Author Archives: Steven Ujifusa

The Rittenhouse Club: Henry James’ Favorite Perch

Only the discreet letters “RC” on the brass doorplates identify 1811 Walnut Street as the former home of one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious clubs. The Beaux-Arts facade remains, but the building behind it is gone. Paneling from the club still survives in the bar of Rex 1516 restaurant on South Street. The remaining furniture — […]
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Powelton Avenue: The First Stop on the Main Line?

Footage of the last steam trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad, 1954. For those who regularly ride the Main Line trains: have you ever wondered why there are no stops between 30th Street Station and Overbrook?  After Overbrook, however, the train stops nearly every two minutes. There’s an old  – and very politically incorrect — mnemonic device […]
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The Quaker City and the Second Empire

In 1851, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte had the audacity — some might say hubris — to crown himself Emperor of France, just as his uncle had done half a century earlier.  He took the title of Napoleon III. French progressives such as author Victor Hugo despaired.  They had just overthrown another king — this time the bumbling, […]
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West Philadelphia Italianate

According to The Architectural Review of 1870, an Italianate home was a friendly structure, an anti-castle of sorts: “The Italian style is well adapted to many parts of our country, and is known by the absence of acute gables, buttresses, embattlements, and clustered columns. Instead of these are found: the hip-roof; in place of the […]
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The Wreck of the “Governor Ames”

On December 9, 1909, the lumber schooner Governor Ames set sail from Brunswick, Georgia on a routine coasting voyage to New York. Onboard were 14 souls, including Captain King and his wife. Lashed onto her upper deck was a cargo of freshly cut railroad ties, most likely headed for the New York Central Railroad’s supply […]
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Nicholas Biddle, Philadelphia Hellenophile

Before he locked horns with President Andrew Jackson over the fate of the “many headed monster” (a.k.a. The Second Bank of the United States), banker Nicholas Biddle fancied himself something of a poet and aesthete.  Born to wealth and blessed with brilliance, Biddle graduated from Princeton University — at the head of his class — […]
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Say “Hallo” to Bart King, the Kingsessing Cricketer

A slice of England in West Philadelphia? There was once a “Sherwood Forest” — a grove of trees that stood at the intersection of 58th Street and Baltimore Avenue. Nearby was the Belmont Cricket Club at the intersection of  S. 50th Street and Chester Avenue, which for a few short years competed against the still-extant […]
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Trolley Barns and Grand Hotels: A Brief Look at the Widener Empire (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of “Trolley Barns and Grand Hotels.” Part I can be viewed here. The Philadelphia Traction Company, founded by Widener and his business partner William Lukens Elkins (1832-1903), held an iron-grip on the city’s horse drawn and electric trolleys.  As a monopolist, Widener not only sold transportation, but he also sold dreams […]
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“Doctor, Dear Doctor!”: Echoes from the Mask and Wig Club, Part III

This is the final article in the series “Echoes from the Mask and Wig.” Click to read Part I and Part II.   Doctor, Dear Doctor! premiered at Philadelphia’s Shubert Theater in November 1951. Grandpa and his fellow scriptwriters apparently left Moliere’s original plot alone, as the gags about the dimwitted, dissolute woodchopper Sganarelle turned doctor proved […]
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“I Live the Life I Love” – Echoes from the Mask and Wig (Part II)

Note: this is a sequel to “Echoes from the Mask and Wig” published on May 2.  Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from Don Fisher, who graduated from Penn in 1975 and was sort of a Tommy Lee Jones type: as an undergraduate, he balanced working on the Mask and Wig crew/ business staff […]
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