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Baldwin Park in Maps: Part 1

In August 2018 some of the streets surrounding Baldwin Park were resurfaced. Below is a picture of 19th Street next to the park. The milled asphalt exposes concrete overlying Belgian blocks, with embedded trolley tracks. The universal reaction from neighbors, on seeing this paving palimpsest, was delight. There is a fascination in seeing concrete (pun intended) manifestations of prior structures and traces of the everyday lives of our predecessors. This page is the first of two parts looking at the immediate area around Baldwin Park via historical maps, with this page taking us from the time of William Penn through the 19th century. Part 2 will be posted in January. The images of the maps which follow are details from larger maps that are linked to in the text under the images.

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Photo of 19th Street August 2018.

The outline of a trolley track can be seen. Starting in 1879 the 17th and 19th Streets Passenger Railway Company ran a loop from Carpenter Street, up 19th to Norris Street, over to 17th and back down 17th to Carpenter Street. The propulsion for multi-passenger omnibuses was gradually shifted from horse to steam to cable and then to electricity. Prior to the use of rails to smooth the ride and ease the burden on the horses, horse-drawn omnibuses hauled passengers on the surface streets.

Let's start with very early Philadelphia and map the transitions. This first map shows Penn's Springettsbury Manor encompassing the future Baldwin Park and many other neighborhoods. 


Detail, from Map of Philadelphia 1681 here.

A section of Springettsbury Manor had been given to Andrew Hamilton after 1718 and named Bush Hill. The future Baldwin Park will be at the site of the pond between Springettsbury Manor and Bush Hill.

Detail, from map by John Hills, 1797, Library Company of Pennsylvania, here.

As an aside, most Philadelphians know that Callowhill Street is named for Penn's second wife, Hannah Margaret Callowhill. This was the first street outside the bounds of "official" Philadelphia, just north of Vine Street. Springettsbury was named for Penn's first wife, Gulielma Maria Posthuma Springett. The "Posthuma" in her name indicates that her father died before her birth. 

By 1810 Springettsbury Manor had been extensively subdivided. Baldwin Park is in the rectangle demarcated by the roads south of Bush Hill. 19th Street runs from NW Square to the City Hospital.


Detail from 1810 map here.

This is a birds-eye view of the Baldwin Park area in 1886, in a detail taken from a much larger image. North is to the right, so the view is looking west. 19th Street runs from Logan Square at far left through the text "PHILA." The wooden granary is clearly visible just left of the ampersand.  The many smokestacks indicate the heavy industry in this area. Birds-eye, or perspective, maps were drawn from meticulous data gathered at ground level and then imagined as aerial views. This would be analogous to combining Google street view data and converting it to a satellite view without the use of satellites.
 Detail, looking west, from exquisite 1886 map here (be sure to zoom and scan).

This map detail from 1890 is of interest in these days of global climate change and sea level rise because of the dashed topographic elevation lines. Baldwin Park is at 50 feet above sea level. Philadelphia land elevation increases from south to northwest, with the Navy Yard being 10 feet above and Chestnut Hill being 445 feet above sea level.

Detail from 1890 map.

This Hexamer map (detail) was drawn up around 1890 for fire insurance underwriting. The site of today's Tivoli Condominiums is on the lower left and Tatlow Street runs through modern Baldwin Park. The area below Tatlow Street is still vacant in 1890 but in the next decades will be covered with residences and factories.

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Hexamer map detail around 1890. The Free Library has close to 3000 of these Hexamer fire insurance maps, each showing construction materials and facts pertinent to underwriting policies.

This 1895 map detail shows typical row homes throughout the current Baldwin Park. Hamilton Street is north of Tatlow, which here bisects what is to become the park, and 19th Street runs between The Malleable Iron Works (future Tivoli) and the future park. The railroad siding tunnel into the iron works is still present beneath The Tivoli Condominiums. The only industry in the future park is The Pickering Spring Company, one of the many heavy industries in the area that furnished Baldwin Locomotive with components. This map also shows the tenuousness of both street names and street existence. Caven Street is a through street just west of the future Tivoli. Cuyler and Rhoads Streets correspond to today's east-west running Shamokin Street.

Detail from 1895 Bromley map. Arrow at center points to 423 North 19th Street.
These maps by the Bromley brothers were made about every five years, covering all of Philadelphia. They are housed at The Atheneum.

423 North 19th Street is the official address for Baldwin Park. The photo from 1894 below shows two passersby peering into the window at 423 North 19th, which appears to have some sort of retail on the ground floor. In 1894 the 400 block of North 19th looked very similar to today's 400 block of North 20th Street. The Callowhill Cut had not yet been made, so the rail lines were surface lines just feet from this building.

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Look for Baldwin Park in Maps: Part 2 in January. In the meantime, check out the exhibit "Philadelphia: The Changing City" at the Rare Book Department at the Parkway Central Library from now until April 13, 2019. 

authored by Joe Walsh, December 2018

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