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North x Northwest Apartments

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Google Earth image from 2024 shows the 572-unit NxNW complex just north of Matthias Baldwin Park. On the left is 19th Street and on the right is 18th Street. In the upper left is the three-story retail building at 1822 Spring Garden Street, the former first hospital of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The tall tan brick building just east of that is Spring Garden Towers, with subsidized senior apartments. All the other buildings are part of NxNW, with those below the mostly vacated Buttonwood Street built in 2017.

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Portion of an 1875 map showing the land now occupied by the NxNW complex. North is at the top. Spring garden Street is at top, 19th on the left, and 18th on the right. Buttonwood Street, now vacated, runs horizontally through the middle. The Kuhns and Palairets acquired significant sections of the former Hamilton estate on these blocks and elsewhere in the neighborhood. William S. Reyburn was the father of John Reyburn (1845-1914), who served as Philadelphia mayor from 1907 to 1911.

William Bement had a machine shop at 20th and Callowhill Street and had a spectacular mansion at 1814-16 Spring Garden, while his son lived more modestly at 1804 Spring Garden.

The broad X signifies a stable.

In 1875 the lands in the image were strictly vacant or residential. Previous articles on this website detail the businesses that moved onto the vacant land after 1875:

 

The Franklin Town Development Corporation, via its five partners, had acquired many of the buildings in the neighborhood by 1971, as discussed here. I-T-E had acquired the former Temple University buildings. What had not been acquired was taken by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Corporation by eminent domain and sold to FTDC. The south side of the 1800 block was the only linear block on Spring Garden Street that was acquired by eminent domain and demolished. Every building on the two blocks from Spring Garden Street to Hamilton Street, except 1822 Spring Garden Street, was demolished.

A 17-story apartment tower, then called Museum Towers, was built at the southwest corner of Spring Garden Street and 18th Street in 1987. It has 286 apartments and 13,000 square feet of commercial space. The 270-unit tower to the south was completed in 2017, which filled in a surface parking lot that had been there for over three decades. This 16-story second phase, in addition to 16 townhome apartments and a 400-car parking garage, was developed by Cleveland-based Forest City Residential Group, which Brookfield Asset Management Inc. bought in 2018 for $11.4 billion. The whole complex was put on the market in February of 2024. It is assessed by the City at $104 million. The complex includes 24-hour front door staffing, a roof deck, fitness center, conference rooms, a small dog park, and bicycle storage.

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From a June 1971 Philadelphia Inquirer article

Most of the buildings along Spring Garden Street were spared by the Franklin Town Development, except for the south side of the 1800 block. All the buildings between 18th and 19th and Spring Garden and Hamilton Street were demolished for Franklin Town, the only exception being the former PCOM Hospital at 1822 Spring Garden Street.

The rest of this article will examine those residential buildings that were demolished by eminent domain. It will also touch on some of the people who inhabited those buildings.

The legal notice for the use of eminent domain for the project was posted in the November 12, 1971 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

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Portion of Sanborn map from 1917. Spring Garden Street is at top.

1818 through 1822 Spring Garden Street were discussed in our article about Spring Garden Towers. This article will discuss the homes starting at 1814 Spring Garden Street and sequentially move east and then south down 18th Street.

Pink represents brick, blue represents other masonry like marble or granite, and yellow represents a wooden structure. An S on a building represents a store or commercial use and a D a residential use. The S at 520 North 18th Street was Joseph Felix’s Restaurant.

William B. Bement (1817-1897) ran a machine shop that made large machines in support of other manufacturers. His factory was at 20th and Callowhill Street from 1848 until its demolition for the Fairmount Parkway in 1918. It was a firm with a national reputation, as described in our article here.

His massive home occupied two lots at 1814-1816 Spring Garden Street. The social pages kept close track of events there, including a visit by President Chester Arthur in 1883. His son Clarence (1843-1923), who was made a partner in the business in 1870, lived at 1804 Spring Garden Street. William’s former home was demolished in the 1920's. A 16 x 45-foot pre-fab diner, called first the Lawton Diner then the Quaker Diner, was pulled onto the site in 1940 and sold off and removed in 1949. A 24-hour Linton's Restaurant with seating for 91 patrons was built and occupied this site from 1950 to 1978. It was the 28th Linton’s in the Philadelphia area, but was forced to close after being slated for demolition by eminent domain. The site then became part of the desultory Franklin Town project and finally the first Museum Towers (now North x Northwest) apartment building in 1987.

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House of William Bement at 1814-1816 Spring Garden Street in the late 1800's​.

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The first day….

Ad from the November 1, 1950 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

1814 Spring Garden Street is now the address for the FedEx store on the ground floor of the apartment tower. 1816 Spring Garden Street is now the address for the Museum Market.

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And the last….

1978 photo of Linton’s manager Leonard Laurito standing in front of his soon to be demolished restaurant. Behing him is the 17-story Lutheran Elderly Housing tower, finished in 1978. It offered subsidized apartments to the elderly. On the far right is the front section of 1822 Spring Garden Street, built in 1937 as a casket showroom but in 1978 being used by Cohen Enterprise Corporation, a distributor of bedding textiles.

Jacob E. Ridgway (1824-1909) lived for over three decades at, and died at, 1812 Spring Garden Street. He was the founder of the Union Passenger Railway, which he eventually sold to traction magnates Widener and Elkins. He was an early investor in the Keystone Telephone Company, president of the Quaker City National Bank, and a state legislator. He purchased the northern half of the island in the Delaware River across from Spruce Street in 1875. The single island had been cut through to allow faster ferry service to Camden. The northern half was called Smith Island and it is there that Ridgway built an amusement park called Ridgway Park. Both islands were dredged away to facilitate navigation in the 1890s.

In a 19th century meet-cute, Ridgway’s daughter Martha (1852-1907) married next door neighbor Clarence Bement, son of William Bement, in 1871. Clarence and his family lived at 1804 Spring Garden Street until 1902.

 

 

Joseph Price (1853-1911) became a local gynecologist who worked at the Preston Retreat, being a very strong advocate of antisepsis in order to lower the maternal mortality rate. He also worked at the Gynacean Hospital for Women at 247 North 18th Street, developing new techniques in gynecologic surgery. He was a bit cantankerous and independent, probably because he was ahead of his time, and opened up his own hospital at 239-241 North 18th Street in 1891, right next door to the Gynacean Hospital. Obstetrics and gynecology were separate specialties at that time, so in 1897 he opened up a maternity hospital in a townhome at 1810 Spring Garden Street. He was a tireless worker, and on June 6, 1911, he operated on a young girl for appendicitis at noon, and he himself was operated on four hours later for the same affliction, an operation which he did not survive. His memorium can be found at the outside link here.

After Price’s death in 1911, the house at 1810 Spring Garden Street was gifted in 1912 to the nuns of the St. Francis order as a residence. These nuns were a founding order at Girls Catholic High School (later Hallahan) in 1911, making for a short commute to work.

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The order of St. Francis, one of seven orders of nuns that staffed Hallahan High School, is represented by the doll in the middle. These dolls were in the alumnae office of Hallahan High School.

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For sale ad in The Evening Public Ledger of October 18, 1922. 

45 rooms! Awesome. Wholesale grocery firm? Not so much.

The Mastbaum in the realty firm’s name is Jules Mastbaum (1872-1926), an 1889 graduate of our neighborhood’s Central Manual Training School and benefactor of the Rodin Museum. The Fleisher name in the firm is that of Alfred W. Fleisher (1878-1928), real estate tycoon, philanthropist, and grandfather of current Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. The Alfred W. Fleisher Memorial Synagogue at nearby Eastern State Penitentiary is named in his honor.

In 1923 the two buildings at 1810-1812 Spring Garden Street would return to being a maternity hospital, this time the Greatheart Maternity Hospital of Temple University. After Temple’s maternity services moved back to its main hospital campus in north Philadelphia in 1932, the two buildings were used for Temple’s music school, then pharmacy school, and later podiatry (formerly termed chiropody) school. The podiatry school closed in 1959 due to falling enrollment. I-T-E purchased the buildings in the mid-1960s and the buildings were demolished.

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1810-1812 Spring Garden Street

Jacob Ridgway lived in 1812 Spring Garden Street (on the right) until his death in 1909. Various Temple University services were provided in both addresses, and in 1808 Spring Garden Street, until their demolition in the mid-1960s.

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Jacob Ridgway owned Smith Island (the half on the right or north in the foreground) and Ridgway Park until dredged away in 1894

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In 1907 Temple College moved its dental and medical schools to the Garretson Hospital complex running along Buttonwood and Hamilton Streets off 18th Street. The picture shows the southwest corner of 18th and Buttonwood in 1926. The second tower of NxNW is now located here and the Paley gates now span what used to be this entrance to Buttonwood Street.

The 1926 Temple University Medical School yearbook The Skull has this photo and photos of the narrow classrooms that fit into this building.

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Portion of 1942 land use map shows vacant land (V) at 1818 and 1820 Spring Garden, with a parking lot and small diner at 1814-1816. 1822 Spring Garden is shown with commercial use, in the art deco building constructed in 1937 after the demolition of Mayor Reyburn’s former home. A Linton’s Restaurant would open a new building at 1814-1816 Spring Garden Street in 1950.

In 1942 the buildings at 1808 through 1812 were owned by Temple and used as ancillary buildings for the dentistry, pharmacy, and podiatry schools. The first community college in the neighborhood, and in the region, was a two-year college started in 1948 by Temple University in its building at 1808 Spring Garden Street. After World War II, two factors expanded the pipeline for post-high school education: the desire for career advancement on the part of returning GIs; and the availability of funds via the GI Bill. The Community College of Temple University prepared students for technical careers. The name went through several iterations but it was always a two-year school. It closed in the 1960s.

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Ad in the August 27, 1950 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer

1804 Spring Garden Street was owned by Clarence Bement until 1902, when it was acquired by Walter M. Steppacher. Steppacher had a shirt factory at 315 South 13th Street that had a national reputation. He and his family lived at 1804 Spring Garden Street until 1918.

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1802 Spring Garden Street was a one-time distinguished military household. United States Army Colonel William Houston Patterson (1832-1904) lived there with his family from 1892 until his death in 1904. His father was Union Major General Robert Patterson (1792-1881), who fought in the Mexican War and the Civil War. Robert’s three sons were Union Brigadier General Francis E. Patterson (1821-1862), Union Brevet Brigadier General Robert E. Patterson (1830-1906), and relative slacker Colonel William, all three of whom are buried next to the father in Laurel Hill Cemetery. General Francis E. Patterson was found dead in his field tent in 1862, either from an accidental pistol discharge or a suicide. He was preparing to defend himself on charges of an unauthorized withdrawal from a confrontation with the Confederate Army in Virginia.

 

Colonel William was a thorn in the side of the Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW), complaining in op-eds about the night shift noise from BLW and BLW’s attempts to vacate Hamilton and Buttonwood Streets to prevent public access…to no avail. In 1916 Williams wife and adult unmarried son both died, and the house was turned into an apartment building.

 

 

 

The buildings along 18th Street were former individual homes which then morphed into boarding houses or apartments.

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Photo from 1943 of 1800 through 1812 Spring Garden Street.

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Photo looking south down 18th Street from Spring Garden Street. The homes on the right extended from Spring Garden Street to the eight-story I-T-E building on the right (west) side of 18th Street. The I-T-E building occupied what is now the north half of Baldwin Park. The old Philadelphia Dental College/Hall of Medicine juts up higher than the adjoining houses halfway down the block. The corner building on the left, with the hanging sign, is the Mid-City Post #166 American Legion Hall. The buildings along the 1700 block of Spring Garden would be bought up by the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) in the 1970s.

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Portion of Sanborn map from 1956 (from the Free Library of Philadelphia collection). North is at the top with Spring Garden Street running left to right.

I-T-E would acquire the Temple University properties in the 1960s and via the Franklin Town Development Corporation would use eminent domain to clear out every structure except 1822 Spring Garden Street in the 1970s. Notice the fraternity house at 1806 Spring Garden Street. There was also an earlier fraternity house at 528 North 18th Street

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Sanborn revised map from 1966 from the Parkway Central Library collection.

North is at top along Spring Garden Street. 19th is on the left. Except for 1822 Spring Garden, Linton’s Restaurant, the buildings of Laird-Schober and Graham’s Trimmings on 19th Street (in 1970 occupied by I-T-E), and the houses along 18th Street, the land has been cleared. This is five years before the Franklin Town project was announced. Both Smith-Kline and I-T-E were large employers in the neighborhood and needed parking space. This was the justification for the demolitions. It could also be that members of the consortium knew for years that these buildings were all in the way and that clearance would minimize objections to the use of eminent domain for other structures.

The houses along 18th Street, including 1800 Spring Garden, were mostly rooming houses or apartments after World War II. Only one of these houses will be further discussed.

The open subway along Pennsylvania Avenue, what we now refer to as the Callowhill Cut, was completed in 1899. It was a massive project accomplished in 18 months. With its completion, there were layoffs announced on July 1, 1899. William G. Johnson, age 50, until July 1 had been employed as a civil engineer on the project. He lived in a boarding house at 322 North 18th Street (still there). On July 12 a former coworker entered the Pennsylvania Avenue Subway Division headquarters at 502 North 18th Street. There was a pool of blood at the foot of the lobby stairs. On the second floor Jonson was found dead on a drafting table, with a bloody gash in his forehead and a tube from an illumination-gas fixture between his teeth. Nearby was a somewhat incoherent suicide note. The police surmised that in his despondency over the loss of a job, combined with a little alcohol and head trauma, he had committed suicide. The gash was explained as a fall down the stairs. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that his coworkers had secured him another position and were waiting to inform him.

Another neighborhood suicide by illuminating gas befell 35-year-old James Baker in 1921, while he was in a lodging house at 427 North 20th Street.

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Headline from page 1 of the July 13, 1899 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer

Chemistry tangent: Illuminating gas was a man-made gas, unlike today’s natural gas that we use in our stoves. Illuminating gas, or town gas, was made by heating coal in a low oxygen environment. The solid residue was coke, a fuel with a very high carbon content that burned hot and was used mainly in metallurgy. The gaseous product was mostly a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the former deadly and the latter extremely flammable. The coke ovens would be placed near the places where the gas was to be used. Street lights and home lighting were some of the applications. Large metal-framed circular structures called gasometers would store the gas. The domes on these structures would rise and fall as the volume of gas within changed, usually rising during the day and falling in the evening as meals were cooked and homes heated. Inhaling town gas was a common form of suicide, a notable example being that of writer Sylvia Plath.

 

Natural gas, a fossil fuel derived from partially decayed organic material, is mostly methane, and replaced town gas in the 1930s.

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1857 perspective sketch (not to scale) of Philadelphia looking east from the Schuylkill River. Very high-resolution images are available here  

You can see Logan Square, the Preston Retreat, and the Cathedral.

Faire Mount, now the site of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is in the lower left. The Naval Asylum is in the lower right. The covered bridge over Market Street is lower center. There are gasometers near the Market Street bridge, from the gas works built there in 1834 (see 1860 map here). There is another just south of Faire Mount. Pipes from the gasometers would carry the gas to street lamps and homes. On the right just east of the Naval Asylum are either smoky lime kilns or coal gasification retorts, but in 1854 the Philadelphia Gas Works would have a coal gasification plant in this area.

Meanwhile, back in the neighborhood… 

 

In 1971 the remaining residences along the 1800 block of Spring Garden and 18th Street were listed as acquired by eminent domain by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

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City of Philadelphia pictometry photo from 2003. Four of today’s major residential buildings are missing: the Tivoli Condominiums built in 2005-2007 at 1900 Hamilton Street with 114 units; the Granary Apartments at 1901 Callowhill Street built in 2014 with 227 units; the second Museum Towers/NxNW tower and townhomes with 286 units built in 2016 just north of Baldwin Park; and the Baldwin Apartments at 1825 Callowhill Street built in 2023 with 57 units. All except the Tivoli have ground floor retail. In this view that makes 684 new units for the Baldwin Park neighborhood in the last two decades.

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Aerial photo from 2014, looking northeast, of the lot adjoining Baldwin Park.
The original Franklin Town plan included vacating Hamilton Street between 18th and 19th. In this photo, Hamilton Street has become the southern strip of the parking lot, and Buttonwood has been blocked by a tree making public access to a shortened Buttonwood Street only from 19th Street, and a parking lot entrance on 18th Street. The L-shaped Museum Towers is in the top center of the image. The second tower, townhomes, and parking garage would fill in the rest of the surface parking lot by 2017.

unfinished draft article

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