Pennsylvania State College of Optometry/
The Matthias Baldwin Park neighborhood was once a hotbed of "eds and meds." Preston Retreat and the surrounding women's health care centers were described here, and the Bromley map from 1922 below shows other medical buildings, some of which are discussed on this website. PCOM at 1822 Spring Garden Street took shape by 1922 (see here). The Garretson Hospital for Oral Surgery had been built in 1897 on a very long and narrow lot on Buttonwood Street, and a later addition designed by Horace Trumbauer was placed to infill between Buttonwood and Hamilton Streets. This private hospital merged with Temple in 1907 and eventually became a 75-bed general hospital. In 1923 Temple acquired the 30-bed Joseph Price Maternity Hospital, a private hospital at 1808-1812 Spring Garden Street. This article will discuss the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry (PSCO), which began at 1809 Spring Garden Street in 1919.
In this detail from the 1922 Bromley map can be seen the Osteopathic Hospital at the southeast corner of Spring Garden and 19th Streets (building still there); Garretson Hospital between Buttonwood and Hamilton (since demolished); and the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry at 1809 Spring Garden Street (still there). The Baldwin Locomotive Works at bottom occupies the northern half of what is now Baldwin Park.
This detail from a 1942 land use map shows Garretson Hospital and the Optometry College still there (the college moved in 1932, but 1809 Spring Garden remained as an eye clinic and extended through the block by acquiring 1810 Brandywine). The Osteopathic Hospital at 1822 Spring Garden Street has been repurposed and the annex buildings at 1820 and 1818 demolished. The private Joseph Price Maternity Hospital at 1808-12 Spring Garden Street became part of the Temple system.
There are always turf wars in medicine. In 1914 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that optometry is not a branch of medicine and need not be regulated by a medical board composed of physicians. In 1917 licensing of optometrists in Pennsylvania was authorized. The founder of PSCO, optometrist Albert Fitch, purchased 1809 Spring Garden Street in 1919 for $17,500 ($261,000 in today's dollars). The house had beautiful detailing in its 20 rooms and ballroom. He had a vision of steady expansion from a one-room clinic, but this expansion was required even faster than he thought.
Two views of the front of the Optometry College at 1809 Spring Garden Street in 1919.
This was the first non-profit, independent college of optometry in the country. In 1923 it became the first to confer the Doctor of Optometry degree.
The plaque to the left of the Spring Garden Street entrance reads
PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE of OPTOMETRY
Rich woodwork in entrance hall from Spring Garden Street in 1919.
Same view after a coat of white paint and lots of patients.
The first expansion came quickly in 1924.
This is an artist's sketch of a theoretical view of the newly built Brandywine Extension at 1810 Brandywine Street, this view being from the west with other buildings removed. The original Spring Garden Street building is the L-shaped structure on the right, comprised of two structures. The Brandywine extension is the single building on the left. Compare to the 1922 Bromley map above.
PSCO needed another expansion by 1930. The plans to build a larger college in Oak Lane were put on hold due to the Depression, but space for an annex was found just across the street when the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine moved out of 1822 Spring Garden Street in 1928 (see here).
The sign at lower right says:
THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY
This building was razed and replaced with the current art deco building in 1937.
Eye clinics were scattered around the neighborhood in large part because, to borrow logic from bank robber Willie Sutton, this is where the eye injuries were. The neighborhood factories were constant threats to life and limb, but eyes especially were vulnerable to flying sparks, iron, and wood chips. Bushrod Washington James, a homeopathic physician, had been running a free eye clinic at 1715-1719 Green Street for decades before his death in 1903. PSCO opened in 1919. Wills Eye Hospital moved from 18th and Race Streets to the northwest corner of 16th and Spring Garden Streets in 1933.
1715-1719 Green Street today, looking much the same as when Bushrod James ran his free eye clinic here.
There was another hospital at 1707-1711 Green Street around the same time, originally an orthopedic hospital eventually called Anderson Hospital and later evolving into a general hospital called Physicians and Surgeons Hospital.
The Colonnade Condominiums today, formerly the Wills Eye Hospital, at the northwest corner of 16th and Spring Garden Streets.
The text over the columns spells out "1832 Wills Eye Hospital 1932" and for this reason the building has been called the centennial building. Wills Eye was started in 1832, then built a hospital at 18th and Race in 1834, then moved to this building in 1932. Wills moved to 9th and Walnut in 1980.
The medical physicians at Wills had originally resisted the certification of optometrists as independent practitioners.
Photo from 1958
McCallisters Caterers occupied the addresses from 1811 to 1817 Spring Garden Street, just west of 1809 Spring Garden, in the 1940s and 1950s. These buildings, occupied now by the Carpenters Union regional headquarters, look much the same today.
The etchings on McCallisters still exist on the building.
On the left is Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. On the right is Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Surf and turf. Caterers. Get it?
PSCO moved to a new 32-acre campus in the Oak Lane section of Philadelphia in 1932 and used the 1809 building as a satellite clinic. By then it was considered the largest eye clinic in the country. In 1964 the college changed its name to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO).
In 1998 classes began at a new Elkins Park campus, on 11.5 acres of land that had once been part of the Wanamaker (retailer) and Breyer (ice cream) family estates. PCO had been adding ancillary programs for audiology, biomedicine, public health, physician assistants, and occupational therapy, and in 2008 the institution changed its name and status to Salus University. In 2017 enrollment at Salus was 1,214. The name "Salus" is derived from the Roman goddess Salus, the goddess of health.
In 1978 the building at 1809 Spring Garden Street was sold to the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) for $85,000 ($336,000 today). CCP sold the building to the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters in 2007 for $1,000,000. Both of these purchases included the building from Spring Garden Street through to Brandywine Street. The Carpenters Union by then owned 1803 through 1817 Spring Garden Street and placed the Carpenters Museum at 1809 Spring Garden.
Another CCP connection: in 1998 PCO's administration and academic buildings at Oak Lane were sold to CCP and CCP's 7-year-old Northwest Campus was expanded. The Eye Institute building, housing the clinical facilities for Salus University, remains at Oak Lane.
1958 view of Carpenters Union real estate at 1803-1805 Spring Garden Street, just east of PSCO.
In 1950 the brownstone and details were removed from the PSCO building at 1809 Spring Garden Street to be replaced by stucco, matching McCallisters as seen on the left.
The Carpenters union is to the right (still with brownstone).
The logos over the years, from Pennsylvania State College of Optometry to Salus University.
Salus University has a fantastic history section on its website here.
The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters artifact museum at 1809 Spring Garden Street.
There are many tools with an emphasis on rare tools and those made in Philadelphia, like the Disston saws on the wall at left.
The museum opened in 2016 and is open to the public by appointment. Call Mike Tapken, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, at 215-569-1634 for a tour.
The model of a working factory floor at the museum. Just walking into this mock up makes you want to wear eye protection!
The museum also has many artifacts from the early union movement, including material related to Peter J. McGuire, the founder of this union, who also helped found the American Federation of Labor along with Samuel Gompers, and is credited with being the father of Labor Day.
They don't call this area the Museum District for nothing!
That is a photo of Peter J. McGuire (1826-1917) in the window at lower left.
authored by Joe Walsh, March 2020