Category Archives: Snapshots of History

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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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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Andrew Eastwick: Savior of Bartram’s Garden

  Famed Bartram’s Garden, homestead of Philadelphia’s 18th century botanist John Bartram, is going through a renaissance today. The gardens are lushly planted and the main buildings restored.  The parking lot is full on warm summer Saturdays. New bike trails connect this pastoral sanctuary to Center City and University City.  The renovated barn offers programs […]
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The Derham Body Company: Dignified Simplicity on Four Wheels

The so-called annual model change (also known as “planned obsolesce”) dates back to the 1920s, when General Motors transformed automobile styling from an afterthought into high fashion.   Dazzling new body styles, vibrant colors, and powerful engines enticed the aspiring American middle class, who began going into debt to buy a lifestyle accessory rather than a […]
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Coleman Sellers, Powelton Village, and The Gilded Age” (Part I)

While ‘The Gilded Age’ commercial obstacle course 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 […]
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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 kids bounce house era guys,” Joe Sweeney said of the men who would become his coaches and had grown up hauling kegs around. “They used […]
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Joe Sweeney: Legend of Boathouse Row (Part III)

After that rough introduction the to LaSalle rowing program, Joe kids bounce house 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 […]
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