Author Archives: Steven Ujifusa

The Old Rittenhouse Hotel: Have You Dined and Danced in ‘The Box’?

The original Rittenhouse Hotel was opened in 1893 on the 2200 block of Chestnut Street. Its designer was the now-forgotten Angus S. Wade.  Wade was a Yankee transplant, born in Montpelier, Vermont in 1868.  As a young man, he moved to Philadelphia to train in the studio of the highflying Willis Hale, the favorite architect […]
Posted in Behind the Scenes | 1 Comment

Mysterious Photos of the Comegys Mansion at 4203-4205 Walnut Street

The name of Benjamin Bartis Comegys (1819-1900) lives on in a West Philadelphia elementary school that bears his name.  However, a cursory Google search of the man reveals very little information aside from his obituary and funeral notice.    His father Cornelius P. Comegys served as governor of Delaware between 1837 and 1841.  His son […]
Posted in Neighborhoods, Snapshots of History | Leave a comment

Irving T. Catharine, Philadelphia’s School Design Czar

The buildings of Frank Furness and Louis Kahn are known world-wide. Yet below the architectural superstars were the work-a-day architects who made their livings designing prominent structures that still dot the city. These included department stores, theaters, police and fire stations, parish churches, and warehouse blocks.  These architects saw their business as a service, and […]
Posted in Historic Sites, Public Services, Snapshots of History | 1 Comment

Thomas Mitten’s 5200 Trolleys

In 1923, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT) placed an order for 135 double-end passenger cars and 385 single-end passenger cars from the J.G. Brill Company for their extensive web of trolley lines throughout the city.  According to the Electric City Trolley Museum Association, the PRT’s purchase represented the largest single order for surface passenger equipment […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“An Entirely Unsuitable Home” for the Free Library of Philadelphia

It’s shocking to imagine this ramshackle structure was the home of the Free Library of Philadelphia between 1895 and 1910.  The Free Library came into existence in 1891 thanks to efforts of Dr. William Pepper, a celebrated physician and provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Pepper used $225,000 of his  family’s money to start Philadelphia’s […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Greenwich Street Gas Explosion of 1941

At 5:00am on the evening of February 11, 1941, the residents of the 1100 block of Greenwich Street were all sound asleep in their snug two story row homes.  The surrounding neighborhood (today known as East Passyunk — a popular shopping and dining district) was a tight-knit, mostly Italian-American community, in which daily life revolved […]
Posted in Neighborhoods, Snapshots of History | Leave a comment

The Model T with the “Mother-in-Law” Seat

In the early 1900s, the government was not in the business of regulating car design and safety.  The only real government requirements when it came to owning one were license plates and registration.  Luxury cars of that era, especially European imports such as Mercedes and Napier, were so complicated to drive and service that most […]
Posted in Historic Sites, Snapshots of History | Leave a comment

Cigars with Frank Furness at 711 Locust Street

Reverend William Henry Furness (1802-1896), the minister of Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church, complained that Philadelphia’s architects should liberate themselves from the demure and boring “Quaker style…marble steps, and wooden shutters.”   Yet exuberant ornamentation was not only anathema to Philadelphia taste, but it was also expensive, even in the Victorian era of cheap labor.  Reverend Furness raised […]
Posted in Behind the Scenes, Historic Sites, Snapshots of History | 1 Comment

Angora Mills and the Baptist Minister

  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. […]
Posted in Behind the Scenes, Historic Sites, Neighborhoods, Snapshots of History | Leave a comment

A Philadelphia Firehouse Designed by the “Other” Philip Johnson

All our municipal governments are more or less bad. Philadelphia is simply the most corrupt and the most contented.” -Lincoln Steffens, 1903 The firehouse at intersection of Baltimore Avenue and 50th Street is a redbrick Flemish revival structure dating from the early 1900s.  In the days of coal-fired kitchen ranges and unreliable electrical wiring, a […]
Posted in Behind the Scenes, Historic Sites, Neighborhoods, Snapshots of History | Tagged | Leave a comment
  • Categories

  • Archives