Military in the Neighborhood

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway has many monuments to warriors and the wars in which they fought: Galusha Pennypacker, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Aviator Park, the Aero Memorial, the Soldiers and Sailors twin Civil War monuments, George Washington, Francisco de Miranda, and even the tribute trees lining the Parkway itself. From only a quick glance one might think our own Baldwin Park neighborhood (within two blocks of the Park) is devoid of military references. One was already mentioned in our article Baldwin at War. There are others, which I will describe in chronological order.

Moroni

Moroni is certainly the highest-placed statue in the neighborhood and the oldest warrior, according to the legends of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Moroni was the son of Mormon, the military commander of the Nephites in the 4th century CE, who battled the Lamanites at Cumorah in what is now New York state. All 230,000 Nephites were slain, except Moroni, who wandered the earth avoiding Lamanites until his death. After he was resurrected, he appeared to 17-year-old Joseph Smith and eventually led him to the buried golden tablets, which Smith translated to become the Book of Mormon in 1830.

The angel Moroni balances atop the steeple of the Church of the Latter Day Saints at 17th and Vine, just north of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. The Moroni statue is visible from Baldwin Park.

Hallahan High School

You wouldn't guess that a girls' Catholic high school would have connections to military exploits, but it has three: St. Helena, St. Margaret, and Joan of Arc.

 

Helena was the mother of Constantine, a 4th century CE military commander who consolidated the Roman Empire under his sole rule after a series of civil wars. Helena guided him towards Christianity, and she herself is alleged to be the discoverer of the true cross on which Christ was crucified.

 

Margaret was the second wife of Malcolm III, king of Scotland in the 11th century CE. Malcolm had a series of wars against England during his 35 year reign. Malcolm and his son Edward were killed in 1093 at the Battle of Alnwick, and Margaret died of sorrow nine days after she received the news.

Joan of Arc, born in France about 1412, received visions of her military role in service to her as-yet uncrowned king. She led French troops in several campaigns as a 17-year-old, was wounded, and later captured by the English. She was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in 1431.

Joan of Arc has a gilded monument glittering north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art between Pennsylvania Avenue and Kelly Drive. The carving on Hallahan, which was built in 1911, gives the title "blessed" to Joan of Arc as a result of her beatification (a step towards full canonization) in 1909, but also anticipates her canonization in 1920.

American Revolution

During the American Revolution, the British captured Philadelphia in 1777. The Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers formed the three-sided natural defense of the city, but the northern defenses consisted of a chain of redoubts running along roughly what is now Spring Garden Street. Each redoubt was manned by 100 British soldiers. For one plan of attack by the Continental and Militia forces see November 25, 1777 letter at outside link here.

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Portion of 1780 map showing the British defenses after capturing Philadelphia. The emplacements run along what is now Spring Garden Street, protecting our neighborhood from invasion by Fairmounters.

The Battle of Germantown was fought on October 4, 1777, as an attempt by George Washington to force the British out of recently conquered Philadelphia. Washington was repulsed, and he retreated to winter over at Valley Forge.

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Per Cent for Art on the Community College of Philadelphia campus commemorates the Battle of Germantown.

Civil War

As mentioned in our article on Baldwin at War, the neighborhood's iron foundries and machine shops sprang into action in service to the Union cause during the Civil War. Locomotive makers like Baldwin and Norris saw production increase dramatically before the war, although the prospects for those two diverged during the war based on political sympathies as discussed in our article here. Foundries like the Bush Hill Iron Works made armaments.

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Portion of 1861 map showing the neighborhood facilities supporting the war.

Near the top center #24 is the Bush Hill Iron Works and #25 is Baldwin Locomotive.

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Advertisement for the Bush Hill Iron Works from around 1853.

As discussed in our article on Oliver Evans, a foundry under various owners was at the southwest corner of 16th and Spring Garden Streets from 1819 to 1870. James Neall retired in 1854 and Matthews was joined in partnership by James Moore.

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Photo of Midvale Steel product probably used by the formidable United States Navy in the Spanish American War.

Midvale Steel was owned by the Sellers family from 1873 to 1956, as discussed in our article here.

World War I

There are plenty of World War I (WWI) references on the Parkway, but none of which I am aware in our neighborhood (for a temporary exception see below). The neighborhood did have two WWI heroes who received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military award for valor.

William C. Rock, Lieutenant, 301st Battalion, Tank Corps

1929 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism near Molain, France, October 17, 1918

Killed in Action

See outside link here.

Edward J. Welsh, Sergeant, Company D, 311th Infantry

1719 Carlton Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism near Grand-Pre, France, October 19, 1918

See outside link here.

Truly a tragedy for the Rock family, as the war would be ended within a month  of William's death.

World War II, Korea, Vietnam

The Civil War and WWI claim the lion's share of monuments throughout Philadelphia. There are few anywhere honoring the veterans of World War II (WWII). As mentioned in the Baldwin at War article, several industries that started in this neighborhood supplied machines and armaments in WWII. Another neighborhood connection is via John B. Stetson (1830-1906), who was the biggest hat maker in the world in the early 20th century. His mansion was at 1717 Spring Garden Street, where his son, John B. Stetson Jr., was born in 1884. The son followed in his father's business, but not before taking a detour as a pilot over France in WWI, then serving his country again in WWII. John B. the younger had two sons, one a Marine and one in the National Guard, both of whom were killed in WWII.

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Stetson ad during World War II (more ads here). 
These were the peak years for hat wearing and the Stetson Company.

The Hallahan marching band practices in this 1946 photo. The weapons of war have become the playthings of children.

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Frank Piasecki, as discussed in our article here, was a helicopter pioneer. Helicopters saw action in WWII and their use was expanded in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam.
On the left is a photo of the State Historical Marker honoring Piasecki in front of 1927 Callowhill Street. This was the site of his first office and shop. He developed double-rotor heavy-lift helicopters like the one pictured on the right.

Back to World War I

For the years 1975 to 1981 the neighborhood had an easily recognizable military memorial on the median strip in front of the former Stetson mansion.

In 1920, the citizens of the sixth, eleventh, and twelfth wards of Philadelphia (Northern Liberties area) raised funds for a memorial to their 1089 neighbors who fought, and 11 who died, in WWI. This memorial was placed at 5th Street and York Avenue in a small park called Union Square. When the Vine Street Expressway was put through that area in the 1970's, the statue, officially titled Over the Top and colloquially called The Doughboy, was moved to the median strip on the 1700 block of Spring Garden Street. The river ward neighbors objected to this relocation, and fought to have the statue returned, led by NoLibs Doughboy-defender Mary Dankanis. In 1981 the City paid to move the statue back home to 2nd and Spring Garden Street.

If the statue looks familiar, it may be because variations of this soldier in action were made for many cities throughout the United States. Artist John Paulding patented his 7-foot tall soldier statue in 1920 and sold the bronze memorials throughout the country. Fellow artist Ernest Moore Viquesney designed a very similar statue and sold even more. Each artist's models have the option of slightly different poses, but on quick glance they look very similar. See more on this at outside link here.

Coincidentally, the move in 1975 was from Union Square to the former Union Green. Union Square was a small triangle (named by the geometrically challenged?) at the junction of 5th, York, and Buttonwood Streets. It was across the street from a building used for the housing of convalescent Union soldiers during the Civil War. Union Green was named in 1789. In that year, upon the ratification of the United States Constitution, the citizens of Philadelphia held a celebratory parade ending at Bush Hill. The expanse of lawn at Bush Hill was subsequently called Union Green, and was the site of other events after that very first parade which became known as the Federal Procession. Union Green would be roughly in the middle of the 1700 block of Spring Garden Street.

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Portion of 1875 map showing Union Square, the first of three homes for The Doughboy. Fifth Street is the street with the black line down the middle, running from left to right (north is to the right). York Avenue coming from bottom left meets with Fifth at Union Square. In the 1970's the construction of the Vine Street Expressway and its ramps annihilated this street layout.

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Photo of Mary Dankanis and her family looking at the Doughboy in 1981 before it was returned to its rightful home at 2nd and Spring Garden Streets. Masterman High School is seen in the background. Photo credit Mary Dankanis.

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Same view today. All that is left of The Doughboy is the raised base on which the pedestal was sited.

Maybe a nice spot for the statue of Matthias Baldwin currently hidden away on the north apron of City Hall?

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The Doughboy at 2nd and Spring Garden Streets today.

authored by Joe Walsh