Angora Mills and the Baptist Minister

 

West Philadelphia country road near Angora Mills, 58th and Baltimore Avenue, September 20, 1906.

Entrepreneurs George and Robert Callaghan built the Angora Mills complex in 1864, at the height of Civil War-fueled demand for army uniforms. Named after the Turkish city of Ankara (not the cat breed), it stood at the intersection of 60th Street and Baltimore Avenue (in today’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood) and sprawled over 52 acres.  Angora Mills include not just a steam-powered brick textile mill, but also 54 residences for 300 workers and their families, a stable, springhouse, coal yard, and an on-site Baptist church. A Hexamer survey conducted in 1888 also indicated that Angora Mills had 4 self-acting “mules” with 4,200 spindles, 36 spinning frames 180 spindles on each, a sprinkler system and cutting edge incandescent lighting. The Angora Mills “village,”although still within the city limits of Philadelphia, was set in an idyllic landscape of farms and groves of old growth trees.    There was also a private club nearby, the Sherwood Cricket Club, a rustic venue that catered to the mill’s employees during their precious leisure time.

All that changed in 1903, when Reverend Bernard MacMackin quietly took possession of Angora Mills at a sheriff’s sale. MacMackin paid $206,000.00 for the property, fronting $76,000 in cash and taking out mortgages to cover the balance.  The Philadelphia Inquirer scratched its head at the deal: Reverend MacMackin was a prominent Baptist minister who had no real business experience, but he also happened to be an in-law of the Callaghans.  When questioned about the deal, MacMackin “refused to discuss this phase of the purchase, saying it was a personal matter.” Although connected to Center City by an electric trolley line since the 1890s, the Market Street Elevated was under construction a few blocks north of Angora Mills, making Angora Mills ripe for subdivision. Within a few years of the sale, the site was cleared, sold, and developed into blocks of rowhouses.  The mill’s name lives on in the “Angora Terrace” neighborhood. The site of the adjoining Sherwood Cricket Club is the modern-day Sherwood Park.

Reverend MacMackin apparently profited from the deal: at his death in 1916, he left an estate worth over $200,000 (the modern-day equivalent to almost $3 million) to his family.

Sherwood Park, 58th and Baltimore, the former site of the Sherwood Cricket Club, November 11, 1939. Charles A. Lamb, photographer.

Sources:

“A Minister Buys Nearly All of Angora,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 1903.

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/25990534/may_5_1903/

“Angora Mills, Callaghan and Brother,” Hexamer General Surveys, Volume 23, Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.

http://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/view-image.cfm/HGSv23.2209-2210

Charles Alvin Jones, “MacMackin Estate, 51 A.2d 689 (Pa. 1947),” Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Court Listener, January 9, 1947.

https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/4089940/macmackin-estate/

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