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Edwin Harrington (1825-1891) was born in central Vermont. At age twenty, Harrington went to Massachusetts and apprenticed to become a machinist, then worked in a succession of machine companies, and in 1854 he founded his own machine tool business in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1867, Harrington moved to Philadelphia and, with fellow machinist Harry Haskins, started a machine tool company at the northwest corner of 15th and Pennsylvania Avenues. The specialties were extension lathes and hoists, for which Harrington patented various improvements that were incorporated into the firm's products (see patents on outside link here). The firm is credited as being one of the first to develop an electric hoist, in 1896.
In 1903, the business, since 1883 called Harrington & Son, moved into a new five-story building at 1666 Callowhill Street. The lot there had been empty since the Bush Hill days, except for some use as a coal yard. Competition in the machine tool business was intense, even just locally, so starting in 1928 Harrington specialized in hoists. The company name was changed to simply the Harrington Company in 1923, and it moved to Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia, in 1954. Starting in 1968, the company was acquired by a series of corporations and is today a wholly owned subsidiary of Kito Corporation, retaining the Harrington name (outside link here).
Edwin Harrington himself did not live long enough to see the company move from 15th to 17th Street. A stroke suffered in August, 1889 compelled Harrington to retire from business activity, whereupon he and his wife returned to Vermont. Their Queen Anne style house was finished in 1890 in Bethel, Vermont, but poor Edwin occupied his Bethel estate barely one year prior to his death in September, 1891.
Photo from 1897 looking east at the ditch being dug to lower Pennsylvania Avenue into the "Callowhill Cut." The Edwin Harrington & Son Company Machine Tool Works is at far left at the southwest corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ad from 1893
Small one-ton hoist available for $175 on ebay
Portion of 1875 map showing the unbuilt lot at 17th and Callowhill Streets just south of Asa Whitney's factory.
Hartman and Mary Kuhn were descendants of the Hamiltons, owners of the Bush Hill estate.
Portion of 1895 map
The three-story Continental Market occupies 1600 Callowhill Street.
A workman stands proudly at the highly polished extension lathe, apparently having polished it using his overalls (photo from here).
The Improved 1894 Model was Harrington's first to have completely interchangeable parts.
I can't help but think of giant clotheslines when I look at this photo.
Ad at bottom center (from before the move) in a national trade journal.
Notice all the competition in Philadelphia including two in the neighborhood: William Sellers & Company at 17th and Hamilton; and Thomas Wood's Fairmount Machine Company at 22nd and Wood Streets (see Dalian article here).
Having started his own business at age 29, and then worked in that business for 46 years, Edwin Harrington deserved a retirement in the country.
Edwin Harrington had this large home built in Vermont in 1889, near his home town and that of his wife. The opulence and style were noteworthy in the quiet town of Bethel. He retired there in 1890 and died in 1891.
Coincidence or not, this home was put on the National Register of Historic Places the same year, 1983, as the Philadelphia building. (see 1666 Callowhill building application here and Vermont home application here). Rick Harrington, Edwin's great-great-nephew, bought and restored this house in 2010. This photo is from 2013.
It may seem strange to have a large business with such a narrow niche, but Harrington was one of the largest hoist manufacturers in the country. And hoists had so many applications on ships, in mining, in construction, and in industry in general.
Photo from 1897 looking west from 21st and Pennsylvania Avenue. There are a series of wooden structures with hoists at the apex being used for loading and unloading rail cars.
Let's talk physics and engineering. A hoist is a pulley. Its basic function is to allow a change in the direction of a force to the benefit of the operator. Instead of lifting a building stone straight up at an uncomfortable angle, a pulley allows someone to generate a sideways or downwards force to lift the stone. It also gives what's called mechanical advantage. Using a series of pulleys, one can decrease the force needed to lift an object, but that force must be applied over a greater distance. The net work is the same, since work equals force times distance, but often it is easier to apply, for example, half the force over twice the distance.
Pulleys change the direction of a required force and, as the number of weight-bearing ropes are increased, decrease that required force in inverse proportion.
A Newton (N) is the scientific unit of force.
Pulleys, along with levers, are two of those simple machines you learned about in grade school, but date back even further than your time in 6th grade. In the Second Punic War in 214 BCE, Archimedes defended the coast of Syracuse against a Roman amphibious assault via the device now known as Archimedes Claw. As the enemy ships approached the battlement, a grappling hook, lever, and pulley system would be used to lift up the prow and then drop it suddenly, sinking the ship.
Heavy hoists are prevalent along the skyline of Philadelphia today, in the form of construction cranes.
A grappling hook snags the bottom of the ship and, via pulleys and levers, oxen lift the boat. When the rope is released, the ship is slammed back into the water.
The building itself is an industrial five-story flat-topped roof, looking much the same now as when built in 1903. The architecture firm of Roydhouse, Arey, & Company did the design work, as it did for seven local Baldwin Locomotive Works buildings and the Inquirer Building on Broad Street (see outside link here for project list). There are steel columns and beams supporting the interior, providing a very open floor plan in the factory. The brick facade is also load-bearing. The windows become vertically shorter as you ascend the exterior, making the building look taller than it is. The I-beam protruding from the north side of the building is still there, at one time providing access for loading and unloading on each floor, using hoists of course. The original windows had mullioned panes, but these were replaced by louver windows as seen in the 1983 NHRP application. The current building handsomely restores the original appearance with mullion appliques in a verdigris finish over large panes.
Missing from the building, as distinct from Harrington's local competitors in the late 19th century, was a foundry. Here is a list of local machine shops with links to Hexamer maps showing their foundries:
Sellers (mapped along with Baldwin and the Bush Hill Iron Works) 1872
On this last Hexamer map you can also see the former Harrington Machine Works at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue which did have a foundry, and perhaps this foundry was used for castings after the move nearby in 1903.
Portion of 1872 Hexamer map. The Harrington foundry is at center left.
Photo from the northwest in 1903...
...and in 2020
Portion of 1917 Sanborn insurance map nicely summarizing the construction of the Harrington building. The Knight building at 1600 Callowhill Street was built seven years after the Harrington machine shop and earned a better rating (and probably fire insurance premium).
The Sanborn maps can be addictive, so be careful if you click on that link. You can find the index and key to the maps here. Once you find your plot in the index, use the drop down menu in the upper left to go to that plot.
Photo circa 1910 on the north side of 1666 Callowhill Street.
Photo from 1982 showing a stronger support arm but in the same location.
Photo from 2020: still there!
In 1954, when the Harrington Company moved out of 1666 Callowhill Street, the neighborhood was deeply into its deindustrialization phase. The building was used mostly for the needle trade.
Being outside the borders of the Franklin Town project announced in 1971, it survived condemnation. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 (application here) despite opposition from the Franklin Town Corporation, which in 1983 still owned much of the barren land in the neighborhood. In December 1983 the Philadelphia Historical Commission, finding "no redeeming architectural merit," denied designation.
Post-Harrington ad for 1666 Callowhill Street.
Photo courtesy of Robert Bernstein.
Photo from 1955 showing the demolition of the coal storage silos across from 1666 Callowhill Street, which is in the right background.
This view looking east over Baldwin Park shows some hoist history.
#1 is the site of the original Harrington Machine shop at 15th and Pennsylvania.
#2 is 1666 Callowhill Street
#3 is a modern hoist, building phase 2 of the Hamilton Apartments.
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