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The site on which 2100 Hamilton is soon to be finished has a short history: the site was part of Springetsbury Manor and then railroad tracks. The tracks were surface tracks on Pennsylvania Avenue from 1832 to 1898 before being submerged into a mostly open subway.
Portion of 1787 map showing the Springetsbury estate. The blue rectangle is the site of 2100 Hamilton.
The curved line just south of the Springetsbury House and Bush Hill represents the proposed canal to connect the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.
Springetsbury was named for William Penn's first wife, and Callowhill Street, the uppermost east-west straight street on the map, was named for his second wife. Penn's land originally encompassed 12th Street to Lemon Hill and from Vine Street to above Girard Avenue.
The hills shown in this image would be leveled out over time. The current Baldwin Park is just south of the little pond to the left (west) of Bush Hill.
Portion of 1840 map
As discussed in our article "Hidden Creeks," Philadelphia was criss-crossed with creeks that were subsequently covered. In this image there is a creek running through the junction of Pennsylvania Avenue and Hamilton Street, the current site of 2100 Hamilton. Some local observers may recall the high water table at the construction site as they dug the pits for the pilings.
Note Hamilton Street is a through street all the way to the reservoirs atop Faire Mount and Morris Street is now named Spring Garden Street.
Portion of 1895 map showing locomotive turntable at 21st and Hamilton Streets and adjoining engine house. This map is probably misdated, as the turntable was not moved to this site from one block east until 1898. The map may have also been done in 1895 in anticipation of the move.
Scene from 1895 looking west on Pennsylvania Avenue from 20th Street.
The freight station seen on the above map is at right.
The Bement machine shops are the buildings on the left.
One block west: scene from 1897 looking west from the 2100 Hamilton site. The wooden structures along the tracks are hoists with pulleys. A "Knickerbocker Ice" sign can be seen on the left through the smoke and steam.
Looking east from the tunnel opening just west of 21st Street in 1899.
The locomotive turntable from Sellers has been installed. The wooden granary beyond the Bement plant is seen on the right. The Preston Retreat is just barely seen in the upper left. The ramp up to the Knickerbocker Ice plant is on the right edge of this photo, and that ramp is still there.
Much of the excavation was done by hand, but the steam shovel had been patented in 1839 by William Smith Otis (cousin of elevator guy Elisha Otis) with the help of our neighborhood's own Joseph Harrison.
Laying of keystone in the tunnel opening at 22nd Street on 17 December 1898. The year "1898" will be carved on the keystone and that inscription is still there.
Bigwigs meeting for the first run down the tracks in 1899.
Photo looking west from 21st Street in 1900.
The ramp on the left is still there. The turntable is just visible in the lower right corner of the photo.
Looking west at tunnel entrance after clearance for the Parkway in 1924.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is under construction in the back left.
Pequea Mills is on the right, at the current site of the Dalian on the Park apartments.
Photo from 1924 manuscript on the lower Schuylkill River here.
21st Street bridge rebuild in 1958.
The gap between the bridge and the building in upper right, now the police station, is still there but is itself bridged.
1958 photo looking east from over the tunnel entrance. The 21st Street bridge is completed.
1955 view looking west from just east of the 20th Street bridge. The gap in the wall on the left was the loading dock for the Bement machine shop and in 1955 was used by neighborhood kids for access to the tracks. This would be repaired when the police station at 20th and Callowhill was built in 1960. The Rodin Museum is in the distance.
In 1960 the parking lot for the new police station would cover half of this open subway, and the ramp and extension of the parking lot would obliterate the open sky above this block-long segment of the Callowhill Cut.
View from 2020 looking east down the tunnel along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the site of 2100 Hamilton.
This tunnel is an amazing space, and surprisingly clean. Sections like the one seen here are well-lit by the vents along the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. These large and numerous vents were a necessity in the days of steam and soot-spewing locomotives.
Closer look in January 2020.
The tunnel is 52 feet in width and 22 feet high at its peak. To the right on this photo is seen that the private garden at 2100 Hamilton is above the SEPTA right-of-way, i.e. only the air rights above the right-of-way were sold. Hopes for the Rail Park still live! More on dimensions along the Callowhill Cut can be found in a transit feasibility study from 2015 here.
Construction at 2100 Hamilton has been a long time coming. In 2007 a new construction permit was issued for a ten-story building with 45 dwelling units and parking beneath. The contractor was to be PRA Development and Management, but after some initial site preparation, the project was abandoned.
Construction of a ten-story condo building, designed by Cecil Baker + Partners and developed by Bock Development Group, began in 2019. The word "luxury" gets thrown around a lot in marketing materials, but 2100 Hamilton lives up to the word. There are 27 residences offering stunning views from the balconies out to the Parkway, overlooking a half-acre private garden on the south side. There is a 24-hour concierge, chauffeured town car, a salt-water swimming pool, fitness center, conference center, and a guest suite. And, best of all, it's only two blocks from our neighborhood "outdoor living room," Baldwin Park! Condominiums start at $2.1 million. If you want to splurge, the penthouse unit was available in May 2021 for $16 million, unfinished, as discussed at outside link here.
2100 Hamilton, from the marketing brochure.
On the marketing website showing the neighborhood amenities, there are photos of the Barnes, the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and best of all, Matthias Baldwin Park!
Site preparations being done in 2019. The concrete piers from the prior proposed construction are visible along the southern stone wall on the left.
The pool of water is approximately where the railroad turntable had been. It may be full of water for the reason discussed above: a creek ran through this site. The SEPTA right-of-way is along the wall on the left.
A later stage of construction and looking to the west towards the tunnel entrance. The SEPTA right-of-way still runs under the condo tower. The parking lot for 2100 Hamilton is on the right. The ramp up to street level is on the left, separated from the right-of-way by rust-colored perforated sheets of metal. The private garden is directly above this space.
View in 2019 looking south from the top floor of the Dalian.
A good rule in Philadelphia real estate: don't buy (or rent) for a view. This view is obliterated.
This view of the keystone date at the tunnel's eastern entrance won't be obliterated, but will become a little harder to see.
authored by Joe Walsh, November 2021
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