Category Archives: Snapshots of History

Coleman Sellers, Powelton Village, and The Gilded Age” (Part I)

While ‘The Gilded Age’ touches on many themes as it shifts uncomfortably between melodrama and satire, occasionally verging into burlesque, it always projects a powerful message about the futility and self-destructiveness of chasing after riches. -R. Kent Rasmussen Now divided into apartments, 3301 Baring Street is an imposing Italianate style mansion completed in 1857 for […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part IV)

When the Penn AC Olympians came back to Depression-era Philadelphia, they got jobs as builders and beer salesmen. Beer gave them their wages and also their strength.   “These were Depression era guys,” Joe Sweeney said of the men who would become his coaches and had grown up hauling kegs around. “They used to take the […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part III)

After that rough introduction the to LaSalle rowing program, Joe Sweeney did come back to Crescent, again and again. He discovered that coaches Joe Dougherty and Tom “Bear” Curran were not just founts of rowing wisdom, but also had some remarkable rowing stories from their younger days. One of Joe Sweeney’s favorites was the story […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part II)

After spending several years in the Navy, Joe Sweeney came back to Philadelphia in the late 1950s to go to college on the GI Bill. His widowed mother continued to work as a nurse, rising to become the head of Student Health Services at the University of Pennsylvania. The day he started his freshman year […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part I)

Gray, lanky, and serene-faced, Joe Sweeney is now 80 years old.  The former Commodore of the Schuylkill Navy grew up in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. His father was a prominent physician at Pennsylvania General Hospital, his mother a nurse.  His mother, born into a well-to-do North Carolina family, converted to her husband’s […]
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Campo’s Delicatessen and Our Lady of Loreto (Part II)

To read Part I, click here.  In the 1930s, Ferdinando’s son young Ambrose went to work at his uncle’s butcher’s shop in South Philadelphia, which he would eventually take over. Because few families owned cars during the lean years of the Great Depression, most Philadelphians still shopped for food in their neighborhoods, bringing home only […]
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Jack Thayer’s Demons: A Philadelphia Survivor’s Tale

“There was peace and the world had an even tenor to its way. Nothing was revealed in the morning the trend of which was not known the night before. It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event that not only made the world rub it’s eyes and awake, but woke […]
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Philadelphia’s Central High School in Perspective (Part 2)

This past January, I spent an hour speaking with Ron Donatucci, a native South Philadelphian and long-time Register of Wills. He has been a fixture at City Hall for the past three thirty-five years.    Before that, he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a Democratic ward leader, and a lawyer in […]
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Philadelphia’s Central High School in Perspective

The effort of a free people to provide for the education of their children as a necessity for the maintenance of the their political institutions makes a story of interest and importance. Especially is this true when the movement meets with criticism and opposition, when its leaders are hampered by the absence of any general […]
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The PRT and the Upwardly-Mobile Bricker Family

My fiancee and I have just purchased a c.1905 twin house in the Cedar Park section of West Philadelphia.  It is a typical house for what was originally an upper-middle class streetcar neighborhood (according to the National Register of Historic Places, West Philadelphia contains America’s largest intact collection of Victorian housing stock): three stories (four […]
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