Author Archives: Steven Ujifusa

The Mystery Church: St. Andrew’s Chapel of Spruce Hill

St. Andrew’s Chapel, one of Philadelphia’s finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture, is the  only quiet place on its tree-shaded block.  The locked building is surrounded by the bustle of the children attending the Penn Alexander School and the Parent Infant Center.  From the 1924 to 1974, this church was the centerpiece of the now-closed Philadelphia […]
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Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 2

“In an age in which the individual is merely a number to his employer, his bank, his insurance company and his government, humanizing influences are sadly needed. It is our belief that books and the libraries that make them available constitute one of the most powerful of these influences.” –Germantown Friends Free Library Annual Report, […]
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A Cursed Mansion in Belmont: The Rise and Fall of the Rorkes (Part 2)

During the hot summer of July 1900, Franklin Rorke was faced with mounting bills and a failing construction business. His new mansion at 41st and Ogden, an extravagant gift from his late father, had every modern convenience, and boasted mosaics, hardwood floors, marble trim, and onyx fireplaces, as well as a fully equipped stable in […]
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A Cursed Mansion in Belmont: The Rise and Fall of the Rorkes (Part 1)

In the 1890s, the self-made construction magnate Allen B. Rorke appeared to be living the Gilded Age dream.  Fame, fortune, social standing, and grand houses were all his.  He belonged to the Union League, the Masonic Order of the Odd Fellows, the Legion of Honor, and the Clover Club.  Among his construction clients were the […]
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Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 1

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18 Today, Germantown Friends School is well-known for its strong arts and theater programs.  Yet there was a time not too long ago when the school could not acquire fiction for its library.  The restriction lay was written into a type of ancient trust so common […]
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Apothecary Roses of Germantown

The Wyck mansion, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, is not just one of the oldest structures in the city, but is also home to the oldest surviving rose garden in the nation. The first section of the dwelling dates to 1690, when Germantown was a satellite of the new city of Phialdelphia. For […]
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The Autocrat and the Engineer (Part II)

As the capital of Imperial Russia, St. Petersburg was a city of many palaces.  Some belonged to the Romanov family, such as Peterhof, the Winter Palace, the Pavlovsk Palace, the Anichkov Palace, and Tsarskoe Selo.  Others belonged to wealthy Russian nobles, such as the Yusapov, Beloselskiy, and Stroganov clans. Many had been constructed in the 18th century, […]
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The Autocrat and the Engineer (Part I)

In view of the interest and importance at the present time of everything which relates to the development of railroading, it is well to remember what has been done in America to lay the foundations of the locomotive industry, and, therefore, we feel that it is desirable to recall the extent to which the design of the modern locomotive is […]
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Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 2

Part I of “Creating Community at the Powelton C0-op” A few years ago, Gwendolyn Bye, daughter of Friendship Co-op founders Jerry and Lois Bye, was thumbing through some old photos from her 1950s West Philadelphia childhood. When she came across a class picture from the Charles Drew Elementary School, which once stood on the 3700 […]
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Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 1

There were some kids who were mixed. There was some kids who were Jewish, and there were some white kids, too. But it never dawned on me as a child. I never knew the difference. I went to an all-black school for the first three years of my life, which was a block away. -Gwendolyn […]
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