Baldwin Locomotive Works
There have been two major events shaping the current Baldwin Park neighborhood. The most recent was the Franklin Town Development as discussed in two prior articles starting here. The more distant was industrialization. This article will look at the history and physical structures of the most prominent industrialist in the neighborhood.
Matthias Baldwin (1795-1866) was a teenaged jeweler's apprentice but fascinated by larger metal constructions. After his apprenticeship he moved onto work in a textile printing factory. He built a stationary steam engine in 1829 to better serve the power needs of the factory, and in 1831 he built a small-scale passenger locomotive for Franklin Peale's museum. He studied the reassembly of locomotives imported from England, and in 1832 reverse-engineered a full-scale locomotive, Old Ironsides, for the Germantown and Norristown Railroad. Other orders followed, and he outgrew his small shop in what is now called Old City. His new factory at Broad and Hamilton gradually expanded westward until it reached 19th Street, as the images below show.
Baldwin's first shop on Lodge Alley in 1831
Lodge Alley ran for half a block west from 2nd Street north of and parallel to Walnut Street. A Freemason's Lodge was on that block, and neither the lodge nor Lodge Alley exists today.
Portions of two sections of the 1922 Bromley map combined to show the extent of Baldwin locomotive Works (BLW) on its eastern campus. Many other factories in the area supported BLW, like the Sellers Iron Works seen here between 16th and 17th Streets; Bement and Miles at 20th and Callowhill; and Asa Whitney Wheel Works at 16th and Callowhill Streets.
Baldwin Locomotive Works at Broad and Spring Garden Streets around 1900, looking west. The corner of Broad and Spring Garden Streets is at lower right. By 1922 the factory buildings had extended to 19th and Hamilton and occupied 3/4 of what will become Matthias Baldwin Park.
By 1922 there was also a satellite campus stretching from 26th to 28th Streets along the Callowhill Cut.
View looking north on Broad Street in 1901 from the bridge over the Callowhill Cut.
The white building with the dome on top is the third location of Boys Central High School, at the southwest corner of Broad and Green Streets from 1900 to 1939.
1871 photo for the Baldwin catalog looking west on Spring Garden from Broad Street.
The two churches seen on the north side of Spring Garden Street at 18th and 20th Streets are still there. The 1871 catalog has a detailed history of the Baldwin Locomotive Works.
This image looks north on 15th Street in 1901.
Looking southeast at 16th and Spring Garden Street in 1901.
Part of the new mint is seen on lower right.
Both the BLW building seen here and the Mint were completed in 1901. BLW was still expanding locally although the gradual move to Eddystone would begin in 1906.
Looking north up 18th Street from just south of the new bridge over the Callowhill Cut in 1898.
The Pickering Spring Company seen on the left is in the southeast corner of the current Baldwin Park. BLW would eventually occupy this building.
No matter how neatly you stack your parts, you eventually feel cramped, as this stereograph from 1900 shows.
By 1907, BLW had maximized its use of the buildings it then had in our neighborhood. Adding extra floors to buildings still did not allow enough room for turning out six locomotives per day. Construction in Eddystone, just south of the current airport, began on 564 acres of land. The view here from 1918 shows access by rail and ships.
While the Pennsylvania Avenue railroad tracks were being submerged below street level in 1897-1900, BLW built an annex at 27th and Pennsylvania Avenue.
BLW by 1922 had about 700 feet of frontage on Pennsylvania Avenue. The turntable at 26th Street directed locomotives to bays for finishing touches.
Eddystone was ramping up as the Spring Garden BLW was winding down.
The Baldwin 60000 donated to the Franklin Institute was buffed up here before being moved on temporary tracks down Vine Street from the nearest rails.
Newspaper clipping from late 1930's bemoaning not only the loss of industry but also the gain in surface parking lots.
Railroad buildings come and go.
The original BLW at the corner of Hamilton and Broad Streets is almost completely demolished as seen here in 1937. Across the street on the right is the massive Terminal Commerce Building at 401 North Broad Street, completed in 1931, and containing 1.3 million square feet of space. It was built by the Reading Company.
Photo from 1941 looking southwest at Broad and Locust Streets.
A tank made by BLW at the Eddystone plant works its way north on Broad Street. It will pass the empty lots on Broad Street between the Callowhill Cut and Spring Garden Street on its way to the dedication of a new armor factory at the Henry Disston & Sons plant in Tacony.
Aerial view of Eddystone in 1949.
Steam locomotives were being replaced with diesel and then diesel-electric locomotives starting in the 1930's. BLW never made the transition. The Eddystone plant even at its maximum production had only used a third of its capacity, and after military contracts faded after World War II BLW closed its Philadelphia area factories in 1956.
The Eddystone buildings, except for the four-winged Baldwin Tower in the foreground of this photo, were demolished.
Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW) could not compete with other diesel locomotive builders after World War II. It merged with Lima-Hamilton in 1950 to become Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton (B-L-H), turned out its last locomotive in 1956, and continued to make construction equipment. In 1972, Greyhound Corporation, the new owner of the B-L-H subsidiary, closed it down. Most of the Eddystone buildings were cleared in 1994.
The days are numbered for B-L-H, here in 1950.
At least Baldwin gets top billing...
...and is the literal face of the company.
The last remnant of BLW still stands at Eddystone, used as an office building.
Colorized postcard of the northeast corner of Broad and Spring Garden Streets in 1916.
Gone are the days of extravagant architecture and respect, even adulation, of machinists and their products.
The bronze statue of Matthias Baldwin seen here in the lower right was placed at this corner in 1906, at the peak output of BLW across the street. It would be moved to the northwest apron of City Hall in 1922, where it remains today.
authored by Joe Walsh, September 2020