop restoration I had been part of years ago at Bindlestiff Books in West Philly. An independent book seller, the shop displayed a fantastic collection of children’s books and places for kids to sit and consider what they might buy. Toys and stuffed animals filled every corner. A cozy space, I lingered in the travel section before heading upstairs to my writing course. The store sponsors events including book clubs that can use their community space.

IMG_2171

The progressive leanings of this corner village come from a long history of neighborhood harmony. According to Wikipedia,

The area is recognized by many civil rights groups as one of the first successfully integrated neighborhoods in America. Mount Airy residents organized to resist blockbustingpanic selling, and redlining, especially during the period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s when those practices were prevalent. It continues to be a well-blended neighborhood and was recently cited in Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for its racial diversity and neighborhood appeal. The community has also been recognized by US News & World Report for racial harmony and balance.

The harmony in their neighborhood stands in contrast to what the big-box stores offer. In this post, Mystique of the Ole Fashioned General Store I compare the general store of years gone by, which served as a community anchor, with the big-box store of today, which, in contrast, offers little neighborhood involvement or esthetic appeal.  According to a study conducted by faculty at Penn State, big-box stores coincide with hate groups. Mount Airy demonstrates that progressive values provide the small-town American atmosphere we long for in this country. It’s as simple as having a welcoming street corner in your neighborhood.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: