Baldwin Park in Maps: Part 2

In last month's history page we looked at the evolution of the Baldwin Park site from the time of William Penn through 1895. This month's page brings us up to the present.

This 1922 Bromley map shows the tension between heavy industry and deindustrialization in the area. We see significant expansion of Baldwin Locomotive westward across 18th Street into the current park area. Tatlow Street has been renamed Noble Street, and Caven Street, the north-south street just west of the current Tivoli Condominiums, renamed Opal. Just north of the future Baldwin Park is the Garretson Hospital, built in 1897 as a dental hospital. It merged with Temple in 1913 and the building was razed in 1963. The future Tivoli site is here used as a warehouse for American Stores, a grocery chain incorporated in Philadelphia in 1917.

Detail from 1922 Bromley map.

1930 brings us into the proto-Google Earth age, with low resolution aerial photographic mapping of Philadelphia. Despite the quality and resolution, the future site of Baldwin Park is seen on the right with Noble Street bisecting from east to west. 18th Street is the farthest right north-south street. The shadow of the now concrete granary building just below center projects onto the railroad tracks. Of note, the one-year-old Rodin Museum is obliquely placed on the Parkway at far left. The 90 year old Preston Retreat with its landscaped surroundings, now the site of City View Condominiums, is northeast of the Rodin.

Detail from 1930 aerial photo map. The pink arrow in this image and the following image points to the Baldwin factory building.
Postcard from around 1930 shows buildings occupying the future park site.

J. M. Brewer, working for the mortgage lender Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, prepared this famous, or infamous, map in 1934. 20th Street is the north-south street furthest to the left, so the future park is in the lower left of this map with Noble Street bisecting it. Much has been written about this map, but suffice it to say here that red designates an industrial building; the numbers designate sample home prices in hundreds of dollars; and the red script letters designate the map makers' assessments of the neighborhoods. The A-E key is shown in the second image below. Most of the neighborhood is middle class, except the east side of 20th Street between Hamilton and Spring Garden Streets. This is notated as E or "decadent," which may be why those 1934-era houses have been replaced.

Detail from 1934 Brewer map. 

Maps like Brewer's were adapted and used by the Homeowners' Loan Corporation, a government-sponsored New Deal corporation, to finance mortgages for homeowners who were having trouble meeting their payments. The maps designated higher-risk loan areas, which were determined by demographic data including racial makeup. Private interests subsequently used these maps for redlining entire neighborhoods, using race as one of several criteria, although there are debates about how much race influenced the mortgage decisions independent of the maps.

Brewer map legend

Deindustrilization proceeds: this 1942 Philadelphia Land Use map detail shows continued conversion of heavy industry to warehousing. Warehouses are on three sides of the future park.

1942 Philadelphia Land Use map detail.

This detail from a 1962 Philadelphia Land Use map shows the ITE Circuit Breaker Company occupying all of the future park site. Commercial grade transformers as well as circuit breakers were made here. There was a 200-ton crane on the south side of the building that would lower heavy equipment down onto the rail line. This Philly company was incorporated in the 1890s. 

Detail from a 1962 Philadelphia Land Use map. 

This detail from a 1970 aerial photo map shows surface parking lots taking over the neighborhood. This effect is quite dramatic when viewed on the complete map and comparing our neighborhood with the density of buildings just north of Spring Garden Street. In 1969 a private consortium, one of whose members was ITE, developed plans to build a 50-acre city-within-the-city, called Franklin Town (or, less often, Franklintown). The five members of the consortium by this time already owned 70% of the needed land, and depended on the City of Philadelphia to acquire the rest by eminent domain. The future Baldwin Park is at the very center of this photo.

Detail from a 1970 aerial photo map. 

In 1985, for the first time in close to 200 years, the park site (dark rectangle in center) was free of built structures. This aerial photo map also shows the new diagonal street cutting through the proposed Franklin Town (parallel lines lower right center). Franklin Town Boulevard still exists, but the remaining dream for the private development consortium was foiled by the economic decline in the 70s. The Watermark has been built by 1985 but not yet One Franklin Town apartments.

Detail from 1985 aerial photo map.

Finally, in 1995, something looks familiar. This aerial photo map shows the four-year-old park. The Community College of Philadelphia has added buildings east of the park, built on land acquired cheaply after the collapse of Franklin Town. None of the surface parking lots seen in this view still exist, as seen in second image below from 2018.

Detail from aerial photo map 1995.
2018 Google map view. 
The area around Baldwin Park is built out except on its southern border. There is a large empty lot at the southwest corner of 18th and Callowhill Streets, as well as the barren Callowhill Cut which is proposed as an extension of the Rail Park westward past Baldwin Park. The 50-year-old plans for Franklin Town, with high rise residences and commercial spaces surrounding a central square, are slowly coming to fruition.

authored by Joe Walsh, January 2019

Matthias Baldwin Park 

423 N 19th St 

Philadelphia, PA 19130

Friends of Matthias Baldwin Park is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to preserve the Matthias Baldwin Park

© 2018 Friends of Matthias Baldwin Park